Archive for November, 2008

28
Nov
08

Weekly Round-Up

This week in blogs, the news, and wherever else happened to catch my attention:

Next summer, the 2009 National LGBTI Health Summit will happen in Chicago in conjunction with the Bi Health Summit; bisexuality is also slated to have a broader presence at the LGBTI event.

This XKCD made me giggle. I wonder if I would have been offended by it if I didn’t already love the comic and its creator’s liberal, feminist stances (it probably also helps that my sister met him at a friend’s wedding, and if both she and this friend think he’s awesome, I’m convinced), but as it is I’m just amused.

EHarmony is trying to avoid looking like homophobic asshats by launching a new site for same-sex matching – but of course neither site caters to bisexuals, who would have to join both and pay twice. ‘Cause I didn’t dislike them enough already. (Bets that the new site won’t be nearly as good?)

Melissa George, now playing a bisexual intern on Grey’s anatomy, is also saying dumb things about her character (or maybe she’s observing her character accurately and someone’s written her as stereotypical and obnoxious — not unlikely). For example, “”If it’s a male, she’ll go for it. If it’s a female, she’ll go for it. She doesn’t think attraction should be limited by gender . . . But she seems to get a thrill out of shocking people.” She also suggests that the writers may be experimenting with bisexuality because they’re bored. Mmm. It’s so nice to be a spicy plot device.

Patrick Harvie was just appointed leader of the Scottish Green party, making him “the first openly bisexual leader of a political party in Britain.”

Some girl is okay with continuing to date a new guy even now that he’s out to her a bisexual. Big minus: she describes him as “half gay” and seems surprised that he could be bi when he’s so clearly into sex with her, a girl (um, yes, that is how it works). Big plus: she’s actually learning from him and thinking about sexuality in new ways rather than listening to her friends’ advice and dumping him because he’s a disease vector or secretly gay or some such ridiculousness.

Wayne Besen, guest-blogging on Bilerico, has an interesting take on what went wrong with the No on 8 campaign and where marriage advocates should be turning their attention. You probably already know that marriage is hardly my highest priority, but I’ve been somewhat persuaded by recent arguments that Prop 8 is important because it put the rights of a minority up a a vote of the majority, and marriage or not, that’s a scary, dangerous precedent to set. Anyway, Mr. Besen has some interesting things to say that could apply to queer rights other than marriage; I particularly like the point that lobbyists without people behind them are useless and that a few people shouldn’t be trying to control the message (although personally I believe that’s less because the internet makes it impossible and more because drowning out the voices of the people you claim to be advocating for is wrong.)

And on the subject of marriage, this call to simply stop acknowledging the marriages of those around one both amuses and tempts me. I’m too polite and nonconfrontational myself to do much of it, most likely, but…fun!

10
Nov
08

My spellcheck would be so much happier if it would just learn the word “heteronormative…”

I started to write an aside about same-sex marriage in the last post, and it kind of took on a life of its own. My asides tend to do that.

I’ve read some very eloquent arguments (including others I can’t find right now) recently by people urging Californians to vote against Prop 8, or infuriated by its passage. And I’m persuaded to an extent, and to an extent I didn’t even need to be persuaded. If we’re going to have marriage, I believe that couples of any combination of genders should be allowed to marry. Hell, I’ll go further, just like the anti-marriage people always fear we will: I believe that any number of consenting adults of any combination of genders should be allowed to marry, If an amendment to ban gay marriage is going to be on the ballot anywhere, I want it to fail, and I’m offended by what I perceive as the bigotry and hatefulness of the people who vote for it. I do not, however, think that marriage equality should be the main goal of the queer community, or the main focus of our energy and resources. And this is not only because I’m dubious of state-sanctioned marriage to begin with (for all I know, I’m dubious of state-sanctioned marriage to begin with because I was raised to believe it’s wrong that everyone who’s in love can’t get married.) I’ll freely admit to having my doubts about marriage, and wondering why queers want a piece of big, expensive weddings, government approval of their unions, assimilation, and heteronormative family structure. I’m not sure it’s something I’ll ever want for myself. But I understand why people who are denied those things, and who are also discriminated against, disregarded, and mistreated in so many other ways, would want the legitimacy they convey. I even believe that changing the law, by changing the ways people act, over time sways public opinion, and that any change in the law that will legitimate queer identities and queer love is a change for the good.

