The intersection of theories of disability and bisexuality is unexplored, yet both are identities rendered in/visible by paternalistic environments where individual and political identities are defined by oppositional binaries and vulnerable to compulsory citizenship. The development of such identities can be better understood by using a bisexual approach to inform theories of disability and a disability approach to inform theories of sexuality inclusive of bisexuality. Common themes that emerge center around issues of choice, fluidity of identity, the phenomena of "coming out" and "passing," and limitations to citizenship attendant to in/visible identities. Disability studies can provide a non-normative discursive space within which such identity issues may be addressed critically. Further, this article hopes to interject a bisexual perspective in discussions concerning applications of queer theory in disability studies.


Visibility has long been a tenet of the Disability Rights Movement. Advocates have fought not only for the right to be seen, but also to have their voices heard, to be counted, to be people first, and to be recognized as human beings and not enfreaked, pathologized, fetishized or infantilized. Even within the disability movement there is a struggle for equal visibility among types of disability, gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, and sexual orientation. Bisexuality often finds itself trapped in a similar position of in/visibility; a paradoxical juxtaposition of both invisibility and hypervisibility. On the one hand bisexuals struggle to be recognized as having a legitimate and distinct sexual orientation; on the other, they endure highly visible stereotypes based on assumptions of sexual behavior that threaten this legitimacy. Women with physical disabilities have reported feeling a kindred, embodied tension:

Through their lived knowledge of imposed and negotiated (in)visibility, [female] participants moved towards transforming the value and meanings of their bodies for themselves. This process occurred after periods of questioning and reflecting on their experiences of (in)visibility in many social contexts. In various ways and times, all the women have rejected the ways they are seen through hegemonic cultural discourses about disability and difference. Through questioning the perceptions that construct their bodies in undesirable ways, the women have returned the 'gaze' of dominant societies and made their own judgments on the ways they are seen. (Zitzelsberger, 2005, p. 398)

It is encouraging to know that there are others who share in the experience of this phenomenon; to know that we exist and that we are not alone. As yet, there is almost no research on bisexuality and the embodied and material experience of in/visibility. The way the women in Zitzelsberger's study have learned to negotiate in/visibility in their daily lives offers invaluable information. Bisexual discourse offers complementary knowledge in its approach to invisibility, having explored the theoretical construct in depth, which has potential to further enrich the development and understanding of this paradox among disability studies scholars.

An absent subject, bisexuality has been overwhelmingly missing in academic literature across disciplines despite the existence of numerous commonalities with the treatment of other minority groups. Bisexuals are certainly not the first group to be ignored, neglected, subsumed, or actively erased based on their deviance from what society considers normal. Further, disability has been used historically as a justification for discrimination against minority groups, their lower status attributed to mental, emotional, or physical deficiencies (Baynton, 2001; Siebers, 2007). The silent "B" in LGBTQ; bisexuality is habitually relegated to existing within parenthesis, quotation marks, or other signifiers of its lesser value. Visibility is vital to both individual identity as well as political identity because it is inextricably linked to power through recognition (Fraser & Honneth, 2003). Therefore, disability and bisexuality share a common interest in deconstructing this phenomenon of in/visibility as it pertains to the formation of intersectional identities within the paternalistic environment of an ableist and monosexist society that questions their very existence and right to exist.

Throughout this article, associations will be drawn between theories and experiences of disability and those of bisexuality. This is intended to provide a foundation upon which to begin meaningful and informed discussion of the intersections of these identities and to offer future avenues for possible inquiry. With regards to theories of bisexuality and the position the bisexual academic community takes on queer theory, there is no consensus. The opinions reflected in this paper are those of the author and are informed and supported by external sources.

This exploration will begin by operationalizing the term in/visibility as it pertains to people with disabilities and bisexuals before continuing on to examine the establishment and maintenance of binaries within disability, sexuality, and feminism. Some facets of binaries, informed by a bisexual perspective, are suggested that disability scholars may not have formerly considered. At this point, the concept of intersectionality is introduced and will be addressed more fully later on. Theories of sexuality are then summarized in order to situate bisexuality within a discourse that is fraught with misconceptions, and parallels are drawn between models of bisexuality and models of disability. It is here that strategic essentialism is introduced and where a bisexual approach begins to problematize applications of queer theory and other universalist approaches. Aspects of feminism and gender theory are introduced to further explore the concept of intersectionality mentioned earlier. A bisexual approach is then used to critique compulsory heterosexuality and its place within a dominant discourse.

Queer theory is particularly problematic from a bisexual perspective. Although the theory is intended to provide a unified sexual citizenship, in practice it reconstructs the same binary in a way that is more politically advantageous for the homosexual community and more palatable to heterosexuals. The primary contributing factor and consequence of this phenomenon is bisexual in/visibility. Because of the political importance of queer identities, and to explain the effectiveness of strategic essentialism, the connection between intersectionality and postmodernism is made. A pursuant discussion of citizenship then illustrates the effect of in/visibility on participation and belonging to a community. There are indications of several similarities between bisexuals and people with disabilities, but this section raises more questions than it is able to provide answers. Finally, this article addresses the ways in which universalist theories, such as queer theory, manifest counterintuitively and in ways that do not recognize the membership of those identities who are in/visible. Other themes that are touched upon throughout this article include normalization, performativity, "coming out," and compulsory passing.


