Author Archive for V.



29
Jul
09

Awww!!

I’ve written a lot here about my experiences trying to come out to my father’s side of the family, particularly my paternal grandmother. Short version: she doesn’t hear me, and even if she did, she wouldn’t want to talk about it.

That context makes a conversation I had with my maternal grandmother the other night even more lovely and refreshing. I already know she got it that I’m queer — she’d asked me what my “friend” did for a living, but I figured that was good enough. Then two nights ago we were talking about the small family get-together she’s planning. One of my favorite cousins is going to be in town briefly and has a couple of hours free Sunday morning, so we’re all going to my grandmother’s house so we can see her. Yay. And while we were working out the details, out of the blue, my grandmother says to me “You know, Aviva, I don’t know if your girlfriend is in town this weekend, but of course she’s invited.”

!!!

Aw.

I can’t tell you how much I lit up. The moment I got off the phone I called Girlfriend, Esquire; I couldn’t wait to tell her. That step from knowing to accepting and welcoming feels warm and fuzzy and wonderful. I wish Girlfriend, Esq. was going to be in town this weekend (thought of course if she was I’d already have called and announced my intention to bring her). I’m almost upset that we’ll be away queer camping when the family gets together for Rush Hashanah, which is finally on a weekend. But I’ll bring her to something and introduce her around eventually. And it’s lovely that she’ll be actively invited, instead of me informing them she’s coming.

And it gets cuter. My grandmother continued on to tell me that she’s joined a mailing list for discount theater tickets, and ask me if there was anything I wanted to see. She made a point of telling me about The Temperamentals, a new play about the two men who founded the Mattachine Society.”It sounded interesting,” she told me, “I thought of you.” It does sound interesting, but I’m sure it was the gay premise that made her think of me. And, um, aw. I’m not the Mattachine Society’s biggest fan, but right now I am my grandmother’s.

01
Jul
09

Well, um, that was anti-climactic

I went to that wedding on Saturday. And no one said anything. Just in case any of you were waiting with bated breath to find out how it went, like I was. Yes, that’s right, not a word.

My tweets from the evening amused me, though:

Katy perry is playing and still no one is asking me about my sexuality…awesome!

People grinding on the dance floor and I’m laughing imagining “my wedding*” and my relative’s reactions as I danced on+made out w/all my friends

Managed to avoid joining the single ladies hoping to catch the bouquet, so tempted to join the group of single dudes hoping to catch the garter…

Every woman has her price, and this evening was worth it for the chocolate covered strawberries.

And that pretty much tells you how it went. Apparently I’m out to my family now, and I never ever have to talk about it? Awesome, I guess? We’ll see how continuing to talk freely about my life goes. I’ll report anything interesting here, but apparently interesting things will not be happening.

On a brighter note, Girlfriend, Esq. and I had a delightful anniversary. Yay us!

*”My wedding” in in quotations because I have no intention at this point of ever getting married. It’s kinda funny to imagine what it might be like if I did, though.

26
Jun
09

June is the month of weddings! And Pride! How can I combine them?

I’m sitting on a bus to DC, on my way to my cousin’s wedding. It promises to be an interesting and exciting experience on the coming out front. I’ve written here before about my attempts to come out to my extended family. Basically, I feel pretty strongly about not sitting everybody down and making a big Announcement About My Sexual Orientation. That’s just not how I live my life. As someone I recently dated observed, my matter-of-factness about being queer is a political stance. The casual mention tells people both that I’m queer, and that I don’t consider it a big deal and don’t expect them to, either. (Obviously, in some ways I do consider it a big deal. I spend hours writing and talking about it, and have a whole politic evolved from it. But I also expect it to be one more fact about me that people will learn by interacting with me, not some big drama-causing deal-breaker; so I treat it that way and expect them to as well.) So about six months ago I started mentioning my girlfriend around them any time the conversation gave me the slightest pretext. I also started talking much more openly about my passion and convictions around and activism for LGBT political issues. My aunts and grandmother are the kind of women who hear “girlfriend” to mean “friend who is a girl,” but very few people talk about one of their platonic friends that much or in that way. Last month at my sister’s graduation, my mother helped me out by following up a comment about Girlfriend, Esq, with “And you two have been seeing each other seriously for a couple of years now.” My grandmother is really good at denial, and tends to just not hear things she doesn’t want to, but come on. A couple of weeks ago I asked my aunt whose daughter is getting married to let me know if she ended up having a brunch or anything on Sunday, since I’d be staying in town anyway to celebrate my second anniversary with my girlfriend [which, um, !!!!!] on Monday. I was being far too subtle to achieve my actual goal, which was finagling Girlfriend, Esq. an invitation to any family gathering that might be happening on Sunday — but I was definitely not being the slightest bit subtle about being in a long-term romantic relationship with another girl. You’d have to be really trying to miss it at this point.

