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On Bisexuality

chicago dyke's picture
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This is such a good piece I'm going to reprint the whole thing, and then go think about a proper response. Good on S'ville for giving this author a voice, and for starting a much-needed discussion. Bisexuals have it worse than mulatto Deep Space Nine fans; only trannies and Native American boxers can really understand the Pain.

by Sarah in Chicago

Hi, I'm Sarah and I'm biphobic.

I say such not to be proud of it, but rather to own up to it. We all have our own prejudices, so having or not having a prejudice is not what I am too concerned about here, but rather, if we are working to get rid of those we have, and particularly, how we do so.

I'm biphobic because I've been a part of lesbian communities for a long time, since I started to come out in my freshman year of university. Biphobia, as any bisexual woman will tell you (and any honest lesbian), is pretty endemic to the community, not inherent in it, mind you, but certainly endemic.

To a certain extent you can understand where it comes from. Being a sociologist I know that smaller communities tend to be more policing of the boundaries of a collective sense of identity, and the performances thereof. Further, oppressed minorities tend to be defensive of anything perceived as 'other' inside their group as someone that could be working to undermine efforts, that doesn't really share the same oppressions.

And a lot of lesbians take this position. They argue that if bisexuals want to be part of the lesbian community, they need to take the community as lesbian, and that a woman that loves men or a man needs to deal with such. They argue that there is privilege in being partnered in a heterosexual relationship, however, queer the woman therein may be, and that such privilege is antithetical to the community.

I actually know some lesbians that refuse to date bisexuals. One woman I know, upon having her heart broken after a very long term relationship, a marriage for all intents and purposes, was ended when her partner went back to men, swore she would never date another bisexual woman. And she hasn't, and is now partnered with another lesbian woman, happily in love, raising a child together.

I say these things not to defend such, or even to say they have any remote validity, but rather that I think it's important to investigate the narratives, the framing, of one's prejudices, as it's there that the prejudices enact themselves.

The thought for this post for me came out of a couple of things. The first was a posting to one of my fav lesbian media sites AfterEllen.com, about the atrocious representations of bisexuals on the show The L-Word. The article was completely correct mind you (of course, EVERYONE is atrociously portrayed on that show, but that's beside the point), but the interesting bit was the reaction in the comments section. It became a blow-out, like all bisexual-focused discussions on the site, with some outright expressions of fairly unapologetic biphobia.

And to my own disgust, I actually found myself wanting to post in agreement. I had to stop myself from posting something along the lines of "If you want bisexual representation, get your own fucking show, and leave us the fuck alone to have our one tiny niche. You find supposedly queer women fucking men all the time on network TV, what else do you want, to colonise our space too?!". It was this visceral reaction that scared the crap out of me.

In other words, I found myself almost repeating word for word the defences used by those transphobic bigoted women at the Michigan Women's Music Festival ... something I despise deeply and passionately. I was ashamed of myself.

The other moment was that this morning I found out that Kristianna Loken, one of the few openly out bisexual actresses whose bisexuality is not merely so much lip-service (so to speak), was engaged. To a man. And that wonderful biphobic voice of the lesbian community inside me spoke up and whispered "What a fucking surprise, not. Yet ANOTHER fucking bisexual woman runs back to fuck men. It seems that's all they fucking do; if I had a dime for every bisexual woman that is partnered to a man .... yadda yadda yadda". I clamped down on my thoughts immediately, but they were still there.

And so, as I rode the train in this morning, lightly flirting with this woman I bumped into that I knew from the community, I decided I needed to write this piece, and ask a question.

I date, and have dated bisexual women, as well as lesbian women. I don't really care. On an individual basis, I don't give a shit. And hell, being aware of my internalised biphobia (oh, and btw, this isn't about self-denial, I don't want to date men, nor am trying to cover up any secret desires for men; that kind of arm-chair pysch is pathetic), means I will speak up whenever I hear biphobic speech, because it's hateful. Period.

But, aside from speaking up against such speech, and validating the queer/gay identities of bisexual women, what else can I do? I have this prejudice in me that I detest, and I need to work on it to get rid of it.

So, my question is this; how have the others here worked on their own prejudices, there own biases? Not just biphobia, but how, after you gained awareness of internalised bigotries, how did you work to minimise such or get rid of them? What strategies did you use?

Because I'd really appreciate the help, and this is the right place to ask.

For the Har out there I will ask: and how is it different for the men? Because it is. The whole tradition of bi-men is articulated and practiced according to different rules. Why is that?

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chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

1. you'd think 'love as you will' would be the motto of the Queernation, but of course it's not so simple. i guess we don't have that many queer readers here at corrente. over at Shakes where i found this post, there was some really excellent commenting on the issue. and it *is* an issue, one that is changing and evolving in the queer community as we speak. i think the easiest way to understand it is to think on your own example, in which "all white" grannies and brown grandkids are more and more common, even as the community doesn't yet have a language with which to understand them. Bisexual people are turning up all over, and becoming more than the stereotypes held by both the straight and LG communities. it's a painful process for some.

