30dGQC E22: Orientation and Gender

This post is for the 30-day Genderqueer challenge. More information is available in the index.

What are your sexual and romantic orientations? Are they affected by your gender?

As you doubtless know by now, I am aromantic and demi-bi-sexual. Let’s ignore aromanticism for now, because it’s not so much a gender preference as a lack of anything to be preferenced.

It has been said by at least one person that demisexuals are the only people who really could have an actual gender-identity-based preference, rather than a preference for something that correlates with but is not gender. (I’m currently remembering what was stated in Mara/Elijah’s GQC day 19) I’m not completely in agreement with this sentiment, but I’ll get back to that thought in a different post.

Having acknowledged that it is a potential influence, I will now say that that potential is not realized. I am attracted to people without regard for their gender. (I actually made a spreadsheet to calculate some statistics, because being demi I can explicitly count the number of people I’ve been attracted to, and it turns out that I’ve been attracted to approximately equal numbers of men and women, and while I haven’t been attracted to any nonbinary people, that’s probably because I only know like two of them total. (I should quite possibly work on that.) Of course, those statistics are completely insignificant to a conversation of whether or not I am bisexual, because bisexuality does not need to be “attracted to people with no regard for gender at all”, but this is not that and I feel it is useful to convey the specific subtype of bisexuality that describes me.)

My gender identity is “not having one”, and in fact I cannot even really empathize with other people’s gender identities. Except as a linguistic categorization, other people’s genders just don’t really stick in my mind as important in most cases. There’s a part of me that simply can’t figure out why it’s a big deal, even as other parts of me are in the midst of social dysphoria.

I can’t say exactly how important it is, (because that’s a Hard philosophical problem) but I feel that this does figure into my bisexual identity. The similarities are undeniable.

Starting from a completely different interpretation of the prompt, bisexuality is definitely related to nonbinaryness. There’s a “debate” between certain bi and pan people (mostly, though others have interjected) about nonbinary people that, unfortunately, will probably last for a long time. Summarized, it goes as follows:

Misguided person: Bisexuality means “attracted to both genders”! Therefore, it’s irreparably based on the gender binary!
Actual bi person: Actually, that’s the etymological fallacy, and it’s not a real argument. Furthermore, people have been using “bisexuality” in a nonbinary-inclusive way for decades.
Misguided person (possibly the same one from earlier): But that’s actually pansexuality! Obviously, you don’t know anything about the English language, and therefore I don’t believe anything you have to say.

It’s an incredibly frustrating argument, and it never ends on Tumblr. Unfortunately, there are a lot of misguided people who do define bisexuality as “attracted to both men and women” and it is unfortunately beyond my powers to get them all to see the light of reason.

It is my disagreement with the very basis of this debate that is the main reason I identify as bi and not pan. “Bisexual” is a reclaimed medical term, and the process of reclaiming a word always changes the way it should be defined. Bi people have known that this word isn’t perfect for its entire history, and they use it anyway for the same reason they use the term “queer”: To take it away as a weapon from their oppressors.

At some point, someone defined pansexuality to be what you could call “strict bisexuality”, that is, attraction “regardless” of gender. Some people believe that it should replace the word “bisexual” and I strongly disagree with them.

So, my contribution to this situation is to be a nonbinary bisexual. I happen to fit the definition of “pansexual”, but I don’t use the term for political reasons, because no word exists in a vacuum. I do not like the atmosphere of the word “pansexual”, although others are entirely free to use it, and I instead use the word “bisexual” because it has a richer history and it simply resonates with me more.

Also, as a nonbinary person, I want to say as an aside that I don’t care much more for the “improved” definition of bisexual either: “Attracted to the same and other genders.”

I don’t think that there even can be other people with the “same” gender as me, because I don’t have a gender at all. The “improved” definition is actually possibly worse for me, because it implicitly labels me as heterosexual for attraction solely to people with “other” genders, and if that doesn’t strike you as an obvious flaw then I don’t think that we can be friends. At least the “men and women” does technically still work for me.

The fundamental problem with both of these is the same. The definition for bisexuality is constructed out of the definitions of two other sexualities. The “old” definition combines gynesexuality and androsexuality, while the “improved” version combines homosexuality and heterosexuality.

It is impossible to be nonbinary-inclusive while simply ANDing two binary things, and anyone who thinks otherwise has missed the fundamental point of “nonbinary” as a word.

(Related: Reduction of bisexuality to “basically gay” and “basically straight” based on situation. e.g. “SGA and/or trans” or “straight passing privilege”.)

You might now be asking, “Well, how do you define bisexuality?” and to that I would answer “I don’t, really.”.

People get way too fixated on definitions, and furthermore, expect every word to only have one definition per sense. To such people, I simply request that they find any dictionary (even free online dictionaries), select a word at random, and read the definition(s) provided. It probably looks something like this:


  • n. A sceptic; an unbeliever or atheist.
  • adj. Of no faith or religion.
  • adj. Not trusting to faith for salvation

(from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License)

Even this relatively obscure and single-purpose term is listed with two definitions for the adjective form. Notice, as well, that they are not simply reworded versions of each other, but actually use different concepts.

Why is it such a stretch, then, for words like “bisexual” or “asexual” to have multiple definitions?

If I really needed to come up with a definition of bisexuality as I use the term, I would go with something like the following:


  • n. A bisexual person.
  • adj. Attracted to people of multiple or all genders.
  • adj. Not solely attracted to individuals of a particular gender.
  • adj. Not solely attracted to men, nor solely to women.

Definitions 2 and 3 being the ones that most strongly relate to myself, of course, but 4 is valid nonetheless. (It even still manages to be nonbinary-inclusive while only directly referencing men and women. Funny thing, that.) (Also, yes, obviously two is “multiple”, English isn’t a singlular/dual/many language, we only have singular and plural. That this confuses anybody confuses me.)

(For the record, Wiktionary lists just one relevant definition, of the “men and women” variety, but that’s beside the point at hand.)

A similar method can be applied to literally any identity label, (like asexual, demisexual, or greyromantic.) which I leave as an exercize for the reader.

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