There is a Wrong Word


Namely, being a femme bisexual woman.

It feels antiquated. Wrong somehow, like it shows “why yes there only is a gender binary and a bisexual person oscillates between these two” and “please teach me about the gender binary because I used this word so I obviously need to expand my mind”. It misses the recognition of a gender spectrum. It It misses the degree to which a bisexual person may be attracted towards a certain style of gender or another. It misses the opportunity to say, “I LIKE a gender expression” without speaking towards a preference of sex. If there is one. It makes a femme bisexual woman feel they are perceived as heterosexual – under many circumstances, as The Righteous Harlot outlined here.

So ok, go ahead and use “pansexual”. What does this feel like? Out goes the ability to say you enjoy certain gender expressions – no preference for femme, genderqueer or otherwise. Out goes the baggage you carry as a GLBT community member that comes out again and again. Because really, if someone said they were “pansexual”, it must mean they’re an educated queer person. It’s like “enough said”, this person is in the community. All is good.

What’s next? Go bigger? use “Queer”? What if you’ve been ostracized by other queer-identified folks for somehow not being ‘enough’? What if you need an understanding that your sexuality is complicated in public perception and expression? What if you don’t identify with a word that has been and can be used to inflict pain, and is something you’d use with people who understand its intentioned meaning?

Here’s the thing. You don’t need to decide on a label that is for someone else. You don’t need to be PC for the sake of community inclusion, avoiding judgement or just to make sure assumptions won’t be made about you. You need to find a word that fits you. That speaks to where you’re at now, that describes and encompasses what you need to identify about yourself. And just as you will learn to become accustomed to coming out again and again, to feeling like you justify yourself, you will learn to use your word. You will learn to stand by it, to explain it to the point that you want or need to, and not to share it beyond a capacity you don’t have. There is no wrong word, there is only you.


Joanna Dawson earned her Masters in Public Health (MPH) before working for years in the non-profit world with sexuality, sex-positivity, GLBT themes and health education for young people, adults and communities. Sexuality is a complex, diverse and evolving component of our lives, and she works to equip folks with the tools to take charge of their sexuality and their health. Joanna is dedicated to promoting sex positivity as an advocate, educator and ACSM-certified personal trainer. To join in her pursuit of wellness, health and a fulfilling lifestyle follow Joanna's blog.

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3 Responses

  1. Amanda says:

    Perhaps I’m just not that inclusive (yet), but I feel most comfortable right now with “femme queer woman,” which means I love ladies as well as cute shoes. I don’t really feel pushed into a binary because of that – it signifies I am looking for a specific type of partner at this point in my life. I’m also polyamorous which I do feel falls under a “queer” relationship paradigm. Like you said, it just depends on the person and the descriptions they feel most comfortable identifying with, and nobody should feel excluded because they’re not “queer enough” or even bisexual enough by other people’s standards.

  2. JoDawson says:

    oh, great point! That’s a whole other aspect I didn’t even get to…but I love it!

  3. Lydian Harker says:

    I’ve started identifying as “sub,” because I’m coming to realize that for me the gender of the person isn’t nearly as important as the way I interact with them–which is VERY important. Great post!