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The Fourth Option
Exploring Bisexuality
By Paul Amistoso
Table of Contents
I. Introduction: Bisexuality in the 20th Century and Beyond 1
II. Bisexuality vs. Homosexuality 6
III. Bisexualityas the Ambivalent Middle Ground 9
IV. The Bisexual as a Product of Nature 11
V. The Bisexual as a Product of Nurture 13
VI. Conclusion 19
1
I. Introduction: Bisexuality in the 20th Century and Beyond
Bisexuality may be the most underdeveloped aspect of modern humansexuality, at
least, in terms of social acceptance and academic probing, when contrasted against
homosexuality and heterosexuality. It is so to such an extent that, contrary to what the
general public thinks, the bisexual community is discriminated against not only by
heterosexuals but also by homosexuals.1
The bisexual movement started roughly at the same time as what could be called
“the decade of the gay movement” – the 1970s. At the heart of it all was the city of San
Francisco. During the time, the city was flourishing as a renowned center for urban gays,
especially with events such as the election of the first openly gay city official, Harvey
Milk, in 1977. The perceived openness of the city to the gay community inevitably
attracted members of the bisexual community, as described by Jay Paul:
Given its apparent openness to the gay community, the city of San
Francisco appeared to be a fertile birthplace for an organized bisexual community.
David Lourea, a key person in the creation of the [Bisexual] center, moved to San
Francisco in 1973 from Philadelphia, as he felt that “if a bi movement was going
to happen, it would begin in San Francisco”.2
1Jay P. Paul, “San Francisco’s Bisexual Center and the Emergence of a Bisexual
Movement,” in Bisexualities: The Ideology and Practice of Sexual Contact with Both Men and
Women, ed. Erwin J. Haeberle and Rolf Gindorf (New York: The Continuum Publishing
Company, 1998), 130.
2 Ibid., 132.
2
Even with the widening acceptance of the gay community into mainstream
society, this was not enough to guarantee the same degree of acceptance towards the
bisexual community. The notion of being “gay” fed the perception of heterosexuality and
homosexuality as being two mutually exclusive conditions. This, in turn, pushed
bisexuality into the sidelines and forced a new invisibility to those who were bisexually
active. This led to bisexuality being discounted, affirming the exclusive nature of the
homosexual/heterosexual dichotomy. 3 At the time, bisexuals found that their “coming
out” as bisexuals were received with suspicion and ambivalence in the newly better-
represented gay community.
As for female bisexuals, their bisexuality had a special negative implication, as far
as lesbian-feminism is concerned. Since lesbian feminism equates providing males with
pleasure as supporting the notion of male supremacy, lesbian-feminists saw female
bisexuals as traitors.4
The magnitude of opposition directed against bisexuals may have aggravated the
need of having a means for the bisexual community to stand together. This led to the
founding of the Bisexual Center in San Francisco. Maggi Rubenstein was at the center of
it all. Having come out during her time as a nurse working at the Center for Special
Problems, she began her personal odyssey searching for kindred souls, people that could
understand and validate her sexual and emotional feelings for both sexes.
3 Ibid., 131.
4 Ibid., 131-132.
3
After leaving the Center for Special Problems, she, along with Margo Rila,
established the San Francisco Sex Information Hotline. After long struggles for financial
backing, Rubenstein, Rila, and David Lourea finally managed to found the Bisexual
Center in 1976. 5 Among the new members were renowned experts in sexuality, as
described by Paul:
Many of the others involved from the onset of the Bisexual Center were
also psychotherapists, counselors, and sex educators, including David Lourea,
Margo Rila, Alan Rockway, Evelyn Hoch, HogieWycoff, JeanePaslé-Green, and
Vicki Galland. They were drawn to the notion of an expanded and inclusive
notion of human sexuality that avoided dichotomization of sexual orientation.6
The Bisexual Center of San Francisco had numerous contemporaries in other
cities as well. The National Bisexual Liberation Group, for one, was founded in New
York in 1972, claiming a very large membership in the US and abroad by 1975. It
published what could probably be called the first bisexual newsletter, the “The Bisexual
Expression.” Other groups such as Bi Forum in New York and Bi Ways in Chicago were
founded in 1975 and 1978, respectively.
Beyond the coasts of United States, the bisexual movement also reached Europe.
Although paralleling the movement in the US, British and European groups arose from
different roots and followed different courses. Men active in the anti-sexist men’s
5 Ibid., 132-133.
6 Ibid., 133.
4
movement founded the London Bisexual Group in 1981 while the Edinburgh Bisexual
Group formed in 1984 as an outgrowth of a lesbian-gay-bisexual socialists conference.7
Not long after, the proliferations of discussions regarding sexuality in the news
media and in popular culture in general meant that bisexuality was already enjoying a
higher public profile. This was greatly reflected in how the trend in the early 1970s
veered more towards androgynous-looking rock stars and the popularity of well-known
artists that are openly bisexual, such as David Bowie and Elton John.8 Another very well
known figure that openly admitted to being a bisexual was Freddy Mercury, who had a
relationship with Mary Austin, “came out” in 1974 and lived with Jim Hutton for six
years.9However, this influx of various supporters of bisexuality (direct and indirect) was
not able to completely prevent oncoming attacks on the bisexual movement. Jay Paul
once again delves into this in greater detail:
However, by 1974, there were attacks on bisexuality in the American
Press, with two news magazines running articles on bisexuals that trivialized it as
a “chic” or trendy aberration. But there were also more balanced portrayals, as
well as the beginning of more searching, scholarly discussion of bisexuality in
professional publications (Blumstein and Schwartz 1974; Bode 1976; Falk 1975;
Klein 1978; Wolff 1977).10
7Liz A. Highleyman, A Brief History of the Bisexual Movement (Boston: The Bisexual
Research Center).
8Jay P. Paul, “San Francisco’s Bisexual Center and the Emergence of a Bisexual
Movement,” in Bisexualities: The Ideology and Practice of Sexual Contact with Both Men and
Women, ed. Erwin J. Haeberle and Rolf Gindorf (New York: The Continuum Publishing
Company, 1998), 132.
