Monday, January 19, 2015

Defining Bisexuality and Queerness

When I wrote my Coming Out Bi post, I left out any actual definition of bisexuality. To be fair, I was telling a story, and dictionaries don't have places in stories.

But if we understand exactly what people mean when they say stuff like "I'm bi" or "I'm genderqueer," we can better relate with them, love them, and be friends with them. Ignorance leads to disrespect, which kills relationships.

Today I want to define everything that falls under queerness.* Let's start with the labels for:


SEXUAL ORIENTATION

This has to do with who you are attracted to and how strongly you are attracted.

Straight: aka heterosexual. Attracted to the opposite mainstream gender (males to females, etc).

Gay: includes lesbians (homosexual is derogatory). Attracted to your own gender.

Bi umbrella: attracted to more than one gender. A few of the common labels:

  • Bisexual - some people use it to mean attracted to men and women, discluding trans, genderqueer, or agender people. But Connor Manning gives the more popular definition: attracted to my gender and other genders. That's how I use it.
  • Pansexual - attracted to all genders (like the second definition of bi). I occasionally call myself pan.
  • Homoflexible - attracted to both/all genders, but more often toward one's own. Homoflexible sits between gay and bi.
  • Heteroflexible - the same thing but between straight and bi. Sometimes it's used to denigrate presumed-straight people who have a gay relationship, but it's a real orientation. I have friends who fall in hetero/homoflex categories.


Graysexual/grayromantic: this is has to do with how strongly you feel attraction, not who you're attracted to. Grayromantics fall into two categories:
  • Asexual: not attracted to anyone. (Gift of celibacy, anyone?)
  • Demisexual: rarely attracted to people. Demi is technically only part of their orientation (demi-bi, demi-straight, etc). Some people say demis only experience sexual attraction when there is a strong relational or romantic bond first, but that confuses sexual orientation with...

ROMANTIC ORIENTATION

Biromantic. Grayromantic. Heteroromantic. All the same prefixes, slightly different application. Romantic orientation is who you're romantically inclined to. For most people, romantic and sexual orientation match up.

But someone might be heterosexual--they experience sexual urges regularly--but a grayromantic: they aren't romantically interested in people. In other words, they have wet dreams and appreciate sexy stuff and function like other non-asexuals, they just aren't looking to have a relationship or have sex. They have the itch, they just don't care to scratch it.

Most people of ANY orientation want sex and a relationship to go together. It's a myth that queerness is all and only about sex. It's about sex inasmuch as heterosexuality is. Most people want to have sex with someone who loves them and who they're in a committed relationship with. These things come as a package for most of us.

That said, some queers have casual sex just like some straight people do.

NUMBER

A lot of people assume bi (and pan, etc.) means polyamorous. Polyamorous is a less nuanced term for polygamy and polyandry. It refers to relationships involving 3+ people, one person having multiple relationships, and sexually open relationships.

People of any orientation can be either mono- or polyamorous. Most bis, like me, are monoamorous. I may be attracted to all genders, but I'm only getting with one person. In the same way, a straight monoamorous gal is attracted to lots of guys, but she'll pick one.

SEX

Determined by your parts.

Male.

Female.

Intersex: presenting as both male and female. The causes are varied: genetics, prenatal conditions, etc. Some intersexuals present as either male or female but have the opposite genes. I.W. Gregorio's YA novel None of the Above addresses this.

GENDER

This has to do with social and cultural ideas about what it means to be male or female: the thoughts, feelings, etc. associated your parts.

Cisgender man: a man who was designated male at birth. Cis is the opposite of trans. You will sometimes see cis-het or cishet, meaning cisgender heterosexual.

Cisgender woman: a woman whose gender is consistent with her GAAB/SAAB (Gender/Sex Assigned At Birth).

Transgender man: a man whose SAAB was female. Pronouns: he/him. Trans people (aka transexuals) don't necessarily get hormone treatment or surgery when they transition. Many choose to transition in appearance, dress, gender roles, etc. but not physically.

Note: a heterosexual trans man is attracted to and has sex with women, even though he may have female body parts. A gay trans man is attracted to men. It's about gender, not sex parts.

Transgender woman: a woman whose SAAB was male. Pronouns: she/her.

Genderqueer: aka nonbinary gender. Uncomfortable with man or woman gender concepts. They associate with a mix of the two or a different concept of gender altogether. Pronouns: just ask.

Agender: neither man nor woman. Prounouns: usually they/them, but ask.

Not using the pronouns a person requests is a slap in the face, a refusal to acknowledge their identity. Respecting one another starts with accepting that each person gets to define themselves the way they feel comfortable.


-~-

Queerness has a lot of spectrums! The idea of spectrums is scary for some people. Think of it like other spectrums: some people like apples, some people don't, and some people LOOOOVE them.

But behavior isn't the same as orientation, gender, etc. A cis woman can enjoy masculine activities; that doesn't mean she's a trans man. A heterosexual man can become a celibate priest; that doesn't mean he's asexual. What we feel, think, and desire is different than what we do about those things. I'm a bi woman, but my behavior has been almost exclusively with men due originally to fear and now to a monoamorous marriage. That doesn't change who I am inside.

I'm a bisexual/biromantic monoamorous cisgender female. What are you?


Word count: 967.


Resources:

Hank Green of the vlogbrothers explains the basics of sex, gender, and orientation with handy visuals.

Ashley Mardell's explanation of sexual orientations outside of straight/gay/lesbian, more comprehensive than mine.

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* Queer is a reclaimed word that we use for ourselves, despite its original definition and derogatory intentions. Like when women call themselves bitches, lesbians call themselves dykes, etc., except that queer is okay for straight/cis people to use too! I try to use queer because it's more encompassing than LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans) or QUILTBAG (QUeer, Intersex, Lesbian, Trans, Bi, Ace, Gay).