It’s Been A Long Time

It’s been a long time…shouldn’t left you…without a dope beat to step to…

I don’t care if this dates me.

 

So, it’s been a, um, very long time since I’ve posted anything to this. I’d like to give you some big, grand reason why I dropped off. I’d like to be able to tell you that I had to train for mountain climbing or beat some disease or discovered a cure for hangnails or some other impressive feat. Hell, I’d like to be able to tell you that I just got super busy and couldn’t write anymore. I mean, I DID get busy, but that’s not why I left you all hanging. The truth is…I ran out of stuff to say. After talking for so many years about all things bisexual (and a few that were not), I just couldn’t find anything to say that I hadn’t already said. Nothing seemed new anymore. I didn’t have opinions to give (which is a miracle because I have an opinion on damn near everything). I tried to post something every now and then, but the words just didn’t come out the same way they used to come. I figured it was better to just fade away.

Then a few things happened.

First, a show called Faking It came into existence with the worst premise I’ve ever heard of (prior to Jane the Virgin having a premise). A show about two girls pretending to be lesbians sounds like the most offensive pitch I’ve heard this side of the puppy episode (if you don’t know what that is, congratulations on being within Faking It’s actual targeted age demographic), but then they did something interesting: they made one of the girls fall for the other. The show suddenly got compelling and I found myself watching every episode. Then (Spoiler Alert) things took an interesting turn. The man lady who likes ladies, Amy (seriously, Spoiler Alert) has her heart-broken and (one last time, Spoiler Alert) sleeps with her best friend’s boyfriend (well, EX boyfriend, but they show doesn’t really acknowledge that part). Everyone was pissed, myself included. It was another instance of a lesbian sleeping with a dude on television…or was it? Amy had never identified as a lesbian, she never had used a label for herself, and she had mentioned feeling attracted to men before (she just felt more attracted to women). That feels a lot like…me? I mean, I never did ANY of the stuff that Amy did, but the idea of falling for your same-sex friend while also acknowledging an attraction the opposite sex but still feeling a stronger pull to the same one? Yeah, I actually get that. I still think what happened in regards to that on the show was ridiculous, but this little teenager actually made some sense to me in her struggle and journey. Naturally, others didn’t see it that way, and who can blame them? The “lesbian who sleeps with a man” stereotype is gross and tired and not representative of lesbians as a whole. Thing is, it’s not representative of bisexuals, either. In fact, I think it’s one of the reasons we often get this “you’re bi until you’re gay” or “you’re bi until you meet the right guy” or even the “you’re going to leave a man/woman for a woman/man” stereotypes. I also don’t think that’s what’s happening here. Something interesting is going on (well, except for the last two episodes, which were terrible) and I want to document it.

Second, my home state legalized same-sex marriage. That’s exciting because it means bisexual folk can marry the person they want regardless of that person’s sex, but it also meant that I now come from a place where you can marry your same-sex partner and then get fired for doing so. See, there’s no anti-discrimination laws for LGBTQ people where I’m from, so people can flat-out do all sorts of nasty things, like fire you, not let you live in certain places, the works. What’s more, they don’t even have to pretend it was because you’re lousy at typing or you smell like seven different cats (neither of which is true); they can just call you a big ol’ queermo and be done with it. That, my friends, is messed up. It’s not right, it’s not okay. It certainly has the ability to mess up people’s lives in screwed up ways. It is already messing with people’s lives in screwed up ways. It also reminds us that marriage equality, as great as it is, is NOT THE FINISH LINE. Discrimination will exist even when people can marry the people they love. Poverty will still exist. Violence will still exist. Homelessness will still exist. Abuse will still exist. Light needs to be shed on those things and the fight needs to continue. I need to be a part of the solution. I need to be a part of that.

Finally, and most directly impacting my life, I came out to my grandmother! It was super exciting in that I have avoided doing so for years and was taught a long time ago that, unless you’re getting married, no one in your family needs to know your orientation. I now believe that to be nonsense. If you don’t want to tell or you don’t feel comfortable/safe doing so, that’s one thing. But to say that it’s nobody’s business while letting a secret fester is bad for you. It hurts. It hurts even when you don’t tell because it’s unsafe. Being in the closet is, more often than not, a place of pain. I’m not saying coming out can’t lead to more pain; in that case, it’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. But just assuming I never had to tell my grandmother because she didn’t need to know? That hurt me. I know of others who were in similar situations and it hurt them. So, I finally decided to do it. Thing is, and this is actually embarrassing…I forgot how. It has been so long since I came out to someone in an important way that I actually didn’t know what to do. Thankfully, lots of people were very helpful (and some people very amusingly unhelpful). They talked to me. They supported me. Know who else supported me? My grandmother. I need to pay that forward.

