Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Pride in the Word Bisexual

Anything But Bi (ABB) is a phrase coined by bisexual activist to describe the tendency for people to avoid using the word bisexual to describe themselves or others. One of the main ABB manifestations is for people to say, “I don’t like labels.”
This aversion to labels is a sentiment so many of us understand and can relate to. The fantasy of just being oneself without having to use terms that are likely to be misunderstood is extremely alluring.
If many people of all orientations were to refuse to label themselves, we might have the beginnings of an important revolution. However, what’s telling and disturbing is that nearly always when someone expresses the no-label sentiment, it’s in regards to attractions and behaviors which fit the term bisexual. In other words, people who are straight or gay, when asked to express their sexual identity, don’t tend to say “I just don’t like labels;” it’s mainly only among those who are aware that they have attractions to multiple genders that we find people apt to respond with an anti-label philosophy.
Considering that the definition of bisexual is attraction to more than one gender, it’s significant that many people who have such attractions shun the word that most clearly describes their orientation.
We grow up forming an idea of who we are and what kind of person we will be when we are an adult. Naturally, we want to be things that we have learned are consider good, and want to avoid becoming things we have been told are bad. With all the negative stereotypes about bisexuality, it’s no wonder people have trouble thinking of themselves as being THAT word. Of course people don’t want a ton of biphobic bigotry piled upon on them.
So it’s no wonder that we see famous people coming out, saying “I’ve been with men and women, but I don’t like labels.”
The ironic thing is that most of the time, when someone goes for the “no-label” label, people still tend to think of them as bisexual, and thus they are still subjected to the biphobia they so carefully try to avoid. When not assumed to be bisexual, they get mislabel as gay or straight and confused or experimenting. Thus, also ironically, not being willing to label oneself as bisexual only feeds into the stereotypes which say that people who engage in relationships with more than one gender are confused, indecisive, or just playing around.
One of the best ways to overcome the fear of negative associations when attempting to accept oneself as bisexual is to be around other people who have embraced the label, people who have brushed off the slurs so unjustly attached to the term, and focused on the positives.
My fellow bisexual activists are an amazing group of people who tirelessly throw themselves into the line of fire to make it easier for people to come out. More and more we are seeing our efforts pay off. It’s now possible to find bisexual community. Once one becomes a part of proud bisexual spaces – weather it’s an on-line site like BiNet USA, or following bi-community Twitter accounts such as mine, @BisexualBatman, or groups like @BRC_Central, @Bi_Community, and dozens of others, or a real world community group like South-West Missouri Bisexual/Pansexual Pride, or any of the many other bi groups – one gets a whole new perspective on the word bisexual.

Seeing the beauty, benefits, and freedom that comes from labeling oneself authentically as a member of a group of people with a rich history, a dynamic present, and a future which holds even greater promise, makes it surprisingly easy and rewarding to proudly wear the term bisexual.  

This was originally published as my BiAngle Column in the June 2015 issue of The Gayly

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Building Bisexual Community in the Ozarks