9 Mark Hodkinson, Queen: The Early Years (London: Omnibus Press, 2004).
10Jay P. Paul, “San Francisco’s Bisexual Center and the Emergence of a Bisexual
Movement,” in Bisexualities: The Ideology and Practice of Sexual Contact with Both Men and
Women, ed. Erwin J. Haeberle and Rolf Gindorf (New York: The Continuum Publishing
Company, 1998), 132.
5
Furthermore, television shows and films soon began to incorporate more of the
bisexual movement into their plots and programming, focusing more on gay themes and
gay characters. Science fiction also showed an increasing interest in the malleability of
sex roles and norms in the 1970s.11
This movement in popular media continued throughout the decades, even
reaching prominent cultural icons in the entertainment industry. One such icon is the
animated comedy show The Simpsons. Sharon Waxman, an online writer for The New
York Times, writes about a comment made by another writer on the impact that being
discussed in such a show had on an issue:
"The issue was mainstream to some degree, but now that they've deigned
it worthy of the show it is interwoven into the fabric of popular culture," said Ray
Richmond, a television columnist for The Hollywood Reporter and co-editor of
the anthology "The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family."12
With the growing prevalence of bisexuality in popular culture, compounded on by
continuing efforts to defend the members of the movement, only time will tell how the
general public reception of such an issue and of the individuals at the center of that issue
will develop.
11 Ibid.
12 Sharon Waxman, “'Simpsons' Animates Gay Nuptials, and a Debate,” New York Times,
February 21, 2005. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/21/arts/television/21simpsons.html?_r=2
(accessed September 16, 2012).
6
7
II. Bisexuality vs. Homosexuality
Perhaps the most common misunderstanding about bisexuality is that it falls
under homosexuality and thus, the general public relates to both sexual idealisms in the
same way. However, this is not the case. As what was mentioned earlier in Chapter 1,
bisexuals may as well be seen as the marginalized sector within the LGB or the lesbian-
gay-bisexual community. Furthermore, while homosexuality is usually seen as final and
definite, in terms of choosing a sexual preference, bisexuality is seen as a state of
potentiality of sorts, which, in turn, leads to it being seen as a mere temporary transitional
phase. As a note, from here on out, the term homosexual applies to both gay and lesbian
individuals and will not be broken down further into the latter two.
Before going any further, an analysis of the essential difference in definition of
the two terms is in order. While homosexuality refers to the sexual preference, which
may be merely circumstantial in some cases (this will explained later on), of an
individual for another individual of the same sex, bisexuality refers to the erotic interest
in both sexes.
As a concept, bisexuality could not come into existence without the prior
existence of homosexuality; in the same way that homosexuality could not have existed
without the concept of heterosexuality. This logical third option had arisen because there
is the recognition of the dichotomy of heterosexuality and homosexuality. Furthermore,
this logical third option also came into existence because people recognized that the said
8
dichotomy, the simple opposition between the two, did not suffice to fully describe the
human erotic reality.13
Another key difference between the two sexual idealisms is that bisexuality
always hinges on having a choice, on doing. It hinges on the possibility of choosing
between a man and a woman. Homosexuality, however, may arise merely because of the
circumstances and thus, “forces” the individual into choosing to sexually interact with the
same sex. According to Haeberle, three different ideas can inhere in the word
homosexuality today. Firstly, he describes a prison setting that may not have any
homosexuals but may have a great amount of homosexual activity or homosexual
behavior, by definition of sexual intercourse with the same sex. This idea of
homosexuality as a conduct had arisen because of the lack of choices for sexual partners.
Secondly, he describes the idea of homosexuality as a condition, as a sickness. In this
sense, homosexuality is not something that people “do” but rather, something that people
“have”. Lastly, he describes homosexuality as a social role. In this sense, homosexuality
refers to the plethora of ways that people live in society as “homosexuals”.14 Here, he
summarizes this adequately:
Indeed, the noun homosexuality itself can have three meanings: either
someone who engages in a particular kind of conduct; or someone who has a
particular condition; or someone who plays a particular social role.15
13Erwin J. Haeberle, “Introduction,” in Bisexualities: The Ideology and Practice of Sexual
Contact with Both Men and Women, ed. Erwin J. Haeberle and Rolf Gindorf (New York: The
Continuum Publishing Company, 1998), 14.
14 Ibid.
15 Ibid., 15.
9
One more key difference between the two, which will be further explored in
Chapter III, is the way the two labels function. Having a homosexual label provides an
individual with an adequately stable means of knowing how to be one. Thehomosexual
label tends to be more capable of fully prescribing ways on how to be a homosexual, by
providing ideas of what homosexuals do. The label bisexual, on the other hand, is still
somewhat ambivalent, as far as prescribing how to be one is concerned.
10
III. The Bisexual as the Ambivalent Middle Ground
Considering that there are no hard and fast rules on how to be a bisexual, in
contrast to how all you have to do to be a homosexual is to increase sexual interactions
with the same sex and decrease sexual interactions with the opposite sex or how all you
have to do to be a heterosexual is to do the opposite, the path of being a bisexual is filled
with unclear delineations and “formal guidelines”.16 The journal article Recent Empirical
Investigations describes this phenomenon:
Part of the reason for this is that even though the identity of bisexual may
be accepted, it does not provide a solution in the way the homosexual label does.
The homosexual label tends to more fully prescribe what homosexuals do, viz.:
increase contacts with other homosexuals and decrease them with heterosexuals,
develop same-sex intimate relationships, subscribe to gay subculture and its
ideologies, and so forth. The label bisexual, in contrast, dos not provide such a
clear message. There are no informal rules about how much same-sex versus
opposite-sex interaction on should have, whether relationships should be
simultaneous or sequential, or generally how to relate and interact with both men
and women in a sexual/affectional way. Nor are there role models or folk heroes
that structure “how to be bisexual” for the bisexual as there are for the
homosexual.17
Furthermore, to be a bisexual requires an individual to be open to sexual
interaction to both sexes, whether simultaneous or sequential, but also requires him to
reject not one, but two recognized categories of sexual idealisms: heterosexuality and
16Martin S. Weinberg, Colin J. Williams, and Douglas W. Pryor, “Recent Empirical
Investigations,” in Bisexualities: The Ideology and Practice of Sexual Contact with Both Men
and Women, ed. Erwin J. Haeberle and Rolf Gindorf (New York: The Continuum Publishing
Company, 1998), 180.