So, here I am, on National Coming Out Day, coming out of the writing closet I’ve been in. I make no promises about how often/much I’ll write, but I feel like I need to be doing this again. After all this time, I finally have something to say. I’m brushing myself off and trying again.

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In the Closet

Technology is a very fickle, unreliable thing.  This is the lesson I have learned as I eagerly await news about my laptop and its latest state of (dis)repair.  Here’s hoping I hear something soon.  While I wait, thankfully, a friend has lent me their computer, which means I get to write up a post.  This is a good thing, as a lot of things have come together lately and need to be spoken.

 

A little while ago, magically in the same week, I had both a conversation with my mother and a fight with my girlfriend.  The two incidents both dealt with the same general topic: outness.  The fight was about how out one should be and whether or not being closeted was a way to maintain heterosexual privilege when you’ve technically lost it.  The conversation was about maybe finding some support if I want to come out while I’m working on becoming a minister and how my mother just doesn’t get it.  Why would I come out?  Why is it anyone’s business?  She didn’t understand the concept at all.  I feel like a lot of people think like her.  Your public life is public and your private life is private.  To her, this was my private life, so why would I feel the need to share it?

 

The answer to that came to me this weekend.

 

I visited my girlfriend’s family this weekend.  The experience was, overall, a pleasant one.  Her parents seem nice and her friends were very kind.  Still, there was something…different about the whole ordeal.  I’ve never met anyone’s parents before, but my friends all prepped me for questions, grilling, some passing interest in this person their daughter is dating.  None of that happened.  There was no outright hostility, mind you, just sort of general disinterest.  There was nice conversation to be had, but most of it didn’t involve me and, if I’m being honest, I don’t think most of it would’ve sounded any different had I not been there.  My girlfriend and I sat on opposite ends of the room for almost the entire time, and the one time she sat anywhere near me (upon the insistence of her best friend), she watched for her mother to leave the room so she could show affection as simple as rubbing my head.  I wasn’t expecting to be all over each other; that would be awkward and inappropriate.  I didn’t even expect to hold hands, although based on what I’m told by my straight coupled friends, that tends to be pretty tame.  Feeling like I couldn’t even sit next to her, though (and yes, it felt awkward for me to sit next to her; I won’t speak on how she must’ve felt) was just frustrating.  There wasn’t any hostility and I didn’t feel persecuted, I just…felt like I was purposely downgrading myself to a “friend.”  Maybe that’s a thing, maybe it’s not, but I know that none of this would be a question if I was a guy.  In private, I couldn’t be myself.

 

Out in public was a different story.  Of course, by “different,” I mean worse.  There are parts of the country where walking around and being openly queer in public is a perfectly fine thing to do.  I have no idea whether or not this was one of them.  I was surrounded by strangers and had no read on them whatsoever.  When she and I would hold hands, it was wonderful, but the second anyone came by, I let go.  No, I didn’t just let go; I snatched my hand away.  At one point she looked at me and asked “you’re really scared, aren’t you?”  I nodded.  I was.  At the moment, I’m still not totally sure of what.  What were those strangers going to do to us?  Look at us disapprovingly?  Report us for “public indecency”?  Hurt us?  I didn’t know then and I don’t know now.  I just know I was scared and that fear makes me ashamed.  Should I have been afraid?  Was I just being paranoid?  I have no idea.  All I know is that I wasn’t acknowledging my girlfriend even though it was all I really wanted to do.  In public, I couldn’t be myself.

 

In short, there was no where I could go and be myself.

 

I get frustrated at the idea that being in the closet in any way is a way to be.  I know that people come out at different times and there are varying degrees of safety and risk in doing so, but it drives me nuts that it has to be this way.  It drives me nuts that I feel awkward or ashamed or afraid or frustrated just because I want to hold someone’s hand.  It drives me nuts that I basically get ignored because of the body I was born in.  It drive me nuts that I have to think about every little thing I do because it might somehow mean the end of my job or my relationships or my life.  I hate feeling like this.  I feel like I’m being paranoid, but then I read stories about people getting followed or beaten or killed and I wonder, is it worth it?  

 

My mother asked why it’s anyone’s business.  It’s their business because it’s my business.  I want to be a full person who isn’t afraid in public or in private.  I want to be a full person who isn’t afraid of offending someone because I acknowledge that I’m dating their daughter in their household.  I want to not have to look over my shoulder on the off chance that a private moment is caught and becomes public.  I don’t want to hide.  I don’t want to feel like I have to hide.  I want to feel proud of who I am.  I used to always feel proud of who I am.  It wasn’t until I started going back into the closet that I started to feel fear and shame, and I hate it.  I hate myself for it.

