The Politics of Bisexual/Biracial Identity: A study of Bisexual and Mixed Race Women of Asian/Pacific Islander Descent

The Politics of Bisexual/Biracial Identity: A study of Bisexual and Mixed Race Women of Asian/Pacific Islander Descent

San Diego State University
First Published: 1999
Reprint: 2006
120 pages
ISBN 1-23456-789-0

Beverly Yuen Thompson, Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies
Texas Woman’s College

The construction of certain behaviors and physical characteristics into an acceptable and recognized “identity” is a phenomenon that is meaningful to the specific location and historical moment. “Identities” may not travel well across certain places and historical epochs because of the intricate cultural meanings associated with them. The United States in the late twentieth century is one location in which certain identities are constructed and understood in relation to national history and to political and social issues of the historical era that created such locations. “Identities” in the U.S. have largely been based on membership in groups and classes in which people experience oppression or are denied opportunity because of that membership. For an identity to be understood as such, two factors are typically present: (1) the identity is forced upon the group in a manner which often reduces the group to stereotype and homogeneity for certain reasons such as to justify their (marginal) position in society; (2) the group members more or less accept the identity or label as significant to their self-understanding (and their position in society), although they may or may not accept the meanings that come along with the identity. Identities, therefore, are understood by both group members and non-group members as a legitimate self-label, though the ways in which either view the identity may diverge. Identities based on hegemonic cultural membership, such as white, male, heterosexual, or middle class, are often not employed as self descriptive terms unless one is differentiating one’s self from members of oppressed groups. Identities have largely been constructed in American society based on membership in recognized oppressed groups….

..Biracial identity challenges the construction of mutually exclusive racial categorizations by incorporating an understanding of miscegenation and racial mixing that produces individuals who have a diverse background of racial and ethnic characteristics. This racial mixing may stem from parents or grandparents from different racial and/or ethnic groups or from a cultural history in which racial intermixing was a common occurrence, such as the Caribbean or Hawaii. Biracial identity implies that individuals have an understanding of their diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds and believe that this is an important aspect of their identity and use this concept to describe their racial makeup.

Bisexuality and biraciality as occurrences and concepts involve more than our current construction and indeed it has been argued that they have been present throughout human history (e.g., Stonequist; Haeberle & Gindorf). However, our understanding of bisexuality and multiraciality is relatively recent and the construction of them as identities is arguably quite unique. In order to understand bisexual and biracial identities in their present construction, it is crucial to review briefly the historical, legal, political, economic and social processes that influenced their treatment and embodiment. Therefore in the remainder of this introduction I will review the historical construction of Asian American experiences within the U.S. I will also give an overview of the treatment of bisexuality and homosexuality in relation to the socio-political context of placing bisexuality and homosexuality together based on the premise that it was under “homosexuality” that bisexuals were persecuted. I will then compare and contrast the historical process in the creation of biracial and bisexual identities and the issues that arise when both these identities reside in the same subject…

Read the entire thesis here.