The paradox of in/visibility is the result of society's categorical need to label and define things. Without visibility, invisibility holds no meaning and through gaining visibility others are rendered invisible. Such binaries are familiar within discourses on sexuality, feminism, and disability (Corker, 2001; Sherry, 2004). Just as heterosexuality is defined by, and therefore dependent upon homosexuality (Brickell, 2006; Weeks, 2000), disability cannot exist without ability (McRuer, 2006a). To further abstract this notion, abnormality cannot exist without socially inscribed norms (Davis, 2006a). However, these concepts should extend beyond a reductionist binary definition to include interstitial spaces. One cannot discuss invisibility without simultaneously discussing visibility, one cannot discuss disability without simultaneously discussing the disputed concept of able-bodiedness, and one certainly cannot discuss sexual identity within the context of a binary.

Yet, many binaries remain resilient. Even attempts at dissolving categories can inadvertently reinforce established binaries as one does not normally attune to things outside of their awareness. Consider, for instance, whether it is possible to explain heterosexuality while inferring homosexuality in a way that does not render bisexuality invisible by merely subsuming it under the label of homosexuality or queerness. This could only be accomplished if one were informed about this tension a priori, hence the motivation for this article. The implied inclusion of bisexuality within LGBTQ or queerness manifests as neglect and leaves bisexuals disenfranchised. Queer theory has been successful in establishing a political identity through the dissolution of categories and unification under non-heteronormativity, but at what cost to bisexual identity?

Bisexuality can benefit from the knowledge gained by other minority groups in their fight for recognition. Currently, bi advocates are disempowered, dependant on the LGBTQ community and the queer movement for political recognition. Bisexuality, often mistakenly seen as a minority within a minority, has long been a contested identity existing alongside, separate from, and even within homosexuality and what has come to be known as "queer" (Burrill, 2009; Callis, 2009; Erickson-Schroth & Mitchell, 2009; Feldman, 2009; Gurevich, Bailey, & Bower, 2009; Halperin, 2003, 2009; Yoshino, 2000). These approaches cannot account for the breadth of bisexual experience, however. In light of the impact of in/visibility, they are simply not sufficient to fully address the complex construct of bisexual identity. Moreover, bisexuality theory is not robust enough to stand on its own, nor should it necessarily endure such separatism. Rather, theories of bisexuality can and arguably should exist at the intersections of theories of sexuality, feminism/gender theory, and queer theory.

This touches upon the intersectional nature of identity and the value of acknowledging differences. Already a complex construct, identity becomes even more so when exploring the experiences of individuals in multiple minority groups. Whether identity is additive or interactive, (Atkins & Marston, 1999; Purdie-Vaughns & Eibach, 2008; Sherry, 2004) we all maintain multiple group memberships that reflect facets of our identity. "White, male, heterosexual, able-bodied" is a multiple group identity just as is "black, female, bisexual with disabilities;" intersectionality does not limit itself to privileged or minority status. Where a distinction becomes valuable is in how identity translates to models of oppression be they additive (double oppression) or interactive (simultaneous oppression) (Smith, 2004; Stuart, 1992; Thompson & Bryson, 2001). People located at these intersections often find themselves in/visible (Purdie-Vaughns & Eibach, 2008; Samuels, 2003; Zitzelsberger, 2005). By not addressing the needs or concerns of the bisexual community and over-generalizing among those encompassed within ascribed labels, bisexuals are forced to participate in a hegemonic system that does not fully recognize them; a sentiment which should be familiar to the disability community.

Consider the recent controversy concerning "gay marriage." Bisexual advocates have successfully argued that legislation include "same-sex" marriage so that bisexuals are not excluded from these recently won rights (American Institute of Bisexuality, 2008; Bialogue, 2008). Some within the LGBTQ and queer communities have voiced dissent over this issue, believing that once one is committed to a partner of the same sex, "gay marriage" arises, such that squabbling over semantics is pointless. What these advocates do not appreciate is the extent to which this can affect a bisexual's sense of self and identity. This issue is about more than fighting for the right to marry and to feel that those relationships are validated and recognized in the law. It is simply this, one should not have to forfeit part of their identity to gain "equality." That is not equality at all.

Why explore this topic with respect to disability studies? First, topics of disability are pervasive in our society in that they are inseparable from an understanding of discrimination (Baynton, 2001; Siebers, 2007). Further, disability and bisexuality both exist in the domain of identity theory. Therefore, theories of disability identity may be used to inform theories of bisexual identity and vice versa. Finally, disability studies can provide a non-normative discursive space within which parallel identity issues may be addressed critically.

