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What’s in a Label?

The Bisexual Resource Center, and many other leaders in the bi+ community uses “bi” “bisexual” and “bi+” to mean anyone who is attracted romantically and/or sexually to more than one gender, otherwise called “non-monosexual” or “middle” identities. This includes labels like pansexual, queer, omnisexual, sexually fluid, and more, and even folks who decide not to take a label. In this way, we hope to unite our community even if we’re using different personal or individual labels.

Personal vs. Political Labels

It’s true that labels can be a drag, but they are sometimes a necessity in today’s society. Beyond the usefulness of passing along vital information, like food ingredients to warn of allergens, labels can help us find community, organize in solidarity, and gain visibility.

That’s where a political label comes in. Not political as in Democrat or Republican, though those can be useful labels too, but political as in organizational. The “Bisexual” in “Bisexual Resource Center” and the “B” in “LGBTQ” is a political label, welcoming folks of all different personal labels, like pansexual and/or queer, to stand together as a community under the same flag.

The goal of the BRC in calling bisexual or bi+ an umbrella term, and of pointing out the difference between personal and political labels, is not to force everyone to call themselves bi or even bi+. Instead, it’s to point out that even if we have different labels for ourselves, we are facing many of the same disparities and challenges as non-monosexual individuals.

Defining Your Personal Label

Above all else, a person who prefers to identify as something instead of “bisexual” has every right to do so. No one has the right to define another’s personal label, and doing so can be a form of discrimination. For example, some try to define “bisexual” in a binary way: since in Latin, “bi” means two, “bisexual” must mean only attracted to men and women and not genderqueer or trans folks. Although it’s true that people have all kinds of different attractions to different kinds of people, assuming that all bisexuals are never attracted to trans or genderqueer folk is harmful, not only to bi individuals, but to trans and genderqueer individuals who choose to label themselves as bi.

Labels Should Help Unite, Not Divide

Whatever label you use – even if you don’t use one – if you are attracted to more than one gender, know that the bi+ community welcomes you.