 

We have to work on the world.  We have to work to make it okay.  I’m super frustrated and disappointed in myself, but I also know that there are a lot of people out there who are more afraid and have greater reason to be.  We have to make it okay for them to be who they are.  I know people who are much braver than I am and refuse to ever be closeted again, even when the stakes are super high.  We have to make it okay for them to continue to be themselves.  Part of making it okay is being out, but part of it is protecting those who choose to do so.  There’s strength in numbers, and the more of us are around and out and working against the forces that could hurt us, the more of us will be out.  The more of us that are out, the more the message that it’s okay to just be yourself will spread.  No looking over our shoulders, no hoping that our private lives won’t become public.  We’re doing nothing wrong.  We should have nothing to hide.

You Don’t Know Me

When I was a teenager, I babysat.  I did it to make money and because I sincerely and genuinely love children.  I’ve had some naive (read:stupid and/or sexist) boys blame that on my being a girl, but I like to think that my love of tiny humans is separate from my sexual organs, especially since these aren’t my kids and I have loved them since I was a kid myself.  Anyway, there was this one family I sat for all the time.  Nice family, energetic kids, a general good time.  Their eldest child is maybe eleven or twelve years younger than me, so when I was seventeen, she was about six.  She has two siblings.  They all got into trouble one way or another, but in general, they were pretty decent to babysit for.  They were good kids.

 

The neighborhood we lived in was primarily white, but not uniformly, and the family was interracial.  While I am not interracial, my skin is sort of moderate, so I’ve had many people make that assumption (by “had”, I mean people out of nowhere just ask me about my racial background as if it’s any of their damned business).  On one particularly hot summer evening, the kids asked if we could walk the block to the local coffee shop for gelato.  Seeing as they have been very well behaved, I of course said yes.  I grabbed a stroller for the littlest one and took the hands of the two older kids and we walked around the corner to the coffee shop.  I asked them to sit down at a table while I went to order.  I asked them each what they wanted and they told me.  The older ones helped me move the little one from his stroller to a high chair. They ate as calmly as a kid who gets ice cream eats.  An elderly couple, both white, approached me with a smile.  “Your children are so well behaved!” they exclaimed, impressed.  Awkwardly, I explained to them that I was the babysitter.  The eldest child looked at me with some amusement.  We both knew, her because of logic and me because I understood my own anatomy, that she was too old to have been my child.  The assumption annoyed me and I couldn’t figure out why.

 

That wasn’t the first time that had happened.  My little cousin, even though he and I share no blood or DNA, look somewhat alike and are nine years apart.  When he was three or four, he came to visit my family and I.  One night, we went out to dinner at Ponderosa and he had to go to the bathroom.  Eager to prove myself as a responsible teenager, I volunteered to take him.  As we were exiting the women’s room, a woman, once again older and white, commented on how cute my son was.  Once again, I awkwardly explained that he was my little cousin, not my son.  I knew that he was too old to be my kid, but I felt very strange in that moment.  I felt like this woman, as kind as she appeared (or thought she appeared) was judging me, like there was something about me that made me seem like I should be a teen mother even though I wasn’t.  I felt very embarrassed and I couldn’t figure out why.

 

As an adult, I have figured out why.

 

Those feelings of annoyance and shame still happen.  They happen when I go to a restaurant or a store and a white person starts barking orders at me even though I’m not in a uniform or have a plate full of food I’m clearly about to eat.  They happen when someone is very nice to me on the phone and then drops their voice a little bit when they see me in person.  They happen when I don’t ask a question or speak up for myself in a classroom because I’m the only person there who looks like me and I don’t want to look stupid because then people might assume ALL black people are stupid.  Those are the feelings of someone who lives in a racist society, who constantly has little things undermine who they are.  They are the feelings of someone who gets called “articulate”, “not like other black people”, and “white” by different people as if they don’t mean the same thing and none of them are actually compliments.  They are the feelings of someone who has been followed by people at stores in case my hands get “reachy”.  They are the feelings of a kid who once hid in the backseat of car with her little cousin because her grandparents had gone to pay for gas and a giant truck with a confederate flag, full of white men, pulled up and stared.  I have never had a gun pulled out on me or had a man stalk me as I walked from the store, but I did know to look over my shoulder and be well behaved.  You don’t just need one big thing to happen to know society is racist; lots of little things remind you everyday.

