To the Editor: I'm writing to offer my opinions about bisexuality and how it relates to feminism. I aim to promote visibility of bisexuality and acceptance of all sexual identities beyond the norm of hterosexuality. With this letter I intend to show that sexuality is not binary; rather, sexual orientation is a continuum. As a feminist, I believe that bisexuality can be seen as a strong expression of support for gender equality: a bisexual person does not restrict their choice of partner on the basis of gender, unlike a homosexual or heterosexual person. I think that the character of a person is more important than their gender, when selecting a sexual partner. In our society, gender is still a major influence on character, but it is not the sole determining factor; there are plenty of people who do not fit the societal stereotype associated with their gender. Nowadays, it is easier for women and men to avoid acting in traditionally feminine or masculine ways if they choose not to. Although gender differences are becoming less pronounced, we as a society, still have a long way to go before individuals are allowed to develop without being stifled by cultural stereotypes of gender roles. If we were to actually reach that point, then I think masculine and feminine stereotypes as we know them would become meaningless. Sadly, it is still not generally acceptable in present day American culture to express attraction towards and have a relationship with a member of the same sex. Humans are inherently sexual, some more than others, and it would be good if they were able to feel free to choose a partner without any expectations concerning the sex of that partner. It makes sense that sexuality be expressed between people with compatible characters, regardless of whether they are male or female. Many people accept the fact that biological sex is not a significant factor when hiring an employee. Legislation has been passed in many countries to address the traditional power imbalance between men and women in the work force. This attitude towards the significance of sex could be extended to the more personal sphere of choosing a romantic partner, as already shown by people who identify themselves as bisexuals. If society were ever to evolve to a stage where gender differences were insignificant and heterosexism did not exist, then the labels of bisexual, homosexual and heterosexual would also become insignificant. But in order to explore the significance of sex in a world without sexism or heterosexism, we would have to answer questions such as: What role does biological sex play in determining someone's character compared to environmental influences? Can power differences between men and women ever be eliminated? If heterosexism did not exist, how likely is it that everyone would select partners of the same sex? Would biological reproductive functions be a determining factor in this selection process? Adrienne Rich describes many situations where women are expected and sometimes coerced into having relationships only with men, in her essay "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence'1. Rich's main argument is that society traditionally presumes that women are heterosexual as an "innate orientation' and she reasons that this assumption "stands as a theoretical and political stumbling block for many women.' She says that in fact, it "needs to be recognized... as a political institution' which benefits men. She thinks that the rewards would be great for heterosexually identified feminists who question heterosexuality by having experiences with women. She defines this as a lesbian continuum, "not simply the fact that a woman has had or consciously desired genital sexual experience with another woman', but including "emotionally important' relationships with other women. Bisexual women form a part of this continuum by valuing relationships with other women, by having a choice in our sexuality and by providing female resistance to compulsory heterosexuality. It seems to me that the only reason for people to restrict themselves to opposite sex relationships should be if they want to have biological children and if they want to be in a relationship with the other biological parent, i.e. a nuclear family. Whereas, in the past, people who identified as homosexual may have been "forced' to live a bisexual lifestyle, if they felt they had to get married and appear to be heterosexual, e.g. for a woman to have some means of support or for a man to keep his place in society. Alternatively, some people take on a bisexual identity having previously identified as lesbian or gay. Others continue to identify as homosexual even though their behavior is bisexual. For these people, it can be hard to show attraction for someone of the opposite sex, because they could face rejection or ostracization by the homosexual community. A primary concern of homosexuals may be that this may be seen as weakening their political solidarity. However, I see a bisexual identity that is just as strong politically, in terms of affirming alternatives to heterosexuality. Several ideas have been advanced of a continuum of sexual identity between the extremes of homosexuality and heterosexuality. This continuum is encompassed by degrees of bisexuality, currently defined as attraction to both sexes. In writings by bisexuals, especially on the Internet, it has been suggested that new terms, such as pansensual, be used to describe individuals who are attracted to others regardless of biological sex. This is relates to the conception of femininity and masculinity as a continuum with androgyny representing any mix of masculine and feminine characteristics. In this letter, I have mainly reflected on theoretical concepts of sexual identity in a developing world. On a more tangible level, research has been carried out to try to determine how individuals behave and identify themselves. There have been at least four scales put forward by researchers to try to express someone's sexual identity. The earliest was the Kinsey scale, which was developed in the 1940s to stress sexuality as a continuum from 0 for exclusively heterosexual to 6 for exclusively homosexual. If someone was between 1 and 5, they were described as part one and part the other, rather than bisexual with varying degrees of attraction to men and women. It had a bipolar format, so it didn't show how strongly someone was attracted to men or women. Michael Storms proposed a new sexuality scale in 1980, that used an x-y axis rather than a line between extremes, to include asexuality as well as bisexuality. The third scale was developed by Fritz Klein. He used several indicators to define sexual orientation, such as sexual attraction, sexual behavior, sexual fantasies, emotional preference, social preference, self-identification and lifestyle, and he asked the subject to use the Kinsey scale to rank each indicator for the past, the present (in the past year) and their ideal future goal. The fourth scale, the Multidimensional Scale of Sexuality was published in 1990 and contrasts categories of bisexuality, homosexuality, heterosexuality and asexuality, using some concepts from both Klein and Storms. These scales do not show the whole picture of someone's identity, and there has been some feminist critique of their methodology and of attaching numbers to sexuality, but I think they are a useful tool for getting a picture of the continuum of people's sexuality beyond just either heterosexual or homosexual. In conclusion, bisexuality is a form of inclusivity and supports feminism and homosexuality by challenging sexism and heterosexism and by seeking equality of the sexes. People reach a bisexual identity in many different ways, and the Kinsey, Storms, Klein and Branden scales attempt to determine people's sexual identity on a continuum. Sincerely, Kathrine Holden References 1. Adrienne Rich "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence', originally published in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 5, no. 4, 1980, pp.631 - 660. 2. Thomas Geller "Bisexuality: A Reader and Sourcebook', Times Change Press, 1990. Bibliography Elizabeth Reba Weise, ed., "Closer to Home, Bisexuality and Feminism', The Seal Press, 1992. Loraine Hutchins and Lani Kaahumanu, eds., "Bi Any Other Name: Bisexual People Speak Out', Alyson Publications, 1991.