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Human sexuality

Bisexuality: Part 1: Quotations. Definitions of
bisexuality terms as used by various groups.

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Quotations:

  • "Being bisexual doubles your chance of a date on Saturday night." Woody Allen. 1

  • "A homosexual or bisexual individual may experience conflict with a homophobic society; however, such conflict is not a symptom of dysfunction in the individual. The APA Board recognized that a significant portion of homosexual and bisexual people were clearly satisfied with their sexual orientation and showed no signs of psychopathology."  "Fact Sheet, Homosexual and Bisexual Issues," American Psychiatric Association. 2

  • "Bisexual by definition means promiscuous, having relations with both male and female. We are going to give that a Federal preferred protected status under this legislation. I think that is a serious mistake." Senator Don Nickles (R-OK). 3 (We would like to nominate this quote for the "most pathetically misinformed statement about sexual orientation." However there does not seem to be such a contest. There should be!)

  • "When it comes to marriage, a bisexual may end up with a partner of either gender. If a [bisexual] woman marries a man it does not mean that she is straight, and by the same token, by marrying a woman, will not make her gay. The person that they marry will be the one they are in love with as a person, and may or may not have anything to do with the person’s gender." "Genevieve." 4

  • Alexander the Great, Hans Christian Andersen, Drew Barrymore, David Bowie, Montgomery Clift, Joan Crawford, Sammy Davis, Jr., James Dean, Lady Gaga, Greta Garbo, Cary Grant, Alex Guinness, Anne Heche, Angelina Jolie, Herman Melville, Nero, Cole Porter, Anna Nichole Smith, Amy Winehouse, Virginia Wolf. Twenty of 51 famous bisexuals listed by Thinksquad. 4
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Definitions of terms:

Unfortunately, there is no consensus on the precise meaning of terms like lesbian, gay, bisexual, homosexuality, bisexuality and heterosexuality. Some define them in terms of :

  • feelings: the gender to whom a person is sexually attracted; or
  • behavior: the gender with whom one is sexually active; or
  • identity: how a person identifies their sexual identity; or
  • some combination of the above.

Some different definitions involving bisexuality are listed below.

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1. Definitions used by most therapists, the LGBT community, secularists, religious progressives, etc:

Most people use the term "sexual orientation" to refer to sexual feelings. Heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual is a part of what people are. Thus, bisexuality is sexual orientation in which an individual feels sexual attraction towards both men and women, although not necessarily to the same degree. This is the meaning given to bisexuality by most mental health professionals, religious liberals, secularists, LGBT (lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender persons), and some members of mainline religions. These feelings -- their orientation -- motivate their sexual behaviors, if they decide to abandon celibacy and become sexually active. However, celibate bisexuals are still bisexuals.

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2. Definition used by most religious conservatives:

Individual fundamentalists and other evangelicals, along with their faith groups and para-church organizations, often assign different meanings and definitions to many religious and human sexuality terms. This makes dialogue and debate very difficult.

  • Most refer to heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality in terms of people's behavior. Thus, bisexuality becomes what they call a "lifestyle" in which an individual actively engages in sexual behavior with both men and women.

  • Others ignore the term bisexual and define people as either homosexual or heterosexual depending upon whether they are sexually active with persons of the same sex or not.

Defining bisexuality in terms of behavior may be a logical consequence of certain biblical passages, which refer to behaviors rather than feelings. Since the Bible was written by authors in a pre-scientific age, they had no understanding or term for sexual orientation; they only discussed sexual behavior.

A second reason for their fondness of defining bisexuality in terms of behavior is that it strengthens their case for reparative therapy and transformational ministries. These are two techniques that attempt to "cure" homosexuality and bisexuality. Many of their success stories are actually bisexuals who have made a conscious decision to remaine celibate or to confine relationships only to persons of the opposite gender. The main message of their advertisements, that persons with a homosexual orientation can change their orientation to heterosexual, is probably impossible for anyone to achieve, or nearly so.

Most conservative Christians rarely refer to bisexuality; they typically deal with only two forms of behavior: homosexuality and heterosexuality. Those who do use the term regard a bisexual:

  • Who has decided to become celibate to be a person who has left the "gay lifestyle," and become an "ex-gay.

  • Who has decided to be sexually active only with person(s) of the same gender to be a homosexual.

  • Who has decided to be sexually active in the future only with person(s) of the opposite gender to be a homosexual who has left the "gay lifestyle."

