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Bi and by

As the culture sinks further, how long until it's cool to declare oneself "bisexual"?

Issue: "Passing the Olympic torch," Sept. 4, 2004

First time I heard the term "bisexual," that's when the jig was up for me. They almost had me going till then-Bible knowledge notwithstanding-when it was just "homosexual." And if they had left it at that, I would have remained in a private moral anguish: How could I be sure there didn't exist some bona fide congenital condition visited on a tiny minority of beleaguered souls quite against their wills? One could feel some sympathy for that. But trendsetters blew their cover, as far as I'm concerned, when they overreached with "bisexual." It was a bridge too far.

I'm not kidding that I truly thought it a joke the first time I read the hyphenation "gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender-transsexual"-a joke coined by conservatives, no less, to lampoon the gay movement by spinning out the extreme absurdities that were its logical conclusion. (As in, "What'll they think of next: bisexual rights? transgender rights?") But reality has outpaced satire, and I am feeling semantically defenseless and one-upped.

One has to admire the strategy: Win semantics and you win the day. "It's labeling, stupid!" Nomenclature is the most ingenious invention of man. To name is to divide (taxonomically) and conquer. Moreover, it is a quasi-divine activity: To confer names was the first of God's privileges given to man as His viceregent in Eden (Genesis 2:19). A rifle-toter may be a "terrorist" or a "freedom fighter." A movie may be "smut" or "adult entertainment." A wily change in labels transforms "debauchery" into civil-rights-parade-worthy "bisexuality."

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Consider the masterstroke of "bisexual." Who would dare to challenge such an authoritative-sounding moniker? It derives weightiness from the morphologically similar "bipolar"-which everybody knows is hard science, right? It sounds like someone discovered a new region in the hypothalamus, someone smarter and more educated than you. As a word it's even better than "supercalafrageslisticexpialidocious," and wields the same magic that Mary Poppins promised: If you really ain't got nothin', but you want to fool the ignorant public, "just summon up this word and then you've got a lot to say."

This is a country in heat. Homosexuality is no longer enough; lesbianism is too confining. "Bisexuality," riding their coattails, is desire run amuck, an addiction casting about for scientific sanction and moral permission. In its tyrannical nature, like the White Witch's "Turkish delight," it increases craving even as it diminishes pleasure, thus fueling craving again, and begging more grotesque permutations. "Yes, you played the whore with them, and still you were not satisfied. You multiplied your whoring also with the trading land of Chaldea, and even with this you were not satisfied" (Ezekiel 16:28-29). Language is the Trojan horse that smuggles in abominations.

But maybe you're just not sure yet how to label yourself: gay, straight, bi, or other. Groups are eager to name your longing (or to give you a longing if you lack one). Try "Biversity Boston," where every first Wednesday and third Thursday of the month you may sit in "an informal support group for people who think they may be bisexual or attracted to more than one sex." Gee, I wonder what the seekers discover about themselves after a few impartial sessions of that? Would it be a "biverse" sexual orientation, by any chance?

With the self-importance of a world-class leader who has just faced cold war East Berlin and said, "Tear down this wall!" New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey announced in August, five minutes ahead of a pack of yipping lawyers brandishing sexual harassment lawsuits, "I am a gay American!" You can be sure that political speech is highly calculated speech, and that back at the drawing board the twice-married official had tried out "bisexual" in his speech and scratched it for "gay." Why does "gay" play better in politics than "bisexual"? Is it not because "bisexual," even in the GLBT generation, carries the politically anathema freight of "flip-flop," "waffle," "ambivalent," and "trying to have it both ways"? It is dissolute because it is irresolute.

Bisexual: Think about the term for two minutes and you realize you've been had. Bisexual is just a fancy name for indiscriminately promiscuous. May as well declare at the press conference, "I have no idea who I am and, furthermore, am utterly incapable of making a commitment." Gov. McGreevey was canny to go for "gay." The culture will have to sink a bit further before it's cool to declare from a political podium, "I am a bisexual American." For now, while I still have my wits about me, and before the remains of daylight have succumbed to night, whenever I hear the term "bisexual," I laugh to myself and think, "The jig is up."

Andrée Seu
Andrée Seu

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again.


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