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"At least no one calls other kids on playgrounds bisexual as an insult..."


Labelous Statements

Editorial Thoughts: Anne Killpack

Back in high school, if someone had in any way brought up the topic of my sexuality, I would have replied with an angry "It's none of your @#!%$#! business." I would then have begun ranting about how everyone should have equal rights regardless of who or what they do or are until my victim gave up or went away. It was a defensive reflex; labels in school frequently translated into insults, and I wasn't sure if the biology-class definition of "bisexual" was something that should or could be applied to people as well as things in a petri dish.

I've always known I was attracted to women and men. My childhood was insulated in a lot of ways, but it didn't keep great literature away from me, and great literature is full of bisexuals, both in the author's bio and between the sheets -- er, pages. I knew I wasn't the first or only one to feel that way, and as a budding writer, I enjoyed the connection. But I wasn't bisexual. The only time I'd heard the term was occasionally in reference to various androgynous rock stars, most of whom never seemed to actually come out and say the word (Elton John and David Bowie excepted). I grew up in a don't-define-it, just-do-it environment. Privately, I decided that I was some sort of artsy freak who didn't play by any of those old-fashioned rules, and hoped someday I'd find another one like me. Or at least a girlfriend.

I was 20 years old before I met an actual out bisexual and learned that there was a real movement. Wary of the "persecuted minority" mindset and who knows what else, I listened and watched and learned -- but didn't really commit. Did their "bisexual" mean the same thing as mine? What did they do about it? Did I count if I hadn't gotten past first base with a girl yet? Did it matter? And were these people anyone I wanted to be friends with? Sharing a sexual orientation didn't necessarily mean I'd like them...

Five years later, I have a 'bisexual pride' pin on my jacket. I work for Anything That Moves. I am out, loud and vocal about bi rights. On some levels, I still don't like labels, but these days I find myself defending the need for coming out as bisexual. Why? Because -- whether you call yourself bisexual or polysexual or multisexual or pansexual or me-sexual or refuse to be labeled altogether -- if you are like me and find people attractive regardless of their sex or gender, then we need you.

We need you to stand with us so that none of us feel alone. How many teenagers gave up looking for others like them? How many people fail to support our movement because they never even knew we were here? And how many have been scarred by being told that they're shameful, unworthy, confused, fickle, even traitorous because they love outside of the boundaries?

We need you to stand with us to tell the gay movement and the lesbian movement that we do not fit into their definitions, that we cannot stand behind their lines unless and until they stand with us. We need to tell the staight world the same thing. If we stand outside the bi movement, if we hide in the gay or straight crowd and refuse to stand behind the bisexual banner in the parade because of a perceived semantic error, then who will stand for us? I stepped up to become a bi activist because I thought someone should. I was only partially right. We all should.

So okay, it's important to be out, but why, specifically, be out as bisexual? The term is awkward, to say the least. It implies a duality of gender, whereas many of us see a fluidity or a continuum of genders. It carries a weight of ugly stereotypes. Well, so did "gay" and "lesbian" when their movements started. At least no one calls other kids on playgrounds bisexual as an insult -- we've gotten a head start there. It has even been argued lately that bisexuality is trendy, or at least chic. Instead of rejecting the label for what our detractors think of it, we should find the strength to take it back for ourselves, use this energy, reclaim the word, redefine it to fit us. In redefining the word, we change the language; in changing the language, we change the way people think.

We need to take a stand, behind one banner, one movement, and one name. Why bisexual? Because it is the oldest, most inclusive label we've got, and it carries more weight than the others. (I am not just saying this because ATM might have to change our stationery.) We people who love regardless of sex or gender have issues that the gay and lesbian or straight communities do not cover. We need a place of our own, and we need to address our own issues and present a united front of our larger-than-suspected numbers to the larger world.

And why, for heaven's sake, should we poly-perverse people limit ourselves to one label anyway? Be a polysexual bisexual. Be a bi-dyke or a bi-gay or a bi-androgyne or a bi-anything-that-moves-you. (At last SF Pride, we sold an awful lot of 'bi-dyke' stickers, mostly to men. We're obviously not confined by our labels.)

If you can't bear to call yourself bisexual, even if you might fit someone's definition -- or if you truly aren't bi, but think we have the right to be -- then get a pin that says "I Support The Bisexual Movement" and wear that. We won't turn down the support of our friends and families just because they're not bisexual. The battle for our rights and freedoms is the most important thing in the long run, and we can use all the help we can get.


Aside from "bisexual" and "Production Manager of Anything That Moves", Anne Killpack accepts the labels "blue-eyed", "black-leather-wearing freak", "polyamorous" and "sleep-deprived."

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