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3. The American Family Association's definition:

The AFA is one of the most active anti-LGBT Christian groups in the U.S. The Southern Poverty Law Center -- an anti-hate organization -- decided to list the AFA as a hate group because of their:

"... propagation of known falsehoods -- claims about LGBT people that have been thoroughly discredited by scientific authorities -- and repeated, groundless name-calling." 5

The AFA created a novel definition for the term "sexual orientation:" They grouped together a bunch of over 30 largely unrelated terms, including:

  • The three universally accepted sexual orientations: heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality.

  • Two gender identities transgenderism, transexualism. These are rare conditions that have been described as having a female brain in a male body, or vice versa.

  • About two dozen or more paraphilias. These are "a family of persistent, intense fantasies, aberrant urges, or behaviors ..." involving human sexuality.

  • Some additional behaviors like incest, prostitution, etc.

They then referred to the entire group of over 30 sexual behaviors as sexual orientations. This definition was very useful during the Congressional debate on hate-crimes legislation because the bill's author did not define "'sexual orientation" within the bill. The author presumably believed that everyone knew that sexual orientation referred to heterosexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality. By redefining the term to refer to so many sexual behaviors, the AFA could claim that the federal hate crime bill would protect men who sexually abused children, had sex with animals, who committed incest, etc. The bill became known in some circles as the "pedophile protection bill." In spite of their efforts, the bill passed and people who physically attack victims on the basis of their target's sexual orientation, gender identity, gender, disability, religion, etc. can be found guilty of hate crimes and given enhanced sentences.

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Some additional definitions in common usage:

To further complicate matters their are additional meanings given to "bisexual:"

  • Some restrict the term bisexual to a person who not only has feelings of attraction to both men and women, but for whom "bisexuality is [also] an important part of their experience or identity." 6

  • Others define bisexuality as either feelings of sexual attraction, or sexual behavior towards, both men and women.

  • According to the Soc.bi newsgroup, some suggest "that the word 'bisexual' should be limited to describing behavior, and the word 'bi' could be used for describing identity." This terminology does not seem to have been widely used.

  • Some, probably most, persons who are sexually attracted to both men and women feel more strongly attracted to one gender than the other. Further, they may identify themselves as homosexual or heterosexual, rather than bisexual, depending upon their main attraction. So, a bisexual who feels more attracted to members of the same sex might identify themselves as gay or lesbian rather than bisexual. Others, attracted more to members of the opposite sex might view and identify themselves as heterosexual.

  • W.H. Masters and V.E. Johnson used the term "ambisexual" in their books Human Sexual Response and Homosexuality in Perspective, to refer to a person who is sexually attracted to both men and women to the same degree. The term does not seem to be commonly used. Most persons with equal feelings of attraction are referred to as bisexual.

kinseyIn an attempt to codify sexual attraction for the two genders, human sexuality researcher Alfred Kinsey developed a seven level rating scale in which "0" meant purely heterosexual and "6" meant purely homosexual. The vast majority of adults rate themselves as a "0." A gay and lesbian with no feelings of attraction to the opposite sex would identify themselves as a "6". A small minority are bisexual (ratings 1 to 5). Of these, only a very small minority are attracted to both men and women equally and would identify themselves with a "3" rating. 7

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This topic continues in Part 2

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References used in the above essay:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Humorous quotes attributed to Woody Allen," at: http://www.geocities.com/
  2. Lynn Schultz-Writsel, "'Reparative' Therapy: Does it work?", 2000-FEB, at: http://www.eurekalert.org/
  3. Senator Don Nickles, ENDA debate in the U.S. Senate, 1996-SEP-10.
  4. "Genevieve, "Thinksquad's guide to famous bisexuals," Thinksquad, at: http://thinksquad.net/
  5. Evelyn Schlatter, "Intelligence Report: 18 Anti-Gay Groups and Their Propaganda," Southern Poverty Law Center, Winter 2010, Issue # 140, at: http://www.splcenter.org/
  6. Albert Lunde, "Bisexuality notes," at: http://www.ssmu.mcgill.ca/
  7. "Kinsey's heterosexual-homosexual rating scale," at: http://www.kinseyinstitute.org/
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Site navigation: Home > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality > Basic data > Bisexuality > here

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Copyright © 2001 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-JAN-19
Latest update: 2012-JAN-28
Author: B.A. Robinson

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