Friday, December 5, 2014

Yes, Biphobia is "a Thing"

“Biphobic? That’s dumb as hell, lol. I don’t have anything against gay people; I just don’t fell like guys can be bisexual.” This reaction — which I got one day on Twitter when I, as @BisexualBatman, called someone out on a biphobic remark — illustrates typical ignorance about biphobia. It denies that there is biphobia, while laughing at the idea of it, and then implies that homophobia is what is really meant.
Though bisexuals are subjected to homophobia based on the same-sex aspects of our identity and/or behavior, what many monosexual people don’t understand, is that there is also much bigotry directed at bisexuals specifically because we are bisexual.
When a bisexual girl walks down the street holding hands with a same sex partner and strangers in a passing car yell, “Lesbos, burn in hell,” she is being subjected to homophobia. When this same girl’s mother says, “I’m okay that you are dating another girl, but I won’t tolerate you saying you’re bisexual; that’s just slutty,” the girl is being subjected to biphobia.
When a lesbian says un-categorically, “Never trust a bisexual; they always cheat,” this is biphobia. When a gay man tells a friend who comes out to him as bisexual, “Ha, ha, my boyfriend went through a phase like that too; come talk to me when you’re ready to admit you’re really gay,” that’s biphobia.
As tolerance for homosexuality becomes more widespread, actual biphobia becomes more easily noticeable. This is one of the reasons why the fight against biphobia is starting to gain momentum – it’s no longer something that’s mostly hidden in/mixed up with homophobia.
When a high school teacher, while giving a lesson on gay rights, tells her students that bisexuals are confused, indiscriminate, or just lying for attention, that is biphobia.
When bisexuals go to “LGBT” events and are spat on, yelled at, laughed at, or even simply called an ally, by gays and lesbians, this is biphobia.
When bisexual women on dating sites are constantly contacted by men crudely describing the threesome they are sure these women are just waiting to have with them, because the stereotype spread by the porn industry is that bisexuals want to have sex with everyone all the time, this is biphobia.
Stark statistics, such as the following, also provide evidence that biphobia “is a thing.”
Sixty percent of bisexual people report hearing anti-bisexual jokes and comments on the job, so not surprisingly, forty-nine percent report that they are not out to any of their coworkers. Compare this to the fact that only twenty-four percent of lesbian and gay people are totally closeted at work.
When bisexual survivors of violent crime interact with police, they are three times more likely to experience police violence than people who are not bisexual.
Thirty percent of bisexual women live in poverty, compared to twenty-one percent of heterosexual women, and twenty-three percent of lesbians.
Forty-six percent of bisexual women have experienced rape compared to seventeen percent of straight women, and thirteen percent of lesbians.
Sixty-one percent of bisexual woman have experience, stalking, physical violence, or rape, from an intimate partner, compared to thirty-five percent of straight women, and forty-three percent of lesbians.
While lesbian and gay adults are two times more likely than straights to attempt suicide, bisexuals are four times more likely. Further, while gay men are about four times more likely than straight men to seriously consider suicide in their lifetime, bisexual men are nearly six and a half times more likely. Especially disturbing, is the fact that while thoughts of suicide tend to lessen as people move from adolescence into adulthood, recent studies show this isn't the case for bisexuals.
Want more examples of biphobia? Once on Twitter, when someone responded to me saying, “There’s no such thing as biphobia,” one of their friends responded, “Look at her Twitter feed! Yeah, biphobia is a thing!” Sadly, you can find new examples there daily.

When I tell someone it’s ignorant to say that bisexual men don’t exist, and they tweet back, “Go kill yourself,” yes, biphobia is a thing, and yes, it’s way past time to do something about it.

This first appeared, in a slightly different version, as my The BiAngle column in The Gayly.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Advice for Coming Out as Bisexual

While there is excellent information available about coming out as gay, there is little specifically for coming out as bisexual. Partially, this is because most gay coming out info is also quite relevant to coming out as bi. However, there are additional issues encountered when coming out as bisexual. The advice in this blog is intended to address these bisexual-specific issues, and is meant to add to, not replace, standard coming out advice.
                          
It’s a great idea to first come out to people who will be supportive, and build from there. Unfortunately, bisexuals sometimes make the mistake of assuming that coming out to someone who is gay, or a gay ally, will go well. Sadly, many gays are hostile towards, or ignorant about, bisexuality, and gay allies often follow their lead. So, just like with straight people, it’s wise to see what a gay person’s, or an ally’s, attitude towards bisexuality is, before deciding how and when to come out to them.

When coming out as bi, it’s important to keep in mind that most monosexuals have never given bisexuality much thought. Don't assume that friends and family will pick up on hints. Often people don't see us even when we wave our flag in their face. The reality is, most people have no idea bisexuals even have a flag, nor what the bi colors are. In fact, one of the biggest frustrations you may face is that even when you explicitly come out as bisexual, you may still not be out. You may need to come out to the same people over and over again. Often people just don't get it, refuse to accept it, or actively deny it.

Some people may not even know what bisexual means. They may confuse the word with transgender or androgyny, or think it’s just another way to say gay. People may confuse bisexual with polyamory or assume bi means that you have to have more than one lover to be satisfied.

Indeed, it’s wise to be prepared for a great deal of ignorance. You may want to have educational resources available. Often people just repeat things they have heard others say, without giving it much thought. A little bit of information sometimes goes a long way.

Bracing yourself for possible ignorant and biphobic reactions, and thinking about how you might respond to these, as well as to the typical homophobic reactions, can ease the process.

It’s not unusual for people to react by insisting that bisexuals are really straight, or gay. You may be subjected to stories about people who said they were bi and later came out as gay. You may be told that it would be easier if you just chose to be “just gay,” or straight. You may be accused of seeking attention, or being greedy, indecisive, confused, oversexed, or going through a phase. Others may insist that identifying as bisexual is transphobic, or that you should ID as pansexual. Some people may declare that based on your relationship history you are not bi, or ask you to prove that you are bisexual by giving them an intimate history of your sex life.

To stop people from crossing boundaries, be prepared to say things like, “That’s too personal of a question; please respect my privacy,” or, “Please respect my right to choose not to share details of my sexual experiences.”