 

As an out bisexual, I’ve heard a lot of stupid things from people.  I have had a lot of stereotypes thrown my way and a lot of inappropriate comments made, mostly by people I already know.  The only time I’ve ever had someone react negatively to me being with a woman was some little girl in Atlantic City.  I recognize that I have been very lucky in that regard.  It could have been a lot worse for me.  It COULD be a lot worse for me.  Still, that has never stopped the fear.  The wrong person walks by and I throw my girlfriend’s hand out of mine as if it were painful.  I police what I wear in some circumstances, lest anyone see a tie or a rainbow and get the wrong idea.  My career could be over before it begins if the wrong person finds out about it.  Even in my life of safety I know that all it takes is the wrong person on a bad day to be the difference between life and death.  I know that, for a lot of people, it’s all about not standing out in a sea of wrong people on bad days.  I recognize all of this, and yet one thing has been coming to mind a lot lately: these two things are not the same.

 

My problems with homophobia come from someone finding out I’m bisexual.  My problems with race come from existing.

 

I’m not saying that queer people don’t have it hard in this country.  They do.  The hurt and damage and death inflicted on so many LGBTQ people is enough to make my heart and my eyes weep.  I am also not saying that people do not make great sacrifices to be who they are or to survive.  Being out means risking discrimination and harm, being closeted means denying the truest part of yourself.  I’m not saying it’s a choice (I don’t think it is and it shouldn’t matter if it was), nor am I trying to pit one minority against another (especially since many people, including myself, fit into both).  What I am saying is that some things cannot be hidden.  I could suppress my queerness, I could dress in the more heteronormative clothes and have the most feminine hairstyle and spend my nights sipping drinks with the girls and talking about how hot that guy who plays Superman is and never once mention the soft touch of a woman.  I could pretend to like painting my nails and quote Cosmo quizzes and do everything society tells me straight women do whether it’s right or not.  I could force myself into a life I don’t want and didn’t choose and be miserable in it and I’d still be black.  I have a choice about how I present my sexual orientation; I may not like it, and making certain decisions may feel like torture, but I can still make those decisions.  As far as my skin goes, this is all I’ve got.

 

We make assumptions about people everyday.  Assumptions are made about us everyday.  A lot of those assumptions aren’t going to make us feel good about ourselves.  They’re going to make us feel weird, feel annoyed, feel ashamed.  Some might truly lower our quality of life.  Some might end our lives altogether.  These assumptions, whether we like it or not, affect us.  In some cases, we have the choice between honesty and safety.  In others, that choice doesn’t exist.  For some of us, it’s a combination of things we have a choice about and things we do not.  Having a choice is a stroke of luck; it is a privilege.  This isn’t about guilting or shaming, it’s about knowing.  When we stand up for things, when we stand up for ourselves, we also need to stand up for others.  To focus only on our issues, on queer issues, is to ignore not only the problems of others, but the lack of choice they may have.  It is to ignore the needs of people who may identify as both, that may need to focus on one identity over another at any given point in time, that may need to juggle both at the same time.  People need to care, not just when a teenager dies and justice isn’t served, not just when a stranger assumes they understand a teenagers life, but everyday.  For some of us, caring everyday is not a choice.

Point of Clarification: We Are Not the Same

You ever wake up and have something happen that just tells you that something is going to happen, a sign of some sort that indicates that you’re going in the right direction?  That’s not a normal occurrence for me, but it did happen today.  After going on a little bit last week about the subject, I pushed this aside until I could finish some other summer academic errands (week long class, hurrah…or something…).  Anyway, as I prepared to continue explaining away bisexual stereotypes in our “Point of Clarification” series, I did what any person does right after they wake up next to a computer: I went on Facebook.  There, I found this article on 10 Realistic Rules for Good Non-Monogamous Relationships (it’s mostly SFW, assuming you work in a place where you can read about polyamory).  This, my friends, is exactly where I’d like to start off today.  Thanks for the set-up, universe!

For those who don’t know, polyamory is a genre of relationship models in which more than two people are involved.  This may involve an established couple having an open relationship, someone being involved in more than one relationship (casual, sexual, and/or long-term) at a time, members in a couple having other committed partners, and a range of other scenarios.  Simply put, it is (as the article title suggests) non-monogamy.  Polyamory can be very complicated and requires trust, honesty, fantastic communication skills, and a very high level of self-awareness (as the article shows). It is also, clearly, not for everyone.  I lack any statistical proof, but my experience has shown me that most people are extremely uncomfortable with the idea and/or reality of polyamory.  It goes against the norm, and, as a result, it ruffles some feathers.  It gets accused of being the dalliance of the greedy, and gets followed around by terms such as “slut,” “shameful,” and “immoral.”  Those terms should sound pretty familiar to some of us.