I don’t think it should be our top priority. I’m frustrated with the way it appropriates a disproportionate share of our advocacy and resources, to the exclusion of things I feel would be a much better use of those things. In many places we can still be denied housing and employment because of our sexuality. This is true in almost all places of those who don’t conform to binary gender norms (and those of the gender assigned to them at birth, thank you very much). People are still being harassed, beaten, raped, and murdered for their perceived queerness. Trans folks are still being harassed, beaten, and raped by the cops. Gay men are being arrested for the crime of having sex. Many medical professionals are still trying to counsel and medicate queers out of our sexual preferences or gender identities, and giving us less than their best care besides. And many, many of these things are happening disproportionately to queers who are young, old, outside of the gender binary, poor, and/or not white. The segments of our community who have the fewest rights and resources of their own. And we are, in my opinion, abandoning them to their fate so that middle-aged, middle class white men can push for their right to join the straight people at the top of the ladder of oppression. Save for the controversy over an ENDA that left out trans folks (and now that we have the kind of Democratic majority in Congress that even the people who wanted to leave trans folks out in the cold said we’d need to pass an inclusive ENDA, could we get on that, please?) pretty much everything I’ve heard about queer rights from mainstream sources in the past several years has been regarding marriage. I think this is a terrible misprioritization, and a gross misappropriation of our attention and energy. I rank marriage as less important than people’s lives and bodily integrity, and I don’t understand how the “gay agenda” doesn’t.

And no discussion of same sex marriage taking place right now would be complete without a mention of the appalling racism that’s currently dominating the discussion (I like Dan Savage less because of his unapologetic biphobia; if he keeps up the blatant racism, too, I will simply have to stop liking him). Everywhere I turn the past few days, I run into the statistic that 70% of black voters in California voted for Prop 8, and the associated opinions that it’s all of the new black voters Obama inspired who are to blame for homophobic legislation, and queers aren’t racist in nearly the percentages that blacks are homophobic. Never mind that simply phrasing the statement that way – with its assumption that all queers are white and all blacks are straight – belies the point. It is probably true that queers need to do more education in and outreach to black communities, but that is the point to be made here: we need to reach out more. It is not true that all or most black people are homophobic, or that black people are a monolithic whole as implied by the way the discussion is framed, holding one set of opinions and voting one way across the board. There’s so much “Shame on black people for getting their rights and closing the doors behind themselves,” but shame on white queers for believing everything we’re told about how another minority group thinks and acts and harms us. We’ve been on the receiving end of such smear campaigns, we should know better than to buy into them and turn against people who are themselves oppressed, and who could be our allies. And not only were the majority of people who voted for Prop. 8 white (the majority of Californians, after all, are white; and it was a close vote), but the people who financed the campaign for it and advocated heavily for it were almost entirely white.

For more information on how the election would have gone had all of the black voters in the country stayed home — teaser: Obama would have lost in a landslide, and all of the homophobic legislation that went through on Tuesday would still have passed except for Prop. 8, which would been defeated by the barest of margins — check out this collection of links and statistics.

07
Nov
08

Election Reflections

The world is a much brighter place for me right now than it was even a week ago. All of the tension I’ve been holding about the uncertainty of the future might finally have a chance to dissipate. There are two reasons for this, one personal and one shared:

1) I’m moved! Moving really is possibly my least favorite thing to do in the entire world. I just hate it. But I managed to get the packing done in time, and my friends showed up and carried and smiled and laughed and made the day itself a pleasure, and since Sunday I’ve been giving myself a break and slowly settling into my new place. Now that I’ve had a chance to recover a bit from draining myself so dry, and don’t have to spend every spare moment packing, I’m determined to follow the news more closely and blog more often. Also to put more time and care into my close friendships

2) President-Elect Barack Obama!! I can’t express how surprised I am that the democratic process actually worked (I was convinced this election would be stolen), and how thrilled at the idea of a regime change. The state of the world has been wearing on us all, I think. And while I don’t expect it all to turn around in an instant — and don’t even get me started on how this election is not the death knell of racism – I admit that I’m inspired and full of hope. The majority of voting Americans voted for a black man. A man who is, while not perfect, maybe as liberal as could possibly elected. A man who might be able to inspire people to do the things that must be done. Now I’m hoping that it’s not too late — for the economy, for the environment, for foreign relations — but I know that at least we will not be sitting back and watching the world go to hell, doing nothing and patting ourselves on the back for it.