Since porn labeled “bisexual” gives the impression that bisexuals engage in indiscriminate sex with lots of people, it may be wise to explain that bisexuals are no more prone to this kind of sexual lifestyle than gays or straights. Explaining that bisexuals simply have a wider sphere of people we are possibly attracted to, can help monosexuals understand better. Further, it can make a difference to point out that bisexuality isn't exclusively about sex, but rather about being sexually and romantically attracted to more than one gender, and about whom we might potentially fall in love with.
For more ideas on how to respond to biphobic reactions, see “Helpful Hints for Biphobics” 

For most people, coming out to themselves was a difficult and drawn out process; your friends and family may need the same kind of patience. 

Advice for Coming Out as Bisexual first appeared as my BiAngle Column in the October Issue of The Gayly.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Bisexuals Passing As Gay

This was originally published in The Gayly, as my September 2014 BiAngle Column.

While so many gays and straights say they don’t know any, or hardly any, people who are bisexual, or who have maintained a bi identity for any length of time, out bisexuals know there are “invisible” bisexuals all over the place – bisexuals who are out to us, but ID as gay or straight to the rest of the world. It’s commonly thought that most bisexuals pass as straight. Few realize how many actually pass as gay, much less, how difficult it can be for those who do.

For example, there’s the friend I initially met not long after he came out as gay. Picking up on clues that he was not really gay, I asked his opinion on bisexuality. He hesitated at first, but then the floodgates opened. He’d been married for several years when his wife discovered his attractions to men. He explained to her that he was bisexual. Despite their active and fulfilling love life, she said there was no such thing as bisexual, insisted that he was gay, and outed him as gay to his family. He explained to them that he was bisexual. They explained that it was okay that he was gay, that they accepted him for being gay, and that he should accept that he was gay too. His marriage was falling apart, and he was grappling with suddenly being outed, while he was still in the process of coming to terms with his same-sex attractions. Insisting he was bi repeatedly was met with bi-erasure, bi-phobia, and bi-ignorance. It was too much to handle; everything was too much to handle. So yeah, he finally “admitted” he was “gay,” and began living as a very openly gay man. Only, he is not.

Recently, an older “lesbian” told me that when she was younger, the feminist-lesbian world that had become her community demanded she ID as lesbian or be ostracized. So, despite having had many sexual and romantic affairs, and long-term relationships, with men, she took on the lesbian label and has been an out “lesbian” for decades. All this time later, she told me her story with an emphasis on the absurdity of the situation, and more than a bit of lingering bitterness.   

While some gay people do present a bisexual ID temporarily in the coming out process, way too often it’s not understood that frequently what’s behind those who change their ID from bi to gay, isn't a maturing in understanding their sexuality, nor overcoming cowardice in coming out as just gay. For many it’s actually a lack of ability to maintain a bisexual identity amid a barrage of pressures to ID as gay, accompanied by a complete void in external validation of their true sexuality. Nor is it understood how stressful it can be for actual bisexuals to have the “Bi now, Gay later,” phrase repeatedly thrown at them.

Once a bisexual is thoroughly involved in the gay community, it’s incredibly difficult for them if they attempt to come out as bi. It can mean losing community, support, friends, and social life, an experience that can be agonizingly traumatic.  

Such was the case for a young man I met at a bisexual symposium back when I was a student at San Francisco State. He explained that he had always ID as gay, but had found himself more and more attracted to his female best friend. When he tried to talk to his friends— gay men — about this shocking self-discovery and growing love, they reacted as if he were a traitor, and ridiculed and shunned him.

It’s high time to change the fact is that too many openly out gay people are truly secretly closeted bisexuals who feel they cannot openly be who they are.
As Don Weise, who was listed among Out Magazine's "100 Most Intriguing Gay Men and Lesbians,” said, when he came out recently as bisexual, “Isn't coming out about declaring who and what we desire in the face of who and what we're expected to desire?” He added, “What matters to me is coming to the most authentic expression of who I truly am and living from that place, openly.”

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Fallacy of Bisexual Heteroprivilege

This first appeared, in a slightly different version, in my column The BiAngle in the August issue of The Gayly.

Bisexual heteroprivilege — the notion that bisexuals can easily pass as straight, and therefore do not suffer the same level of discrimination as gays — is overly simplistic and ignores multiple realities.

Many bisexuals are in same-sex relationships, many look and act in ways that people associate with homosexuality, and — though this is rarely spoken about — a great many bisexuals actually pass as gay. For these bisexuals, straight-privilege is no more attainable than it is for any LGT person.

Okay admittedly, a bisexual passing as gay can choose to go through the trauma of breaking up with the same-sex person they are in love with, in hopes that the next person they love will be of a different-gender, so that they can go from being in a closet labeled gay, to being in a closet labeled straight.

Bisexuals who do fall in love with different-gender partners, can choose the wonderful experience of denying their identity so that they can have the privilege of appearing to be something that’s alien to themselves, yet more palatable to society.

Indeed, the idea of bisexual hetero-privilege implies that it is a privilege to be seen as someone who you are not, that it is a privilege to have your identity erased. Nearly every gay and lesbian has known the horrible price of secrecy and self-abdication. It is short-sighted then, to think it’s any different for bisexuals.

Most bisexuals – once they’ve come out to themselves – will tell you that they love being bisexual. Why? Because that’s who they are. It’s a basic human desire, to be seen, loved, and appreciated for ourselves. Which is exactly why so many LGBT people are out of the closet.

Yes, the logistics of being closeted — hiding as gay or straight —can be relatively easy for bisexuals, especially for those in committed relationships. It’s also especially difficult to come out — since many gays and straights shove us back in the closet with the insistence that we in fact “play” for one of their “teams.” Further, there is extra incentive for bisexuals to stay closeted, since when coming out we faces not only homophobia, but also biphobia.

It’s no wonder then, that one of my most popular blog posts is, “Why Bother Coming Out as Bisexual?” The answer is, for our own mental health, because using either gay or straight “monosexual privilege” denies us our truths. This is why the words “erasure” and “invisibility” come up constantly in bi-activism. Passing privilege requires we embrace erasing ourselves, while watching the entire bi community face relentless erasure from the press, mass media, mainstream culture, and the gay community. Being erased is no privilege; it’s a problem bisexuals constantly struggle to overcome. 

