I ran across a term recently that I really liked: polysexual. If some new term did replace bi as the umbrella “non-mono” (i.e. attraction to more than one gender) sexualities fit under, it looked like it would work. For one thing, it seemed to set aside the whole “But bi means TWO!” thing so we could all hopefully quit arguing over labels and work together. It also seemed to emphasize the very thing that tends to make bi/pan/omni/etc. life uniquely difficult: monosexism. After all, the prefix “poly” falls more directly opposite “mono” than the prefix bi does. It even covered pansexual and all the other labels since there’s no real limit on now many constitutes many.
I also thought it lacked problems I and others have noticed in pansexuality discussion. (The first article is from a nonbinary pansexual person. The most interesting part of the second is the comment from a trans-man after the quoted part.) One is how people frequently use the word pansexual to say they’re “also” attracted to trans* people as if a trans- man or woman is some mysterious third gender, not the gender said man or woman very specifically identifies as. Another is how pansexual is often defined in biphobic ways, either implying or stating outright that if you call yourself bisexual, it means you’re transphobic at worst and ignorant at best. Polysexual seemed less biphobic to me because the word itself, when taken at face value, encompasses bisexuality. After all, two—however you see it—is indeed more than one with no moral judgments attached.
I really wanted to use this word because it felt right. Bisexual for visibility reasons (it’s right in the LGBT acronym, and it’s the word most people know); polysexual in situations where folks might actually know what it means and where, if they didn’t, they’d want to find out. I also simply like the way it sounds.
Then, I looked up the meaning online since I wanted to be sure. I wound up seeing the very same problems that often crop up in discussions about pansexuality: biphobic definitions and third-gendering trans* people. One page even stated outright that calling one’s self polysexual is a way of rejecting bi.
Needless to say, this was… a little disheartening.
Then, I found another word I hadn’t heard before: plurisexual. (It’s towards the end of the article. And the article itself is pretty thought-provoking.) It sounds nice, it captures all the potential I saw in polysexual, and it doesn’t belong to anyone else or have stuff attached to it that makes me, well, sad. I think I’ll use that in addition to bi and hope it catches on.
[Note: For anyone having trouble getting past the “Bi means two, so it’s binarist” concept, here’s an interesting essay which 1)deconstructs some ideas behind that thinking and 2)provides the definition of bisexual most bi people actually use. Basically, the two are “same” and “different”, not necessarily “cis male” and “cis female”. Also: differences between bi and pan presented in a non-biphobic, non-cissexist way. Bonus: A genderqueer bisexual person’s take on the whole label situation.]