Our Orientation is Only One Part of Our Identity

8/20/2018

istock/EmirMemedovski

I must say the word “bisexual” out-loud at least a dozen times daily. Hopefully it’s clear by now, but I couldn’t be more proud to identify as bi, and I absolutely love what I do for a living: writing about sexual identity and culture.

I love being able to alleviate some of the worries other folks have about being attracted to multiple genders. While discovering my identity, I didn’t have anyone who was bi that I could talk to. Everyone I knew was either gay or straight (or at least didn’t claim the bi label), and a decade ago, there was significantly less bi visibility and representation in the media. I felt alone, confused, and consumed trying to figure out my attractions.

While I don’t have every aspect of my identity figured out (and I never will), I know with certainty that I am attracted to all genders. I know the bi label has brought me comfort, peace of mind, and helped me find and feel accepted by queer communities.

So now it’s my job to write about bisexuality. I take pride in being open and visible. I enjoy talking to people at bars about bisexuality. I feel like that’s also another way to have a large impact on people who aren’t the usual readers of my articles.

But there’s one downside to all this. My identity has been stripped down to one thing and one thing only: being bi. I am in large part to blame for this. As I said, I love talking about bisexuality, and given the numerous health disparities bi people face, I think it’s crucial to discuss the bi identity as much as possible.

I’ve been told by folks — family members, friends, and people I’ve dated — that I’m obsessed with being bi and I’m consumed with labels. When someone else tells me this, I immediately become defensive. I explain how bisexuality is a huge part of my identity. It influences so many things about me including who I date, where I hang out, my friend group, my job, and how I view the world, so I am more than entitled to discuss it as much as want.

But the truth is, sometimes I do feel reduced to a trope and a broken record. I sometimes feel like I’m only bi, and that’s what people know me for, but there’s so much more to me than my sexual orientation. I’m an avid fiction reader, I play speed chess nearly every day — both in the parks and online, I’m a devoted friend, a singer, a water-polo player, and a gender-bending queen when I serve looks, henny. That’s just a few other components of who I am.

I understand the difference between the activities I enjoy and innate characteristics crucial to my identity. You could say I simply like chess and reading, but that’s not pivotal to who I am as a person.

And you’d be 100% correct. They’re not the same as being bi. Being raised Jewish is something that would be a better example of something that’s more pivotal to my identity.

But here’s the thing: there’s always more to everyone than what meets the eye, and if you’re proud of one thing and are aware of how big of an impact it has on your life, you still shouldn’t be reduced to that one thing. You are more than your religion, race, gender, sexual identity, appearance, and so-on. While you’re undoubtedly a member of certain groups, you’re also an individual. It’s important to embrace all aspects of your identity.

Again, given what I do and how I speak, it makes perfect sense that others would reduce me to my sexuality because I’ve been doing that myself since I was 22. But as I’m growing older, and more comfortable with my own sexuality, I don’t need to speak about it as much in my personal life.

At first, I needed that validation from others about my bi identity. I needed to “prove” them wrong when they said bisexuality doesn’t exist — not simply to educate them, but to validate myself too.

At this point in my life, I honestly don’t care what other people think about me. If they don’t believe me or question my attractions, I know I’m still bi. I don’t let other people have that power over me.

So from now on, I plan to present myself as the multifaceted human I am.

But don’t worry. This will probably just mean instead of talking about bisexuality a dozen times a day, I’ll only talk about it ten times. I’m still proud of my sexuality and want continue educating the world about bi identity, and I know how central my sexuality is to my identity.

I now just want to be seen for all of me, not just one part of me.

Zachary Zane
Zachary Zane a Brooklyn-based freelance writer, speaker, YouTuber, and activist whose work focuses on (bi)sexuality, gender, identity politics, relationships, and culture. He's a contributing editor at The Advocate Magazine, a columnist at Bi.org, and currently writes for The Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, Out Magazine, and PRIDE.