DidiWeidmann (Own work) [Public domain or CC BY-SA 2.5
Source: DidiWeidmann (Own work) [Public domain or CC BY-SA 2.5

In her review of the literature, “Bisexuality: State of the Union,” written nearly 20 years ago, Rodríguez Rust (2002) documented the exclusion and hence disappearance of bisexuality from scientific research and public discourse.

A decade later, it was not much better. Erickson-Schroth (2010) concluded that heterosexuality continues to be presented as “the normal developmental path” with bisexuality, if acknowledged at all, wrapped into the category of nonheterosexuals. “The bisexual person is just one step away from the homosexual, the argument goes. Thinking outside of our own assumptions, if we lived in a world where homosexuality was the norm, our researchers might outline the two main sexual orientations as homosexual and nonhomosexual. If bisexuality were predominant, we might group people as bisexual or monosexual, and search for a gene that makes people unable to love both men and women” (p. 59).

Rodríguez Rust (2002) proposed that new models of “reconceptualizing” bisexuality are needed to address the multitude of shortcomings in the scientific literature, deficiencies that might well contribute to the considerable physical, mental, and social health problems experienced by bisexual individuals. Dodge and Sandfort (2007, p. 29) agreed and identified one of the most critical deficiency is the failure to acknowledge that “bisexual individuals are diverse in their experiences and expressions of their sexualities,” both across and within cultures and societies.

This diversity should be reflected in the identities bisexual individuals adopt and in the ways in which we assess bisexuality that honors its complexity.

Regarding the first, the multiplicity of bisexualities is so broad that the concept itself may have outlived its usefulness in both scientific research and public discourse—though it still has political significance. This perspective is motivated in large part by adolescents and young adults in the millennial cohort who view the “middle sexualities” (formerly, bisexuality) as consisting of a range of sexual, romantic, gender, and person characteristics: https://www.theodysseyonline.com/middle-sexualities-and-what-people-say

This point was cogently made during a roundtable discussion with Indiana University faculty and graduate students. Elizabeth Bartelt noted, “There is by no means a consensus among the community with what term is most in use” regarding individuals who have been traditionally termed “bisexual.” My preference is not to use a term applied in the negative—that which it is not, such as “non-monosexual”—or that includes only a portion of what it is (i.e., the word “sexual” in bisexual).

In this state of language fluidity, I like “Bi+” with the understanding that this might well be a place holder for a more acceptable designation. In my usage, Bi+ refers to individuals who are not exclusively sexually and romantically attracted to only one biological sex. I leave the reasons for this nonexclusivity unspecified but note that what might well be included are concepts such as sexual and romantic desire, infatuation/crush, sexual or romantic behavior, identity, physiological arousal, romantic and sexual fantasy, etc. It is an inclusive not exclusive orientation. The Gender Unicorn might be the place to begin.

Landyn Pan and Anna Moore
Source: Landyn Pan and Anna Moore

References

Dodge, B., & Sandfort, T. G. M. (2007). A review of mental health research on bisexual individuals when compared to homosexual and heterosexual individuals. In B. A. Firestein (Ed.), Becoming visible: Counseling bisexuals across the lifespan (pp. 28-51). New York: Columbia University Press.

Erickson-Schroth, L. (2010). The neurobiology of sex/gender-based attraction. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Mental Health, 14, 56–69. doi: 10.1080/19359700903416917

Rodríguez Rust, P. C. R. (2002). Bisexuality: The state of the union. Annual Review of Sex Research, 13, 180-240.

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