- The Future of Bisexual Activism
In 1990, “The Bisexual Manifesto” was published in a new periodical dedicated to the bisexual community, Anything That Moves.1 Written collaboratively by participants in the Bay Area Bisexual Network, the publisher of the periodical, the manifesto has stood the test of time as a representation of the collective consciousness of the bisexual community:
We are tired of being analyzed, defined and represented by people other than ourselves, or worse yet, not considered at all. We are frustrated by the imposed isolation and invisibility that comes from being told or expected to choose either a homosexual or heterosexual identity.
Monosexuality is a heterosexist dictate used to oppress homosexuals and to negate the validity of bisexuality.
Bisexuality is a whole, fluid identity. Do not assume that bisexuality is binary or duogamous in nature: that we have “two” sides or that we must be involved simultaneously with both genders to be fulfilled human beings. In fact, don’t assume that there are only two genders. Do not mistake our fluidity for confusion, irresponsibility, or an inability to commit. Do not equate promiscuity, infidelity, or unsafe sexual behavior with bisexuality. Those are human traits that cross all sexual orientations. Nothing should be assumed about anyone’s sexuality, including your own.
We are angered by those who refuse to accept our existence; our issues; our contributions; our alliances; our voice. It is time for the bisexual voice to be heard.2
The frustration of the bisexual activists of the time is clear in this text. They faced monosexism, being told bi equals two equals male and female, and fought against stereotypes. They felt marginalized, ignored, and silenced. [End Page 22]
For the purposes of this article, “bisexual” includes all people with the capacity to be sexually and/or romantically attracted to more than one gender while acknowledging that individuals may use other labels to express the great diversity of possibilities within this definition. The bisexual community is made up of all those who meet this definition, whether they participate in the community or not and regardless of the personal label they choose to use, if any.
Since the publication of “The Bisexual Manifesto,” many significant changes have occurred in the legal and social landscape, which led the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) to conclude:
Since the 1980s, Americans have grown more supportive of LGBT people and their equality. Today, overwhelming majorities of the general public favor non-discrimination laws, inclusive hate crime laws, comprehensive anti-bullying laws, and relationship recognition for gay and lesbian couples. In addition, states and cities across the country have successfully enacted laws that are improving the lives of LGBT people.3
The issues mentioned by MAP have all been marquee ones for the LGBT community, with many organizations spending years on legal, political, and grass-roots actions to bring these changes about. However, none of the advancements address bi-specific issues.
Any casual review of any online discussion of the bisexual community, as well as more formal surveys, shows that today’s bisexual activists face many of the same issues that were written about in 1990.4 How do the general changes in the LGBT community affect the work of bisexual activists, if indeed there has been any change at all? And where should bisexual activists go from here?
Defining the Bisexual Activist
No discussion of the bisexual community can occur without addressing the issue of labels. In the 1800s, “bisexual” referred to people we would now call “intersex.” Over the course of the twentieth century, “bisexual” came to mean people who were attracted to both men and women. With the rise of transgender activism, the bisexual community embraced the fluidity of both gender and sexuality. As “The Bisexual Manifesto” makes clear, the modern bisexual community recognizes the multiplicity of genders.
“Bisexual” is the most commonly recognized word to describe someone attracted to more than one gender. It is the term used most often in the names of organizations, in surveys, and by researchers. Misunderstandings persist about [End Page 23] the meaning of the word, the most common of which is that since “bi-” means “two,” it must refer to male and...