I’m not in the business of policing anyone else’s legal, consenting behavior.  I’m about as monogamous as they come, but if polyamory is something that makes sense and works for you (and you’re being respectful to the other people involved and they to you), then I’ll leave you to your relationship.  If it’s something you agree with or disagree with or have feelings on, fine.  My  goal is not to convince you one way or the other (as long as you’re not being rude).  Today, my goal is to point out that, even though the same negative, hurtful words get thrown at the LGBTQ community as do the polyamorous one, and even though it may seem like a good fit, the words “polyamory” and “bisexuality” not only are not linked but should not be linked together.

I’ve heard the argument before.  “But think about it,” they say, “if you’re attracted to multiple sexes, why wouldn’t you be in multiple relationships?  That way, you get all the fulfillment you need!”  First off, this goes against the aforementioned rules as it makes your relationship situation all about you.  Second, if someone is truly bisexual and poly, they could end up in a situation with multiple men or women, not just one of each.  Third,…just no.  That’s not what it means to be bisexual.  There’s no blanket form of attraction and love that says you have to have masculine and feminine at the same time.  You are a person who has needs to go beyond what sex your partner is.  If one person satisfies those needs, then you’re fine.  If you and multiple people decide that that’s how you feel called to satisfy those needs, fine.  But do not think that attraction to more than one sex automatically means relationships with more than one person.

Think of it as quality and quantity.  Upon some self-reflection, we should be able to recognize some things about ourselves and figure out some basic wants/needs in a relationship, what will create for us the most high-quality relationship possible.  For some of us, that high quality relationship comes from being with one human being (the right human being).  A quantity of one provides a high-quality relationship.  For others, that high quality relationship comes from acknowledging that being with one person can feel stifling or restrictive or possessive, and so multiple relationships of varying, appropriate sorts are formed.  A quantity of more than one provides a high-quality relationship(s).  The desire for a specific quantity is not tied to bisexuality anymore than an attraction to blondes, redheads, or brunettes is.  A bisexual person could find a high-quality relationship with one person or with four, depending on that person.  Monogamy vs. polyamory isn’t a factor dependent on sexual orientation; it’s just a factor in general.

When I say that monogamy vs. polyamory is a factor not dependent on orientation, I mean it.  People sometimes try to (incorrectly) link it to bisexuality, but it’s simply not that simple. There are straight people and gay people who also practice polyamory.  I’ve seen straight couples go to a bar and leave separately, having picked up two different opposite sex partners.  I’ve met gay men whose boyfriends had boyfriends.  Polyamory crosses over the lines of orientation.  Do bisexual poly people exist?  Of course they do, but so do straight poly and gay poly people.  Linking polyamory to just one form of sexual orientation, especially if you have negative views of both, just further stereotypes without seeking clarification or honoring the real experiences of people.  It’s not an either/or situation, or even a spectrum.  It’s a three dimensional space, in which a person can identify the type of relationship(s) they want and who they want to have them with.  It’s complex and interesting and beyond stereotype.

I have always been monogamous.  Every relationship I’ve had, no matter how long, be it with a male or a female, has been monogamous.  I have another friend who is both bisexual and in an open relationship.  She calls her partner before anything happens with another person, she’s open and honest about her feelings and her experiences, and she’s open and honest with other people.  Neither of us is doing bisexuality wrong.  We are being honest with ourselves about the kind of relationship(s) we want to have, just as we at one point had to be honest with ourselves about our sexual orientation.  We acknowledge these two parts of ourselves, realizing that one does not necessarily link to the other.  We are healthy and we are happy even if we are not the same.

Point of Clarification: Still the One

Another week, another post!  It’s like I’m getting back on track or something!  I probably shouldn’t be (it’s only been two weeks), but I’m proud of this.  Know what else I’m proud of?  Being bisexual.  I’m so proud, in fact, that I’m dedicating this Pride month to clarifying some common misconceptions folks have about bisexual folk.  I like who I am and I want people to not just deal with it, not just tolerate it, but get it, y’know?  I bet some of you feel the same way.  Last week, we dealt with the linking of the gender binary to bisexuals (hint: you shouldn’t).  This week, let’s  discuss something I’m fairly certain all the Bis out there have either heard or heard about.

I don’t really like to call questions stupid (unless, y’know, they really are), so I want to make it extra clear that I actually respect both the asker of the following question and the question itself.  I ran into an acquaintance of mine the other day and we began a conversation about a mutual friend who they did not know was bisexual.  As the mutual friend is pretty open about this, I made a comment indicating that yes, she was indeed bisexual.  The acquaintance stood confused.  “But, isn’t she married?  Married to a man, I mean?” they asked.  I said yes.  They still looked puzzled.  “So, how does that work?”