The “advantages” some bisexuals have for being more likely to be mistaken as heterosexual also often include, being ostracized by many in the LG community, being called homophobic, being ousted from inclusion in supposed LGBT events, and being referred to as allies. These reactions often come in the form of putting blame on bisexuals for the realities of a heteronormative world, as if bisexuals are responsible for our society’s homophobic tendencies. What’s being overlooked is that, not only did bisexuals not make the rules, but we don’t like them any more than gays do. While bisexuals reject hetero-normativity, many gays embrace and promote the monosexual-normativity that oppresses bisexuals.

For many bisexuals, the price for being in different-gender relationships does not end with the negative effects of passing, and animosity from gays. Bisexuals with straight partners often face difficulties inside the relationship due to the partner’s biphobia, which can include: insistence that they are now straight because of the relationship; expectations for threesomes; demands that they be closeted about being bi; and accusations of cheating with, or wanting to cheat with, someone of the same sex. We could call this bisexual hetero-disadvantage – except that bisexuals face many similar problems within same-sex relationships.


In summary, while some bisexuals do sometimes experienced some advantages for appearing heterosexual, for many of us there is no such reality, and for most others the “privilege” is unasked for, unwelcomed, and comes with way too high of price tag to be properly defined as “privilege.”

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Choosing Where to Live as an LGBT Person

This is my article published, in a slightly different form, in the fall Issue of Bi Women Quarterly

Perhaps the most important current issue for bisexuals is overcoming invisibility. This battle requires more out people, which ironically requires more out people — to provide a community for support, information, and camaraderie. It’s important then, that those of us who feel most safe take the lead.

When I look at what steered me to becoming a person who feels secure enough to not only be out but also out loud, I know much of it started before I was born, started with the family I was born into and the community I grew up in. I know too, that when I hit adulthood and began making decisions for my life, my sexual identity always figured into the choices I made – who I associated with, who I got close to, where I went to college, and where I chose to live.

So when I considered the question posed for this issue of Bi Women Quarterly, “How has your geographic location effected your experience of your sexual orientation?” I realized, for me, largely, it’s more of a matter of how being an LGBT person has effected what geographical locations I have chosen to call home.

Growing up with liberal open-minded parents in a diverse community in the Virgin Islands with — what at the time (1960’s) — was a relatively large out population, helped shape me into a teen who had no problem accepting my sexual identity.

Perhaps having this strong foundation helped me understand that I wouldn't be able to tolerate living anywhere that wouldn’t tolerate who I am. Every time I've moved, I've chosen places that were LGBT friendly, and had large out LGBT communities.

Not only did this help make me feel welcome and accepted by the community at large, but also safe enough to not have to be closeted. Additionally, as a bisexual who was in an opposite-sex relationship for a long time, and often assumed to be straight, living in areas with large LGBT populations, also helped make me feel less disconnected from my queerness.

I realize that not everyone always has the luxury to be able to live where they choose. However, I also realize that there were sacrifices that came with the choices I've made. In my mid-twenties, I moved from San Francisco to central Florida to be near family. I’d lived so far from parents and siblings for many years, and missed the connection. But I couldn't stay. I’m sure I could have found an LGBT community in the area if I looked for it, but the fact that I would have had to look for it is enough to explain why I did not feel at home there, even amongst my family. I returned to San Francisco in less than a year.

I currently live deep inside the Bible Belt, in the south, in a state tarnished by its historical intolerance. However, the town I live in is an oasis of respite from all the above. In 2007, Eureka Springs became the first city in Arkansas to offer civil unions for same sex couples, and in 2011 the first to provide health care coverage for the domestic partners of municipal workers. This year, the first same-sex couples to be married in the South and in the Bible Belt, were married in this little Ozark village. Our tiny town of approximately 2,000 celebrates three Diversity Weekends a year.

Currently, this area is having a crisis in regards to an environmental issue. At a hearing on the matter, many talked of the sacrifices they made to live here, having taken major cuts in income, and upward mobility, to be near natural beauty and serenity. On a personal level, living in this small, isolated, town is severely impacting my income and career prospects. Logistically speaking, at this point in my life, it would be incredibly easy for me to move some place where there would be many more opportunities. Ultimately though, it comes down to the fact that this is where I want to be – because here I have tolerance and diversity, nature and community. These are the things that are most important to me.

When choosing where to live, we all weigh the pluses against the minuses. Can I earn a living? Can I maintain sanity? Can I build community? How important is nature? How important is nightlife? How important is being accepted for who I am? What is the housing situation? Etcetera, etcetera. When I do life coaching with bisexuals who want to be out, but feel that where they live, where they work, or whom they rely on, would make this untenable, I help them explore the possibilities of changing these things. Though unfortunately, sometimes there’s limited prospects to alter one’s geographic location, more often people can change where they live to make being out safer and easier; it all comes down to a matter of priorities.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Awe Inspiring Bisexual Men Coming Out Stories


A slightly different version of this first appeared in The Gayly as my July 2014 BiAngle column. 

Despite so many reasons, and so much opportunity, to erase our identities, many bisexuals refuse to be silenced or rendered invisible. It’s a basic human desire, to be seen, loved, and appreciated for who we are. So to be true to ourselves, to allow the ones we love and the world at large to see us authentically, we come out. To make it easier for other bisexuals, and to dispel stereotypes, we come out.

Since male bisexuality is largely called into question by monosexuals, it’s particularly encouraging that there have been some especially awe-inspiring coming out stories this year by bisexual men.

Despite Jamaica’s harsh anti-sodomy laws and homophobic hate crimes, and despite his industry’s strong homophobic traditions, Jamaican dancehall publicist, Rickardo 'Shuzzr' Smith openly declared his bisexuality. Referring to his sexual identity, Smith said, “I was living a life that men deemed abominable, while others like me saw it as a blessing only few will ever be able to experience.” Smith explained why he felt a need to come out, “…if I'm to ever be who I truly am, and be truly comfortable with myself, in my soul, I must take a stance and speak against injustice, hate lyrics, discrimination and anything that may seek to reduce the life of one and their beliefs.”

