The Bisexual Community in New Zealand
Written by: Alice Bartlett, Richard Hennessy and Rosemary Segedin
Re-written by: Robyn Hopkins November, 2000
Who are bisexuals?
A person that may identify as bisexual - is anyone with the potential to feel sexually attracted to people of either gender. This involves feeling drawn to people's qualities and characteristics, including the way they express there own gender identity. Essentially, bisexual people are not restricted by the conventional stereotypes, which say that the heterosexual role and identity is the only model for relationships. Because biological, social, and culturally factors are different for each person, everyone's sexuality is highly individual, whether they are bisexual, lesbian, gay or heterosexual. The "value" placed on a sexual identity should not depend on it's cause.
Many people assume that bisexuality is just a phase people go through. In fact, any sexual orientation can be a phase. Humans are diverse, and individual sexual feelings and behaviour change over time. The creation and consolidation of a sexual identity is an ongoing process. Since we are generally socialised as heterosexuals, bisexuality is a stage that many people experience as part of the process of acknowledging their homosexuality. Many others come to identify as bisexual after a considerable period of identification as gay men or lesbians. An orientation that may not be permanent is still valid for the period of time it is experienced. Bisexuality, like homosexuality and heterosexuality, may be a process of sexual discovery, or a stable, long- term identity.
What is Bisexuality?
Studies done by the American psychologist Alfred Kinsey in the 1940-50's and other researchers since indicate that exclusively homosexual and heterosexual attractions and behaviours appear to represent only a small proportion of a 7 point scale. However bisexual attractions and behaviours appear to represent a substantial proportion of the "sexual continuum".
Bisexual identity is about an individual self-perception in relation to these behaviours and attractions. Many people engage in sexual activity with both genders, yet do not identify as bisexual. Likewise, other people engage in sexually activity only with one gender or are celibate, yet consider themselves bisexual. There is no behavioural "test" for bisexuality.
Bisexuality is a legitimate sexual identity; Bi is Bi, Not Lesbian, Gay or Straight
Society tends to see only rigid opposition between heterosexuality and homosexual counter-cultures. This means that once a person has identified as bisexual they may be seen as either torn equally each way, or pushed towards one of the two ends of the continuum. However bisexuality is a positive identity in itself to be acknowledged on it's own terms.
Dispelling some myths about bisexuality?
1) Greedy, Oversexed, Promiscuous, Kinky and Uncommitted. The category bi-sex-uality can mislead if it is taken to mean that bi-identity revolves around sex. Different bi people possess a range of lifestyles and libidos, as do all sexual orientations. They may express their sexuality in a variety of ways, including in permanent, concurrent, monogamous, same sex and both sex partnerships, or celibacy.
2) Bisexuals have to have one of each gender to be fulfilled. This overlooks their emotional and sexual attraction to people, which can be met by specific men or women.
3) Bisexuals are the spreaders of HIV and STD's. This is a dangerous assumption to make and as with every other community it is about behaviour and individual responsibility.
4) Confused, Fence sitting, Just going through a phase. This is a common myth that we hear often. The transitional periods during personal discovery of any sexual identity are legitimate facets of human growth. For some, bisexuality is a transitional identity, but for many it remains a life long self -perception.
5) Bisexuals get the best of both worlds. This is based on the presumption that bisexuals hide behind heterosexual privilege, while indulging in homosexual activity. Because Bi's don't fall within the norms of traditionally perceived sexuality, they can experience many of the same types of oppression faced by lesbians and gay men. In addition they can experience discrimination from within the queer communities. Bisexual people with same sex lovers, do not get half stigmatised. In addition, they can experience discrimination from within the queer communities. This is the community that bisexual people align themselves to.
Bisexual people may face discrimination in terms of employment, housing and parental custody
And may be victims of homophobic violence. The Ability to work competently, to contribute creatively to society on any level, or to provide a loving and nurturing home environment is not determined by sexual orientation.
Bisexual people have had a vital input into the queer communities' effort to pass the 1986 Homosexual Law Reform Act and the 1993 Human Rights Act.
The term "bisexual" was coined in the late 19th century. Research has shown that definitions of sexual diversity vary in different cultures and periods. Bisexual lifestyles are evident in some of our oldest written records, although the category of "bisexual" wouldn't have existed as it does now. Alexander The Great, Michelangelo, Byron, Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield, Frida Kahlo and James Dean are just a few examples of historic figures who appear to have been bisexual. Contemporary people like Madonna, Anne Heche are now open about their bisexuality.
Since the 1980's bisexual people have begun organising in the USA, U.K., Australia and Aotearoa-NZ. Within this emerging sense of international and local community they can share their experiences, develop bi-culture and contribute to bi-pride and bi visibility.
In Aotearoa-NZ bisexual people are an increasing visible presence within a variety of social and political movements. The New Zealand Bisexual Network has been running since 1997. This group has been forming links within New Zealand and overseas. One of it's main philosophy's is to be bi-visible
Bisexual Resource Guide, 2000
Ochs Robyn, Bisexual Resource Centre, PO Box 400639, Cambridge, MA 02140, USA.
This can also be purchased Online at
Argaray, Leela et al, Plural Desires: Writing bisexual women's realities. Argaray, Leela et al, Bisexual Anthology Collective, Toronto: Sister Vision Press, An anthology of writing by a diverse group of US and Canadian women
Garber, Marjorie (1995), Vice Versa; Bisexuality & The eroticism of everyday life,. New York Simon and Shuster. If you want an in- depth look at bisexuality, literature and popular culture.
Where to find us?
The New Zealand Bisexual Network
For contact details phone The Pride Centre, (09) 302-0590, or if you have internet access http://www.pride.org.nz/bisexual
Palmerston North Bi Group.
Ph MALGRA (06) 358-5378
Wellington BiWomens Group
Contact Wellington Womens Centre
For other groups around NZ, there are listings of these available on the above internet site or contact your local GAYLINE/GAYLINK. They have information about bisexual or bi-inclusive groups.