Theories of Sexuality: Situating Bisexuality

Theories of sexuality did not begin as exclusive of bisexuality or, rather, as any more exclusive of bisexuality than of any other non-normative sexual identity. Before the modern hetero/homo binary existed, there were many variations signifying the intersections between same-sex and opposite-sex attraction. From Freud's levels of inversion (Freud, 1962) to Kraft-Ebing's psychosexual hermaphroditism (Brickell, 2006) to Kinsey's continuum to Janus and Janus' reliance on self-identification (Yoshino, 2000); it was not until the homosexual community responded to the pathologization of homosexuality with the immutability defense, born out of strategic essentialism (Richardson, 2000; Waites, 2005), that bisexuality needed to exist as a distinct political identity.

Inadequately understood by both the heterosexual and homosexual communities, even bisexuals can have difficulty understanding their own sexual identity. This is particularly salient within the context of a resistant social environment. Its definition may seem obvious on a surface level, but unpacking what bisexuality truly means becomes challenging. For example, the last decade saw a move away from bisexuality speaking to an attraction for both genders, and towards attraction regardless of gender (Barker, Richards, & Bowes-Catton). Further, in a recent article, David Halperin (2009) identifies thirteen different types of bisexuals. That is, thirteen different standpoints from which to experience bisexuality that belie the influence of internal and external power relationships.

None of the models advanced to define bisexuality are universally accepted (Rodríguez Rust, 2000a; Rothblum, 2000). Many are "excessively behaviorist" (Vernallis, 1999); reliant upon sexual behavior as definitive of orientation rather than other dimensions vital to the development of sexuality, such as desire, identity, and relationships (Rothblum, 2000). Behaviorist models of identity not only support negative stereotypes, but require them. Bisexuals can only exist in these models if they act "bisexual enough" and fulfill their socially ascribed role as promiscuous, non-monogamous, untrustworthy, transitive, greedy, disloyal, STD-ridden, philanderers. Relegated to the position of the deviant other, performances of bisexual identity are over-sexualized and fetishized. Ostensibly, the only way to perform "bisexually" is to fulfill behaviorist stereotypes (Fahs, 2009). Significant parallels can be drawn between bisexual performativity and disability as a masquerade (Siebers, 2008); particularly for those whose disability may not be immediately apparent (Samuels, 2003). Further, both disability and bisexuality query the gender performativity of identities not recognized within hetero- and homo-sexual communities (Marshall, 2009; O'Toole, 2000).

In many ways bisexuality is still an emerging identity. It was only in 2008 that research was published providing evidence over a ten-year longitudinal period that bisexuality is a distinct orientation and not a temporary phase (Diamond, 2008). This groundbreaking work provides substantial justification for an identity whose very existence has been so publicly disputed. This research supports the long-held claim that bisexuality is rendered invisible relative to homosexuality due to bisexual erasure and not bisexual nonexistence (Yoshino, 2000). Both heterosexuals and homosexuals maintain overlapping interests that lead them into a contract of bisexual erasure through strategies of class erasure, individual erasure, and delegitimation (Yoshino, 2000). Mutual investments of both parties include an interest in stabilizing sexual orientation, in retaining sex as a dominant metric of differentiation, and in defending the norms of monogamy. This epistemic contract helps to stabilize established group identities and ensure one's place in the social order. Towards this end, the homosexual community defends its sexual orientation by claiming it as an immutable trait. Ironically, the immutability defense is both essentialist as well as socially constructed for political reasons. Absolution implies a lack of choice (Yoshino, 2000). Therefore immutability has an "exonerative force because of the widely held belief that it is abhorrent to penalize individuals for matters beyond their control" (Yoshino, 2000, p. 405). It is fascinating that an essentialism so encouraged within the homosexual community can be so disputed within the disability community.

Because of the political importance given to the fixity of sexual identity and the retention rather than dissolution of identity categories (Waites, 2005), many gay and lesbian activists perceive bisexuality as an act of political betrayal (Ault, 1996; Zinik, 2000) given that it threatens to subvert both their political and individual identity (Colligan, 1999). Consequently, groups who are seen as having greater choice or fluidity become marginalized (Waites, 2005). Queer theory developed as an attempt to transcend these categories to a more amalgamated, non-heteronormative political identity, but is fraught with its own limitations.