Conner Mertens, Willamette University’s football team’s up-and-coming kicker, became the first LGBT college football player in the United States to come out publicly while still playing. He did so even despite the fact that the starting place-kicker position for next season was still undecided. Tweeting to his conservative hometown in Washington State, he said, “I made the decision that if I could prevent one person from feeling that self-hatred, loneliness, desperation and a thousand other emotions that I felt, I would. I will be damned if I let anyone tell you that you are wrong or weird or not normal… Love yourself and allow others to love you. Be who you are and know you're not alone." Mertens also knew that coming out as bisexual would ban him from participating in the Christian organization that had played a huge role in his life, and which he’d planned to be a large part of his future.

Tre Melvin, a young You-Tuber who purportedly has 2 million subscribers and 140 million views, hailed in 2014 by coming out as bisexual saying, “My New Year’s resolution is to fully, utterly, and wholeheartedly be myself from this day forward.” He made it a point to say, “And yes, bisexuality does exists - for you simple minded ignoramuses that think it’s impossible to be naturally attracted to both men and women.” Melvin added, that he’d “Woken up one too many mornings, hating myself, not even wanting to be alive because of what society tells me is right and wrong. No one should ever have to feel that way.” He lamented, “I never understand how people can be so hateful towards others for being themselves.”

Editor, publisher and author, Don Weise, who was listed among Out Magazine's "100 Most Intriguing Gay Men and Lesbians" of the year, came out recently as bisexual, saying, “There's a reason I haven't addressed my bisexuality publicly till now. From the time I first came out, the gay community at large hasn't been a place where I felt comfortable or confident expressing who I really am without the risk of being ridiculed or derided.” He further explained that he feared “becoming an outsider among outsiders.”

Twenty-tree year-old Pennsylvania school board member, Basilio A. Bonilla Jr., came out saying, “…honesty is something that I really do believe in and I felt it was important for me to be honest with not only my family and myself, but also the community I represent.” He explained that another reason why he came out as bisexual was, “…to make it a little easier for our future generations to know that it is perfectly acceptable and normal to be who they are regardless of what others may think.”

With these men as new role models, it’s hopeful that even more bisexuals will find their way to openly be themselves.


Friday, July 25, 2014

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Bi Pride

This first appeared in my June, The BiAngle, column in The Gayly.

Bi Pride

The progress of bisexual pride has been caught up in a vicious cycle. A strong bisexual community cannot form without people who are out, but it can be extremely difficult for people to come out without a strong community behind them. Unfortunately, due to rampant biphobia within the gay community, “LGBT” groups often cannot be counted on by bisexuals seeking safe space and acceptance.  

Further contributing to the reality that there are more closeted bisexuals than gays or lesbians, is the fact that bisexuals can have an especially challenging time coming out to themselves. The difficult part of accepting that one is not straight, is having to admit that there is an aspect of who you are that is largely unacceptable to society. Some gays feel that bisexuals have it easier because they are “only half gay.” However, a survey showed that bisexuals not only ranked lower, in social acceptance, than gays and lesbians, but also lower than “all other groups assessed—including religious, racial, ethnic, and political groups—except injecting drug users.”

The combination of biphobia and the multiple-attraction nature of bisexuality further complicates the coming-out-to-one’s-self process. Young people may have only heard the word “bisexual” in connection to porn, or attached to words such as “cheaters,” “liars,” and “indiscriminate.” Bisexuals coming of age and noticing their attraction to more than one sex, may try to rationalize their same-sex desires away - a coping strategy caused by their unwillingness to consider the possibility of a label they only know to have negative connotations. For other bisexuals, the fact that they feel same-sex attractions is often interpreted as meaning that they are gay, and they then dismiss or ignore, for as long as possible, their opposite-sex attractions - again, the hope is to avoid identification with what they likely think of as, that terrible thing, “bisexual.” Furthermore, because of the stereotypes of bisexuals being “confused,” or “non-existent,” a bisexual is likely to feel the need be super certain of their identity before coming out.

Even when having no doubt in regards to their feelings and attractions, many bisexual think they need to have multiple experiences with both men and women before being allowed to declare their identity. This is constantly reinforced by the intense personal scrutiny bisexuals encounter: Have you ever actually had a romantic relationship with a man? How many women have you even slept with? Since many bisexuals are not promiscuous, this insistence that they need to prove themselves by having multiple sexual and romantic partners, creates yet another stumbling block to owning their identity.

Even once bisexuals have come out to themselves, they still face extreme challenges in coming out to others. Their friends, family members, and community, not only have to overcome homophobia, but also biphobia, and nearly always, bi-ignorance. When bisexuals come out, they face not only being called slurs such as “slut,” and “greedy,” but also disbelief that their identity is even valid, admonishments for failing to come out as gay, and accusations of being confused or seeking attention.

The evening after the first same-sex couples in Arkansas were married in my town, Eureka Springs, I went to a celebration event, where I sadly encountered a classic, every-day, bit of biphobia. The person with the mic asked: “How many straight people are here tonight? How many lesbians? How many gays? And how many of you are just effing confused?”

Many people do not understand how damaging a negative comment about bisexuals can be. The next day, I happened to see this post by a young person on social media, “So I like women, and I like my boyfriend, I am bisexual right? Wrong. Many people associate the term bisexual with confused. And I am not confused, I am happy.”

Considering all the issues bisexuals face in coming out, how can there be hope for bi-pride until we get beyond a time when even gays make insensitive jokes at the expenses of bisexuals? The situation is especially bleak when many bisexuals, with little community to support them, end up taking the stereotypes to heart, and refuse to embrace their identity. 

Love, Sex, and Understanding the Universe Print Version

My bisexual themed literary coming of age novel, with a polyamory subplot, "Love, Sex, and Understanding the Universe," is now available on Amazon in a print version, in addition to the Kindle e-book version.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Bi-Voice


This is my first piece as The BiAngle Columnist for The Gayly, which hit the stands in May. My June BiAngle column is entitled, BiPride.

