Anything But Bi (ABB) is a phrase coined by bisexual activist to describe the tendency for people to avoid using the word bisexual to describe themselves or others. One of the main ABB manifestations is for people to say, “I don’t like labels.”
This aversion to labels is a sentiment so many of us understand and can relate to. The fantasy of just being oneself without having to use terms that are likely to be misunderstood is extremely alluring.
If many people of all orientations were to refuse to label themselves, we might have the beginnings of an important revolution. However, what’s telling and disturbing is that nearly always when someone expresses the no-label sentiment, it’s in regards to attractions and behaviors which fit the term bisexual. In other words, people who are straight or gay, when asked to express their sexual identity, don’t tend to say “I just don’t like labels;” it’s mainly only among those who are aware that they have attractions to multiple genders that we find people apt to respond with an anti-label philosophy.
Considering that the definition of bisexual is attraction to more than one gender, it’s significant that many people who have such attractions shun the word that most clearly describes their orientation.
We grow up forming an idea of who we are and what kind of person we will be when we are an adult. Naturally, we want to be things that we have learned are consider good, and want to avoid becoming things we have been told are bad. With all the negative stereotypes about bisexuality, it’s no wonder people have trouble thinking of themselves as being THAT word. Of course people don’t want a ton of biphobic bigotry piled upon on them.
So it’s no wonder that we see famous people coming out, saying “I’ve been with men and women, but I don’t like labels.”
The ironic thing is that most of the time, when someone goes for the “no-label” label, people still tend to think of them as bisexual, and thus they are still subjected to the biphobia they so carefully try to avoid. When not assumed to be bisexual, they get mislabel as gay or straight and confused or experimenting. Thus, also ironically, not being willing to label oneself as bisexual only feeds into the stereotypes which say that people who engage in relationships with more than one gender are confused, indecisive, or just playing around.
One of the best ways to overcome the fear of negative associations when attempting to accept oneself as bisexual is to be around other people who have embraced the label, people who have brushed off the slurs so unjustly attached to the term, and focused on the positives.
My fellow bisexual activists are an amazing group of people who tirelessly throw themselves into the line of fire to make it easier for people to come out. More and more we are seeing our efforts pay off. It’s now possible to find bisexual community. Once one becomes a part of proud bisexual spaces – weather it’s an on-line site like BiNet USA, or following bi-community Twitter accounts such as mine, @BisexualBatman, or groups like @BRC_Central, @Bi_Community, and dozens of others, or a real world community group like South-West Missouri Bisexual/Pansexual Pride, or any of the many other bi groups – one gets a whole new perspective on the word bisexual.
Seeing the beauty, benefits, and freedom that comes from labeling oneself authentically as a member of a group of people with a rich history, a dynamic present, and a future which holds even greater promise, makes it surprisingly easy and rewarding to proudly wear the term bisexual.
This was originally published as my BiAngle Column in the June 2015 issue of The Gayly