Bi-Bi Love, Bi-Bi Politics
Bi, Bi Love, Bi, Bi Politics --

Oh, it's so complex! Coming out bisexual gives Marcy Rein a
lot to mull over.

     Nine of us crammed into a small cluttered room for a
meeting on a rare steamy summer night in San Francisco. L.
was wearing shorts and sat with long strong legs stretched
out, tanned to toasty perfection, hairs burnished gold. My
attention wandered far from the business at hand, down those
legs and up again to where they met, and I started feeling
all warm and liquid inside.
     But as the meaning of the feeling sank in, the warm wet
congealed in a cold puddle of dread.
     L. was a man, you see, and for years I'd identified as
lesbian; many of my friends were lesbians; I wrote and
worked in the intersection of lesbian/gay and left politics.
Being true to those warm feelings meant coming out to myself
and my world as bisexual -- a process tangled with more
shame and fear than my seamless slip into the
lesbian/feminist community fifteen years before.
     For years there was little public space for bisexuals,
and the cost of coming out was high, in gay circles as well
as straight.
     There are legions of reasons why lesbians and gay men
mistrust bisexuals. Some come from the difficulty of
clearing new queer space, only to see trespassers crashing
back and forth across the borders, in and out of
heterosexual privilege at will. Some grow from painful
private history -- and yes, it is a different insult being
left for a man than for another woman.
     Stereotypes and myths abound. We are fickle fence-
sitters, in the closet, in a phase, incapable of commitment,
we fuck anything that moves, bisexual men spread AIDS in the
"general population" and bisexual women spread it to
     But one of the signal events in the queer movement in
the last half-dozen years has been the blossoming of
bisexual organizing.
     Local bisexual groups started coming together in the
mid '70s -- New York's BiForum in 1975, San Francisco's
Bisexual Center in '76, Chicago's BiWays in 1978. Bisexual
women's networks like those in Boston and Seattle sprang up
in the early '80s.
     At the 1987 March on Washington, in a hotel room, the
national bisexual movement was born. Two Boston activists
made a banner, rented the room, and sent flyers to
organizers who had worked locally and regionally for years.
About 80 people responded. "Instead of voices on the phone,
it was real people you could squeeze," said Lani Kaahumanu,
one of the first out bisexual activists and co-editor of the
anthology Bi Any Other Name.
     The networking in D.C. spurred a national bisexual
conference in San Francisco in 1990; this created a
"snowball effect," said Bay Area writer and activist Naomi
Tucker. New people began taking leadership locally and
meeting regionally, in support groups and political action
groups and shared-interest groups, close to 500 by 1993.
Bisexual books and magazines began to appear; bisexuals were
reflected in the names of university groups and a few
lesbian/gay organizations.
     After a bitter struggle, bisexuals and transgendered
people persuaded the organizing committee for the 1993 March
on Washington to add "bi" to its name also, although the
committee couldn't manage the "sexual" part and choked on
transgender; the event became the "March on Washington for
Lesbian, Gay & Bi Equal Rights and Liberation." (This year's
Stonewall 25 celebration does not include bisexuals in its
name, because it is a product of the international movement,
but that's another story.)
     Nearly 500 people attended a National Conference
Celebrating Bisexuality the day before the march; the day of
the event they thronged in a block-long contingent behind a
huge "Bi Pride" banner with overlapping pink + blue =
lavender triangles.
     During the march, the common ground bisexuals share
with gay men and lesbians was clear: the struggle for
society to embrace queer relations alongside straight ones,
and to subdue a common enemy. The military ban and
Colorado's Amendment 2 -- the two expressions of homophobia
most loudly denounced on the march -- both cover bisexuals
as well as lesbians and gays.
     "The religious wrong sees we're all interconnected,"
said Dr. Elias Farajaje-Jones, bisexual activist and
professor of divinity at Howard University. "They go from
abortions to queers to people of color to English-only."
     For all they share, many bi- and homo- sexuals operate
on different understandings of sexuality, which have
profound implications for their organizing.
     Straight society enshrines the dichotomy straight
sex/gay sex, good sex/bad sex (though even the good kind is
a little sleazy unless you're married or selling something).
In response the lesbian/gay movement has said no: both sides
are good. And bisexuals say there are no two sides, but a
kaleidoscopically shifting, endlessly diverse middle.
     Bisexuals form relationships in myriad ways, from long-
term or serial monogamy to stable triangles to
polyfidelitous webs. Year by year or month by month or
minute by minute, we experience our attractions as fluid and
      "To be bi and honest is to recognize our orientation
sometimes seems to shift with the amount of pollen in the
air, the phases of the moon, or propinquity to whoever we
are around," said feminist peace activist Starhawk. "Our
struggle is not only for our own sexuality but for pleasure,
variety, diversity, fluidity as values worth fighting for,"
she said.
     There's a new social-science tool that models this,
called the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid. The best-known
measure of orientation has been the Kinsey scale, which runs
a simple continuum from zero (exclusively heterosexual) to
six (exclusively homosexual) based on experiences and
psychological reactions. But the Klein Grid maps orientation
by looking at past, present and ideal behavior, attraction,
identification, fantasy, lifestyle and social and emotional
presence, giving a multi-layered picture more descriptive of
bisexual experience.
     "Bisexual pride ...challenges both the heterosexual and
the homosexual assumption," Kaahumanu told a sweat-soaked
crowd in her speech at the end of the '93 march. "Like
multiculturalism, mixed heritage and bi-racial
relationships, both the bisexual and transgender movements
expose and politicize the middle ground. Each show that
there is no separation, that each of us is part of a fluid
social, sexual and gender dynamic."
     "Making the middle ground visible," she explained
later, "brings in everything else," laying the basis for
multi-issue organizing.
     By contrast, much lesbian/gay organizing works from
the either/or, hetero or homo concept. "The established
leadership buys into being 'the other,' a reflection of the
heterosexual world," said Kaahumanu. The result is a
politics based on identity, on being part of a group that
loves and has sex with members of the same sex, period.
     Bisexuality subverts this -- when an identity is so
flexible, how can it alone ground your politics? It shifts
the emphasis from what you are to what you believe, act on,
and act out. It moves from politics based on identity to
politics that include affirmation of "our increasing global
complexity on the basis of the heart and on the basis of an
honest human body," as June Jordan wrote in the Progressive.
     "Bisexuality means I am free and I am as likely to want
and to love a woman as I am likely to want and to love a
man, and what about that? Isn't that what freedom implies?"
she continued.
     "If you are free, you are not predictable and you are
not controllable. To my mind, that is the keenly positive,
politicizing significance of bisexual affirmation... to
insist upon the equal validity of all of the components of
social/sexual complexity," she said.