Bi-Voice
A main consensus about what can be done to help bisexuals suffer less at the hands of biphobia and bi-erasure, is bi-visibility, and bi-voice, and their inevitable consequence, bi-pride. News of my new column, focusing on bisexuality, in The Gayly, was met enthusiastically by the on-line bisexual community, not only because The Gayly is being inclusive, but also because the column is going to be written by someone who actually knows about bisexual issues. Unfortunately, it’s rather rare that something referenced as LGBT will neither ignore, nor marginalize, but actually give clear and on-going recognition to, the largest group within the acronym.

On Facebook bisexual community pages, such as BiNet USA, there are frequent links to articles where someone who is out as bisexual is unequivocally referred to as gay; reports of events labeled LGBT where bisexuals were refused representation; links to studies designed to determine if bisexuals exist, instead of exploring what can be done about the fact that bisexuals have the highest rates of suicide, depression, poverty, rape, and domestic violence. Then there are links to articles that seem to attempt to give recognition to bisexuals, but instead further perpetuate stereotypes and misinformation, often quoting “experts” who are neither bisexual nor listen to what bisexuals have to say.

It’s telling that I, myself, am more excited about The Gayly having a regular column about bisexuality that’s written by someone who is bisexual and knowledgeable, than I am about the fact that I'm the one writing it.
There are worlds of bi-specific matters that go left unaddressed when bi is lumped into an “LGBT” that is really only LG, or as some bi-activists have coined, GGGG. This column will be about bi-news, bi-issues, and bi-solutions. I’ll be discussing ways bisexuals and our allies can combat biphobia, and ways to cope with bisexual related stressors. I’ll be reviewing the multifaceted importance of bi-pride.

My own perspective is from entering my 20’s in 1980, during the height of the gay liberation movement. In the revolutionary fury of the times, many bisexuals, denying their own truths, systematically rallied for - what was seen as the larger cause - gay rights. Jump to 2014, and gay rights have made huge advances; meanwhile it appears to be open season for belittling, hating, sexually-harassing, and marginalizing bisexuals. Many bisexuals still deny their own truths while continuing to fight for - what is too often referred to as gay marriage instead of the bisexual inclusive - samesex marriage.
Gay causes will always be bisexual causes, and bisexuals will always fight for them, but the converse isn't true – bisexual-specific issues don’t directly affect non-straight monosexuals. No longer is it acceptable for bisexuals to ignore our own issues, focusing energy on gay rights, while too many gays and lesbians are on the forefront of bisexual bullying. Though, appreciatively, there are many gays and lesbians who do care about our issues, it is long past time for bisexuals to rise to the task of dealing with our specific problems.

Many bisexuals struggle with not only homophobia, but also biphobia, from their families and communities. However, what is especially disturbing, is that many who have gay-friendly families and or communities, still struggle with harsh biphobia from these sources. Many are barely coping, and those of us who have escaped the brunt of biphobia, feel the call to step up to the plate. I’m fortunate in this way, and yet, doing work, such as seeking out and responding to biphobia as @BisexualBatman on Twitter, has taken its toll on me. After months of keeping up with such tasks, I now find there are days when I just can’t. When I get tweets telling me to “go kill yourself,” or calling me greedy, or with crude suggestions of what I should do with other people’s genitalia, it hurts - not personally, but because I know that other bisexuals, those who were never given the chance to develop the emotional strength I have, are being told similar things, often from their families, “friends,” and worse, people they turned to for help, expecting them to be allies.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Solutions for Bisexual Mental Health

This article originally appeared, in a slightly different version, in the 2014 Spring Issue of Bi Women Quarterly.

Solutions for Bisexual Mental Health Issues

 Educating mental health workers, groups and organizations that claim to be LGBT.
Much harm is done to bisexuals who reach out for help to LGBT groups, websites, therapists, and mental health workers who are ignorant or poorly informed about bisexuality, or not infrequently enough, outright biphobic. Often, there is a complete lack of understanding that bisexual mental health issues are in many ways different from and more complex than those of gays and lesbians, with little or no mention made of separate or distinct challenges that bisexuals face. Since many bisexuals just coming out are likely to reach out to LGBT groups unaware of the potential pitfalls, we need to make sure websites, mental health workers and other organizations that claim to have information about bisexuality are not giving out misinformation or participating in bi-erasure. Any group, organization, website that uses LGBT in its name needs to be in compliance with actually being LGBT or change their name to LG. Monitoring should take place by a bisexual group formed for this purpose.

A readily findable, strong bisexual community.
One of the main directives given to LGBT individuals who are not welcome in their family/school/church is to find a new accepting and supportive “family.” Thus bisexuals often reach out to what is ostensibly the LGBT community, and while it is not unusual for bisexuals to find new friends, allies, support in this world, it is also unfortunately common to find instead new problems in the form of lesbian and gay biphobia and bi-erasure. Bisexuals need a bisexual community to safely reach out to for support, advice and family.
Having a strong bi community will also lessen stress bisexuals have when losing straight or gay community support when they go from being in a relationship with one gender to being in a relationship with another gender.
While there are the promising beginnings of bisexual communities forming, they need to be strengthened, expanded, developed, and more tightly bound together.

More mental health professionals specifically dedicated to bisexuality.
Bisexuals with issues affecting mental health need to be able to find professionals who are more than just minimally acquainted with the specific life challenges that bisexuals face.

Educating the general public about bisexuality.
There needs to be a massive multi-front educational campaign aimed at the general public. Currently, the great bulk of information the average person is likely to happen to upon about bisexuality is filled with stereotypes, myths, misinformation, and bigotry. Perplexed teens are asking and answering each other’s questions about bisexuality. Many people likely first come across the word “bisexual” in pornography, and then connected to slurs, and thirdly in some form of misinformation often from seemingly reputable sources. It is telling that gay-friendly parents of people coming out as bisexual are reported by their children to spew things about a gay phase, bisexuals not being real, and bisexuals being sex-crazy and immoral.

