You might think you know them all: straight, gay or bisexual.
But, in reality, sexuality is a spectrum, not confined to three categories alone.
At Monday's event, "Beyond Binaries: Supporting Bisexual, Pansexual, Fluid and Queer Students," a webinar and group discussion explored the growth of mono-sexual identities, leaving behind the binaries of the past.
In honor of Celebrate Bisexuality Day, two researchers spoke to UT students and faculty from a conference room in Washington D.C.
Saby Labor, Women and LGBT student services coordinator at Metropolitan State University, and Christina Dolan, coordinator for LGBT Student Involvement and Leadership at Washington University, led this session based on their own research at the two major universities.
Both studies involved personal interviews or phone calls with students who identify themselves as part of the LGBT community, who detailed positive and negative personal experiences, as well as how they explain their personal sexuality.
"I came out in the 90s, a time when it was just an L and G, and then later you added the B or the T," said Donna Braquet, director of Outreach LGBT and Ally Resource Center at UT. "It was extremely binary. So now it's really great to see so many college students expanding the way they think of gender and sexuality on a spectrum instead of just one or the other."
It was this rigidity Labor and Dolan found most troubling in their research. College students, in particular, found it difficult to label themselves.
The majority even preferred no label at all.
"Labels are for jars, not people," Labor said, quoting one of her subjects. "We found that students generally feel that applying labels only increases their limitations and uncertainty."
Yet, this preference creates a dilemma for students seeking acceptance by a certain group of people.
"It's an interesting phenomenon because as much as we are wanting to get away from labels," Braquet said. "In order to find other people to identify with, you almost have to define yourself with a group."
Surprisingly, Labor and Dolan discouraged the practice of designating someone attracted to both males and females as "bisexual." Instead, they suggested respecting the wide array of non-monosexual identities that exist today, including fluid or pansexual persons.
A common occurrence the research subjects reported was denial of non-monosexaulism, or the belief that these students are confused as a result of hidden heterosexual desires.
Dolan also dispelled the notion that members of LGBT communities are hyper-sexual creatures, unable to choose one gender they are attracted to.
"These claims are just simply not true," Dolan said. "They're based off of blatant assumption."
Both studies demonstrated that racially diverse students found it difficult to be involved in support groups, as those are considered a "white phenomenon." In response, Braquet is currently considering incorporating Queer People of Color discussion groups into the LGBT community programming.
"I'm definitely going to be more deliberate, as the Director of Outreach, to do things that are welcoming to queer people of color and the groups we learned about today like bisexual, pansexual, and fluid," Braquet said. "I want to be more intentional with the programs that I do and the language to make sure all students feel welcome in the center."
For more information about the Outreach LGBT and Ally Resource Center, click here.
For more information about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues, click here.