17Ibid.
11
homosexuality. 18 This rejection hinges on the definition of the two terms as being
sexually interested exclusively to the opposite sex and being sexually interested
exclusively to the same sex, respectively. With bisexuality being the sexual acceptance of
members of both the opposite sex and of the same sex as potential sexual partners, it goes
against monosexuality as a whole and thus, brings us back to how the bisexual
community is discriminated against even within the LGB (lesbian-gay-bisexual) sphere.
This leads us to the definition of bisexuality as a middle ground of sorts. Instead
of consolidating sexual and gendered binaries or submitting to dichotomies, bisexuality is
seen as a place from which individuals can transcend categorization, from which people
can go beyond labels, and from which bisexuals and potential bisexuals can escape the
perceived tyranny of monosexuality.19
18 Ibid., 169.
19 Clare Hemmings, Bisexual Spaces: A Geography of Sexuality and Gender (New York
and London: Routledge, 2012), 3.
12
IV. The Bisexual as a Product of Nature
Unlike homosexuality, that has numerous theories relating to it being genetic or
hereditary, bisexuality supposedly stretched farther beyond the parents or a few past
generations in the family tree. Furthermore, unlike homosexuality, bisexuality presents a
certain degree of incompleteness when one attempts to decipher it anatomically or
biologically by virtue of the endocrine glands, extreme hormonal imbalances, and the
like. Bisexuality, as Sigmund Freud had enthusiastically proclaimed, was supposedly a
product ora leftover of human evolution.
Having lived in a time when the intellectual milieu was dominated by Lamarckian
and Darwinian thinking, Freud was strongly attracted by the theories of Darwin, one of
which is the theory that “some extremely remote progenitor of the whole vertebrate
kingdom appears to have been hermaphrodite or androgynous”.20This was based on the
observation that until the third month of human embryonic life, the embryo possesses
both sexual organs. Thus, primordial hermaphroditism, as it was called, became the
“missing bisexual link”.21Steven Angelides adequately describes how ecstatic Sigmund
Freud was about the theory:
Wilhelm Fliess, Freud’s most trusted friend and mentor of fifteen years,
introduced him to the concept of biological bisexuality – the new axiomatic
concept of hegemonic evolutionism. In a letter of reply to Fleiss in 1899, Freud
20Steven Angelides, A History of Bisexuality (Chicago and London: The University of
Chicago Press, 2001), 51.
21 Ibid.
13
declared excitedly: “bisexuality! I am sure you are right about it.” And in line
with the evolutionary theories of primordial hermaphroditism, Freud proposed
that such “long-familiar facts of anatomy lead us to suppose that an originally
bisexual physical disposition has, in the course of evolution, become modified
into a unisexual one, leaving behind only a few traces of the sex that has become
atrophied.”22
These “traces” may refer to the bisexual potential that all humans share. However,
according to Lance Spurr, this does not necessarily mean that humans can become
bisexuals at any given time. He justifies this by saying that specific sexual desire must be
directed towards one or the other gender, whether it is the opposite sex as or the same sex
as the subject. He goes on to say that this direction of desire may be done alternatively.23
This implies that a person can only be heterosexual or homosexual at any given time.
Furthermore, the notion that all humans were bisexuals at one time carried with it the
implication that bisexuality is a valid sexual identity or species. According to Havelock
Ellis, a prominent sexologist, to grant bisexuality such recognition presented a very big
problem. If accepted as a species, it would lead to a supposed “crisis of meaning” for the
identities of man, woman, heterosexuals, and homosexuals. Bisexuality was therefore
denied as a distinct sexual identity, even after it was avowed as an originary human state
to avoid such crises.
22 Ibid., 51-52.
23 Ibid., 50.
14
V. The Bisexual as a Product of Nurture
The more generally accepted notion regarding bisexuality is that it is developed
within an individual as the person matures and interacts with his environment, especially
with the people around him. More often than not, bisexuality is perceived as a mere
transitional phase, from heterosexuality to homosexuality. However, many people today
have begun to see it as a final, insofar as they are certain, sexual identity. Unlike the
decision to be a homosexual or the decision to settle as a heterosexual, the decision to be
a bisexual is a special one. It presents a special problem of meaning and adjustment. It
not only rejects one category of sexual identity, but two – homosexuality and
heterosexuality.24
Under the alias of Anne, a female student of the Ateneo de Manila University was
interviewed for this research. Unlike most people who were content in choosing sexual
partners of either the opposite sex or of the same sex, Anne felt discontent with being
faced with only those options. “It was hard because I knew it wasn't normal. But it wasn't
doing me any good to deny myself so at first, I was forced to accept it until friends made
me realize that I'm perfectly okay the way I am.” was Anne’s reply as she was asked
about how she came to terms with her bisexuality.
24Martin S. Weinberg, Colin J. Williams, and Douglas W. Pryor, “Recent Empirical
Investigations,” in Bisexualities: The Ideology and Practice of Sexual Contact with Both Men
and Women, ed. Erwin J. Haeberle and Rolf Gindorf (New York: The Continuum Publishing
Company, 1998), 169.
15
Anne is not the only person to feel that it is unnecessary to choose between the
two sexes. In a study conducted by Martin Weinberg and his colleagues during the 1980s,
many of the 93 self-defined bisexual respondents reported their turning point was their
first homosexual or heterosexual encounter and realizing that sex is pleasurable with both
genders. Others, on the other hand, much like Anne, felt that their sexual feelings for both
sexes were simply too strong for them to deny one for the other and thus, found it more
sensible to adapt bisexuality.25
When asked about the challenges that being a bisexual carries with it, Anne
replied, “The biggest challenge for me was to accept myself. I felt isolated a lot of times. I
felt alone.” What Anne was experiencing may be classified under the Initial Confusion
Stage. According to Weinberg, there are four major stages in the development of the
bisexual identity: Initial Confusion, Finding and Applying the Label, Settling into the
Identity, and Continuing Uncertainty.26The term label refers to the bisexual label or
“being a bisexual”. Below is a table adequately summarizing the four stages:
25 Ibid., 172.
26 Ibid., 179.
27Martin S. Weinberg, Colin J. Williams, and Douglas W. Pryor, Understanding
Bisexuality (USA: Oxford University Press, 1995), 27.