More out and outspoken bisexuals.
As with any minority group seeking to rise above prejudices, we need to be visible and vocal.
Harvey Milk’s Coming Out Campaign is, I believe, hugely responsible for today’s greater acceptance of homosexuality. The only truly effective way to bust the myths is for the world to know who we are and how we live. We need to let the world see something of us besides the barrage of porn labeled “bisexual,” gays who went through a phase, and party girls who flirt with each other in front of men, but actually self-ID as straight.
We have been ripe for being bashed, as our invisibility makes us weak, easy, targets, ready victims who bashers have counted on to not lash back with any intimidating force. We need to let the bashers know they will hear from us, that we will embarrass the press and national organizations publicly for their biphobia. We need to make it clear we expect our allies to defend us too.
Individuals who come out and speak up will feel better about themselves, all bisexuals will benefit from the lessening of biphobia, and the most vulnerable among us will hear someone is speaking up for them, see there is hope and pride, know they are not alone.
We need a bigger bisexual campaign for National Coming Out Day, and a much bigger broader promotion of Bi-visibility Day.
While it’s important to acknowledge that many bisexuals cannot safely come out; those who can without serious recriminations should be encouraged and supported, those who cannot should be given info, support and resources to help them break free from their oppressive restraints.

A better resource list for bisexuals.
Though there are several good resource lists for bisexuals available, they need to be up-date and fleshed out. Grant monies could be used to fund regular searches for new resources, check out their legitimacy and update lists. Lists, including those in different countries and regions, should be cross referencing one another. 

A consensus about sexual labels, identities, and practices.
Daily fought mini wars over definitions, which divide the non-mono-sexual community, further contributes to mental health issues. A bisexual/pansexual/omnisexual/etc. alliance needs to be formed to come up with agreements on definitions, and then a campaign with all groups participating, to promote these definitions. “Bisexual,” as the most widely recognized term needs to be the umbrella term, so that the greater public will not become further mystified. The notion that “bisexual” necessarily and/or always promotes the binary needs to be eradicated.
This alliance also should tackle other issues so that people seeking help don’t find websites/groups at odds with each other with regards to philosophies about the need to come out, and mindsets about monogamy, for example. The alliance should be formed in the spirit of embracing and celebrating our diversity.

Rebuttals to religious dogma regarding homosexual acts.
One of the biggest mental health problems bisexuals face – as well as gays and lesbians - is shaming and fear due to religious teachings. Bisexual groups should engage with gay and lesbian groups in researching, validating, and collating the many useful responses/rebuttals to these teaching, which are currently available, and creating a strong cohesive resource which individuals and groups can easily find. 

Educating the public on the intolerability of male sexual objectification of women. 
We have to bring back the feminist fight against male objectification of women, especially in terms of male fantasies regarding two or more females in engaged in sexual activities. It should be emphasized that while it’s okay for consenting adults to choose to participate in gratification of f/f male fantasies, it is quite another thing for men to equate “bisexual woman” with an automatic desire to please men in these ways.

Own up to some facts about bisexuals.
In response to “bisexuals are confused” a typical retort by bisexuals is no, bisexuals are not any more confused than any other gender. While clearly not all bisexuals are confused, and bisexuals are not, by nature of their orientation, confused, the fact is that many bisexuals are confused. While it’s true that the confusions bisexuals have are due to a mono-sexual oriented, hetero-centric, monogamy-based society’s ‘norms’ and expectations, this doesn’t erase the reality. Denying this fact prevents us from helping elevate the sources of the confusion. Many bisexuals when first recognizing that they are attracted to more than one gender are yes, confused, by these attractions, and sometimes go through a lengthy process of sorting it out. Additionally, some bisexuals are confused about how to work their desires towards more than one gender into their desire for committed relationships. Bisexuals are also sometimes confused when reconciling who they thought they were – which could include anything from a gay-hating heterosexual fundamentalist Christian to an out-proud biphobic homosexual – to who they now understand they are, a bisexual. Some bisexuals experience “fluidity” in their sexual attractions, and for some this too is a source of confusion. Further, there tends to sometimes be confusion for people who perceive themselves to be romantically inclined towards one gender but only sexually interested in another. These potential sources for mental health problems need be acknowledge so they can addressed.

Funneling grant money and other funds designated “LGBT” towards bisexual issues.
Many of the suggestions above will require funding, so this is perhaps the most fundamental solution for bisexual mental health issues. Bisexual groups, organizations and individuals need to lobby federal, state, and local governments, and Funders for LGBTQ Issues, and others, to specifically designate “LGBT” monies - long channeled nearly exclusively towards lesbian and gay issues - for bisexual specific issues.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Decades of Being Out as Bisexual

I knew I was bisexual in 1974. I was 14. I heard the word, and the definition, thought, yeah, that's me, though I'd never thought about whether I was straight or not prior to that. This was how I came out to myself. It was as non-traumatic as it could possibly ever be.
I never made any attempt to be closeted, but it would be somewhat inaccurate to say I was truly "out" all these years. This is because being out as bisexual requires a continuous active process - take a break from it for five minutes, and you're no longer so out. Most people assume everyone is straight, unless you are publicly obvious about a same sex relationship, in which case you are assumed gay, and people won't know otherwise until you make it a point to be sure they know, which often requires being inappropriately "in their face" about it.

I think the first time I did anything that could be considered "coming out" was when I mentioned the fact of my bisexuality casually to my best friend when I was 15. It didn't occur to me to be ashamed or feel awkward. She was vaguely fascinated, and asked a few questions. Looking back I realize it was beautifully uneventful, and yet at the time I was surprised it struck her as anything out of the ordinary.

I lived in San Francisco in my 20s and marched in gay rights demonstrations (they were not called LGBT rights demonstrations). I went to gay pride events, hung out in gay neighborhoods, supported gay businesses, saw gay movies, read the gay free-weeklys on a regular basis.

There was a Bisexual Center that had advertised meetings. I always thought about going but never did. I think I considered it a place to go if one had problems with their bisexuality and needed help. I didn't have problems with being bisexual, but did feel a lack of community, and so looking back, I regret having not gone.

I couldn't get past the anger, animosity for men, the separatism, and negative attitudes about sex, that I often encountered in the lesbian community. Yet I, a bisexual woman, felt comfortable in gay male surroundings. I loved the rejoicing of sexuality I saw among gay men, and the celebration of life (ok yes, then there was AIDS and death, and I grieved and freaked out like everyone else.)