My BiAngle Column in The Gayly May 2015

As I wrote in my Solutions to Bisexual Mental Health article in Bi Women Quarterly, one of the main objectives for bettering bisexuals’ appalling statistics is to form a strong community.
According to BiNet USA’s mission statement, building community is a major focus for the organization. They even have created a map showing bisexual groups across the country. Finding one another is perhaps our biggest roadblock towards creating non-cyberspace community.
Recently, a new member to BiNet USA’s Facebook page posted, “I wish I knew more Bi people here in Tulsa!!! I wish there were a group like this one!!”
Someone in Springfield responded that there is a new bisexual group at The Gay & Lesbian Community Center of the Ozarks (GLO) and then posted a link to the South West Missouri (SWMO) Bisexual/Pansexual Pride Group’s Facebook page.
I contacted the page’s administrators to get more information. My hope is that this column will lead more bisexuals in the area to the group.
Wendy Owens, who started the Facebook page, says the GLO Center, which will be celebrating its twenty-year anniversary next year, is the longest continually running LGBT+ Center in Missouri.
The Center, which offers, “a place to be yourself, a place to meet others in the community, and a place to find information about the community at large,” also hosts the annual Greater Ozarks Pridefest.
Owens says she first connected with GLO when she went looking for transgender resources.
Seeing how difficult it was to find such resources led Owens to start the Springfield Transgender Resource Group on Facebook, which she says has helped many in the Southwest Missouri region and beyond find physicians, psychiatric help, and support. Owens explains that, “This personal outreach put me on the Board of Directors radar,” which then led to her being recruited to be a GLO Center board member.
“One thing that has been important for me since day one on the board” Owens explains, “is the need to help those who are on the fringes and often marginalized, and there was a decided lack of such for our area.” She went on to say, “The Board has a motto that, ‘Everyone shall have a seat at the table.’ Being that I identified as pansexual as well as transgender, I was shocked to not see any real outreach or organization for the Bi/Pan community. It was asked one night what, and to whom we could reach out to. It just so happened that I already the idea formed and had created a Facebook group towards gauging the interest in a monthly Bisexual/Pansexual Support Group.”
Her intent is to allow those who attend shape the group, make it personal and theirs, with the idea that people will take more pride in it that way.
In her position as Co-Chair for the Greater Ozarks Pridefest Committee, Owens planned that the forming bi/pan group’s first event — a Bar-Bi-Que — also be the kickoff event for Pride Week to give visibility to bi/pan issues.
The Bar-Bi-Que is scheduled for June 14th, the Sunday before Pride. Owens wants the event to convey to bisexuals and pansexuals in the area that, “they are seen and loved.” The event begins at 7:00 p.m. at the GLO Center at 518 East Commercial Street, Springfield.
Co-administrator of the bi/pan Facebook page, Collins RC, moved to Springfield about a year ago, connected to GLO when they went looking for queer community, and soon joined the pride planning committee.
Acknowledging that the center does not include bisexuality in its name, Collins says that they never experienced any biphobia at GLO, and that only encouragement has been encountered when they tried to increase bi/pan/queer outreach.
Collins says they “jumped at the idea,” when, during Pride planning, Owens mentioned the importance of a bi/pan event.
Collins hopes the bi/pan group will have a meeting at GLO every other week, that there will be a more active Facebook page, and perhaps an educational blog.
 Collins is also interested in exploring bi specific history in the area, and says, “We are starting a trend of real action around diverse queer identities.” 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Asking the Question: Am I Bisexual?

Bisexuals often have a difficult time coming out to themselves. One of the reasons for that is that there is so much misinformation about what being bisexual even means. If a bisexual listens to the all myths spread by non-bisexuals about what constitutes bisexuality, they tend to become one of the myths – confused.
Many straight and gay people say we don’t exist, but even those who do recognize that bisexuality is a legitimate sexual identity will say things such as: “A person can only claim they are bisexual if they’ve pretty much had exactly the same amount of male and female sexual partners,” or “You have to be currently involved with someone of each gender, or at least want to be simultaneously involved with someone of each gender, if you are bisexual,” or “Only people who have had serious relationships with both men and women can say they are bisexual,” or, “Only people who have had lots of sex with multiple partners of multiple genders are truly bisexual” or “A bisexual must be exactly equally attracted to men and women, otherwise they are really gay or straight.
Meanwhile, many of those who identify as pansexual say you cannot identify as bisexual if you are attracted to transgender, or intersex, or genderqueer, people.
Trying to fit the parameters that non-bisexuals have imposed on our identity, is like listening to someone from another continent saying that in order to say you are an American you have to be born on American soil, with parents who were born in America, and you have to love Coca-Cola, apple-pie, baseball, and wear a cowboy hat and own at least one gun.
It's no wonder that often coming to terms with a bisexual identity gets caught in a seemingly endless cycle of questioning. 
Those of us who have accepted a bisexual identity know that our sexual orientation is not as restrictive nor convoluted as so many have been misled to believe. Bisexuals tend to simply describe their identity as “attracted to more than one gender,” or “attracted to same and different genders.”
BiNet USA similarly explains that being bisexual means: “that you were born with the capacity to be attracted to people regardless of someone's sexual or gender identity.”
Longtime bi-activist/bi-educator Robin Ochs explains bisexuality this way: “I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge that I have in myself the potential to be attracted – romantically and/or sexually – to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.”
As the U.K. based Bisexual Index explains, it’s really not complicated:
“If you're asking yourself "Am I Bisexual?" then here's a handy checklist:
Thinking about the people you've been attracted to, so far in your life, were they all of the same gender?

If you answered "No," to any or all of the questions in our list above then we feel it's okay for you to call yourself bisexual. We don't care how attracted you are to the genders around you - you're bisexual as soon as you stop being exclusively attracted to only one sex.”

This was originally published in a slightly different form in my April BiAngle Column in The Gayly