“I don’t even know why she is here, she isn’t even really gay.” As I heard a gay male staff member speak these words about a bisexual volunteer at a prominent LGBTQ youth community center, I began to recognize the truly in-between space in which bisexual people live. Bisexual people live in-between the world of gays and lesbians and the world of their heterosexual peers. It is an exciting and unique space, yet quite often an uncomfortable space filled with suspicion and misunderstanding. Bisexual people typically incur the same prejudices that lesbian and gay people experience from some heterosexual people. At the same time, bisexual people often experience surprising rejection from lesbian and gay persons, as exemplified in the statement above.
Perhaps one reason for this is that bisexual people subvert the dominant binary divisions we so easily use to understand sexual orientation. Most of our identifying markers, whether race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, tend toward what are perceived as polar opposites (e.g. black/white, male/female, heterosexual/homosexual). These binary categories are the shortcut ways in which our minds make sense of identity, but they often do us a disservice in diminishing our understanding of the space in-between these binary categories. This in-between space is, in fact, the space where many of us (not just bisexual persons) live our lives. Just as bisexual and transgender persons subvert the clear divisions between heterosexual/homosexual and male/female, all of our lives subvert binary categories in ways we often miss when we aren’t looking. The in-between space truly is larger and freer than the limited categories with which we choose to identify others and ourselves. Turning our attention away from the supposed fixed categories at either end of the pole to the vast in-between space in our midst, we might be surprised to discover our own identities and the identities of others to contain more beauty and complexity than we expected and we may even catch a glimpse of the Divine at play in the space between us.
We must be party to transforming the space between us through acts of educational advocacy. A great hindrance to wholeness and acceptance in the relationships between heterosexual and LGBT persons – as well as relationships between LGBT persons – is a lack of knowledge and language with which to transform the space between us. There is much to be learned in our quest for transformative action through engaging feminist thought, gender theory and queer theory. These theoretical and critical frameworks provide for us lenses through which we might re-vision our world and the space between us as truly in-between space – space in which our identities are not so clear-cut and in which we recognize the pluriform nature of our personal and communal realities. Through these lenses, we may continue transforming the space between us in order to more fully recognize the mysterious in-between nature of our identities, our relationships and even our relationship with the Divine. In order for the space between us to be transformed, we must continually commit ourselves to the work of re-visioning our world. This will mean confronting the biphobia and monosexism that exist even within the LGBT community – exhibited in the above statement made by an LGBT community leader – as well as the transphobia that still lingers among us. Fear and misunderstanding around issues of identity and difference abound, both within and outside of the LGBT community. May we all become party to transforming this in-between space between us.
Rev. Cody J. Sanders, M.S., M.Div., NCC, is a doctoral student at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas, and an ordained Baptist minister.