Every year at the gay parade I loudly cheered-on the handful of people in the bisexual contingency, while meanwhile feeling that I should maybe feel some sense of being an imposture for attending the gay parade with my opposite sex lover.

A Bisexual Symposium held while I was a student at San Francisco State was where I got my first glimpse of how ugly biphobia could be in the gay world. We were split into discussion groups. A young man in my group was very depressed. He’d always thought he was gay, but suddenly had feelings and desires for his opposite sex best friend. Voicing this to his formerly very supportive gay community, he found he was shunned, ridiculed, and threatened with excommunication.

It was at the Symposium where I first found out about The STUD - a predominantly-gay-male-bar-with-a-slight-bisexual-bent (which I model the bar HUNKS after in my bisexual themed novel, "Love, Sex, and Understanding the Universe"). I went there frequently because it just felt good to be in a place where bisexuality was acknowledged and accepted. The bartender flirted with everyone, including me and my boyfriend.

The first woman I had serious inclinations towards was a bisexual who was both closeted and completely out. She was out as a lesbian. She admitted only to me that she was bisexual. We had heated discussions about this. I felt it was important for her to honestly label herself as bisexual; she said she IDed as lesbian for “political” reasons. It was important, she felt, for everyone to rally around gay rights, that this was what was best for bisexuals too. I felt it was important to ID as bisexual for bisexual political reasons. Saying she was bisexual, she said, would only detract from, water down, the gay rights message. 

This is what bisexuals did for decades, (and many still do) fight for gay rights while denying their own identities, suppressing their own need for recognition. Now, all these years later, I see that while indeed gay rights (often inaccurately referred to as LGBT rights) has made many gains, bisexuals are left standing in the dust. Yes, gains in gay rights have important positive implications for us bisexuals too, but bisexuals have our own, different battles, and while we, often gallantly, stood side by side with our gay and lesbian counterparts fighting homophobia and it's oppressive manifestations, many gays (not all - shout out to those who do stand by us!) have never even bothered to think bisexual specific oppression is worthy of their consideration. I guess it's not entirely their fault when for so long so many bisexuals gladly, voluntarily, subsumed a secondary status. Sadly - and in hindsight, predictably - many gays now feel that acknowledging the battles of their bisexual brothers and sisters  - who were right there with them at gay rights demonstrations - would likely distract from and water-down their new found place in society.

When I was 26, my mother – whom I didn't see very often – came to visit. A woman from my neighborhood stopped by at my garage sale, and when she left, I mentioned to my mom that I’d been attracted to her, and it was ironic that I finally got to talk to her just as I was moving. This was how I came out to my mother. In this fashion, I've always been out as a bisexual. I've never hidden it, I would mentioned it when appropriate in conversation, and I always found a way to offhandedly bring it up to love-interests before we ever had our first kiss.

However, I was in an (open) relationship with a man for, seemingly, eons and people assumed I was straight, never even questioned, suspected, that I could be anything but straight, even as I was always adamantly and openly pro LGBT rights, even when I occasionally went out on dates with "known" lesbians. 

It’s easy to be invisible as a bisexual, way too easy. It’s difficult to be out. Yes, in the usual ways that it’s difficult to be out as a homosexual, but also in so many other ways. On top of the homophobia, you get the biphobia, and the accusations that you are really gay and homophobic. But on top of all of that there is the - often overwhelming - difficulty of the shear super power of bi-invisibility, which you have even though you don’t want it, even when you try to shake it off. Bi-invisibility is like an unwelcome film on your skin that you have to constantly scrub off with abrasive words and actions which so many straights and gays tend to see as a caustic confused haze of immaturity and crazy attention seeking.

So to the request - which prompted me to start writing this blog post – for older bisexuals who were out in the 1970s, to please make their voice heard - I say this: Yes, I've been out since the 1970s, sort of; I always tried to be, and now that I’m unequivocally out, please understand why it comes in the form of figuratively standing on top of a hill and shouting nonstop. This unfortunately is the only way a bisexual can be heard at all.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Helpful Tips for Biphobics

Being biphobic is currently a popular sport for many, and does appear at first glance to be a simple task. However, it's not as easy as it may seem, so I've compiled this list to help you be aware of the many pitfalls you might encounter.

First, it’s important to understand that as much as the intent of your biphobia may be to hurt bisexuals, you may be inadvertently helping them.

If you are still determined to proceed with your biphobia, it'll be useful to consider the following before opening your mouth:
  
If you say that bisexuality is a choice that immoral people make, then you are saying that people can choose to be gay, straight or bisexual. If you think that, then you must think that you are capable of making these choices. And if you think you are capable of making the choice to be bisexual, then you must be aware of both same sex and opposite sex desires within you, one of which you push down because you have “chosen” to be straight (or gay). Therefore, you are likely a repressed, closeted bisexual.

If you are going to try to delegitimize someone who says they are bisexual by saying bisexuality doesn't exist, you probably should consider first that it just might be possible that you don’t know more about another person’s sexuality then they do. It might be useful to question for a moment whether you are in-fact the All-knowing King of the Universe.
If you still intend to say that there is no such thing as a bisexual, it would be a good idea to first read this, and this, and watch this.

If you are planning to state that it is your opinion that all bisexuals cannot be trusted or are greedy, be aware that these kind of statements – which prejudge people who you have never met – are bigotry and prejudice not “opinion.”
If you still insist that you have a right to your “opinion” of bisexuals, keep in mind that a person can have “opinions” that the sky is red and that cats are birds and cars can talk, but that you sound like a crazy person when you have “opinions” that deny funny little things called, “facts.”
If you are going to say anyway that you have every right to have an “opinion” that bisexuals will always cheat or are all confused, then don’t forget that the idea that “This is a free country and I have a right to free speech,” also means that bisexuals and their allies have every right to respond to your “opinion” with their own rights to free speech, and you shouldn't be surprised when they get all-in-you-face with their opinions about ignorant bigots.