… queer theory, being a theory instead of a discipline, posed no threat to the monopoly of the established disciplines: on the contrary, queer theory could be incorporated into each of them, and it could then be applied to topics in already established fields. Those working in English, history, classics, anthropology, sociology, or religion would now have the option of using queer theory, as they had previously used Deconstruction, to advance the practice of their disciplines — by "queering" them…. This has resulted in a paradoxical situation: as queer theory becomes more widely diffused throughout the disciplines, it becomes harder to figure out what's so very queer about it, while lesbian and gay studies, which by contrast would seem to pertain only to lesbians and gay men, looks increasingly backward, identitarian, and outdated. (Halperin, 2003, p. 342)

Additionally, I argue that rather than dissolving boundaries, queer theory has succeeded in restructuring the binary from hetero/homo to heteronormative/ non-heteronormative. The latter category, dubbed "queer", has come to encompass bisexuality and other sexual orientations within a synecdochical modifier often conflated with homosexuality itself (Burrill, 2009; Callis, 2009; Erickson-Schroth & Mitchell, 2009; Feldman, 2009; Gurevich, et al., 2009; Halperin, 2003, 2009; Yoshino, 2000). The application of the term "queer" reinforces the resilient hetero/homo binary (Brickell, 2006; Erickson-Schroth & Mitchell, 2009; Feldman, 2009; Gurevich, et al., 2009). It is crucial that scholars and advocates of sexuality inclusive of bisexuality not make this same mistake. There exists a danger of creating a monosexual/bisexual binary, which would serve to undermine the legitimacy of bisexual identity (Ault, 1996).

Current conceptualizations of bisexuality extend sexual orientation to a trinity existing on a linear continuum positioning bisexuality relative to hetero- and homo-sexuality. However doing so still reinforces the established binary (Horncastle, 2008). Also polarized, disability is often defined by its position relative to able-bodiedness or normalcy (Davis, 2006a). A deconstruction of theories of disability occurs when exploring the various models. To be able to discuss disability and sexuality on a comparable scale requires a model of sexuality that is inclusive of bisexuality. Existing theories of sexuality and queer theory either actively erase bisexual identity, subsume it within hegemonic binaries, or render it in/visible (Burrill, 2009; Callis, 2009; Erickson-Schroth & Mitchell, 2009; Feldman, 2009; Gurevich, et al., 2009; Halperin, 2003, 2009; Yoshino, 2000). A social model of sexuality might be formed which would be inclusive of bisexuality. One could postulate that sexual attraction is commensurate with impairment and sexual orientation with disability. If disablement has nothing to do with the body (and its relation to impairment) and is the result of social oppression (Oliver, 1996), then sexual orientation could be seen as having nothing to do with the body (and its relation to sexual attraction) and could likewise be the result of social oppression. A more thorough examination of the impact of such a statement on how sexuality, disability, and identity are viewed on an abstract level is outside the scope of this article but bears resemblance to Rosemarie Garland Thompson's (2005) description of situated theory. Such considerations are vital to the way we should view identity, employing a disability approach to inform theories of sexuality while employing a bisexual approach to inform theories of disability.

It is important to note that comparing bisexuality with disability identity requires an appreciation for the latter as a gestalt identity whereas bisexuality represents only part of a whole. This is not to imply that disability is a totalizing identity, but refers instead to "disability identity" and "sexual identity" as theoretical social categories. For example, one could take the perspective that we are all innately bisexual beings differing only in the degree to which we recognize and permit ourselves to act on our sexual attractions. This perspective creates an alternate binary system by shifting the position of the bisexual from being a marginalized group to the center. Bisexuality becomes normalized and hetero- and homo- sexuality constructed as "a monolithic 'semi-sexual' collective composed of those sexually limited by a pathological preference for intimacy with members of only one sex" (Ault, 1996, p. 458). This system generates a category of monosexuality comprising both heterosexuals and homosexuals as the marginalized other in an oddly equalizing capacity. While such an approach may feel perversely satisfying in the short term, it only serves to further marginalize others and continue to create divisions based on a socially constructed dogma — entitling some and disempowering others. This is hardly progress. This argument calls for a critical evaluation of 1) how queer theory is being used in disability studies, and of 2) comparable claims of a universalizing view (Garland-Thomson, 2002) in disability studies, that we are all disabled (Linton, 1998), temporarily able-bodied (Atkins & Marston, 1999; McRuer & Wilkerson, 2003), or virtually disabled (McRuer, 2006a).

Feminism & Gender Theory: Intersectional Identities

The history of sexuality is divided along gender lines and sexual orientation is contingent upon this binary (Rodríguez Rust, 2000b; Weeks, 2000). The very term "bisexual" illustrates this by implying the potential for attraction to either sex. The intersection or transcendence of the two categories is not acknowledged, rendering intersexed, hermaphroditic, and transgendered individuals in/visible. Insufficient appreciation for the variety of sex and gender identities is brought to the fore in discourse surrounding bisexuality as it is an intersectional identity, positioning sexual and romantic attraction at the interstices between both sex and gender of the actor and object.