The answer to his question is quite simple, but I think it hints at an interesting way that people view sexuality and sexual orientation.  It works in that our friend is attracted to men and to women, and that attraction doesn’t disappear just because she’s with one or the other.  She may have chosen a male lifemate, but that doesn’t mean that she suddenly flipped a switch and became straight, much like me dating a girl didn’t suddenly make me gay.  There’s attraction and there’s action.  Her attraction is to both males and females.  Her action (and yes, I mean it that way) comes from her husband.

This question has always amused me because it’s one I’ve gotten from bisexuals, too.  “If I like men and women,” they ask, “how can I pick just one?”  Most of the time, it seems as if they’re asking a different question than the one they’re asking.  On paper, the question is “how can  a bisexual be happy with a person of one sex/gender when they’re attracted to more than one sex/gender?”.  What they really seem to be asking is “what happens to my identity if I date a person of one sex/gender?”  That seems to be a big sticking point with many people I’ve talked to.  Perhaps you’ve asked that question.  Perhaps you’ve asked the first one.

What both these questions have in common is defining oneself based on the person they’re dating/mating/married to (take your pick).  Sexual identity is many things: fluid, complicated, and, most importantly, yours.  You are the one who identifies, you are the one with the feelings.  If those feelings lead you to loving one person, why should your other feelings be negated?  Why should your identity suddenly be decided not by the attraction you feel to various people on any given day, but by the attraction you feel towards one specific person?  Straight and gay people don’t work this way.  Just because a straight woman is married doesn’t mean she won’t see Idris Elba and swoon, and just because a gay woman is married doesn’t mean she’ll stop DVRing Pretty Little Liars so she can see Shay Mitchell.  It just means that they have made their choice that their love and commitment to that one person is stronger and more important than playing the field.  Besides, if this was the case, if your orientation changed to “straight” or “gay” depending on the relationship you’re in, what if you date a man and then a woman after?  Do you just ping-pong back and forth?  That would defeat the purpose of identifying as bisexual (and also just be inaccurate).

Another thing to consider (in fact, it’s so important to consider that next week’s entry will talk about it) is that there is a difference between who you are attracted to and who you date.  What I mean to say is that there is a difference between your sexual orientation and the number of people you date at a time.  If you seriously aren’t the monogamous type, well, then, settling down with one person was never really going to work for you, now was it?  If you’re dating a man and think you also want to date a woman or vice versa, well, that’s dealing more with polyamory than it is sexual identity.  I say that not because I believe that there can’t be a difference when dating men versus dating women, but rather because it is entirely possible to be a bisexual person who wants to date a man and a woman at the same time and also possible to be a bisexual person who wants to date only one person at a time.  These people, stereotypes be damned, are both bisexuals.  One isn’t more or less of a bisexual than the other; they both fit.  More on that next week, though.

My acquaintance compared being partnered to window shopping.  You can look at stuff all you want, but you have what you need so the rest of that stuff will just stay in the store.  I couldn’t agree more.  You can look at whoever, but you’re going to come home to the person you love.  That’s how monogamy works.  As a bisexual, your store may be full of more items or you may discover that a wider variety of things catch your eye, but at the end of the day, you’ve already got what you really wanted.  That doesn’t have an impact on what you look at.  You’ll look at whoever you want.  You’ll just come home to the one you love.  That’s how that works.

Point of Clarification: Leave Me Alone

Friends!  Loyals!  Bored people!  I return at last.  I apologize for taking so much time away from you and writing.  Being busy in school plus being busy in life makes for some difficulty in being creative.  I’m  not really here to make excuses, but if I really had to, it would be a combination of “I was trying to pass classes,” “life is really complicated,” and this.

Anyway, it’s June now, which means it’s Pride Month.  Normally during Pride, I take a break and have some guest writers fill in, but I think I’ve taken a long enough break, so this time around it’s going to be just me (however, if anyone wants to guest write this summer, hit me up in the comments).  I’ve been trying to think of a topic, which has led me to think of what I’m really proud of.  Like, why AM I proud?  People have all sorts of issues with me, with bisexuality in general, so what do I have to be proud of?  Bing!  There’s my topic.  For the month of June, I’ll be writing a series called “Point of Clarification” in which I talk about different questions/comments I’ve heard as a bisexual person and breaking things down a bit.  Here’s hoping I can do my fellow pink, purple, and bluers justice.