Stages Characteristics
Initial Confusion - Experiences a period of considerable confusion,
doubt, and struggle with their sexual identity
before regarding themselves as bisexual27
16
28 Ibid.
29 Ibid., 29.
30 Ibid.
31 Ibid.
- Major sources of Early confusion: experience of
having strong sexual feelings for both sexes was
unsettling and sometimes frightening; others
thought that strong sexual feelings for the same
sex meant an end to their long-standing
heterosexuality28
Finding and Applying
the Label
- Occurs after the initial period of confusion (which
often lasted for years)29
- Acceptance of the category “bisexual” / discovery
of the term “bisexual”
- The former provided a means of making sense of
long-standing feelings for both sexes
- Turning point was the first homosexual or
heterosexual experience, coupled with the
recognition that sex was pleasurable with both
sexes30
- It was difficult to label themselves as “bisexuals”
without experiencing first hand the sexual act31
- Some merely realized that their feelings for both
sexes were too strong to deny
17
32 Ibid., 30.
33 Ibid., 31.
34 Ibid., 32.
35Ibid., 34.
- Encouragement and support of others allowed
them to adopt the label32
Settling into the Identity - Characterized by a more complete transition in
self-labeling
- Becoming more accepting
- Individuals became less concerned with the
negative attitudes of others about their sexual
preference.33
- Increase in self-acceptance is often attributed to
the continuous support from peers34
Continuing Uncertainty - “Confusion” is a built-in feature of being bisexual:
“While appearing to encompass a wider choice of
love objects…[the bisexual] actually becomes a
product of abject confusion; his self image is that
of an overgrown young adolescent whose ability
to differentiate one form of sexuality from another
has never developed. He lacks, above all, a sense
of identity…[He] cannot answer the question:
What am I?”35
- There is a lack of social validation and support
that came with being a self-identified bisexual.
18
It may be interesting to note that nearly all of the respondents in the study
conducted by Weinberg and his colleagues reported that they had accepted their
bisexuality and do not see it as a transitional stage. However, much like any other
preference, such sentiments are subject to change, especially when they become involved
in a long-term relationship. In the same way as those of homosexuals, social
arrangements determine the meaning of their sexual identities.37
Furthermore, accepting the identity of being a bisexual entails many problems due
to the special social and sexual character of bisexuality itself. Accepting oneself as being
a bisexual implies that one must also accept the lack of closure that bisexuality carries
with it.38
Another aspect of the development of bisexuality that cannot be dismissed is the
effect that peers have on the bisexual or potentially bisexual individual. As mentioned in
Chapter I, having organizations and meeting people that share the same experiences,
36 Ibid., 35.
37Martin S. Weinberg, Colin J. Williams, and Douglas W. Pryor, “Recent Empirical
Investigations,” in Bisexualities: The Ideology and Practice of Sexual Contact with Both Men
and Women, ed. Erwin J. Haeberle and Rolf Gindorf (New York: The Continuum Publishing
Company, 1998), 180.
38 Ibid.
- There are persistent pressures to relabel the
bisexual self as ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’
- There were continued assertions that bisexuality is
a politically incorrect and inauthentic identity.36
19
including but not limited to sexual inclinations and preferences, allows the individual to
feel more at ease and makes it easier for him to accept his bisexuality. This is especially
crucial, considering that, again, bisexuals are marginalized even in the LGB community.
20
VI. Conclusion
Throughout this short study, the fundamental aspects of bisexuality were
hopefully adequately portrayed. From the election of Harvey Milk in 1977 that led to the
likes of David Laurea and Maggi Rubenstein to flock to San Francisco to the continuing
prevalence of bisexuality in pop culture as portrayed by controversial songs such as Lady
Gaga’sBorn This Way, the bisexual movement shows no signs of stopping yet.
What could be considered as a maverick among sexual identities, bisexuality will
continue to puzzle sexologists and psychologists alike. In its effort to find a place in the
world as a contemporary of heterosexuality and homosexuality, bisexuality will continue
to be studied and will probably continue to be treated as an enigma, regardless of whether
it is an ancient evolutionary trait or a product of an individual’s reaction to his
environment.
With more and more people gradually discovering bisexuality not merely as a
bridge or a transitional phase but as an endpoint in itself, debates about its validity and
studies with regard to its nature as a supposed sexual identity will definitely continue.
21
WORKS CITED
Angelides, Steven. A History of Bisexuality, 50-52. Chicago and London: University of
Chicago Press, 2001.
Haeberle, Erwin J. “San Francisco’s Bisexual Center and the Emergence of a Bisexual
Movement.” In Bisexualities: The Ideology and Practice of Sexual Contact with Both
Men and Women, edited by Erwin J. Haeberle and Rolf Gindorf, 14-15. New York: The
Continuum Publishing Company, 1998.
Hemmings, Clare. Bisexual Spaces: A Geography of Sexuality and Gender, 3. New York and
London: Routledge, 2012.
Highleyman, Liz A. A Brief History of the Bisexual Movement. Boston: The Bisexual Research
Center.
Hodkinson, Mark.Queen: The Early Years. London: Omnibus Press, 2004.
Paul, Jay P. “San Francisco’s Bisexual Center and the Emergence of a Bisexual Movement.”
In Bisexualities: The Ideology and Practice of Sexual Contact with Both Men and
Women, edited by Erwin J. Haeberle and Rolf Gindorf, 130-133. New York: The
Continuum Publishing Company, 1998.
Weinberg, Martin S., Colin J. Williams, and Douglas W. Pryor. “San Francisco’s Bisexual
Center and the Emergence of a Bisexual Movement.” In Bisexualities: The Ideology and
Practice of Sexual Contact with Both Men and Women, edited by Erwin J. Haeberle and
Rolf Gindorf, 169-180. New York: The Continuum Publishing Company, 1998.
