Some people say the label “bisexual” implies that gender is binary and, thus, people who identify as bisexual are attracted only to men and women and that we believe these are the only two categories that exist. This critique is used to argue that our bisexual identities oppress other people, that we are invalidating people who are transgender and gender non-binary. Bisexuals have argued back; articulating that bisexuality can be defined as attraction to two or more genders, that bisexual people are strong allies to gender non-binary people, that we get to define the meaning of our identity labels, that telling us what our identity means is invalidating to us. These arguments resonate for me; they allow me to continue to embrace the identity label I adopted more than 20 years ago; they offer me a resolution to the critique.

But what if, instead of simply resolving the critique, we explored it? What if we allowed ourselves to consider it and saw where that path took us? Maybe we would think about how notions of binary gender affect people whose gender is non-binary. Maybe we would go beyond that to explore how binary gender restricts everyone. Maybe we would use bisexuality as a tool to dislodge notions of binary gender. Maybe we would find a path to freedom from restrictive gender roles. Maybe we would change the world.

Maybe we can do that in 18 minutes.

Maybe not.

You decide.

"Bisexuality and Beyond” was presented at TEDxUCLA in May 2015.


Tania Israel is a professor of Counseling Psychology at UCSB and director of Project RISE (Research and Interventions for Sexual Minority Empowerment). She tweets @LGBTRISE.