No Longer at the Kids Table: Bisexuality A Useful Fiction, a Response
It’s been a while since I posted and, as I’ve mentioned before it’s hard for me to blog and write a novel at the same time. That however is changing this month, starting with this post.
I was searching for something to write about. Should I tackle life as an author with a day job? Nope. Covered that. Should I ramble about the dog? No, that’s what instagram is for. And then, a friend pointed me to an open letter written by the Bisexual Books blog on Tumblr. This blog, which covers the importance of bisexual themed literature, something which is near and dear to my heart, responded to a piece in Slate Magazine regarding Bisexual Culture. I read the letter. Then I read the piece. Then I came over here to voice my … shall we say … concerns … for this Dan Savage-esque boot to the throat about bisexual culture.
This post isn’t a rant about the existence of bisexuality. I know I exist. I know how I feel about both of the women I am currently dating and how I feel about that guy I saw last week who was so hot he made my head spin in unnatural directions. I know what I like with women, what I like in men, and how I react to different genders as a partner. I know which of my health professionals it is safe to be out to and I thank the universe every day that I work at a place where it is safe for me to be out, despite the laws in my city that would allow for me to be fired or evicted if an employer or landlord saw fit. (Although, South Salt Lake is making inroads.)
This post is about the lack of honest representation for bisexuality and then, when we look to bring our honest representation to the table, being turned away. Or worse, being told to go sit at the kids table.
In the recent Slate article which made me, and a bunch of other bisexual activists sit up and spill our coffee all over our keyboards, it was yet again explained to the bi community that because we have to keep defending our existence, we do not have a culture. We do not and cannot have books, have literature, have fiction, have stories. We are too busy trying to prove we exist so we cannot possibly have time to create our own worldview. It was explained to us. It was hypothesized for us. No, no Mr. Stern, we are not in fact seeking a culture. We have one and it is vibrant and beautiful. Our consistent need to prove ourselves comes from a lack of understanding from Gay and Straight Inc over our very existence. (I keep using this word.) It comes from TV shows and movies treating us like kinky sluts (though there is nothing wrong with being one), it comes from the media not allowing for positive bi/pan characters in their storytelling. It comes from the erasure of our heroes, from Virginia Woolf to Tom Daley. It comes from a recent post in Utah’s 1 to 5 Club Facebook Group. The post was for a social site for queer women. The poster warned community members that if you are married to a man, it wasn’t for you, you wouldn’t be welcomed. It comes from Google still considering the search term “bisexual” to be porn. Gay and Lesbian have automatic fill options. Bisexual does not.
The problem I have found is that people outside the bi community struggle with the idea that our identity can be as fluid as the individuals within it. We are butch and femme all at once. We are dykes, we are queer, we enjoy being as serially monogamous as stereotypical teenage girls and we are comfortable and happy within poly identities. We are whole in who we are. We have families and lives and we are more than “passing” into one culture or another. We have our own shorthand, our own conversations, and our own controversies. As language changes so must we and so we seek to always define and redefine life and love within a world that is moving ever faster toward acceptance of normalcy.
Mr. Stern asks us if there is indeed a bisexual identity. I ask him then what is the gay identity? The straight one? Is there a uniform, goose-stepping, white-bred, picket fence identity that Gay Inc can claim? Is it Jack? Or is it Will? Is it the outrageous floats at Pride? Or the constant tormenting of youth by youth. “Bi now! Gay later!” Is it doctors being willing to treat gay patients but not bi ones? Is it marriage? Adoption? HIV/AIDS? Is it ignoring the skyrocketing rates of poverty, health concerns, and suicide within the bi community? Is it the hands I’ve held in support groups when men come in and say that they were shunned from family and friends not because they were gay – oh no, that was the easy part – but when they came out for a second time as bisexual?
You see, Mr. Stern, I saw the backhanded compliments in your piece. I saw the important questions you were asking. But your key point, the idea that there is more to the gay identity than sex but that bisexuals could not get past the topic of sex when interviewed, means that you have forgotten Gay Inc’s history. You have forgotten the decades of struggle when all that defined gay men was the sex they were having, and that sex, sadly, was used by a paranoid culture to erase generations of young men. The bisexual community is facing the same series of questions. We are being portrayed as something mysterious, something that lurks in the shadows. So we are starting, as the gay community did, with the basics: sex. But in that, we are also talking about some very important things. Bi-romanticism, asexuality, gender identity, and more. See, for us, the conversation is about more than sex. We just wish others would come around to our viewpoint.
I end with this: Recently, I had the chance to sit down with board members and staff of the Utah Pride Center. Over the course of our conversation, we talked about the lack of support the bisexual community had from the Pride Center and what it would take to bring us back to them, for us to consider Gay, Inc. an ally again. I thought long and hard and then said, “The mainstream Gay Movement has succeeded because of allies. Because of the lesbian community, because of the straight community coming over and saying that they stand with you. The bisexual community can organize, we can have our culture all we want. But our issues, our concerns, our voices will not be heard without the support of allies in our own so-called community.”
So, Slate. Dan Savage. The New York Times. All of you who are sitting back, telling the bi community that we need to organize, that we need to get over ourselves and our anger and stop trying to convince people we exist, let me tell you something. We have a culture. We have literature and media and a world where we know we are supported. What we do not yet have is the support of our allies. We have moved past the identity of sex, the identity of normalcy. We have embraced who we are. I urge you to do the same, I urge you to not run from the words “bisexual” and “pansexual” and instead sit down at the table with us and listen to our stories. We are here, and we are real, and we understand that we need to do to succeed. We know our history, we know Gay Inc’s history. We know that we have mountains to climb with health professionals, with politicians, and of course with mainstream media. We get it and we’re inviting you to the table.