Where discussing one's sexual orientation as straight, gay, or lesbian is interpreted as sharing an aspect of one's identity, coming "out" as bisexual is frequently perceived as "over-sharing." One is understood as a general orientation, while the other is heard as a discussion of how often and what kinds of sex one likes to have– a concrete discussion of sexual acts. Bisexuality is not a declaration of how frequently one has sex, what sexual positions one likes, whether they prefer monogamy or open-relationships, whether they cheat on their partners, are going home to have sex that night, etc. It is a sexual orientation in very general terms. Just like heterosexuality.
In addition to the perceived "over-sharing," there is the assumption that those who identify as bisexual cannot commit to any monogamous relationship, again, because bisexuality is perceived as a term that refers to the act of having sex, rather than a general orientation. That is, how can someone who is bisexual be committed to a person of one gender while not having sex with those of other genders on the side? Or is a "bisexual" who is currently in a same-sex relationship not actually bisexual at that moment, but simply homosexual? I love analogies, so here we go: is a heterosexual who is attracted to both brunettes and blondes incapable of committing to one or the other? If they are married to a brunette, does that mean they are no longer into blondes? And here's a better one: if someone who identifies as heterosexual has not actually had any partnered sex, does that mean they are actually asexual? No. Because a sexual orientation is not a description of how, when, where, and with whom one is having sex with. Yes, plenty of people who identify as bisexual (or any other orientation) may choose to be in an open relationship or may secretly cheat behind their partner's backs, but this is beside the point. If someone "cheats," that is about their honesty as a person; if someone is in a polyamorous relationship, that is about their personal relationship arrangements.Neither is about their sexual orientation.
Then there are the assumptions that bisexuality only operates within a gender-binary system. That is, everyone who identifies as bisexual is attracted to cisgendered men and cisgendered women (those who identify as the same gender that they were identified as at birth) with no concept or interest in transgender, intersex, gender-fluid, or any other gendered individuals.
The confusion is understandable in that the root "bi-" means "two" and so "bisexual" would seem to describe an attraction to two genders. If you want to get technical about it- "homo-" means "same", "hetero-" means "different", and "bisexual" refers to these two sexualities of being attracted to the "same" sex as our selves and a "different" sex as ourselves. This covers a lot of territory. More important than abstract definitions is how those who identify as bisexual define it themselves. While there may be those who are specifically attracted to cismen and ciswomen, many more experience "bi" as two ends of a gender spectrum and their attractions may lay anywhere on that spectrum. For many, "bisexual", "pansexual" and/or "queer" are interchangeable or are subsets of each other, but for others, it is not. The bisexual community overwhelmingly includes a variety of gender identities as well as those who are attracted to a variety of genders. So the "facts on the ground" take precedence over antiquated interpretations of words. After all, there are many words that refer to sexual orientation that have been equally re-appropriated. "Gay," "lesbian" and "queer" are three that come to mind.
In conclusion, here are some cliff notes to share with your co-workers:
• Bisexuality is as much of a "transitional" or "fake" identity as heterosexuality and other sexualities.
• Bisexuality refers to a general sexual orientation and not a description of who, what, when, where and how of sexual acts.
• Bisexuality is not actually referring to a gender binary.
• Bisexuality is not a blend of other sexualities, but it's own thing.
Ally Booker is a pleasure activist passionate about educating herself and others on cool sexuality related things. You can often find her at her Tucson shop, Jellywink Boutique, 418 E. 7th St. You can reach her at 777-9434 or AllyBooker@Jellywink.com.