When I was 14, I found the word bisexual through a Google search. I did not know you could have crushes on both girls and boys. I thought at a certain age there would be a sorting hat a la Harry Potter to tell me if I landed in the "straight" house or the "gay" house. So, when I found the world bisexual, a word that encompassed my feelings, I was ecstatic.
Ten years later, I still identify as bisexual. And I'm just as ecstatic to proudly claim bisexuality. I write and speak about bisexuality while being an advocate for our community. In my advocacy, I frequently am asked why I identify as bisexual rather than pansexual, queer, or many of the other fluid identities. While I am a queer man, in the sense that I am not cis heteronormative, I most closely identify with the label bisexual.
While claiming bisexuality, I frequently encounter the misnomer that bisexuality is innately binary. Since "bi" in bisexual means two, the two is assumed to mean cisgender male and female. (It's only because we think in such binary terms that we would attach a binary gender attraction to the bisexual label.) Yet that is not how many bisexuals define our bisexuality.
The most commonly accepted definition of bisexual comes from renowned bisexual activist Robyn Ochs. She says, "I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge that I have in myself the potential to be attracted - romantically and/or sexually - to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree."
In simpler terms, I call myself bisexual because I'm attracted to genders like mine and gender that aren't like mine. My bisexuality isn't binary. It never was and it will never be.
In the bisexual community, bisexual organizations have begun to use a Bi+ label to encompass all the various identities that land on the bisexual spectrum. Identities like pansexual, queer, omnisexual, and fluid are important parts of the Bi+ community.
There are diverse options for labeling my sexuality. Yet I claim bisexuality.
There are many reasons I call myself bisexual. First, bisexuality makes the most sense to me. Bisexual is the label I'm most comfortable with in describing how I see myself.
I call myself bisexual because it honors our history. Too often, bisexual elders are erased from the forefront of the LGBT rights movement. When I call myself bisexual, I honor the legacy of bisexual activists like Brenda Howard. Known as the Mother of Pride, Howard co-organized the Christopher Street Liberation Day March, which gave birth to Pride parades.
Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson were trans women of color at Stonewall. Yet they were also bisexual. Their bisexual identities are often forgotten. Others who have been at the forefront of the marriage equality movement, HIV activism, and who have marched for equality have too claimed bisexuality for themselves. It is because of their contributions to our equality that I have the space to freely claim my bisexuality today.
I call myself bisexual to be counted. Still, the majority of individuals who are attracted to more than one gender identify as bisexual. Regardless of our labels -- queer, pansexual, omnisexual, or no label at all -- our disparities are the same. We, as a Bi+ community, are facing a health crisis. In order for our disparities to be addressed, we must be counted in data collection.
I claim bisexuality for visibility. In calling myself bisexual, I am visible for other bisexual youth who could be Googling in search of answers about their sexuality. I want the 14-year-olds of tomorrow to know they don't have to deny themselves.
I am out and proud as a bisexual man so that others know they too can claim bisexuality as their own.
ELIEL CRUZ is a contributor to The Advocate on bisexuality. His work has also been found in The Huffington Post, Religion News Service, Mic, Sojourners, The Washington Post, Patheos, Everyday Feminism, Details, Rolling Stone, Vice, and Slate. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.