Weinberg, Martin S., Colin J. Williams, and Douglas W. Pryor. Understanding Bisexuality, 27-
35. USA: Oxford University Press, 1995.

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The Fourth Option

  • 1. The Fourth Option Exploring Bisexuality By Paul Amistoso
  • 2. Table of Contents I. Introduction: Bisexuality in the 20th Century and Beyond 1 II. Bisexuality vs. Homosexuality 6 III. Bisexualityas the Ambivalent Middle Ground 9 IV. The Bisexual as a Product of Nature 11 V. The Bisexual as a Product of Nurture 13 VI. Conclusion 19
  • 3. 1 I. Introduction: Bisexuality in the 20th Century and Beyond Bisexuality may be the most underdeveloped aspect of modern humansexuality, at least, in terms of social acceptance and academic probing, when contrasted against homosexuality and heterosexuality. It is so to such an extent that, contrary to what the general public thinks, the bisexual community is discriminated against not only by heterosexuals but also by homosexuals.1 The bisexual movement started roughly at the same time as what could be called “the decade of the gay movement” – the 1970s. At the heart of it all was the city of San Francisco. During the time, the city was flourishing as a renowned center for urban gays, especially with events such as the election of the first openly gay city official, Harvey Milk, in 1977. The perceived openness of the city to the gay community inevitably attracted members of the bisexual community, as described by Jay Paul: Given its apparent openness to the gay community, the city of San Francisco appeared to be a fertile birthplace for an organized bisexual community. David Lourea, a key person in the creation of the [Bisexual] center, moved to San Francisco in 1973 from Philadelphia, as he felt that “if a bi movement was going to happen, it would begin in San Francisco”.2 1Jay P. Paul, “San Francisco’s Bisexual Center and the Emergence of a Bisexual Movement,” in Bisexualities: The Ideology and Practice of Sexual Contact with Both Men and Women, ed. Erwin J. Haeberle and Rolf Gindorf (New York: The Continuum Publishing Company, 1998), 130. 2 Ibid., 132.
  • 4. 2 Even with the widening acceptance of the gay community into mainstream society, this was not enough to guarantee the same degree of acceptance towards the bisexual community. The notion of being “gay” fed the perception of heterosexuality and homosexuality as being two mutually exclusive conditions. This, in turn, pushed bisexuality into the sidelines and forced a new invisibility to those who were bisexually active. This led to bisexuality being discounted, affirming the exclusive nature of the homosexual/heterosexual dichotomy. 3 At the time, bisexuals found that their “coming out” as bisexuals were received with suspicion and ambivalence in the newly better- represented gay community. As for female bisexuals, their bisexuality had a special negative implication, as far as lesbian-feminism is concerned. Since lesbian feminism equates providing males with pleasure as supporting the notion of male supremacy, lesbian-feminists saw female bisexuals as traitors.4 The magnitude of opposition directed against bisexuals may have aggravated the need of having a means for the bisexual community to stand together. This led to the founding of the Bisexual Center in San Francisco. Maggi Rubenstein was at the center of it all. Having come out during her time as a nurse working at the Center for Special Problems, she began her personal odyssey searching for kindred souls, people that could understand and validate her sexual and emotional feelings for both sexes. 3 Ibid., 131. 4 Ibid., 131-132.
  • 5. 3 After leaving the Center for Special Problems, she, along with Margo Rila, established the San Francisco Sex Information Hotline. After long struggles for financial backing, Rubenstein, Rila, and David Lourea finally managed to found the Bisexual Center in 1976. 5 Among the new members were renowned experts in sexuality, as described by Paul: Many of the others involved from the onset of the Bisexual Center were also psychotherapists, counselors, and sex educators, including David Lourea, Margo Rila, Alan Rockway, Evelyn Hoch, HogieWycoff, JeanePaslé-Green, and Vicki Galland. They were drawn to the notion of an expanded and inclusive notion of human sexuality that avoided dichotomization of sexual orientation.6 The Bisexual Center of San Francisco had numerous contemporaries in other cities as well. The National Bisexual Liberation Group, for one, was founded in New York in 1972, claiming a very large membership in the US and abroad by 1975. It published what could probably be called the first bisexual newsletter, the “The Bisexual Expression.” Other groups such as Bi Forum in New York and Bi Ways in Chicago were founded in 1975 and 1978, respectively. Beyond the coasts of United States, the bisexual movement also reached Europe. Although paralleling the movement in the US, British and European groups arose from different roots and followed different courses. Men active in the anti-sexist men’s 5 Ibid., 132-133. 6 Ibid., 133.
  • 6. 4 movement founded the London Bisexual Group in 1981 while the Edinburgh Bisexual Group formed in 1984 as an outgrowth of a lesbian-gay-bisexual socialists conference.7 Not long after, the proliferations of discussions regarding sexuality in the news media and in popular culture in general meant that bisexuality was already enjoying a higher public profile. This was greatly reflected in how the trend in the early 1970s veered more towards androgynous-looking rock stars and the popularity of well-known artists that are openly bisexual, such as David Bowie and Elton John.8 Another very well known figure that openly admitted to being a bisexual was Freddy Mercury, who had a relationship with Mary Austin, “came out” in 1974 and lived with Jim Hutton for six years.9However, this influx of various supporters of bisexuality (direct and indirect) was not able to completely prevent oncoming attacks on the bisexual movement. Jay Paul once again delves into this in greater detail: However, by 1974, there were attacks on bisexuality in the American Press, with two news magazines running articles on bisexuals that trivialized it as a “chic” or trendy aberration. But there were also more balanced portrayals, as well as the beginning of more searching, scholarly discussion of bisexuality in professional publications (Blumstein and Schwartz 1974; Bode 1976; Falk 1975; Klein 1978; Wolff 1977).10 7Liz A. Highleyman, A Brief History of the Bisexual Movement (Boston: The Bisexual Research Center). 8Jay P. Paul, “San Francisco’s Bisexual Center and the Emergence of a Bisexual Movement,” in Bisexualities: The Ideology and Practice of Sexual Contact with Both Men and Women, ed. Erwin J. Haeberle and Rolf Gindorf (New York: The Continuum Publishing Company, 1998), 132. 9 Mark Hodkinson, Queen: The Early Years (London: Omnibus Press, 2004). 10Jay P. Paul, “San Francisco’s Bisexual Center and the Emergence of a Bisexual Movement,” in Bisexualities: The Ideology and Practice of Sexual Contact with Both Men and Women, ed. Erwin J. Haeberle and Rolf Gindorf (New York: The Continuum Publishing Company, 1998), 132.