Raise your hand if you’re familiar with the term “gender binary.”  In short, the gender binary is the belief that there are two genders that exist in this world: men and women.  These are the only two things people can be.  This is, of course, recognizing that sex and gender are different things, but that’s a discussion for another day (that we’ve in fact had before).  Whatever your sex may be, your gender still fits into “man” or “woman” in the gender binary.  I don’t really believe in the gender binary.  Gender is a socially constructed thing, so there’s no inherent way to be male or female or anything in between or outside.  I believe that people are people and that everyone should express themselves in whatever way feels comfortable to them and if you tell me what pronouns to use, I should use them.  If you were to ask some people, however, I may as well have invented the damned gender binary.  You see, it has these two letters in it: B and I.  That means two.  They’re the same two letters at the beginning of bisexual, meaning you’re attracted to two sexes.  Clearly if you identify as the latter, you must support the former.  I hate this nonsense.

I’m going to address the point I just made about bisexuality and the gender binary, but first, a rant.  I really hate getting asked about this.  I don’t hate it because I don’t have a response (I do), but because bisexuals tend to get asked this a lot whereas their straight and gay counterparts do not.  This feels…unfair.  I mean, the argument is that, by saying I’m attracted to two sexes, I’m supporting the binary.  If that’s the case, you know what supports it even more?  People who are attracted to one sex.  Those are people who are flat out saying that there is a group they want and a group that they don’t want.  They’re the ones who are making the “two kinds of people in this world” argument.  Why are folks on our cases?  It’s annoying.

Okay, now onto the real response.  If you were paying attention to the paragraph above, you’ll notice that I defined bisexuality as being attracted to two sexes.  If you were paying attention to the one above that, you’ll recall that sex and gender are not the same thing.  This means that saying bisexuality supports the gender binary doesn’t really fly because we’re not talking about gender, we’re talking about sex.  Of course, this doesn’t acknowledge that there aren’t just two sexes (intersex people exist and deserve respect and love, too), so we can find fault in that (sort of…more on that later).  Gender is societal, it’s expression.  It’s how you identify.  Biologically born female but feel like a man?  Okay.  Born male but feel kinda in the middle.  Fine by me.  That’s your gender, not your sex.  People like to say that being bisexual makes things about the person, not the anatomy.  I think things are very much about the anatomy.  The anatomy is the biology.  Sometimes you’re just attracted to some kinds of biology.  Sometimes you’re not.  Sometimes you’re attracted to more than one kind of biology.

But hey now, there’s still that insistence on “two.”  Bisexual implies that someone is attracted to two sexes.  To this I say…so what?  Who cares if I’m attracted to males and females?  Just because that’s where my attraction lies doesn’t mean A) that there are only males and females in the world, or B) that I’m somehow discriminating against them.  It means that I’m attracted to a specific group of people.  Guess who else is also attracted to a specific group of people?  Straight and gay people.  That’s not discrimination, it’s just attraction.  We aren’t saying that there’s only two sexes (or at least I’m not).  There are people in the world who are attracted to people regardless of gender identity/expression OR biological sex.  That’s how they’re wired, just like it’s just how bisexual and monosexual (is that a word yet?) people are wired.  

Speaking of attraction, that’s a complicated thing.  A friend of mine is bisexual and dates dudes who look like hipsters and girls who look like manic pixie dream girls.  Another bisexual friend is with a fairly Gap male gay man.  Another is with a very sweet, occasionally effeminate straight man.  Another is with a masculine identified lesbian.  Another used to be with a genderqueer model.  I’m with a flowy skirt wearing human manifestation of a happy Ingrid Michaelson song.  Look at the diversity in partners!  All these people identify as bisexual, yet they all ended up with people of varying gender expressions.  It’s almost like they were indeed attracted to the person after all.  There’s a vast amount of wiggle room when it comes to gender expression because, much like hair color, taste in movies, and favorite breakfast cereal, people are attracted to different things.  There are all sorts of things that make your blood run south.  They don’t work on a binary, either.

Are there bisexuals who support the gender binary?  Absolutely!  They think that there are men and women in the world and they’re attracted to both.  Are they wrong?  Yes and no.  Yes, they are wrong in that there aren’t just men and women in the world.  THAT is the gender binary and the reality of people’s experiences shows that it just doesn’t make sense.  Are they wrong to be attracted to men and women?  Actually, no.  You see, it is possible to acknowledge that there are more than two options and only feel attraction to some of those options.  It is possible to want to have genital contact with only certain kinds of genitals and still find the way the possessors of those genitals carry themselves attractive, whatever it may be.  Gender and sex is complicated, it has layers, and it can be fun.  It’s also not all on the shoulders of the bisexuals, so cool your jets.

