Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

"Does the Word 'Gay' Include Bisexuals?" (Originally Posted to the Queerchoice Mailing List)

I was browsing the Rolling Stone website and came across this sentence in their biography of David Bowie:
He also shocked the international music press by announcing that he was "gay" (Bowie is actually bisexual), becoming the first major rock star to openly discuss his homosexuality.

I should also mention here that I've read the transcript of the Bowie interview they're talking about here. The interviewer asked him if he was gay, and he said yes, and then the interviewer asked if he was in loved with his wife, and he said of course he was, and he said "I suppose I'm what people call bisexual." To me, it seemed obvious that he had been using the word "gay" as a word that included "bisexuals." He called himself gay, but I don't think he ever intended to deny being attracted to his wife.

So let's look at the Rolling Stone biog again. When they said he announced he was gay, they put the word "gay" in quotes and added the words "Bowie is actually bisexual" in parentheses. Even if we put aside their refusal to acknowledge the fact that he considers himself heterosexual now, this sentence still seems very odd to me.

First of all, Rolling Stone is saying very clearly here that they don't think the word "gay" includes bisexuals at all. Yet they immediately follow that up with a phrase about him discussing "his homosexuality." Can a bisexual discuss his homosexuality? They seem perfectly willing to believe that the word "homosexuality" includes bisexuals, yet they don't think the word "gay" includes bisexuals. There are no universally agreed-upon definitions here: Rolling Stone thinks bisexuals are not gay, but David Bowie thought bisexuals were gay. I might also mention that someone recently tried to tell me that even the word "queer" does not include me since I am bisexual, which I certainly did not agree with. So there are LOTS of conflicting opinions out there.

So my question is this: What are the political implications of including bisexuals in words like "queer," "gay," "faggot," "dyke," and "homosexual"? If you are bisexual and you pick up a newspaper titled "The Gay News" or a book called "The History of Homosexuality," do you consider that newspaper or that book to be about you or intended for you? How does that affect you? If you are bisexual and someone picks on you by calling you "gay," "faggot," or "dyke," how does your opinion of whether those words actually describe you affect your reaction?
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