Sexual identity labels and their implications in later life: The case of bisexuality

Jones, Rebecca L. (2016). Sexual identity labels and their implications in later life: The case of bisexuality. In: Peel, Elizabeth and Harding, Rosie eds. Ageing and Sexualities: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Routledge.



Narratives about sexuality, including those which involve sexual identity labels, are always historically, socially, politically and culturally located (Foucault, 1976; Giddens, 1992; Plummer, 1995; Weeks, 2007). In later life, any older person is likely to have lived through several changes in which sexual identity labels are widely known, which are favoured and which considered insulting. Sexual identity labels may also mean different things at different life stages and to different people signifying, for example, desire, performance, political affiliation or partner choice. The labels someone uses to describe their own sexuality may have changed over the course of their life. Indeed, labelling one’s sexual identity at all may be a change – one consequence of the rise in the visibility of non-heterosexual sexualities has been an increased awareness of heterosexuality itself as a sexual identity (Katz, 2007). Over a long lifetime, someone’s sexual preferences may also have changed, with or without change to any labels they use to describe their identity. This makes later life a particularly fruitful site for the consideration of sexual identity labels.

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