As far as queer issues go, this election was not nearly so awesome. Obama himself seems fairly positive on LGBT issues, but has basically not mentioned us, and spoke out against Prop. 8 but has also said that he’s not for legalizing gay marriage. And Prop. 8 has almost certainly passed, and similar measures in Arizona and Florida have certainly passed. Which is disheartening, particularly in California, where it’s a definite step backward rather than a failure to step forward. (More on why I don’t prioritize same-sex marriage in another post, but if it’s going to be on the ballot I’d at least like it to pass. People voting against it is still bigoted and infuriating even if I think it’s a poor use of our community’s energy and resources.) Arkansas’s ban on unmarried couples adopting passed, and is horrendous, and clearly aimed at keeping queers from raising poor, innocent, impressionable children. Because it would be so much better for those children to grow up in orphanages! Finding enough foster homes is enough of a hardship without going around disqualifying people for ridiculous, hateful reasons that have nothing to do with children’s actual wellbeing. Ballot propositions on abortion went well, but as far as queer issues go, not a banner election.

But Girlfriend, Esq. pointed me in the direction of Kate Brown, today’s official Bisexual Politician Of The Day. She was just elected Oregon’s secretary of state (the second highest-ranking elected official in the state of Oregon), which makes her the first LGBT secretary of state in the country. Even before Tuesday’s election, as the Senate majority leader in Oregon (a post she’s held since 2004) she was the highest-ranked out bisexual elected official in the United States, and Oregon’s first female Senate majority leader. And she’s used that position to do all sorts of great things: she was involved in passing a domestic partnership bill, and the Bay Area Reporter quotes the Oregonian as also crediting her with pushing through “civil rights legislation for gays and lesbians, stronger ethics laws, solid budgets for schools and universities, and health care reform, including insurance coverage for contraceptives.” That’s, um, pretty awesome.

Of course, while I was googling her I came across this nonsense from Just Out, which suggests that none of that is as important as the fact that Ms. Brown is partnered with a man and no longer has short, dykey hair. Because whether she looks and acts like their conception of a queer woman is so much more important than whether she openly identifies as one. And hey, she may do a lot of LGBT advocacy, but any gay-friendly straight person could do that! (Yes, they said that.)
I’m infuriated. It would be one thing if Just Out was criticizing Ms. Brown for hiding her identity, or not fighting on behalf of the community when she’s in a position to do so, or anything like that. But they’re suggesting that all of that isn’t good enough, and if she wants to represent the community she needs to (I am not making this up) “please just butch it up a bit.” What is she doing representing herself as the bisexual candidate and taking money from LGBT donors if she’s not going to dress and act like a big ol’ dyke? That would help queer people identify with her so they’d want to vote for her. ‘Cause no queer women can identify with someone who chooses to have long hair. Would one little drag show really hurt her?
I’m offended by this as a bisexual and as a femme. I’ve spent enough time thinking I’m not good enough or queer enough because I don’t have the right haircut, I’m over hearing other people given grief over it. Come to think of it, I’m outraged as a woman as well; I can’t imagine a gay man being told to be a bit more nelly to get community support, and I think that’s all about a demonization of femininity and failure to take it seriously. And as far as getting on her case for having a husband and kids, when will people would stop questioning bisexuals for our partners’ genders when choosing those partners is totally consistent with the identity we’ve claimed all along? From what I can tell, they’re also taking out of context her statement about hoping her sexuality won’t be an issue in the campaign — from a longer quote (in the same Bay Area Reporter article) it seems she was hoping her opposition wouldn’t stoop to smearing her for it, which strikes me as a totally reasonable hope. I was already going to email Kate Brown to congratulate her on her victory, and let her know how awesome I think she is. Maybe while I’m at it I’ll leave a comment or email the man who wrote the article (stephen@justout.com) and let him know how offensive I find it that they’re judging a bisexual politician on her haircut and the gender of her partner rather than her openness about her sexuality, the ways she’s used her power as a state Senator, and her advocacy for the community.
I, for one, am proud to have Kate Brown representing bisexuality. No matter how she dresses.




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