Existing literature regarding the "bisexual body" is also bifurcated. The male bisexual body is medicalized and primarily discussed with regards to sexually transmitted diseases and risky behaviors, whereas the female bisexual body is highly politicized and discussed in reference to identity politics (Ault, 1996; Rodríguez Rust, 2000a). A comparison of two of the most visible studies concerning bisexuality represents both the best and worst portrayals of this phenomenon. The Lisa Diamond Study (2008), examined only the experiences of women and can only statistically prove that female bisexuality is a legitimate, enduring sexual orientation. Conversely, in 2005, the results of a study conducted by Michael Bailey were widely publicized in a New York Times article, "Straight, Gay, or Lying? Bisexuality Revisited" (Carey, 2005). Despite the fact that his findings were unpublished and his methodology suspect (Conway, 2005), Bailey claimed to have proven that bisexuality did not exist and that the bisexual male participants in his study were lying about their sexual orientation (Carey, 2005). Both Diamond and Bailey achieved a high level of visibility, but the standards of gaining that recognition were much lower for a study that confirmed bisexual male stereotypes than for a study refuting bisexual female stereotypes.

To digress for a moment, the mechanics of such stereotyping are interesting to consider from a disability studies perspective as it touches upon behaviorist and essentialist notions. Causality for a person or group's behavior is attributable to either external (situational/environmental) or internal (disposition/personality traits) factors (Myers, 2002). Persons tend to underestimate situational attributes while overestimating dispositional ones when judging others. This is known as the fundamental attribution error. If an outgroup, in this instance those that are stereotyped, is seen to exhibit a negative behavior that reinforces one's expectation for that group, the fundamental attribution error becomes fortified (Pettigrew, 1979). Often in cases of discrimination, inferred internal factors assume the form of immutable traits (Pettigrew, 1979). Paired with one's tendency to disregard outgroup members' positive behaviors as irrelevant, it becomes evident how negative stereotypes towards marginalized groups are propagated within an ableist society.

On a sociological level, intersectionality began as a critique of feminist theory when women of color disavowed the notion that feminism spoke universally for all women (Crenshaw, 1991; McCall, 2005). Why, then, is it assumed that theories of sexuality can speak universally for all sexes, genders, and orientations? One could argue that queer theory is an intersectional theory of sexuality, but it, too, falls prey to totalizing influences. Queer theory cannot speak universally for all non-heteronormative sexual identities. Yet it does and, in so doing, has become a powerful political tool.

Part of the reason intersectional identities tend to be in/visible is because there is a tendency to over-homogenize and disregard heterogeneity within groups (Crenshaw, 1991; Waites, 2005). This has been found to be true within disability studies with regards to age, gender, ethnicity, education, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and other variables (Greenwell & Hough, 2008). Explanations for such over-homogenization may be found within social psychology and social movement theory. People categorize the social environment according to certain criteria. This process of social categorization is necessary, but not sufficient for discrimination (Grieve & Hogg, 1999). The need to believe that one is correct in their attitudes and behaviors is a vital component of categorization. As a result, individuals tend to align themselves with those who will affirm their correctness. In social movement theory, the reliance upon binaries to establish a strong political identity, be it male/female or hetero/homo or able-bodied/disabled, involves centering some identities and marginalizing or excluding others (Waites, 2005).

Adrienne Rich's seminal article (1981) on compulsory heterosexuality and the lesbian continuum brought visibility to lesbian feminism by re-centering its status to counteract the erasure of lesbian existence. In our heterocentric society the ideal of womanhood is assumed to be a heterosexual one, resulting in the phenomenon of compulsory heterosexuality to which lesbianism serves as anathema. According to Rich, not only do lesbians not want to ascribe to this ideal of heterosexuality, but their sexual orientation actively prohibits the realization of such womanhood. The "ideal" is inherently linked to societal norms, the notion of normalcy, deviation, and abnormality (Davis, 2006a). Intersectional minority identities, such as lesbian, bisexual, and disabled, will all inevitably fail to achieve these ideals, particularly since the ideal is dependent upon their oppression and consequently impossible and incomprehensible without its counterpart (McRuer, 2006a). Again, this is a paradox of in/visibility as well as a dependence upon binary opposition to construct operational definitions.

Female reality is further erased when lesbian existence is subsumed within male homosexuality (Rich, 1981). Bisexuals should learn from this and resist becoming subsumed within a hetero/homo binary or within queerness. One would suppose that lesbian feminism understood the experience of bisexual in/visibility. However, there exists antipathy within the lesbian feminist community towards bisexuals (Ault, 1996). Several of whom believe that bisexuals (and "queer" theorists) are erasing lesbian history (Jeffreys, 1994, 1999) and fear that bisexuality will further render their own identity invisible. This reaction is, at once, a defensive attempt to preserve unity as well as an offensive attempt to invalidate those groups perceived as threatening. The result is the active encouragement of the erasure of bisexual identity, although some lesbian feminists are ambivalent toward bisexuals and perceive them to be relatively unimportant to lesbian and/or feminist politics (Ault, 1996). There is also aversion among lesbians to women with disabilities. As a community founded on principles of self-reliance, disability is seen as portraying a dependence and weakness all too reminiscent of heterosexual women's compulsory role (O'Toole, 2000).

