Huffpost Gay Voices
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Gary North Headshot

Farewell "Bi" for Now, Hello "Diverse!"

Posted: Updated:

One of the side benefits of discussions prompted by the recent NYT article on the "scientific search to prove bisexuality exists" has been the focus on the semantics of "bisexuality". Nothing new here -- BiNet USA's founders (of which I am one of many) debated for years if the word "bisexual" would limit the network's reach (the org's full name is BiNet USA -- the Bisexual Network of the U.S.A.), seeing as how (back then) it seemed to misleadingly imply too much a duality or a binary way of describing one's attraction: male and female, no room as such (semantically) for describing attraction to transgendered persons, no better way of explaining one's own awareness to other people beyond those two poles, when in fact, it was always understood -- at least by bi activists -- that of course "bisexuality" meant more than attraction to "just" male and female, that of course people were attracted to other people regardless of gender, but of course we had to have SOME sort of word to rally around: Otherwise, the bi movement would be called "the people-who-are-attracted-to-other-people movement." Lousy letterhead wording, and hell for newspaper headline writers.

So, begrudgingly, we stuck with "bi." As time has gone on, there has been a growing trend to expand not only the definition of what constitutes bi attraction and biness but also the vocabulary to include "fluid," "poly," "pan," "multi," and more. Still, that's a lot of words to rally around (we use a lot of hyphens and virgules in the bi world...er, the bi/fluid/pan/poly/etc. world).

Finally, after decades of listening to -- and occasionally weighing in on -- the debate, I have become exhausted. I'm tired of scientists, sociologists, politicians and religious leaders pontificating on whether I exist. And I think they do so in part because they get hung up on the "B" word that we so valiantly have championed for so many years, much like occasionally well-meaning, but nonetheless bigoted "traditional family"-ists, say they don't mind "civil unions" as long as those aren't called "marriages." So, too, can bi people be bi and beyond, but our foes and would-be allies still think in terms of dualities and binaries. So I'm gonna run an experiment of my own: I'm gonna call myself "diverse."

Now, wait, that's not saying I won't also respond to "bi," and that's not to say I'm going to abandon bi politics, bi rights, the bi movement and so forth...it's just that I'm sorta gonna kinda try to work "diverse" into my conversations about sexuality without using the B word -- the very antithesis of what so many have been struggling to promote for so long. We rail against authors, celebrities, athletes and more who seem to be bi, or write bi characters or play bi beings, but don't say they're bi. The idea rightly was that if you don't use the B word, you make B people invisible, and that's true.

Except.

I'm proclaiming that -- just in my life, no one else's -- I think I've gotten to that point where I am "post-bi" semantically. So, for example, if folks want to describe divisions or spectrums, I would refer to "straight, gay and diverse" or "straight, gay and in between." Now, you know and I know that "diverse" as a euphemistic substitute for "bi" won't fly, but I will enjoy seeing people's reactions. Regardless of whether I call myself "bi," "diverse," or "multi/fluid/pan," it won't matter: Even some of my closest friends will assume I'm promiscuous, non-monogamous and superficial because, well, isn't that what "bi" or "diverse" truly means? Google thinks so. The L.A. Times used to think so when, long ago, it wouldn't let a bi ad run because, well, it obviously meant folks were looking for sex, vs. gay or straight "relationships." And so it goes. Even today.

So, for now, you can call me bi, you can call me diverse (my own, uh, "preference," no pun intended), you can call me what I currently am (happily married and monogamous), or you can call me pan/poly/fluid (although "pan" makes me think of a wood nymph, which I'm not; "poly" makes me think too much of high school chemistry and math; and "fluid" makes me think too much of my challenging digestive system). Just don't call me Johnson (old punchline to an old comedy routine).

Darn, though: "Bi" fits so much easier than "Diverse" in a one-column headline and on a smartphone screen. Hmmm... I might have to rethink the practical implications and unintended consequences of my new moniker -- unless I can get folks to say "di" instead of "bi." Back to the branding boards?

On the other hand, promulgating the old with the new doesn't seems to have hurt entities that kept their names or acronyms/initialisms as is and expanded their meanings, such as the NAACP, PFLAG, GM, AFL-CIO, CBS, NBC, IBM, NCR and the list goes on: "brands" whose founding full names have been dropped or relegated to footnotes, yet are themselves timeless and strong. And so it is with BiNet, BRC (Bi Resource Center), AIB (American Institute of Bisexuality), BOP, and any number of other bi-centric organizations.

Still, I like calling myself diverse. Maybe "diversely bi"? "Bi diversity"? Of course, in Boston there is the organization known as "Biversity", so maybe that would work for me...unless it's copyrighted. I'll keep working on this and will get back to you.

Now, if only my tastes in clothing, music, and movies were diverse. Gotta work on that, too.