Monday, September 9, 2013

Bi vs. Pan

At one time I defined bisexual as being attracted to men and women. At that time I also defined pansexual as someone for whom gender doesn't play a role in who they are attracted to.

Since then I've learned a bit more about the history of the words, seen some infighting as to their definitions (really, people...really), and have had questions about whether the above definition of "bisexual" actually excludes the trans community.

Long story short: my understanding of the term "bisexual" has changed.

Apparently it's mostly us youngsters who define bisexual the way I did, whereas the older generation usually defines bisexual as being attracted to your own gender and others. (Here the "bi" doesn't mean "two genders," it means your own and other gender presentations. Just an important little detail.) This ultimately means the same as pansexuality in terms of who you can fall in love with. The difference is in the approach, which can cause heated arguments.

It was when I was on the verge of coming out as pansexual that I rethought things. (Oh, wait, I may have actually outed myself as pan in a bi Facebook group...fortunately no one complained.) After a bit of consideration, I wound up being more comfortable with the definition of bisexual that the older generation uses, and returning to identifying as bi.

Of course I will continue to consider the definitions of these words. After all, our language is still evolving, and there is still debate about what we should be called. Ten years from now I may call myself something else entirely, some word that no one has yet dreamed up. Or I may accept being called this new word, but still refer to myself as bi. Perhaps all the various "non-bi but not-monosexual" terms will have disappeared, and we'll all call ourselves bisexual. Ok, so I sort of doubt that last one will happen.

Yes, I realize that I'm addressing issues that will leave anyone not involved in the bisexual community asking "Wait...um...what?" And that will probably be most of my readers. I'm raising various questions that I'm not answering in this post. Why was I concerned about the definition of bisexual excluding trans individuals? Why did my definition of the meaning of "bisexual" change, rather than me just switching to me calling myself pansexual as I was on the verge of doing? (Actually, I'm not sure that I can explain the timing on that one...) What are all these other "non-bi but not-monosexual" terms that I refer to? Why is there an argument about what we should call ourselves? Is this worth arguing about?

And the why the heck are people so worked up over this?

This particular post is just to address my own changed understanding of what bisexuality means, something that I thought was important before writing any more about LGBT topics. The other questions can be topics for future posts. I do want it noted, however, that even though I think that we do need to reach a consensus eventually, I am not going to take it personally when someone uses words differently than me.

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