  • 7. 5 Furthermore, television shows and films soon began to incorporate more of the bisexual movement into their plots and programming, focusing more on gay themes and gay characters. Science fiction also showed an increasing interest in the malleability of sex roles and norms in the 1970s.11 This movement in popular media continued throughout the decades, even reaching prominent cultural icons in the entertainment industry. One such icon is the animated comedy show The Simpsons. Sharon Waxman, an online writer for The New York Times, writes about a comment made by another writer on the impact that being discussed in such a show had on an issue: "The issue was mainstream to some degree, but now that they've deigned it worthy of the show it is interwoven into the fabric of popular culture," said Ray Richmond, a television columnist for The Hollywood Reporter and co-editor of the anthology "The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family."12 With the growing prevalence of bisexuality in popular culture, compounded on by continuing efforts to defend the members of the movement, only time will tell how the general public reception of such an issue and of the individuals at the center of that issue will develop. 11 Ibid. 12 Sharon Waxman, “'Simpsons' Animates Gay Nuptials, and a Debate,” New York Times, February 21, 2005. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/21/arts/television/21simpsons.html?_r=2 (accessed September 16, 2012).
  • 8. 6
  • 9. 7 II. Bisexuality vs. Homosexuality Perhaps the most common misunderstanding about bisexuality is that it falls under homosexuality and thus, the general public relates to both sexual idealisms in the same way. However, this is not the case. As what was mentioned earlier in Chapter 1, bisexuals may as well be seen as the marginalized sector within the LGB or the lesbian- gay-bisexual community. Furthermore, while homosexuality is usually seen as final and definite, in terms of choosing a sexual preference, bisexuality is seen as a state of potentiality of sorts, which, in turn, leads to it being seen as a mere temporary transitional phase. As a note, from here on out, the term homosexual applies to both gay and lesbian individuals and will not be broken down further into the latter two. Before going any further, an analysis of the essential difference in definition of the two terms is in order. While homosexuality refers to the sexual preference, which may be merely circumstantial in some cases (this will explained later on), of an individual for another individual of the same sex, bisexuality refers to the erotic interest in both sexes. As a concept, bisexuality could not come into existence without the prior existence of homosexuality; in the same way that homosexuality could not have existed without the concept of heterosexuality. This logical third option had arisen because there is the recognition of the dichotomy of heterosexuality and homosexuality. Furthermore, this logical third option also came into existence because people recognized that the said
  • 10. 8 dichotomy, the simple opposition between the two, did not suffice to fully describe the human erotic reality.13 Another key difference between the two sexual idealisms is that bisexuality always hinges on having a choice, on doing. It hinges on the possibility of choosing between a man and a woman. Homosexuality, however, may arise merely because of the circumstances and thus, “forces” the individual into choosing to sexually interact with the same sex. According to Haeberle, three different ideas can inhere in the word homosexuality today. Firstly, he describes a prison setting that may not have any homosexuals but may have a great amount of homosexual activity or homosexual behavior, by definition of sexual intercourse with the same sex. This idea of homosexuality as a conduct had arisen because of the lack of choices for sexual partners. Secondly, he describes the idea of homosexuality as a condition, as a sickness. In this sense, homosexuality is not something that people “do” but rather, something that people “have”. Lastly, he describes homosexuality as a social role. In this sense, homosexuality refers to the plethora of ways that people live in society as “homosexuals”.14 Here, he summarizes this adequately: Indeed, the noun homosexuality itself can have three meanings: either someone who engages in a particular kind of conduct; or someone who has a particular condition; or someone who plays a particular social role.15 13Erwin J. Haeberle, “Introduction,” in Bisexualities: The Ideology and Practice of Sexual Contact with Both Men and Women, ed. Erwin J. Haeberle and Rolf Gindorf (New York: The Continuum Publishing Company, 1998), 14. 14 Ibid. 15 Ibid., 15.
  • 11. 9 One more key difference between the two, which will be further explored in Chapter III, is the way the two labels function. Having a homosexual label provides an individual with an adequately stable means of knowing how to be one. Thehomosexual label tends to be more capable of fully prescribing ways on how to be a homosexual, by providing ideas of what homosexuals do. The label bisexual, on the other hand, is still somewhat ambivalent, as far as prescribing how to be one is concerned.
  • 12. 10 III. The Bisexual as the Ambivalent Middle Ground Considering that there are no hard and fast rules on how to be a bisexual, in contrast to how all you have to do to be a homosexual is to increase sexual interactions with the same sex and decrease sexual interactions with the opposite sex or how all you have to do to be a heterosexual is to do the opposite, the path of being a bisexual is filled with unclear delineations and “formal guidelines”.16 The journal article Recent Empirical Investigations describes this phenomenon: Part of the reason for this is that even though the identity of bisexual may be accepted, it does not provide a solution in the way the homosexual label does. The homosexual label tends to more fully prescribe what homosexuals do, viz.: increase contacts with other homosexuals and decrease them with heterosexuals, develop same-sex intimate relationships, subscribe to gay subculture and its ideologies, and so forth. The label bisexual, in contrast, dos not provide such a clear message. There are no informal rules about how much same-sex versus opposite-sex interaction on should have, whether relationships should be simultaneous or sequential, or generally how to relate and interact with both men and women in a sexual/affectional way. Nor are there role models or folk heroes that structure “how to be bisexual” for the bisexual as there are for the homosexual.17 Furthermore, to be a bisexual requires an individual to be open to sexual interaction to both sexes, whether simultaneous or sequential, but also requires him to reject not one, but two recognized categories of sexual idealisms: heterosexuality and 16Martin S. Weinberg, Colin J. Williams, and Douglas W. Pryor, “Recent Empirical Investigations,” in Bisexualities: The Ideology and Practice of Sexual Contact with Both Men and Women, ed. Erwin J. Haeberle and Rolf Gindorf (New York: The Continuum Publishing Company, 1998), 180. 17Ibid.
