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

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Friday, February 6, 2015

Bisexuality and Polyamory

Last month I wrote about bisexuals and monogamy and covered some of the reasons behind the stereotypes of bisexuals being confused and promiscuous. This month I'm going to discuss some of the other causes for these prejudiced views and the intersection of bisexuality and polyamory.
Heavily behind the confused and promiscuous stereotypes is another misconception about bisexuals: that we don’t exist. For those of you who are not bi, try to imagine what it felt like for me to have just typed that it’s claimed that I, and others like me, don't even exist.
When we bisexuals have been repeatedly confronted with this fallacy our whole life, it has an effect. The effect is especially pronounced when we are going through puberty.
As we are just coming into ourselves as sexual beings, trying — as those of all orientations do at that developmental stage — to understand the desires rising within us, we are told that what we feel isn't possible, isn't valid, and is in any case very wrong.  
Bisexuals, confused? Yes — though not in the way many people think — some of us do experience a lot of confusion. Some of us don’t have the strength, nor the support, to deflect or ignore the — excuse me but I know of no better way to express this — BS we have repeatedly been told. We fall victim to questioning our own experiences of ourselves.
In this era of hyper political correctness, biphobia is still tossed about with a shocking lack of consideration. Young bisexuals often take the ignorance and hatred to heart and squash or ignore their feelings for one gender or the other. However because they truly are bi, this usually isn't easy. Feelings keep rearing up.
Struggling to cope does often come across as confusion and even promiscuity. Teens and young adults, in an attempt to figure out if they are gay or straight — since they have been bombarded with messages that bisexuality is nonexistent — may seek multiple sex partners of each gender to discover which monosexuality is their orientation. Or they may take on multiple partners of various genders to “prove” to themselves and a disbelieving society that they are indeed bisexual.
Even those who welcome the bisexual identity in their earlier years still may find themselves questioning. As I wrote in last month's column, many bisexuals are monogamous and not the slightest promiscuous. For those who find a partner at a young age and settle into a long-term sexually faithful relationship, lack of experience with another gender will sometimes lead a bisexual to wonder if they truly are bi. This again is a result of repeated exposure to the fallacies that bisexuality is a made-up orientation, describes an adolescent phase, or is an excuse for unbridled hedonism.
Many bisexuals come out late in life, when they can no longer repress what they feel, when they stop invalidating whom they know they are. The need to finally embrace their authentic selves, to acknowledge to themselves and others the truth about who they are, can be just as pressing for bisexuals in monogamous relationships. Sometimes, and I emphasize sometimes, this long overdue acceptance of one’s bisexual nature comes with an urge to experience being with a gender other than that of their partner.
Often such an urge is acknowledged internally and then dismissed as not an option, as their commitment to fidelity is more insistent. Sometimes however, a bisexual may decide to discuss the option of polyamory with their significant other, especially if they believe their partner may be receptive to such a notion.
Still other bisexuals chose polyamory over monogamy right from the start, desiring to maintain the option to connect with multiple partners without reneging on a commitment of monogamy.

Just as with some gay and straight people, some bisexuals are simply interested in having the freedom to love and be sexual with multiple others. For them the choice for a more liberal relationship concept isn't any more connected to their sexual identity than it is for their fellow gays and straights who opt for polyamory.  

This article originally appeared as my January column in The Gayly.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Bisexuality and Monogamy

Many monosexuals (gays and straights) seem to believe that the concept of bisexuality explicitly implies that bisexuals always want to have both a man and woman as lovers. This belief tends to leads to the perception that when we bisexuals are in a monogamous relationship, we must have an unyielding ache for the gender that our significant other is not. This is partly where the stereotypes of bisexuals being confused, greedy, and cheaters comes from — the imagined realities that others have of how our minds hearts, and groins function.
Often the negative attributes that those we try to bond with assign to us out of prejudiced-induced fear, become self-fulfilling prophecies. We tire of our partner’s suspicions, accusations, and targeted insults, and eventually do leave in search of someone who can respect and trust us for who we actually are. Our leaving fuels, once again falsely, the stereotypes. This is especially true if the person we hook up with next happens not to be of the same gender of the person who has been left.
However, the fact is, many bisexuals desire and value monogamy, want only to find that one other in whichever gender that person happens to manifest.
Talking about monogamy and bisexuality is very akin to talking about homosexuality and monogamy, and heterosexuality and monogamy. For all sexual identities, when we chose monogamy we choose to forgo fulfilling all desires that the one we have promised fidelity to cannot give us.
Lesbian, Lori, ideally wants a woman who shares certain sexual fantasies, likes to hike, will cuddle after sex, has long legs, large breasts, and loves bowling. Lori ends up falling in love with Pam who has long legs, loves cuddling and hiking, but has small breasts, hates bowling, and though she loves to put on a sexy cowgirl outfit, has refused to ever make love in the rain.
Lori’s bowling teammate, the flirtatious Shelly, happens to have large breasts and reveals one day that she has always dreamed of having sex in the rain. Will Lori cheat on Pam with Shelly? If she’s heartless, or has psychological issues that compel her to seek drama and self-destruction, she likely will.
Or, maybe Lori will not even be tempted because she’s mentally healthy, and crazy about Pam and their awesome relationship.
Okay, now just transfer all that on Bisexual, Betty, who has committed herself to monogamy with another woman. Yeah, this woman cannot fulfill Betty’s desires for men, but weather Betty cheats has to do with her personality, mental health, and the nature of their relationship, not the fact that Betty is bi.
Further, it’s presumptuous to assume that Betty even has tugging desires for men.
The notion that bisexuals always want both a man and a woman is based on the idea that bisexuality means being attracted to, what many monosexuals seem to perceive as, opposite traits found in men and women.
Some bisexuals do revel in the differences, and are attracted to masculine men and feminine women. However, other bisexuals are also — or even mostly, or solely — attracted to those who blur, blend, or eschew gender dualities. Still other bisexuals refer to themselves as being “gender-blind.” These bisexuals desire people for attributes other than gender, with gender being of no, little, or only secondary interest. Betty, may in fact, be ecstatically happy to have found someone as wonderful as her girlfriend, and not feel the absence of a male lover at all.
Human sexuality is highly complex. Because gay and straight encompasses those on the extremes of gender attractions, and bisexuality everyone else, it is in bisexuals that we see the complexities and multitudes of possibilities.

While monogamy is desirable and attainable for many bisexuals, there are others who do prefer to have multiple lovers. Next month I will talk about bisexuality and polyamory. I will also cover some of the other reasons behind the stereotypes of bisexuals being unable to commit that were not touched on this month.

This post first appeared as my December 2014 BiAngle column in The Gayly.