Review of Bi Any Other Name edited by Lani Ka’ahumanu and Loraine Hutchins
This is a classic work on bisexuality, and this new edition celebrates the book’s 25th anniversary. Lambda Book Review called it one of the 100 most influential LGBT books of the last century. The two authors are central figures in the world of bi awareness and education. Lani Ka’ahumanu is considered the strategic political architect of the U.S. bisexual movement. She co-founded Bi-Net USA with fellow author Loraine Hutchins, with an equally long history in social activism.
I suspected that my wife Kris was bisexual long before she did. I honestly don’t know what clues I picked up, but there did seem to be something going on there. For most of her life, she was not just in denial, she really had no understanding that such a thing was possible. I remember her asking me early on “What would a girl even do with another girl?” There were times when she would come home from the all women’s gym very flushed, and not just from the exercise.
I suspect it would have remained a hidden and unexplored part of her, had we not gotten involved in swinging. Our very first party, she had sex with another woman. It was like turning on a light switch. Suddenly, I was married to a bisexual woman.
Bi Any Other Name is an excellent book for someone just coming to grips with bisexuality, be they male or female. It contains 75 short essays and interviews with bisexual people. Most describe the process of their coming out as bisexuals, and their early experiences coming to grips with feelings they did not understand or even have a name for. The writers also describe their experiences with lovers, telling their families, and dealing with gay politics and support groups.
These experiences are from 25 years ago, and a lot has changed. There is more acceptance for bisexuality, but not nearly as much acceptance as the gay community has achieved. There is still a lot of prejudice against bisexuals in both the gay and straight communities. Many bisexuals feel a part of the gay community, and as Kris has, get involved in gay politics and causes. They are not always prepared for the level of distrust, suspicion, and denial of their bisexual identities that is still prevalent in the gay community. Many see bisexuals as a threat, as posers, or as those in denial of their true “gayness”.
This book is also helpful for those of us in love with someone bisexual, male or female, to come to understand better what bisexuality is all about the the issues that go along with it. For many men, the thought of having a bisexual wife is a fantasy. The fantasy is about them though, not the very real issues of what bisexuality means to your lover when she is married or dating a man. Many men fear that ultimately, she will go all the way gay and leave them. There are many myths about bisexuality, so it is far less understood by the general public than homosexuality. This book will help explode some of those myths.
There are general books on bisexuality, such as Garber’s Vice Versa, that do a better job of covering the history and psychology of bisexuality. The first person experiences in Bi Any Other Name, though, provide an important validation that more scholarly works may lack. By reading how others have dealt with their bisexuality, bisexual people will discover that they are not alone, and that many others have shared their feelings, fears, and joys.