Volume 100 -- Issue 4 Georgetown Law Journal

The Death of the Bisexual Saboteur

Professor Glazer offers us, in Sexual Reorientation, an appealing and intuitive way to deal with the difficulty of bisexual identity, an identity that has always fit uneasily and sometimes quite unhappily in the LGBT rights movement. If the principal problem of bisexuality is its very temporal changeability, its tendency to dissolve into heterosexuality or homosexuality depending on the gender of one’s sexual partner, then Glazer’s solution is elegant. She proposes that we bifurcate (so to speak) sexual orientation into two subcategories and acknowledge for everyone both a general and a specific orientation. General orientation “is the sex toward which the individual is attracted as a general matter,” while specific orientation is determined by the sex of the individual’s current partner. Thus, for bisexuals and anyone whose specific coupling does not fall in line with how they generally understand their sexual identity, Glazer’s sexual reorientation offers a neat way to own both a general and a specific identity.

Glazer elaborates on her new categories by analogizing to two deep tensions in the theorizing on sexual identity: the distinctions between status and conduct and between individual and group rights. Glazer suggests that one’s sexual identity has a general characteristic—a “type,” as she puts it, such as someone who is normally attracted to women—that may or may not align with the gender of one’s partner at any given time. This general orientation, or type, is analogous to one’s sexual “status,” whereas one’s specific orientation recognizes the act or “conduct” of partnering with a specific person. Moreover, according to Glazer, one’s general orientation belongs to each person as an individual while one’s specific orientation is necessarily more relational, as it “describes one’s sexual orientation once coupled.” The result for Glazer is a reorientation of sexual identity that would not only overcome some of the problems presented by the status/conduct distinction and accommodate both individual and relational conceptions of identity, but would also provide the law with the ability to protect “living identities.”

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