By Denarii Grace
When I travel—for a doctor appointment, a grocery run, a trip to the park with my dog named Dog—I stop, as often as I can, to admire the flowers. Not just flowers, but also trees, certain grasses, bushes, a bunny once, birds if they stay still for me. Mostly flowers though. I love the colors, and they bring me joy.
Nature makes me feel connected to something bigger, deeper, and older than myself. It makes me feel steady in a storm—a life jacket when my troubles are regularly exacerbated by the torrential rains of both interpersonal and systemic trauma. As a Blitch (Black witch), nature is spiritual for me. I gather strength from it. I am alive because of it. Literally, they say as they drink water, eat bananas, and breathe oxygen.
But it is only one source, one kind of joy in my life. Dog brings me joy. His little sister, Cat (yes, she is), also brings me joy. Cooking and baking bring me joy. Music, which I’ve been doing my entire life, is joy to me. I often stim to it.
One of the greatest joys of my life has been my 36-year journey to finding community. It’s one reason I love attending conferences. (Another reason being that I’m a big ol’ nerd.) Finding my people, like nature, has kept me floating on this blue orb when I could’ve been swept away.
But, over the last several months, I’ve found myself reveling in a different joy. This kind of joy comes not just from knowing who my people are, but celebrating and centering who we are and what we represent.
In other words: tapping into the freedom of limitless attraction, where what my romantic and sexual life could look like is a kaleidoscope of possibilities, has had me tumbling into the unexpected joy of #Bi4Bi (or #Bi4Pan or #Bi4AnyoneAttractedToMultipleGenders).
To be both clear and sure, I’m not suggesting nor implying that people who are straight, gay, or lesbian are somehow “less free” because they’re monosexual/romantic. Anyone who basks in the beauty of themselves is free, as far as I’m concerned, particularly those who are systemically marginalized. I’m a living testament to the fact that being yourself is liberating on a level that you can’t understand unless you’ve felt trapped by who you’re expected to be.
However, in a world that insists that I—all of us—must eventually “choose” one or the other (and, preferably, choose straight), intentionally uplifting bi+/mspec [multi-gender spectrum] experiences of attraction is a radical act. This is particularly salient for me as someone who is not only bi but also non-binary and polyamorous. As a “bad bisexual,” as fellow bi activist Miles Joyner calls it, I’m reminded that it’s imperative to our very ability to thrive that the fullness of our lives be regularly reflected back to us. Not that we simply “see ourselves,” in some 101, surface-level attempt at representation, but that our identities—and our experiences of those identities—are seen as potent examples of what it can mean to be ALL the way free.
There are two things that we must establish before we move on. First, the ability to be attracted to, interested in, or build with multiple (a)genders—romantically, sexually, platonically, queerplatonically—does not make you inherently radical (sheeeeeeeit, ask me how I know…). Second, as a Black, fat, non-binary/agender, trans, darker skinned, multiply disabled, poor, witchy femme who isn’t getting any younger, my politics have been about centering and preferring people as close to myself as possible for quite some time. I’m not new to this.
I am not exclusive about it—if I were, my dating and dalliance pools would be extremely limited—but, as best as possible when I’m actively dating (and/or fucking), I try to cultivate an experience that feels as safe and peaceful as possible. And that means decentering people with any modicum of social privilege as much as I can, without denying myself… joy.
Now, where were we?
People will misunderstand me because they misunderstand mspec identities (often, but not always, intentionally). “Uplift the experiences of attraction of BISEXUALS??? So you mean CENTER CISHET MEN??? The GALL! Gon’ somewhere with all yer PRIVILEGE!” Many bi+ folks, too often disconnected from our community, cultural production, and history, will feel the same way. For many of us, regardless of our (a)gender, our interests include attraction to or affinity for men, but being mspec does not in any way require an attraction to men, cis or trans. Yes, that includes for people who use the specific label “bi” to identify themselves. Shocker, I know.
What does it mean, then, to “tap into the freedom of limitless attraction” and “intentionally uplift bi+/mspec experiences of attraction?” More importantly, why is it necessary and what the hell does it have to do with being free?
The freedom afforded people attracted to or interested in multiple (a)genders goes beyond basic notions of sexual or romantic attraction based on arbitrary designations like biological sex, gender identity, or expression, though I’d personally argue that that is an important part of it. This is particularly important to highlight because being bi, pan, or any other kind of multiply attracted identity is not an automatic guarantee that one will gravitate toward further societal transgression. Indeed, there are many monogamous, vanilla, capitalist, politically moderate, neoliberal bi+/mspec people out there. And this is true of any transgressive identity (which is why celebrating politicians based on identity alone, indeed celebrating politicians, period, is regularly disastrous).
I said that this issue is particularly salient for me because I’m also non-binary and polyamorous. Like being mspec, these identities exist outside of a very rigid paradigm to which we’re expected to adhere. While “gay” and “lesbian” are certainly also transgressive identities, when you exist or assert your identity in the “in between,” when who you are is considered ill-defined or too expansive, you’re set up by society to fail. There is, quite literally, no space for you. It explains our treatment and placement in the world. This reality for bi+/mspec folk is regularly borne out by study after study. Certainly, our community’s statistics regarding our physical, financial, social, and mental health reflect this reality in a distressing way. We are regularly in trouble.
But we are so because our very existence causes trouble.
When the world demands that you are either this or that and you defy that “logic” by being, as Spongebob once said, some other third thing (or fourth or fifth thing)? You upend everything that most people (think they) understand about the entire world. And that’s fucking terrifying.
But there is power in that—and that’s where our freedom lies. We can unmake the world, but only if we’re tapped in.
Once you’ve wrestled with that first level of understanding, a reimagining of the world is possible. What if there were no boxes? Chains? What if there was no black or white, but a rainbow (and I don’t mean that in the “we’ll all be one tan racial blob one day” way)? What if we busted through the binaries and made space for everyone? What if we lived in a both/and world, abandoning either/or, embracing multiple universes of possibilities? What if people could just… be? Fucking terrifying, I know.
But Nina Simone told us: “I’ll tell you what freedom is to me: no fear. I mean really, no fear!”
A world that is not afraid of the undefinable, the unknown, the expanse, the many instead of the one, is a world that is safer for people like me. That, to me, is liberation. That is what I’m striving for. That is why these conversations specifically about bi+/mspec community are important. None of us are free until we’re all free. All.
After you’ve activated your imagination, it makes it that much easier to celebrate both the what is and what can be of who we are. To celebrate is to uplift. To uplift is to honor. When something is honored in one’s life or work, it is visible—all the time. And when you get to a point in your journey where you consistently honor the unique experiences of your majority minority community, guess what? You value it more. And when you value it more? You center it more, actively seeking it out. That is how I got to the point where I regularly dream of specifically being with bi+/mspec folks, romantically and sexually, more and more. I want us. Not just as comrades or fellow culture creators. We’re magical, deserving of love (all kinds) and being seen…and we’re fucking hot.
In 2017, I wrote a song called “Femme for Femme.” It really sums up the joy I feel about the unique queerness of multiple gender attraction, and what happens when we find and love on each other: “We’re two peas in a pod—you get me.”
Denarii Grace (she/they) has an activist for more than 15 years and is a multi-hyphenate creative New Yorker. They are the Editor-in-Chief of Disability Rights Washington’s Rooted in Rights blog, dedicated to stories for and about disabled people.