  • 13. 11 homosexuality. 18 This rejection hinges on the definition of the two terms as being sexually interested exclusively to the opposite sex and being sexually interested exclusively to the same sex, respectively. With bisexuality being the sexual acceptance of members of both the opposite sex and of the same sex as potential sexual partners, it goes against monosexuality as a whole and thus, brings us back to how the bisexual community is discriminated against even within the LGB (lesbian-gay-bisexual) sphere. This leads us to the definition of bisexuality as a middle ground of sorts. Instead of consolidating sexual and gendered binaries or submitting to dichotomies, bisexuality is seen as a place from which individuals can transcend categorization, from which people can go beyond labels, and from which bisexuals and potential bisexuals can escape the perceived tyranny of monosexuality.19 18 Ibid., 169. 19 Clare Hemmings, Bisexual Spaces: A Geography of Sexuality and Gender (New York and London: Routledge, 2012), 3.
  • 14. 12 IV. The Bisexual as a Product of Nature Unlike homosexuality, that has numerous theories relating to it being genetic or hereditary, bisexuality supposedly stretched farther beyond the parents or a few past generations in the family tree. Furthermore, unlike homosexuality, bisexuality presents a certain degree of incompleteness when one attempts to decipher it anatomically or biologically by virtue of the endocrine glands, extreme hormonal imbalances, and the like. Bisexuality, as Sigmund Freud had enthusiastically proclaimed, was supposedly a product ora leftover of human evolution. Having lived in a time when the intellectual milieu was dominated by Lamarckian and Darwinian thinking, Freud was strongly attracted by the theories of Darwin, one of which is the theory that “some extremely remote progenitor of the whole vertebrate kingdom appears to have been hermaphrodite or androgynous”.20This was based on the observation that until the third month of human embryonic life, the embryo possesses both sexual organs. Thus, primordial hermaphroditism, as it was called, became the “missing bisexual link”.21Steven Angelides adequately describes how ecstatic Sigmund Freud was about the theory: Wilhelm Fliess, Freud’s most trusted friend and mentor of fifteen years, introduced him to the concept of biological bisexuality – the new axiomatic concept of hegemonic evolutionism. In a letter of reply to Fleiss in 1899, Freud 20Steven Angelides, A History of Bisexuality (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2001), 51. 21 Ibid.
  • 15. 13 declared excitedly: “bisexuality! I am sure you are right about it.” And in line with the evolutionary theories of primordial hermaphroditism, Freud proposed that such “long-familiar facts of anatomy lead us to suppose that an originally bisexual physical disposition has, in the course of evolution, become modified into a unisexual one, leaving behind only a few traces of the sex that has become atrophied.”22 These “traces” may refer to the bisexual potential that all humans share. However, according to Lance Spurr, this does not necessarily mean that humans can become bisexuals at any given time. He justifies this by saying that specific sexual desire must be directed towards one or the other gender, whether it is the opposite sex as or the same sex as the subject. He goes on to say that this direction of desire may be done alternatively.23 This implies that a person can only be heterosexual or homosexual at any given time. Furthermore, the notion that all humans were bisexuals at one time carried with it the implication that bisexuality is a valid sexual identity or species. According to Havelock Ellis, a prominent sexologist, to grant bisexuality such recognition presented a very big problem. If accepted as a species, it would lead to a supposed “crisis of meaning” for the identities of man, woman, heterosexuals, and homosexuals. Bisexuality was therefore denied as a distinct sexual identity, even after it was avowed as an originary human state to avoid such crises. 22 Ibid., 51-52. 23 Ibid., 50.
  • 16. 14 V. The Bisexual as a Product of Nurture The more generally accepted notion regarding bisexuality is that it is developed within an individual as the person matures and interacts with his environment, especially with the people around him. More often than not, bisexuality is perceived as a mere transitional phase, from heterosexuality to homosexuality. However, many people today have begun to see it as a final, insofar as they are certain, sexual identity. Unlike the decision to be a homosexual or the decision to settle as a heterosexual, the decision to be a bisexual is a special one. It presents a special problem of meaning and adjustment. It not only rejects one category of sexual identity, but two – homosexuality and heterosexuality.24 Under the alias of Anne, a female student of the Ateneo de Manila University was interviewed for this research. Unlike most people who were content in choosing sexual partners of either the opposite sex or of the same sex, Anne felt discontent with being faced with only those options. “It was hard because I knew it wasn't normal. But it wasn't doing me any good to deny myself so at first, I was forced to accept it until friends made me realize that I'm perfectly okay the way I am.” was Anne’s reply as she was asked about how she came to terms with her bisexuality. 24Martin S. Weinberg, Colin J. Williams, and Douglas W. Pryor, “Recent Empirical Investigations,” in Bisexualities: The Ideology and Practice of Sexual Contact with Both Men and Women, ed. Erwin J. Haeberle and Rolf Gindorf (New York: The Continuum Publishing Company, 1998), 169.