The reaction of the religious right to bisexual identity parallels that of lesbian feminists. Bisexuality is seen as the "ultimate perversion." While homosexuals attest to having no choice in their attractions, there is thought to be no excuse for bisexual behavior (Ault, 1996). This demonstrates the success of strategic essentialism and reinforcement of negative bisexual stereotypes. The sexual conservatism of the religious right also impacts disability. Under the previous presidential administration policy impeded sexuality research in favor of conservative views on abortion, birth control, and sexual education (di Mauro & Joffe, 2007). While such policies seek to control the female body as a whole, women with disabilities find themselves at a greater disadvantage (Fine & Asch, 1988; O'Toole, 2002). However, both women with disabilities and bisexuals meet resistance regarding traditional notions of family under a normalizing influence (Erickson-Schroth & Mitchell, 2009; Lloyd, 2001). Again, the female body becomes politicized through feminist discourse where the personal becomes political.

Given the paternalistic influence society has over these two groups, to what extent do people who identify as disabled and/or bisexual have control or exert choice over what belongs in the personal versus public sphere? Recall that the immutability defense is used by the homosexual community to "prove" that being gay or lesbian is not a choice. Debates about essentialism and constructionism thus become debates about choice and constraint (Colligan, 1999). At first glance, this may seem counter to the way we think of disability. If essentialism is re-framed as the lack of choice and constructionism as societal constraints or barriers, it becomes evident that these are the same processes, only in reverse. The homosexual community seeks absolution by claiming immutability while the social model of disability seeks a similar form of absolution by reappropriating blame from individuals to society, seeking to upend the stigma of personal tragedy theory (Oliver, 1996). If bisexuals are rendered invisible by the former, what population becomes lost in the latter? In that intersection further commonalities between bisexuality and disability likely reside, particularly as regards choice and the fluidity of identity, which can be viewed as beneficial characteristics that support autonomy in self-identification.

On a more concrete level, how can the personal be political for a population whose own personal and intimate sense of self-identity is so contested? How can the personal be political within an environment that is not only resistant to bisexual identity, but also invalidates its very existence? In the past, society was resistant to critical race theory but hardly suggested that different races did not exist. Society was resistant to feminism but did not believe women did not exist. Society was, and to an extent, still is resistant to homosexuality but does not believe gay men and lesbians do not exist. In this way disability and bisexuality are unique. Hegemonic society is resistant to disability and believes it should not exist, but believes that not only does bisexuality not exist, it also should not exist. Therefore it is regrettably unsurprising that the personal narratives of bisexuals (Storr, 1999) and individuals with disabilities (Morris, 1992) are overwhelmingly absent in academic and non-academic literature outside of their respective domains, if bisexuality can be said to have a domain; a sexual citizenship.

Problematizing Queer Theory & Citizenship

Queer theory developed in the hope of providing disparate sexual orientations with a unified sexual citizenship (Seidman, 2001), and in that respect has been progressive and revolutionary in transcending labels and categories. By uniting sexual minorities under a reclaimed title and positioning itself as non-heteronormative, "queer" became a compelling political identity (Halperin, 2003; Storr, 1999). There exist numerous theoretical and experiential commonalities between queer theory and disability studies (Colligan, 1999; McRuer, 2006b; Sherry, 2004). Despite what has been argued previously in this article, those keeping abreast of this emerging domain may question the rationale for differentiation pertaining to bisexuality. After all, bisexuality and queer theory should complement each other, given that they are both understood to be postmodern intersectional identities, which deconstruct and subvert normative binaries. What is commonly overlooked, however, is the distinction between theory and practice. While theories of bisexuality and queer theory may coalesce, the manifestation of queerness in sexuality is a causal factor of bisexual in/visibility. "Queerness" is a theoretical tool and its application is limited by the institutionalized socio-cultural attitudes towards sexuality. This calls for an assessment of whether commonalities between queer theory and disability studies are similarly limited.

With regards to how queer theory contributes to bisexual in/visibility, consider that we exist in a society of compulsory monosexuality, within which queer theory has both a reductionist and totalizing effect. Instead of dissolving the boundaries between sexual identity categories, queering has reconstructed the hegemonic binary of heterosexual/homosexual as heteronormative/non-heteronormative. The combination of the in/visible status of bisexuality, the institutionalized societal prejudice towards bisexuality, and the over-homogenization within this category of "non-heteronormative" renders a distinction between queer and homosexual indistinguishable. The heteronormative/non-heteronormative binary is merely a reproduction of the resilient hetero/homo binary. For that matter, this hetero/homo binary is simply a reproduction of the familiar normal/abnormal binary applied to different pathologized identities.

