While possibly the largest group in the LGB community, people who don’t fit into the binary of hetero/homosexual are often misunderstood, discriminated and erased, both from general culture and the LGBTQ community. The terms bisexual, pansexual and queer are still misperceived and misquoted. So, here’s a short exploration of the myths, truths and terms.
In 1948 Alfred Kinsey introduced the Kinsey scale which offered a spectrum of human sexuality that exists between the binaries of homosexual and heterosexual, asserting that sexuality is fluid. However, sexual fluidity appears even earlier – in ancient Greece bisexuality was often encouraged between free men. In ancient Japan, bisexuality was found among the samurai fighters. Despite this, the word ‘bisexual’ was coined only in 1892 by Charles Gilbert Chaddock.
According to American Psychological Association the term ‘bisexual’ can describe someone who ‘experiences emotional, romantic and/or sexual attractions to, or engages in romantic or sexual relationships with, more than one sex or gender’. Because it doesn’t neatly fit into a box, biphobia and bi-erasure are common in discussion around this identity. The fluidity of attraction has often been dismissed as greedy, untrustworthy or ‘half gay’/’half straight’, leading to bisexuals being rejected from both LGBTQ communities and straight spaces. Often times bisexual men are mislabelled as ‘really gay’ and bisexual women as ‘really straight’. Ironically, these harmful stereotypes can lead to a very limited dating pool, despite a sexuality encompassing attraction to more than one gender.
The term ‘pansexual’ can be liberating for stepping out of the binary and avoiding the negative connotations that follow bisexuality. The prefix ‘pan-’ comes from the Ancient Greek word for ‘all, every’. Generally, pansexuality is described as sexual or romantic attraction to people regardless of their gender expression, gender identity, or biological sex. Hence, people that identify as pan often say they are attracted to the person, not their gender/sex. The term ‘pansexual’ is less widely known than ‘bisexual’ but has been gaining popularity among young people, especially in the last decade.
Another identity that has gained popularity in recent years is ‘queer’. It describes sexual and gender identities other than straight and cisgender. First used in 1513, ‘queer’ meant something odd, peculiar, while it was first used to mean homosexual in 1894. The
reclaiming of the term as a positive self-label started in early 90s. Nowadays, more and more members of the LGBTQ community describe themselves as queer, using it as an inclusive shorthand that doesn’t necessitate other labels. However, the term ‘queer’ can carry negative connotations being historically used as a slur so be mindful when referring to this term and always ask if the person is comfortable.
The LGBTQ community encompasses many different identities, some of them less known than others. Due to ignorance and misinformation, people who fall somewhere between the binaries of ‘gay’ and ‘straight’ are often misrepresented and erased. With time, exposure and education, we can bring awareness to these identities that are often forgotten.
Happy LGBTQ+ History Month!
With love, Connor and Kristiana x
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