I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about why bisexuality matters and what it means to be a part of a community in that context. As someone who identifies as bisexual, I've found myself wedged in between two different groups, both of which refuse to claim me as their own. What seems like it should be the happy middle of a Venn diagram is actually a rock and a hard place, and I think this is the result, partly, of the social/legal requirement that sexuality be defined, categorized, and placed in a neat little box that never changes. However, the reality of sexuality as far as I've experienced it, as far as many people I know have experienced it, and as far as Kinsey describes it, is that it is fluid and changeable. In fact, the very reason it cannot qualify as a suspect class to trigger the strict judicial scrutiny required for equal rights recognition is its lack of immutability. But legal jargon aside, society itself has, according to Aristotle, an interest in categorization. In order for us to understand something, we must first explain it, which necessitates some sort of definition. Definitions, by their very etymology, necessitate finite explanations, or limitations. Thus, it has become socially and legally vital that sexual identity be defined in order for it to receive de facto and de jure equal protection.
I joke sometimes about how bisexuals are the middle child of the LGBTI community--often forgotten. However, I also see all of the inherent problems with identifying as bisexual in terms of social constructivism arguments, including its reinforcement of a gender binary. I am all about breaking the dichotomy, which means, on a technical level, I guess one could say I'm "pansexual" more than anything else. Maybe you're starting to see the problem? Even I can't decide on a single definition of my own sexuality. Therefore, the problem, as far as I see it, involves legally defining a group that refuses any sort of social definition.
It would then follow that the solution either involves defining sexuality once and for all as either a social construct or a biological trait. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if I like that answer. No, I don't think sexuality is a choice, but I also don't think it's an entirely biological trait that can be traced back to a particular strand of DNA or something specific like that. In the debate between nature and nurture, I would have to argue that sexuality lies somewhere in the middle, influenced by both. At least, that's how I've experienced it thus far in my life, and I don't intend to say that is the way it is for everyone. However, I think the very fact that sexuality has yet to qualify as a suspect class for legal classification/Equal Protection analysis purposes might speak to the fact that I'm probably not the only one whose sexuality is confusingly fluid and denies definition.
Thus, I think a better answer to the debate would be to argue for the right to self-identify in general, as opposed to self-identifying as gay, specifically. However, as history has taught us, Equal Protection arguments go much farther than privacy ones in the courtroom. Also, if Obergefell v. Hodges is any indication of social change, I suppose one could argue that I now have the right to marry whomever I want so why am I even complaining. I guess this post/rant is less about the right to marry, because I'm still not even sure how I feel about that kind of assimilation, as it is about the right to be recognized, validated, and legitimized by my own communities, especially the LBTI one, and even more importantly to me, the lesbian one.
I'm going to focus here on the lesbian community for a few reasons, one of which being the gay male community has never questioned my sexuality as much as the lesbian community has. Thus, I want to be very specific with my words. I'm not asking to be considered a lesbian, because I'm not, but I am asking for my preference toward women to be taken seriously by the lesbian community. The fact that I hesitate to tell any lesbian I meet that I'm bisexual because I worry they'll (literally or figuratively) roll their eyes and write me off as straight is a problem. The fact that the straight community accepts me more than the lesbian community is a problem. The fact that I came out to myself, my friends, and my family in a very brutal, honest, and vulnerable process, only to be shoved right back into the closet by the lesbian community because I also like men, is a problem.
I know I'm obnoxiously vocal about my bisexuality, and I'm sure I get on a lot of people's nerves when I talk about it all the time. Honestly, I'm usually perfectly happy being accepted by the straight community and shunned by the LGBTI communities because at least I've found people who will accept me for me. However, as Pride approaches, I find myself more and more insecure about whether or not I should even be participating in the events. For example, two years ago at a Pride in Charlotte, North Carolina, they were passing out stickers that said "I [heart] Boys" and "I [heart] Girls," so I took one of each. I put them both on my shirt and went to my volunteer station, where the lesbian woman with whom I was volunteering asked me, "What is your sexual orientation? Are you just greedy?" I may be wrong, but I don't think that's an appropriate question to ask someone. However, this was not an isolate incident, nor is it the only time I've been asked that question. Thus, I have spent a lot of my adult life outside of the LGBTI community, which is incredibly isolating for someone who also doesn't quite fit into the straight community, however accepted I may be by them. Plus, none of my straight friends, try as they might, understand what it's like to come out. Thus, as much as I love my straight friends, I don't belong, and I can't help feeling like something is missing. I want to be accepted by the very people who have gone through similar struggles as I have, and I don't think that's too much to ask.
This is not to say that there haven't been lesbians who have totally accepted my sexuality. There has, and to those of you who have, I cannot adequately express my gratitude for making me feel comfortable in myself; your acceptance has been paramount in my growth. However, in general, I find it very unfortunate, as Pride approaches, that I have to question whether or not I actually even belong there. To end this on a positive note, though, because this post has gone on long enough and is overly negative, I will be at Pride, and I will be proudly marching with my law school's LGBTI community (OutLaw), who has unquestioningly embraced me for me in a beautiful way, and I will be prepared to thwart any biphobia that comes my way. And I do think one day we'll stop asking people to define themselves based on who they let into their bedroom in order to be treated equally in the law and in society. That'll be a good day.