A Guide to Bisexual/Pansexual/Fluid Etiquette
(written for 2011 Creating Change Conference)
The bisexual identity speaks more to the existence of attraction to people of any gender, rather than merely a statement of past or current relationships and/or sexual activities. Bisexual, pansexual, fluid and folks who choose to remain “unlabeled” are part of the LGBT community and need you as an ally just as much as they remain your strong partner in the fight for equality. In hopes of creating a space at Creating Change in which all attendees can freely and safely be themselves, we offer a few notes on bisexual/pansexual/fluid communities.
Common misconceptions about bisexual/pansexual/fluid communities include: There’s no such thing as bisexuality; it’s just a phase; bisexuality itself reinforces the gender binary; bi people spread sexually transmitted diseases; and bisexuals face less discrimination than gay, lesbian and transgender people. Bisexuality is NOT exclusively a transitional phase between heterosexuality and homosexuality. No single pattern exists among bisexuals. Many people declare their bisexuality to claim their personal history. They don’t want to erase previous loves or parts of themselves to buy acceptance.
With that in mind, we offer a few ways to embrace the bisexual/pansexual/fluid communities:
- Use inclusive language, instead of “gay rights” or “gay marriage” try phrases like “equal rights” and “marriage equality”.
- Question the negativity associated with bisexual stereotypes.
- Check in with someone about what term(s) they prefer – Remember that no one person represents a community; no two people are the same and definitions may vary. Please respect each person’s power and ability to define themselves.
- Recognize that bisexuality is often invisibilized/ delegitimized, so bi/pan/fluid people usually have to come out over and over.
- Respect people’s privacy and boundaries. Take a moment before asking questions and look into the assumptions behind them.
- Recognize that bisexual people often face similar discrimination and obstacles as gays and lesbians with regard to job security, healthcare, marriage, custody, visitation and adoption of children.
- Recognize the way that specific relationships function is entirely independent of sexual orientation. Be positive about all relationships –monogamous, polyamorous, or anything else.
- Accept you might never fully understand someone else’s sexuality, and that it’s okay not to.
Thank you for respecting all the ways we can love each other! Enjoy the conference!
Compiled by 2011 Creating Change Bisexual/Pansexual/Fluid Organizing Institute Co-coordinators, Becky Saltzman and Faith Cheltenham. Thanks to The Bi Resource Center, UC Davis Bi Visibility Project, Human Rights Campaign, The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Sean Cahill, and Robyn Ochs for source material.