In understanding the deeper influence of compulsory monosexuality, it must be acknowledged that society is grounded in monosexual normativity. Resistance to bisexual existence from both the heterosexual and homosexual community effectively demonstrates this. The movement of queer theory towards the normalization of homosexuality (Halperin, 2003; Seidman, 2001; Sherry, 2004) suspended sexual categories to position homosexuality not opposite heterosexuality, but alongside it. Attempts to engage bisexuality in the existing framework relegate it to the position of the deviant other, espousing a monosexual/bisexual binary. This standpoint could influence one's disability perspective by utilizing this insight to build upon Robert McRuer's (2006a) work to inform how we conceive of compulsory able-bodiedness and disabled existence. Further, presenting a unified front for non-normative sexualities under the umbrella term "queer" makes a powerful statement, but contradicts the very principles of intersectionality. While some would disagree, (Rosenblum, 1995), arguing that variation is maintained and recognized within the continuum of queer identity, this notion does not appreciate the resilience of the hetero/homo binary nor the profundity of bisexual in/visibility.

Theory does not necessarily translate to action and queer theory overextends its capabilities. Weeks (2000) believed that the attraction to queer theory/politics lay in its potential to provide theoretical justification for transgression, dissidence, and subversion of the status quo. Ironically, resistance to bisexual ideology has arisen because it threatens to subvert the status quo (Ault, 1996; Jeffreys, 1999; Yoshino, 2000), or rather dominant sexual identity paradigms. In this vein, queerness might be seen by the homosexual community as a more palatable form of sexual fluidity than bisexuality because it does not threaten its status. It also bears consideration to what extent bisexuality is used by the homosexual or queer community as a scapegoat towards achieving normativity by displacing stigmatized perversion. There exists a similar phenomenon of binormativity where by constructing a deviant bisexual other, the bisexual community is capable of upholding the dominant cultural code as well as its lesbian interpretation. Accordingly, female binormativity values honesty, fidelity, sexual responsibility, and commitment and reproves bisexuals who are promiscuous, unpoliticized, or unable to cope with the antipathy encountered from both monosexual camps (Ault, 1996). Rather than refute existing stereotypes, bisexual women tend to limit themselves to this one specific subgroup of the deviant bisexual other. As a consequence, group identity becomes further fractured, further gendered, and the status quo of the hetero/homo binary further upheld. Parallel distinctions can be seen within the Deaf community's antipathy towards those considered ORAL, which reinforces hierarchies of meaning and belongingness within the DEAF-WORLD (Padden & Humphries, 2006). Thus, even within this group, discrimination creates categories of exclusion in an already marginalized population.

Weeks, among other sexuality theorists, has been criticized for overestimating the potential of queer theory (Waites, 2005), given that it is a theoretical approach, not an identity, whose capacity is limited accordingly (Storr, 1999). The widespread acceptance of queer politics, however, promotes an "illusion of direct action via theory" (du Plessis, 1996, p. 25). While some may disagree, it is proposed that if "queer" exists as a political or individual identity, it does so independently of queer theory and does not necessarily follow the same theoretical principles. As an independent agent, queer identities are just as susceptible to compulsory monosexuality as any other identity category, including bisexuals.

Intersectionality is a postmodern concept. So to make matters more confusing, queer and bisexual identities are not merely intersectional, they are also postmodern. The importance of this statement is that postmodern identities are at a disadvantage within positivist systems, such as the legal system. Strategies that tailor to positivist arguments, such as strategic essentialism, are more likely to be effective (Rosenblum, 1994; Yoshino, 2000) regardless of whether they are representative of "reality." Postmodern sexual identities have been criticized for their failure to engage with the material in favor of the discursive (Storr, 1999). While it is possible to view disability as a postmodern identity (Davis, 2006b), it is one very closely tied to both discourse and materialism.

The significance of the relationship of identity to materialism becomes apparent when discussing citizenship. Not only does identity play an integral role in constructing citizenship (Richardson, 2000), but citizenship is also an identity (Kymlicka & Norman, 1994). Citizenship extends beyond civil, political, and social rights to common membership and belongingness in a shared community (Richardson, 2000).

Citizenship has been seen as compulsory, or as voluntary, active or passive, moral or legal. It has been seen as a means of exercising freedom through participation with one's peers in a distinctively public, political realm of speech and action, in opposition to a 'dark' private realm of natural rhythms of material and biological necessity. It can mean having obligations as well as rights, or as going against one's self-interest. (Prokhovnik, 1998, p. 85)

The compulsory component of citizenship as a political identity corresponds with how compulsory able-bodiedness affects disability identities as well as how compulsory heterosexuality and compulsory monosexuality affect sexual identities. In effect, the failure to achieve societal ideals among each group limits one's membership within it and the rights attendant to such recognition. However, if intersectionality is to be valued, compulsory able-bodiedness must be seen to effect sexual identities just as compulsory heterosexuality and compulsory monosexuality effect disability identities. An intersectional approach to citizenship may be found in literature on multiethnic citizenship (Kymlicka, 1995).

