Bi the Bi: Two Bi Writers on Big Bi Issues
This blog post is part of an ongoing conversation between two bisexual activists. A.J. Walkley and Sarah Smith* are both monogamous, bisexual, cisgender females who are in long-term relationships. A.J. is in a relationship with a cisgender male, and Sarah is in a relationship with a cisgender female. Both A.J. and Sarah are committed to remaining visible as bisexuals in spite of society's tendency to want to label A.J. as heterosexual and Sarah as a lesbian. Together they came up with the idea for "Bi the Bi: Two Bi Writers on Big Bi Issues" as a way to help eliminate stereotypes and bias against people in the bisexual community.
Question: "Is bisexuality about being attracted to more meaningful aspects of a person than what gender they are?" (Submitted by Rachel Gold, author of Being Emily, a novel for young adults about the life of a transgender teen)
[Some bisexuals] are attracted to masculinity and/or femininity, regardless of a person's sex. Some of us who identify as bisexual are in fact "gender-blind." For others -- in fact for me -- it's androgyny or the blending of genders that compels. (Robyn Ochs)
I'm in the first category that Robyn mentioned. I'm attracted to masculinity regardless of a person's sex. I selected my fiancée based on meaningful characteristics, such as her honesty, kindness and intelligence. However, my experience of her gender expression was also an important factor.
Heterosexual people aren't attracted to people of the same gender, no matter how amazing a person is. Gay men aren't attracted to women, no matter how amazing any particular woman is. Lesbians aren't attracted to men, no matter how amazing any particular man may be. Bisexuals who have gender preferences aren't attracted to people outside their gender preferences. Similarly, I don't think bisexuals who are "gender-blind" are that way because they made a conscious choice to see beyond the social construct of gender roles. What a person finds attractive is not controlled by the conscious mind.
What do you think, A.J.?
I actually think you put it extremely well by saying that "what a person finds attractive is not controlled by the conscious mind." We are attracted to who we are attracted to because of a whole slew of factors, many of which are intangible and subconscious.
Now, by saying that bisexual individuals are attracted to "more meaningful aspects" of a person than gender is to say that straight, gay and lesbian individuals are attracted to opposite-sex or same-sex people, respectively, for less meaningful aspects, which I do not agree with whatsoever. I think attraction for most people includes many meaningful aspects, in which gender and gender expression may or may not play a role. For me, I wholeheartedly relate to the second part of Robyn's quotation: I am completely gender-blind in my attractions. I don't think that means that when I become attracted to a person, the aspects of that individual that attract me are any more or less meaningful than the aspects that attract any straight, gay, lesbian or [insert sexuality here] person, though.
Very true, A.J. It's a common misconception that all bisexuals are "gender-blind." Some people believe that in order for us to be free of restrictive gender roles imposed on us by society, we must see all gender variations as sexually attractive. I'm happy that you're not of that mindset, A.J. You and other bisexual leaders understand that bisexuality is an umbrella term, under which a lot of diversity exists.
I want to emphasize for our readers that both gender-influenced and gender-free attraction patterns are part of the normal, healthy variation of human sexuality. Human sexuality is normal and healthy when an individual is able to form adult consensual relationships that are mutually enriching to the lives of those involved. Human sexuality is normal and healthy when people are free to express their authentic selves in a way that harms no one.
Yes, I agree, Sarah. I think that everyone is so very unique in their sexuality and gender expression that if you asked this question to 20 bisexual people, you would likely get 20 completely different answers, all of which would be valid. While there are certain aspects of individual sexual orientations that tend to be the same for everyone who identifies with a particular sexual label (gay men are attracted to men, lesbian women are attracted to women, straight men are attracted to women, straight women are attracted to men, etc.), there are so many more aspects that are true of each of us that make me feel like there should be as many labels for sexual identity as there are people on Earth. I think this is especially true for anyone who identifies as bisexual, as there can be cisgender female bisexuals, cisgender male bisexuals, transgender and transsexual bisexuals, genderqueer bisexuals, intersex bisexuals, etc., all of whom may have different levels of attraction for those who are the same and those who are different from them. The variety of possibilities for love and attraction in the bisexual community is a beautiful thing.
Readers, it's your turn: How would you answer this question?
If you have any questions that you'd like us to discuss as part of this series, please email us at email@example.com.