Stephen Moles, a student at the University of Kansas, offers some reflections on why bisexuals are so misunderstood. He is most perceptive when he observes:
As to why the bisexual is so thoroughly misunderstood and criticized by the populace, I believe it is fear. Not the “run and hide” variety of fear, but a more subtle, uncomfortable kind of anxiety. Those of us who are firmly in the gay or straight camp can easily understand that there is someone who is on the other side of the spectrum. Someone in the middle seems bizarre. They upset the nature of the two sexual camps, creating a bridge that shows gay and straight are continuous, rather then polar.Commenting is blogger Jon Rowe, who offers a suggestion for breaking down the social confusion. He opines that there are actually two types of bisexuals, which he calls Type 1 and Type 2. He urges only Type 1 bisexuals to call themselves "bisexuals."
Interestingly, Rowe also makes a strong case against the existence of so-called "innate revulsion" among heterosexual men.
On a similar note, most hetero guys—even the real gay friendly ones—claim that under no circumstances could they ever enjoy any kind of same-sex contact, thus leading to the impression that there might be some kind of “innate revulsion” to homosexual behavior. I used to buy this. But then, I did a little cross-cultural and sociological research and found evidence that belies this. ...Thanks to Noli Irritare Leones for the link.
So what is the evidence that I relied upon in drawing this conclusion? Very simply this: If that 96% of the male population who are self-identified heteros had an innate revulsion to all things homosexual, then we would expect to see this level of absolute exclusive heterosexuality as a constant across various cultures and sociological circumstances. But we don’t. There have been times and places where significantly more that 4% of society has engaged in homosexual acts and in some places literally 100% of the population engages in such acts as rites of passages (like the citizen class in Ancient Greece, or the Sambians of New Guinea, where, according to Judge Posner in Sex & Reason, they have “made a form of pederasty mandatory. All adolescent boys are assigned adult male lovers whom the boys fellate; the ingestion of adult semen is believed to be necessary to male maturation.”). And here is the rub, in those times and places where huge majorities of certain populations participated in homosexual behavior at some point in their lives, there continued to exist the same consistent percentages of adult homosexuals (that is those who have an exclusive or overwhelmingly predominant homosexual orientation) as everywhere else: around 2-3%. In Ancient Greece, all members of the citizen class would participate in man/boy homosexual acts, (essentially rites of passage for the entire group). But just about all of these males went onto marry women and have families. In both Ancient Greece and in Sambia there is NO EVIDENCE that exclusive adult homosexuality was any more prevalent there than it is in this culture or anywhere else. So much for the idea that experimenting with the behavior around the early teen years will lead to more homosexuals in the population. Practically every male, in those 2 cultures, experimented with the behavior, with the result being no greater incidence of exclusive adult homosexuality than we have today.
Rowe's distinction between two types of bisexuals and his plea for some to forgo the bisexual label in order to ease the confusion of others probably stands little chance of adoption. Bisexuality as a sexual identity will continue to be used by a variety of persons as a label so long as it suits them to do so, and the fact that some pundits deem them "inauthentic" bisexuals is irrelevant. When a person identifies as bisexual, it's because it suits them for a variety of reasons. Some may be predominantly heterosexual, some may be predominantly homosexual, some may have a fluid sexuality, some may be monogamous, some may be polyamorous.
I trust that if a person chooses to identify as a bisexual, that it's not because he or she is trying to make things difficult. It's because that label or identity helps them to own an important part of their sexuality. The fact that some bisexuals cut against the stereotype does not make their identity any less legitimate or proper.
Rather than encouraging all people to agree to a specific definition of bisexuals and then claim that those who don't meet it aren't being authentic, I would encourage folks instead to acknowledge the ambiguity and complexity of sexual labels and identities. Instead of assuming that all folks who call themselves bisexual are Type 1 or frauds, let's take a moment to ask friends who say they are bisexual what they mean by that. They will probably be happy to talk about it.
For more on identity, labels, and spirituality, see this piece.