If your biphobic assumptions about all bisexuals are based on the bisexuals you personally have heard of, keep in mind that the bisexuals you don’t know about are the ones behaving in ways that don’t bring attention to themselves - the ones who are in monogamous relationships, for example, and whom you are probably presuming are nice straight or gay people.
Keep in mind that with-in every group of people there are those who behave badly, and those who behave admirably. 
Keep in mind that you have known plenty of mono-sexual people who you do not have a high opinion of, and yet you somehow managed to not blame their behavior on the fact that they are not bisexual.
Keep in mind that everyone is an individual and deserves to be judged on their own merit.
Keep in mind that when a group of people with a certain orientation are told repeatedly that they don’t exist, are mixed up, are sinners, are greedy, are incapable of commitment, etc. that they are perhaps more likely to struggle with coming to terms with their sexuality, and are therefore perhaps more likely to, at times, “act-out” in some way or another.
Keep in mind that when a young person sees within themselves - as they reach puberty, or early adulthood and first sexual experiences - attractions that they have always been told are not good or healthy, that they may – in an effort to prove they cannot really be someone with this “non-existent” sexual identity - attempt to be straight or gay, and thus show some signs of confusion.
Keep in mind that if you don’t like people behaving confused or acting-out that perhaps you should stop being part of the problem with your biphobic comments, and start being part of the solution by treating bisexuals in a dignified manner.

If you tell a person that they cannot know they are bisexual until they have had sex with both males and females, keep in mind that this is like saying all virgins are asexual, or that gay and straight people cannot know they are not bisexual if they have not had sex with both genders. 
Also keep in mind that with this kind of comment you are encouraging promiscuity in bisexuals, which is also likely something you accuse bisexuals of.

Before you say bisexuals are really just gay and are just trying to “make it easier” on themselves by saying they’re bisexual, consider the fact that if they were “just gay” they would not have to be listening to your biphobic rant, so how’s that “easier.” 
How is it easier to be rejected and dismissed by both the straight and gay communities?

If you think that the fact that you are gay or “Don’t have anything against homosexuals” means your ignorant comments cannot possibly be biphobic; guess again.

Before you say that being bisexual is just a phase in the process of coming out as gay, keep in mind that just because some gay people, when coming out to themselves, have held on to the hope that they might be bisexual - with the misguided notion that this would make them half “normal,” – this doesn't mean that there aren't people who really are bisexual. 
Keep in mind that having a negative attitude about bisexuals because you once identified as bisexual, when really you were gay, is punishing others - who in fact are only being who they are - for your own inability once to accept who you are.
Also, before saying that bisexuality is just a phase, keep in mind that many older bisexuals have identified as bi for their entire adulthood - amounting to several decades.

Before you say that bisexuals are greedy, or will always cheat, because they always want both a male and female lover, consider that many bisexuals want and/or have committed monogamous relationships, and may hetero and homosexuals cheat or "play the field."

If you say that bisexuals are trans/queergender/intersexed-phobic because they are caught up in the binary of “men” and “women” because “bi” means two, be aware that you are being biphobic by presuming to define other's sexuality. The fact is many bisexuals do not consider their attraction to be only binary-oriented.
Ask yourself if all people who identify as “gay” are necessarily happy (because isn't that what gay means?); and ask yourself if every Lesbian is a native of the isle of Lesbos (because this is what the word "Lesbian" literally means). 
Also, be aware that you are being trans-phobic by implying that trans people do not fit into the binary of men and women. 
Keep in mind that you are also implying that hetero and homo-sexuals are also trans/queer-gender/intersexed-phobic because their identity too implies that they are not attracted to every possible type of gender orientation that exists.

Before you say that bisexuals are essentially homosexuals since bisexuals and homosexuals are both attracted to people of their own gender, then be aware that you are saying that someone who likes two different things is the same as someone who likes only one thing. This is like saying someone who enjoys both steak and vegetables is the same as a vegetarian.
And if you are saying that bisexuality is equivalent to homosexuality, be aware that you are, in the course of your faulty logic, also implying that homosexuality is equivalent to bisexuality, which amounts to saying that homosexuals can also be attracted to the opposite sex.
Further, if you’re going to say that the fact that bisexuality involves liking the same sex means that bisexuality is equivalent to homosexuality, then realize with this logic it would also follow that bisexuality is equivalent to heterosexuality, because heterosexuality means being attracted to the opposite sex, and bisexuality also involves being attracted to the opposite sex.
And if bisexuality is the same has heterosexuality, then it can only follow that heterosexuality is the same as bisexuality, which means that you are in effect saying that heterosexuals are capable of being attracted to the same sex.
And if you think my reasoning is getting ridiculous, remind yourself that I’m just diagramming the logical conclusions of YOUR argument, and yes it certainly does sound ridiculous.

If you say that bisexuals will go to hell because the bible says homosexual acts are wrong, then you also have to say that people who eat shrimp or wear cloth of mixed fabrics will go to hell because the bible also strictly forbids - to the same degree - these (and other silly) things.
If you say that bisexuals are sinners because this is what the bible, which "teaches morality" says, then you need to say that it was good and moral for Lott (God’s chosen one) to offer his daughters to the mobs who wanted to rape the angels, and that it was good and moral for Lott to later have sex with his daughters.
If you say that the New Testament says that those who engage in homosexual acts will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven, keep in mind that the bible has been interpreted from another language from another, long ago, culture, and interpreting it in modern times to a language very foreign from the original is very possibly far from accurate.
If you still insist on using the excuse that you are following the teachings of the bible by preaching that bisexuality is a sin, remind yourself also of these biblical teachings: Do not judge. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Love your brother. And don’t forget what the bible says about the proud, the arrogant, and the ruthless.
Remember, Romans 13:8-10 “for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law… Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
If you threaten to kick your child out of your home because you think his or her bisexuality goes against the bible, remember Timothy 5:8, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”  

If you think making biphobic comments will somehow “save” or “change for the better” someone you love, think again.

If you’re going to give bisexuals a bad time based on any “reason," keep in mind that your words call kill.

Before you open your mouth with hateful, hurtful, biphobic comments keep in mind that among the bisexuals who may be hearing your cruel words may be, your sister, cousin, neighbor, friend, nephew, co-worker or child. Keep in mind the damaging ways your biphobic comments and attitudes may be effecting them, and their relationship with you.