A theory of universal citizenship also exists (Young, 1989) that runs the risk of doing for minority groups what queer theory has done for bisexuals; render them in/visible by pursuing an equality uninformed by individual and group differences. Universal citizenship depends upon group representation within a larger citizenship so that group needs, interests, and goals are not overlooked (Young, 1989); neglecting the impact of the hierarchy of disability or binormativity in defining group leadership and the impact of institutionalized prejudice on which persons with disabilities and bisexuals have the educational and professional status to participate equally. For instance, in/visibility affects the citizenship status of individuals with intellectual disabilities (Roets & Goodley, 2008) whose sexual bodies and sexual citizenship have been tightly controlled by policy, institutions, family, care workers, and insufficient sexual resources (Dotson, Stinson, & Christian, 2003; Dudek, 2006; Hamilton, 2002; Roets & Goodley, 2008; Wade, 2002; Williams & Nind, 1999).

The sexualities of people with intellectual disabilities are truly in/visible; perceived as either asexual and infantilized or hypersexual and dangerous. By comparison, bisexuals' competency and decision-making capacity are continually questioned (Stone, 1996) throughout the formation of sexual identity and long afterward, unless a person re-identifies to something more socially acceptable and less psychically burdensome. Paternalism redux, where the homosexual or queer community become "experts" and feel qualified to decide what is in the "best interests" of the individual or group rather than the fickle bisexual who is confused, incapable of commitment, and engages in a higher degree of dangerous behavior, putting the community at risk. These claims have only been substantiated using behaviorist models which, by definition, require these stereotypes to be true.

Citizenship, participation, and belonging in a community are problematic for people identifying as bisexual. While queer theory demonstrates the potential to build sense of community among those who share non-normative beliefs (Atkins & Marston, 1999), this potential has not been actualized (du Plessis, 1996). Yet, the idea of an independent bisexual community seems untenable, since so few people identify as bisexual. Due to stigma, compulsory monosexuality, bisexual invisibility, and pressure to re-identify when in a monogamous relationship, it becomes nearly impossible to identify or retain other members of that community. Currently, the bisexual "community" comprises advocates and leaders of state, national, and international organizations. A list of organizations in the United States, representing twenty-one states, was recently compiled by BiNet USA (2009).

The ability to be "out" is crucial to the ability to claim rights (Richardson, 2000). While it may not seem like much, knowing that there is some kind of support for bisexuals in twenty-one states is empowering. These resources may not be substantial, but they exist and are visible. The bisexual community can be recognized and the scope and deficits contextualized. "Coming out" proves more challenging on an individual level, however, calling into question what it means to be out as a bisexual. Is a bisexual person truly "out" or perpetually half in the closet? Do bisexuals come out twice, and do they retain dual citizenship (Evans, 1993)? If the legitimacy of one's "coming out" as a bisexual is dismissed as a transitive phase towards either homosexuality or return to compulsory heterosexuality, bisexuals find themselves limited in their ability to achieve citizenship. The parallels between "coming out" as bisexual and "coming out" as a person with disabilities deserve to be explored, particularly with respect to people with invisible disabilities who, perhaps due to compulsory able-bodiedness, are often perceived as "passing" (Atkins & Marston, 1999; Lingel, 2009; Samuels, 2003).

Not all persons with disabilities identify as disabled. Whether this is indicative of attempting to "pass" (Atkins & Marston, 1999; O'Toole, 2000) or a rejection of impairment in self-identification (Watson, 2002), it reveals a distinction between being a citizen and acting as a citizen (Lister, 1997). Those who do not fulfill their potential to act as citizens do not cease to be citizens. Changing definitions of bisexuality alter the criteria for who is and is not bisexual, and many people who would be considered to fall under these definitions do not self-identify. Rather, bisexuals can be found dispersed among categories of straight, gay/lesbian, queer, pansexual, fluid, bi-curious, omnisexual, and ambisexual. This begs the question, who is truly bisexual? Those who do not self-identify as bisexual cannot be considered members of an invisible community, and compulsory monosexuality reinforces that view. In comparison, in disability identity, those who do not self-identify as disabled but who are identified as such, due to visible physicality or to receive services, retain group membership if not community participation and recognition. The behaviorist and performative demands of citizenship and the degree to which being "out" contributes to participation in the political, civil, and social community puts identity in the uncomfortable position of having to prove one is bisexual or disabled enough.


A nascent identity, bisexuals follow in the footsteps of minority groups that have struggled against discrimination and fought for equal rights and recognition. However, disability and bisexual identities face unique challenges posed by postmodernism and share a vested interest in understanding the impact of in/visibility on intersectional identities within the context of a resistant paternalistic society that loses much of the human experience by capitulating to resilient, gendered hegemonic binaries that lean towards compulsory heterosexuality, compulsory monosexuality, and compulsory able-bodiedness. Consequently, society reproduces the most resilient binary of all ad infinitum: normality/abnormality. Given that ableist perceptions of disability are used to justify deviations from the norm resulting in discriminatory practices, theories of disability inevitably penetrate discussions of minority group difference. By providing a discursive non-normative space within which to discuss identity issues, the domain of disability studies has the potential to enable investigation of the intersections of theories of disability and sexuality more fully using an approach that is inclusive of bisexuality.

I would like to thank Dr. Sarah Parker for her support, guidance, and unflagging patience in this endeavor.

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