Bye Bi Labels

Aug 1, 2009 | 2009 Summer - Labels, Articles

By B.J. Epstein

“ I’m…” And it’s here in the sentence that I freeze. I am something, but what?

I am a woman who has loved women, a woman who has loved men. I am a person who sometimes feels, dresses, and acts butch, and sometimes feels, dresses, and acts femme. I am someone who enjoys being in-between, who wants to live in and explore the gray areas.

Is bisexual the best word to use to describe myself? I can’t think of anything better, at least not now, so I use it. I introduce myself as bisexual, because I am attracted to people, across gender lines, and “bisexual” comes closest to explaining that. Similarly, I can call myself bilingual, because I am a translator who uses two languages on a daily basis. And yet I never feel fully bilingual; I know that my skills in one language will always be better than those in the other. Also, I strive to be bicultural, because I live outside my native country and must understand the customs and opinions of other nations in order to survive. And yet there are times when I miss a joke or an allusion, or when I do something that makes people laugh and remember that I am foreign. As it is with bilingual and bicultural, so it is with bisexual. The “bi”ness is true to an extent, but it always creates an awareness of a divide even as it purports to be smoothing over strict separations. I am not with both men and women at the same time and in the same way, so calling myself “bisexual” can highlight a lack, an absence of pure grayness, just as using the word “bilingual” or “bicultural” might make people think of all the languages and cultures I don’t know, all the language skills and cultural knowledge I lack. Bi bridges, even as it shows the swift currents flowing under the bridge.

Maybe one day we will just all call ourselves sexual. We will get rid of modifiers and recognize that they don’t matter so much. We will learn other languages and be lingual, we will live in other countries and be cultural, we will enjoy our fellow humans and be sexual.

We will say good-bye to bi. We won’t need it. It’s been serving us well in that we bis have made the gray space more acceptable. But I can only hope that in the near future, we won’t be bi. We’ll just be.

B.J. Epstein is a writer, editor and translator in Wales. She is currently finishing her PhD in translation studies. She can be contacted via her website,

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