By Jeiselynn N. Ríos Rivera
My bisexuality has shaped me in more ways than I can count. A large part of this is that I have made it into my career. I’m a sociologist who is eager to learn about the ways in which bisexuality has shaped individuals’ perceptions of themselves and others. It’s been the source of self-made community. I led a bisexual book club back in 2020 with virtual online meetings, organized a bi+ discussion group on campus, and will soon be facilitating conversations within the Bisexual Resource Center. It’s been the catalyst for all the knowledge I’ve gained on relationships, radical responsibility, and radical Knowledge of Self.
It seems strange to look back and attribute so much of myself, my life trajectory, and my relationship success to a sexual orientation. However, the influence became clear when I realized that, in the journey to incorporate more joy into my life, I found myself coming back to these communities, these people, resource centers, literature, and online spheres.
I’ve found that there is more excitement for possibilities, the moment those possibilities are actually seen, imagined, and made available to the self. This is a necessary step before going out into the world and searching them out. The range of unique possibilities afforded to me because of the potential for boundless expansion is a core component of joy—joyful anticipation, excitement, wonder, intrigue.
My bisexuality is not about reckless or unruly desire, but rather, the ability to foster, look forward to, and allow all kinds of connections at all degrees of intensity to become a possibility. In this openness, there is a release of complicated expectations, social games and scripts designed for the pre-coded interactions individuals are expected to have with specific groups and/or categories of people depending on gender, race, class, sexual orientation… .
There is expansion when we bond with others over the openness to possibility, connection, and unrestricted definitions of intimacy. Affinity on the basis of bisexuality holds a high tolerance for ambiguity. There is no space for careless interaction or thoughtless behavior—instead, there must be a radical understanding of limits and a profound recognition of the uniqueness inherent to a moment in time, a conversation, a person. The lack of need to define an interaction before it happens allows us to dispense with the triviality of shallow connection based on appearance, sex, or performance. In return, we are rewarded with the ability to actively embrace the distinctiveness that comes with each human experience, allowing that same humanness to wrap around us in a genuine exchange unencumbered by assumptions, shaped only by our own mutually shared agreement and limits.
Bisexuality and polyamory have both come to take the shape of radical responsibility in my life. One where Knowledge of Self and the borders that it reaches are determined on a case-by-case basis. The mindfulness that comes with that kind of awareness and feeling requires presence, authenticity, responsibility, awareness, connection, and introspection. Bisexuality is a catalyst for all this, in that it requires blurring the lines of what attraction means, how it’s experienced, how it can be possible, and how it can be fostered. This is both conceptual and literal.
Bisexuality is a challenging framework, standing actively against artificially crafted binaries. Bisexual people are those consistently replacing “or” with “and,” opting for “and/or” when the powers that be are too overbearing. It is all too easy to slip into binary assumptions, and this is also recognized. There is a gentle solution: curiosity. When exclusionary frameworks and theories fail, and the need to find the contours of something is still prevalent, replacing our impulse to deduce with an impulse to ask can be one of the most bisexual strategies ever deployed. Visibility can be gained by creating the space for yourself and others to simply be. The question is never “Are they gay or straight?” The question is “I wonder what kind of person they might be attracted to?”
Bisexuality challenges practice as well: How can connection with one be fostered where there is the possibility for connection with many? By embracing the singularity of a moment, a person, a connection, an interaction.
There is always the possibility for connection with many—regardless of sexual orientation. Experiencing attraction to more than one is possible in the way it always has been for everyone else. Fostering any one (or multiple) of these connections is about choice, agreements, and limits specific to that connection, by actively rejecting limited understandings of intimacy only meant for safety (rather than expansion). The choice to foster connections requires responsibility, awareness, and introspection of the agreements and limits established and negotiated. This sounds difficult, as un-learning social scripts always seems to be. It is through that unlearning that the most joy is to be found.
Expansion can only happen when there is desire to expand and approach experiences with mindful and deliberate presence. Joy happens in the spaces in between, as expansion is sought. My bisexuality allows me the space and flexibility to feel overwhelmingly joyful by holding space for my own and others’ ambiguity, as new agreements are drafted. To think that bisexuality has brought so much joy into my life by being the catalyst for Knowledge of Self, expansion, introspection, uniqueness, and acceptance can seem strange. This, however, is the most powerful thing I’ve tapped into.
Joy has been synonymous with expansion and the breaking of self-imposed confines and constraints. Therefore, it is not strange to realize that embracing bisexuality as more than just a descriptor of potential partners; it is accompanied by something much more purposeful and blissful. It has become the basis for community. It has become the basis of personal and intellectual growth. It has become the very foundation upon which my expansion continues to thrive.
Perhaps, this is why bisexual spaces, though underfunded, continue to fight for themselves—staffing with volunteers, organizing regular gatherings, and writing books. Collectively, we know we’re creating something that holds great potential for acceptance, uniqueness, expansion, and resilience. It is there, in the spaces in between, that we find ourselves surrounded by laughter, greeted with warmth, and embraced with joy.
Jeiselynn (Lynn) N. Ríos Rivera is a Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies graduate student at SUNY Albany, connections peer educator at the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, and a volunteer at the Bisexual Resource Center. They’re always looking for ways to connect with bisexual activism and eager to have interesting conversations. Their work covers a wide range of LGBT topics, specializing in plurisexualities, identity, and non-monogamy.