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Bisexuality is community

Of all the letters in the 2SLGBTQIA acronym, one of the more misunderstood is the “B”: bisexual. Bisexuals are often the recipients of large amounts of skepticism, along with a lack of understanding of what a bisexual identity looks like.

Rachel Patenaude is a bisexual person who grew up in Hemmingford. She explains bisexuality as “experiencing attraction to same/similar and different genders to yourself, including all kinds of genders. The ‘bi’ isn’t a count of genders, it’s a count of types of attraction: ‘same’ and ‘different’ … I like the phrase ‘Love is a many-gendered thing.’”

There’s a misconception that bisexual people only experience attraction to cisgender men and women, leaving trans and non-binary people out of the equation. However, bisexual people have a more expansive definition of who they are attracted to. Patenaude adds that when you take into consideration the identity of each bisexual person and the identity of who they date, “No two bisexual experiences are the same,” and adds that “There isn’t a clear guide of how to date people when your dating history may not look like theirs. You’re not always coming from the same social communities.”

For a long time, the term “bisexual” was used differently from how we use it today. Patenaude explains that historically it was used for what we now call “intersex.” Bisexuals often fell under the gay or lesbian umbrellas. There were moments in history, like the radical feminist movement and the AIDS pandemic, that stigmatized bisexuals for not “picking a side,” and often left them ostracized from their own communities.

There are many other misconceptions that come with being bisexual. The obvious ones are that bisexuals are greedy, cheaters, or experiencing a phase that will pass. But there is also the notion that bi folks are not as involved in the political action of the queer community.

Patenaude refutes this, sharing that she herself has been an organizer and participant in many political activities for the queer community and beyond. Most recently, she was one of the organizers for the 2024 Montreal Dyke March, where she shared that half the team was bisexual. “We’re just as much a vital part of the heartbeat that is the queer community,” she says.

 

Rachel Patenaude and her mom at the 2024 Dyke March which she helped to organize PHOTO Courtesy of Rachel Patenaude

 

Bisexuality also creates a unique relationship to gender identity. Though gender identity and sexual orientation are two different experiences, they can often be quite linked. “To be a queer person, even a cisgender one, is inherently gender non-conforming,” she says, explaining that it is a societal expectation that women are cisgender and heterosexual and they date cisgender, heterosexual men, and vice-versa. Being queer breaks those expectations. Patenaude defines her own relationship with gender as “genderqueer” or “woman and other.”

One of the most valuable parts of Patenaude’s journey has been learning queer history, and specifically the history of bisexuals. She notes, “The mother of Pride, Brenda Howard, is a bisexual woman. She put together the first march to commemorate the Christopher Street riots (better known as Stonewall) … We have Pride parades because of her.”

For folks who may be newly questioning their sexuality or new to their bisexuality, Patenaude encourages them to learn queer history. For her, it has helped her feel connected to a community that has spanned across generations, which is a feeling easily missed if you are the only queer person within your family or friend group. “I’m proud to be standing in the legacy of so many incredible people,” she states. She recommends the writings of bisexual activists Brenda Howard, Lani Ka’ahumanu, Robyn Ochs, and Loraine Hutchins as great jumping-off points.

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