  • 17. 15 Anne is not the only person to feel that it is unnecessary to choose between the two sexes. In a study conducted by Martin Weinberg and his colleagues during the 1980s, many of the 93 self-defined bisexual respondents reported their turning point was their first homosexual or heterosexual encounter and realizing that sex is pleasurable with both genders. Others, on the other hand, much like Anne, felt that their sexual feelings for both sexes were simply too strong for them to deny one for the other and thus, found it more sensible to adapt bisexuality.25 When asked about the challenges that being a bisexual carries with it, Anne replied, “The biggest challenge for me was to accept myself. I felt isolated a lot of times. I felt alone.” What Anne was experiencing may be classified under the Initial Confusion Stage. According to Weinberg, there are four major stages in the development of the bisexual identity: Initial Confusion, Finding and Applying the Label, Settling into the Identity, and Continuing Uncertainty.26The term label refers to the bisexual label or “being a bisexual”. Below is a table adequately summarizing the four stages: 25 Ibid., 172. 26 Ibid., 179. 27Martin S. Weinberg, Colin J. Williams, and Douglas W. Pryor, Understanding Bisexuality (USA: Oxford University Press, 1995), 27. Stages Characteristics Initial Confusion - Experiences a period of considerable confusion, doubt, and struggle with their sexual identity before regarding themselves as bisexual27
  • 18. 16 28 Ibid. 29 Ibid., 29. 30 Ibid. 31 Ibid. - Major sources of Early confusion: experience of having strong sexual feelings for both sexes was unsettling and sometimes frightening; others thought that strong sexual feelings for the same sex meant an end to their long-standing heterosexuality28 Finding and Applying the Label - Occurs after the initial period of confusion (which often lasted for years)29 - Acceptance of the category “bisexual” / discovery of the term “bisexual” - The former provided a means of making sense of long-standing feelings for both sexes - Turning point was the first homosexual or heterosexual experience, coupled with the recognition that sex was pleasurable with both sexes30 - It was difficult to label themselves as “bisexuals” without experiencing first hand the sexual act31 - Some merely realized that their feelings for both sexes were too strong to deny
  • 19. 17 32 Ibid., 30. 33 Ibid., 31. 34 Ibid., 32. 35Ibid., 34. - Encouragement and support of others allowed them to adopt the label32 Settling into the Identity - Characterized by a more complete transition in self-labeling - Becoming more accepting - Individuals became less concerned with the negative attitudes of others about their sexual preference.33 - Increase in self-acceptance is often attributed to the continuous support from peers34 Continuing Uncertainty - “Confusion” is a built-in feature of being bisexual: “While appearing to encompass a wider choice of love objects…[the bisexual] actually becomes a product of abject confusion; his self image is that of an overgrown young adolescent whose ability to differentiate one form of sexuality from another has never developed. He lacks, above all, a sense of identity…[He] cannot answer the question: What am I?”35 - There is a lack of social validation and support that came with being a self-identified bisexual.
  • 20. 18 It may be interesting to note that nearly all of the respondents in the study conducted by Weinberg and his colleagues reported that they had accepted their bisexuality and do not see it as a transitional stage. However, much like any other preference, such sentiments are subject to change, especially when they become involved in a long-term relationship. In the same way as those of homosexuals, social arrangements determine the meaning of their sexual identities.37 Furthermore, accepting the identity of being a bisexual entails many problems due to the special social and sexual character of bisexuality itself. Accepting oneself as being a bisexual implies that one must also accept the lack of closure that bisexuality carries with it.38 Another aspect of the development of bisexuality that cannot be dismissed is the effect that peers have on the bisexual or potentially bisexual individual. As mentioned in Chapter I, having organizations and meeting people that share the same experiences, 36 Ibid., 35. 37Martin S. Weinberg, Colin J. Williams, and Douglas W. Pryor, “Recent Empirical Investigations,” in Bisexualities: The Ideology and Practice of Sexual Contact with Both Men and Women, ed. Erwin J. Haeberle and Rolf Gindorf (New York: The Continuum Publishing Company, 1998), 180. 38 Ibid. - There are persistent pressures to relabel the bisexual self as ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ - There were continued assertions that bisexuality is a politically incorrect and inauthentic identity.36
  • 21. 19 including but not limited to sexual inclinations and preferences, allows the individual to feel more at ease and makes it easier for him to accept his bisexuality. This is especially crucial, considering that, again, bisexuals are marginalized even in the LGB community.
  • 22. 20 VI. Conclusion Throughout this short study, the fundamental aspects of bisexuality were hopefully adequately portrayed. From the election of Harvey Milk in 1977 that led to the likes of David Laurea and Maggi Rubenstein to flock to San Francisco to the continuing prevalence of bisexuality in pop culture as portrayed by controversial songs such as Lady Gaga’sBorn This Way, the bisexual movement shows no signs of stopping yet. What could be considered as a maverick among sexual identities, bisexuality will continue to puzzle sexologists and psychologists alike. In its effort to find a place in the world as a contemporary of heterosexuality and homosexuality, bisexuality will continue to be studied and will probably continue to be treated as an enigma, regardless of whether it is an ancient evolutionary trait or a product of an individual’s reaction to his environment. With more and more people gradually discovering bisexuality not merely as a bridge or a transitional phase but as an endpoint in itself, debates about its validity and studies with regard to its nature as a supposed sexual identity will definitely continue.
  • 23. 21 WORKS CITED Angelides, Steven. A History of Bisexuality, 50-52. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2001. Haeberle, Erwin J. “San Francisco’s Bisexual Center and the Emergence of a Bisexual Movement.” In Bisexualities: The Ideology and Practice of Sexual Contact with Both Men and Women, edited by Erwin J. Haeberle and Rolf Gindorf, 14-15. New York: The Continuum Publishing Company, 1998. Hemmings, Clare. Bisexual Spaces: A Geography of Sexuality and Gender, 3. New York and London: Routledge, 2012. Highleyman, Liz A. A Brief History of the Bisexual Movement. Boston: The Bisexual Research Center. Hodkinson, Mark.Queen: The Early Years. London: Omnibus Press, 2004. Paul, Jay P. “San Francisco’s Bisexual Center and the Emergence of a Bisexual Movement.” In Bisexualities: The Ideology and Practice of Sexual Contact with Both Men and Women, edited by Erwin J. Haeberle and Rolf Gindorf, 130-133. New York: The Continuum Publishing Company, 1998. Weinberg, Martin S., Colin J. Williams, and Douglas W. Pryor. “San Francisco’s Bisexual Center and the Emergence of a Bisexual Movement.” In Bisexualities: The Ideology and Practice of Sexual Contact with Both Men and Women, edited by Erwin J. Haeberle and Rolf Gindorf, 169-180. New York: The Continuum Publishing Company, 1998. Weinberg, Martin S., Colin J. Williams, and Douglas W. Pryor. Understanding Bisexuality, 27- 35. USA: Oxford University Press, 1995.