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Journal of African American Studies

, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 263–282 | Cite as

Between the Two: Bisexual Identity Among African Americans

  • Loren Henderson
Article

Abstract

This paper compares “essentialist” to “social constructionist” perspectives on sexual identities among African Americans. Essentialists argue that sexual orientation and identity exist within a binary system in which people classify themselves as either straight or gay. They suggest that sexual identity is an essence that is universal and can be seen throughout history and across cultures. Social constructionists argue that sexual orientation and identity are not fixed, but rather are historically contingent, culturally specific, and shaped by social, political, economic, and cultural forces. These contrasting perspectives are examined through the lens of the case of African Americans who identify as bisexual. Using data from the Black Pride Survey 2000, this paper examines factors that are related to bisexual identity among African Americans who participated in Black Pride events. It presents the results from logistic regression models that predict bisexual identity with social, demographic, personal, religious, and behavioral characteristics. The results suggest that African American men who participated in Black Pride events are less likely to identify as bisexual when they are older, Muslim, married, attend churches that more fully accept homosexuality, and have higher percentages of male sexual partners. Men who are dating (rather than in committed relationships or same sex marriages) and those with their own biological children are more likely to identify as bisexual. African American women who participated in Black Pride events are more likely to identify as bisexual when they are younger, Protestant, attend churches that are less fully accepting of homosexuality, have higher percentages of male sexual partners, and are biological parents. These results support the social constructionist view that sexual identities are not binary nor fixed, but rather are historically contingent, culturally specific, and shaped by social, economic, and cultural forces. The implications of these findings for sexuality in the African American community are examined.

Keywords

Bisexuality African American sexuality Queer theory Black Pride celebrations Social construction of sexuality Black church and homophobia Black Pride Survey Empirical research on African American sexuality Gay Lesbian 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology (MC 312)University of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA

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