Unfortunately, while those of us who are attracted in one way or another to more than just people of opposite sex, or just people of the same sex, are continually faced with discrimination, belittling, invisibility, bashing and abuse, much of what is said and written by and about us - including the blog post I'm writing here - revolves around definitions and semantics.
I feel I need to add to this because, as I have just begun to write a blog about bisexuality, clearing up this matter from the start seems essential so that I can hopefully get on to more pressing matters.
Recently, Solon posted an article heavily touching on this. One of the points made in that article which struck me, was that since "bisexual" as a word has come to have negative connotations, some suggest, we give it up. This reminds me of how no matter the extent to which someone believes in women's rights, there is often a huge resistance to being labeled a "feminist." Feminism got a bad name from its enemies and unfortunately that negativity has stuck, and unfortunately, along with that negative connotation for the word, a negative connotation for the concept has largely remained as well.
Do we want to let that happen to bisexuality too?
Gay and straight monosexuals do not understand us and thus claim we do not exist. Homophobic straight people see us as being sick or evil or perverse, just as they see homosexuals. Politically correct straight and gay people see us as gay people with internalized homophobia who need to embrace our same-gender attractions and announce ourselves as gay or lesbians from the peak of the highest mountain we can find. Some people insist that "bisexual" omits the love or desire for those not strictly male or female. Some of those who have labeled themselves pansexuals also insist that bisexuals are caught up on gender and fixate on "what's between someone's legs."
My input on this matter is that I think it would be wise to own the word "bisexual," not throw it to our detractors to abuse and mutilate as they will. Let's stand strong behind the word and insist it be taken seriously.
Though I understand the idea behind pansexuality, I think it is far from preferable. For one thing, bisexuality has been around much longer and most everyone realizes it applies to the idea of being attracted to more than just one gender. Pansexuality is still very obscure. And while most people in the general population have never heard of it, pansexulity is already facing plenty of its own ridicule. Twitter is full of comments like, "pansexual? does that mean you love frying pans?" Or, "pansexual means you're attracted to everyone who breathes."
Back in the 1970s and 1980s there wasn't anyone using the word pansexual. Back then, bisexual was defined to mean that you were attracted to both men and women, but this was never meant to exclude non-binary transgender or inter-sexed people. The truth of the matter was that back then people outside the gender binary were relatively unheard of. The whole trans rights movement had just started, and words for non-binary genders were (with few exceptions) not coined yet, and those that were being used we known by only a relatively few people What I'm trying to say is, bisexual wasn't about ONLY being attracted to men and women, it was about being attracted to BOTH men and women, with no intent to exclude other possible genders.
Another truth of the matter is, bisexuality is hugely varied. Some bisexuals are attracted to very masculine men and very feminine women, some like only very androgynous people of either gender, some like only feminine people of either gender, some are into all kinds of men but only boyish women, some have been almost exclusively into women but if a big bearish guy winks at them they just melt, etc. etc. There is nothing here meant to exclude attraction to genderqueer or trans folks at all. If people want to call themselves pansexual to make it clear they are potentially attracted to ANY kind of gender that's all cool, but please don't say bisexuals want to, or do, exclude this. I'd like to see pansexual as a specific subgroup of bisexual.
Now some self-labeled pansexuals are probably pulling their hair out at this point. And this brings us to the other problem with the label "pansexual," and that is, there has been more than one focus for the term, further lending to confusion. Thus far, I have failed to fully acknowledge the other aspect. Not only does pansexual mean, for many who identify that way, the ability to be attracted to "other-sexed" individuals, but often the point is that they feel that they are "gender blind" or that their attraction is "gender irrelevant," meaning they don't care about gender at all. They care about personality and individuals as far as attraction; for them gender happens to be of no concern. Unfortunately, many of these sorts of pansexuals believe that all bisexuals are focused on gender and do care very much about the sex of a potential partner. Again, yes, SOME bisexuals are into men and into women and are into which gender potential partners happen to be, but others are not, others are just into being open about potential partners and their genders. I have never, I repeat, NEVER, anywhere heard of a self-defined bisexual who has said, bisexuals by definition are ONLY into men and women , and always concerned with gender. I have been reading a lot on Facebook, reddit, twitter, blogs and in print and talking in real life to bisexuals, and not one ever claims this. Yet I repeatedly see self-defined pansexuals saying this about bisexuals. So now bisexuals not only have to fight straight and gay bi-phobia, they also have to fight other bisexuals who are now calling themselves pansexuals and actually put down "bisexuality" as gender fixation. Though not all pansexuals have this attitude, a great many do. Enough I say! Let's all focus on fighting our mutually experienced bigotry, oppression and ridicule.
I will stick to using "bisexual" to refer to all non-mono-sexually interested/attracted individuals. So if you read anything I write on the matter you can assume that is the definition I intend.
Please do feel free to comment though!