The Bi vs. Pan Rivalry Needs to Stop

3/26/2018

itstock/santypan

Despite being attracted to all genders, I claim the bi label as opposed to pansexual. I don’t want to dwell on why this is the case, because I’ve already answered this question here. But in short, I claim the bi label because I view bi as an umbrella term, one that encapsulates other non-monosexual identities like pansexual, polysexual, ambisexual, omnisexual, sexually fluid, “mostly straight,” and so on. I think in a time when non-monosexuals face such drastic health disparities, including higher rates of depression, anxiety, sexual violence, and physical pain, it’s necessary to have a single label to rally behind. The word bisexual has a rich history, and I would like to honor that history.

While claiming a bi identity, I often hear the misconception that bisexuality reinforces the gender binary. People believe the “bi” in bisexual represents cisgender men and cisgender women. In a world where the majority of society has an obsession with making gender binary, it makes sense that many people would automatically, and erroneously, assume bisexuality perpetuates a gender binary.

The most commonly accepted definition of bisexual comes from renowned bi activist Robyn Ochs. She says, “I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge that I have in myself the potential to be attracted – romantically and/or sexually – to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.”

With Robyn’s definition, one can see clearly that the “bi” doesn’t reinforce any gender binary. Bi individuals are attracted to two or more genders.

But I have been shamed by queers for identifying as bi. People have gone so far to say that my bisexuality is actually transphobic. Never mind that I’ve dated and loved people of all genders, and that a substantial number of transgender individuals identify as bi.

I’ve been questioned why I cling to an old label. Why would I not simply change my label?

I’ve written about how this bothers me. I’ve never asked anyone to change their identity label. No queer individual would ever ask a transgender person to call themselves by any other label. So why do people ask me to change my label?

I’ve also noticed that when I say I’m bi, and someone else says they’re pansexual, it’s like I’m being one-upped. I’m being “out-queered” so to speak. Now perhaps I’m projecting my own insecurities onto this, but I notice that often, (not always) there is a divide.

Here’s, however, what I will say: We are one community. All of us, together, are part of the same non-monosexual community. We all are more likely to experience depression and anxiety. We’re all more likely to have a monosexual person refuse to date us because they’re afraid we’re going to leave them for a person of another gender. We’re all more likely to experience discrimination and vicious stereotypes because we aren’t attracted to one gender.

There should not be infighting amongst ourselves when it comes to how each of us identify. Neither should we be shaming someone for identifying as polysexual as opposed to pansexual. There is enough room under the bi umbrella for any number of identity labels including pan, demi, omni, or polysexual.

This is why I’ve been a big fan of the term “bi+” which I’ve seen emerge over the past few years. Bi+ is inclusive of all the non-monosexual labels out there. I firmly believe everyone should be allowed to identify as they please. People are also allowed to use multiple labels to describe themselves and should never feel as if they’re locked into a single label.

But let’s please remember that regardless of how we identify, the non-monosexual or bi+ community is one community, and we need to support one another. We need to help lift each other up, rather than bring one another down.

 

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.