2. as to the biracial thing, i have posted on it, i guess i don't really know what more to say except that i expect it to keep on becoming more common. we have married and bonded interracial couples up here, all over the place, not just the white chicks with a nappy headed chile but no babydaddy. i suppose as one goes further south and east this sort of mixing is less common, i really wouldn't know the hard numbers.

this isn't South Africa. we don't have strict apartheid, people can move from homogeneous hometowns to other areas with people that look more like them. you know who i want to talk about more? white+nonblack "mixing." or nonwhite-nonblack couples. if you want to understand the phenom, i think in america it's important to look at all the mixing and babymaking going on. as a whole, my understanding is that it's a growing trend for almost all "racial" groups. just as 100-200 years ago, americans were the people to break down the ancient hatreds and barriers between pale-skinned peoples with different vowels at the beginning/ends of their names.

it annoys me that most people think of a black/white mix when you bring up the subject. so titillating! sexy jungle fever, crossing all those taboos! booooring. but telling, as well- it reminds me that black americans are still seen as a caste/class/group apart, "more different" from "normal" than any other group. let me ask you this way- have you/do you as easily notice the white/latin mixed kids/families you see, or white/asian? they exist too, but no one talks about them as if they are interesting. although i will say: scariest trend to me is the slow meld of black and white fundie populations. i don't like segregation, but the idea of wholly integrated fundie megachurches doesn't sit easily with me. not only for knowing what i know about the white preacher/hucksters who ultimately run them.

3. obama is as black as i am; remember that. which is, "not enough" most of the time. although i'm sure black america would unite behind me if i were on the national stage and looked likely to win something big, in truth i'm "not enough" black to the same degree that when it matters, i'm also "not enough" white. there are times when it really does matter, in both cases.

obama has done himself a good thing, and applied his advantage of lighter skin, to rise up into the circle of what i think of as the "Friends" class of black person. he's got enough white friends now that he can confidently stare down a bigoted cop or unfriendly bully, knowing that the cover of white priv will be there for him with a few phone calls. white folks like to do this with a few black folks in their lives, not too many mind you, but one or two of us is usually included in the circle. it's the mark of all "good" progressives, liberals, workplaces and schools to keep us around, and show us off when expedient. the payoff is we get treated like dirty, rightless scum less often than most black folk. i have frequently noted (on those occasions where i am not the only "black" person in the room) that those of us with Friends are very often lighter skinned than the black population at large. you tell me why this should be.

but in private, and in the community of black folk, light skinned, articulate people like obama, or like me, well...it really depends. i never had any problem with my working class, South Side neighbors. they seemed to really like me. OTOH, there are days when i'm very sorry that there is still so much foolish rivalry and self-hatred in the black community. i'll leave it at that. black folk have all sorts of jokes for people like obama the politician. trust me when i say that there are some black folks who feel, but will never say so long as they believe he will make things better, that he's not in any way "black enough." the complicated part is that there is a component of pride in that declaration, at least for some.

Submitted by [Please enter a... (not verified) on

I don't know if it's absolutely zero but the population of Hispanics, Asians or any other nonwhite/nonblack persons in this immediate area is so low I can't think of any offhand. (like my "grandparents at the grocery" survey was the epitome of statistical correctness, snarf.)

I have long wondered if it might not have been the ultimate (albeit fictional) biracial person, Mr. Spock, who caused more change of attitudes about the subject than any other. I suppose it simplifies problems with sharing visitation with the "other" set of grandparents if they're on another freakin' planet.... :)

Submitted by lambert on

Hillary the first first lady to walk in a pride parade.

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

Submitted by Paul_Lukasiak on

So, my question is this; how have the others here worked on their own prejudices, there own biases? Not just biphobia, but how, after you gained awareness of internalised bigotries, how did you work to minimise such or get rid of them? What strategies did you use?

Awareness. That's really all that it takes, and all that can be asked of her.

That being said, I happen to think that bi-phobia in the lesbian community is completely understandable, and in at least some senses, justified. I mean, lets face it, most women who identify as "bi" in the lesbian community are there either as tourists ("I want to explore the lesbian side of my identity, but I'm not really a lesbian"), in denial ("I'm bi, not really a lesbian"), or there because they are part of a couple, the other of whom is a lesbian (and very often on the rebound from a bad relationship with a man.)

In the gay male community, this is not really an issue -- I don't know of any gay men who wind up in relationships with "bi" men, at least not for very long. And we're perfectly happy to have the tourists and 'in denial' types -- we just have sex with them, and let them go their merry way. "Bi" men in general don't want to me be part of 'the community' -- they just want to get laid.

So Sarah shouldn't feel too guilty about being biphobic, especially when it comes to bi women who insist on being part of a lesbian community. Unlike the lesbians in the community, they tend to be there for themselves, and not for the community.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

didn't scare me for *that* reason.

It was her habit of pointing a worm-drive saw at whoever she was talking to, and pulling the trigger that bothered me...

dmd76's picture
Submitted by dmd76 on

I think awareness of the prejudice is just the first step. Ultimately, what matters is how one's prejudices have affected behaviors wrt the object of the prejudice. So, after becoming aware of the bias, one has to take stock of how that bias has informed and, most likely, is still informing one's behavior. At that point, if one deems that behavior wrong, unjustified, unfair, then steps can be taken to change it. It seems a little backwards, but I think: "Change the behavior and the beliefs will follow" (I lay no claim to the originality (or truth:) of this; just thinking out loud).