Make Love to Me

Middle School sex ed failed me.  I feel bad about even writing that sentence because, in a lot of ways, they got things right.  They taught us about anatomy, they taught us about contraception, they even taught us about homosexuality. This makes them better than a lot of public schools today, and that was all sixteen years ago. Still, based on my growing up and learning things and having taught sexuality education myself, I know that they led me astray (although I will say that my high school did a little bit better). You see, my middle school taught me that there were three primary acts that counted as sexual intercourse (oral/penile, anal/penile, and vaginal/penile) and that only one of these (vaginal/penile) actually counted as “having sex.” These were all sexual acts, of course, and major ones at that, but when people talk about having sex, according to what they taught us, vaginal/penile is what they were talking about. Societally speaking, they weren’t wrong. When most people talk about “having sex,” this is the first thing that comes to mind. Lots of sex ed classes still teach that vaginal/penile sex is the sex that counts, which is why we end up with people performing oral and anal sex so that they can still call themselves virgins. It’s a really screwed up way to think about sexuality because it places all the importance on one act while never actually addressing why that one act is more important (oral and anal sex involve fluid exchanges and put you at risk for STDS and STIS, in fact, anal sex puts you at a higher risk because of the sensitive tissue, and all sexual acts involve some form of intimacy). Yes, vaginal/penile sex can result in pregnancy, but unless you’re trying to get pregnant, how relevant is that? Are we really defining this potentially (I’m not making a judgment for you) special moment of losing virginity by the risk of pregnancy? It’s not a great definition for those who participate/someday will participate in heterosexual sex. As for homosexual sex…

Yes, the queer virgin has opinions again.

Let’s start with some things I think most of us can agree on. We live in a world full of human beings, all created equality. Many of those human beings, at some point in their lives, will have sexual desires towards other human beings. Some of those desires may be purely physical, and some of them may involve romantic desire as well. Some people will go out and seek to act on those sexual desires for their physical pleasure, while others will seek longer relationships and use those sexual desires as a way to bond and connect with someone for a long period of time. Simple enough? Great. Keep those things in mind.

Let’s say we stick with that whole vaginal/penile sex=real sex thing. What happens when you don’t have a vagina and you aren’t attracted to them? What about if you don’t have a penis and aren’t attracted to them? Does that mean that what you do isn’t sex? Beyond not making much sense, that’s a pretty unsafe statement. Sex is an activity that can be very fun but also has some major risks, and if you’re being told that your sex (however you have it) doesn’t count, then you’re less likely to take it as seriously or use proper precautions. You can still catch STDS and STIS, you can still form infections. What does it mean to you when people go on about how important safe sex is but then tell you what you’re doing isn’t sex? This is literally a dangerous and unhealthy perspective.

Also, think about the intimacy factor. What does it mean to be told that the things you can do with your partner to express sexual intimacy don’t count? Sure, you can do whatever you want, and that’s all well and good, but unless a penis enters a vagina, you’re not really having sex. It’s a form of invalidation; it’s saying that your sexual acts and the connection that comes with them is lesser than or doesn’t matter. And yes, sex matters. It is a part of us and a part of our expression and it matters a lot. If it didn’t, society wouldn’t care about who was doing what, it wouldn’t care about virginity, it wouldn’t have all the hang ups it has. When you stick to this very specific, heteronormative perspective, you perpetuate the idea that this one form of heterosexual sex is the pinnacle of all sexual acts and everything else is lesser. Even if we meet someone, even if we love that someone, even if that person means the world to us, some part of that relationship will never truly be full because it will never be that one thing? No, I refuse to believe that, and you shouldn’t either. If that’s not how we want to look at our relationships (and if you’re reading this, I assume that’s not how you want to look at relationships), why would we look at our sex this way?

Three friends go away for the weekend. One friend, a guy, is intimate with another man. The second friend, a girl, is intimate with a man. The third, also a woman, is intimate with another woman. Who had sex that weekend? Chances are, probably all of them. The great thing is, they could all go out the next weekend and be with differently gendered partners, and they’ all still be having sex. The sex you’re having is not dependent on how certain people in society define it, nor is it dependent on the sex you had before. “Real sex” has a lot of different meanings to different people, and to pretend that one thing that only certain people can do is all that counts is nonsense. It discounts the pleasure and the risk and the emotion that can come from various forms of sexual interaction (even the ones we don’t count as intercourse). Maybe it’s about time that we, sexual beings of any orientation, demand that the boundaries be expanded.