The importance of listening to communities for definitions

I don’t usually swear on here, but as a bisexual person, it irritates the f*ck out of me when I read the “definition” for bisexual as being “sexually attracted to both men and women.” It irritates me because then people will tell bi people like me that that’s true, and that what we define bisexuality as is not valid.

This doesn’t just happen for bisexuals, of course. Dictionaries (and, by extension, their readers) seem to have a habit of defining sexual orientations and gender identities independently from what the people that identify as them actually have to say.

For example, look at the definition of genderfluid on Google. It says a genderfluid person is “a person who does not identify themselves as having a fixed gender.” This seems okay at the first glance, but then you realize that it never actually claims that it’s a gender. Alas, Google says gender is “the state of being male or female.”

Meanwhile, a blog titled “Genderfluid Support” has a definition of “the feeling of fluidity within your gender identity; feeling a different gender as time passes or as situations change; not restricted to any number of genders.” Note that this says “within your gender identity,” and thus is not denying that it’s a gender like Google is.

And this, unfortunately, happens for almost every single identity. If it’s not even in the dictionary, it happens when people talk to each other and spread false ideas about what some of these words mean.

The lesson that people need to learn from this is that when it comes to identities, one needs to listen to the people that actually identify as them.

I’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments. I’m Ari, they/them.