I wrote this in Oct 1999. I’ve fixed up some typos but otherwise this is unchanged.
10/18/1999 (updated 1/22/2020)
How to spell the word “bisexual”
The word is spelled “bisexual”. It’s really quite simple. It has no
hyphen and the “s” is not capitalized.
The first letter is lowercase unless the word begins a sentence.
- RIGHT: bisexual
- WRONG: bi-sexual, BiSexual, Bisexual (unless at the beginning of a sentence)
Here’s an easy way to remember that there’s no hyphen: It isn’t homo-sexual, it isn’t les-bian; it isn’t bi-sexual either.
I see some people write it with the first letter in capitalized as in:
Tom is a Bisexual.
I consider this to be bad form. Nationalities are first letter capitalized, but adjectives aren’t. The word “bisexual” is an adjective, not a nationality. There is no Bisexualia from which we all come.
Therefore this is correct:
Tom is Italian.
and this is correct also:
Tom is bisexual.
On the other hand, some LGBTQ+ publications, like the Philadelphia Gay News (PGN) have an editorial guideline that dictates that they always capitalize Gay and Lesbian. Therefore they write:
Johnson, a Gay activist, spoke at the conference.
We demand capitalization parity and therefore in this case (and in this case only!) should the word be capitalized. Thus, PGN should write:
Bob, a Gay man, and his partner Mike, who is Bisexual, also spoke at the conference.
However, we consider this a silly editorial standard since they don’t capitalize the word “heterosexual”.
I can’t believe that I’ve been doing bisexual activism for the last 10 years and this issue still comes up so often. Oh well. There are bigger fish to fry.
P.S. This reminds me of the old vaudeville joke where the secretary asks her boss if “brown” should be capitalized. He tells her “no” and leaves the room. She turns to her typewriter and speaks as she types: “Dear Mister brown”.
NOTE: This was published in the 2nd edition of Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around the World, edited by Robyn Ochs and Sarah E. Rowley. It was also included in the table of contents of the first edition but for some reason wasn’t actually in the book, for which they apologized vociferously. I’ve also seen versions of this reprinted on Tumblr and other places.