So imagine my surprise when my sister called me a few weeks ago to tell me that there was all kinds of drama going down because I’d been outed to that side of the family.

Yeah. I am not making this up.

Continue reading ‘June is the month of weddings! And Pride! How can I combine them?’

23
Jun
09

Bi Lines II: Erika Kate McDonald’s “Fluid”

Following the Putting the “B” in LGBT Summit was Bi Lines II, an evening of readings and performances by bi writers, musicians, and one playwrite. It was a pretty well-put-together evening, it was neat to see Edmund White read, and I’ve decided I like bi songwriter Rorie Kelly and would like to check out more of her work. But the highlight of the evening was the excerpt from Erika Kate McDonald‘s one-woman show, Fluid. In fact, Erika Kate herself was one of the highlights of the Summit. She’s great company, and I was delighted to learn she lives in Brooklyn.

I first saw Fluid over a year and a half ago on a date with Girlfriend, Esq. In fact, when I started this blog I was disappointed that it had been so long that I didn’t feel I remembered it well enough to write about it. So it was great to get to see a bit of it again — my favorite part, no less! Play-by-play after the cut, with pictures. I apologize for the quality of the pictures; I took them on my phone on the spur of the moment. Continue reading ‘Bi Lines II: Erika Kate McDonald’s “Fluid”’

17
Jun
09

Putting the “B” in LGBT

I’ve spent the past…oh…6 hours of my weekly writing date (it’s not usually that long, but work was canceled today due to lack of work) chatting with my friends, eating two meals, discussing linguistics and how stupid men who believe women aren’t really funny are, reading comics, joining Twitter, and generally doing everything but writing. Maybe I should try to actually get some work done before I give up and go home? No, never mind, it sounds like my friend’s new gentleman friend is coming by and I’ll get to meet him. You all don’t care if I never post again because I have the attention span of a gnat, do you?

Right. Um. Trying again on Thursday. I’m on a train to Philadelphia (Yay Trans Health Conference!) so there’s no internet and really very little to distract me. [Aaaand now the PTHC is in the past, and I failed to give you all a heads up that I'd be there so anyone else who would be could say hello. Oops. Next year.]

I spent Saturday May 30th at the Bi Writers’ Association and NYC’s LGBT Community Center‘s Putting the “B” in LGBT Summit. It was an interesting day. The organizers clearly tried to pack a weekend conference into one day, and the experience suffered for it — everything ran over and got increasingly behind schedule, and all of the panels had too many people in too short a time slot to effectively have a conversation. Nevertheless, there was lots of good networking, and some very interesting things were said. And while the opening plenary was made up entirely of people of the same race and within the same age range, that did change somewhat as the day went on — not as much as I’d have liked, but some. It was clear someone was trying.

Robyn Ochs gave the keynote. I’d never seen her speak before, and I was very impressed. She’s smart and engaging and funny and seems to have good queer, gender, etc. politics. I’m happy to have her representing my movement — which is good, because, um, she does. There are very few bigger names in bi activism out there. So I’m delighted she’s so on the ball.

For example, she made me very happy by acknowledging that the LGBT movement has lots of inclusion problems, and that we’d be focusing on the way bisexuals are often marginalized because it was the topic of this particular summit, not because it was the only or most important marginalization happening within the community. Yay.

She talked about how the ways to be visible (to most people) as bisexual at all mirror the most common stereotypes about bisexuals, thus reinforcing them, and how that and the way the existing language supports binaries leads to a lack of positive images of bi folk. She talked about the importance of choosing a wide range of messages and spokespeople, rather than only “easily digestible” ones. And I got a moment of being quite pleased with myself when she suggested that we think about the kind of resources we want to see out there and then go out and make them.

The first panel was “Bisexuality: Exploding the Myths,” and the only thing I really remember about it at this point is that Ignacio Rivera was on it and as brilliant as always. My notes remind me that I’m always amused when people say things like “You can’t have it both ways” in contexts like this. On the “Bi Community Panel: Telling Our Stories,” people talked about the ways DADT, job discrimination, immigration, etc. impacted their lives. We’ve all heard these stories before, and they’re touching and enraging every time.

During “Crafting the Message: Putting the ‘B’ in LGBT,” people talked about news stories about queer issues, and how important it us to quote bisexuals as well as just teh gays about how they’re affected. Particularly of note was Joshua Lynsen of the Washington Blade saying that he makes a point of contacting bisexuals for comments. He gave out his card so anyone present who wanted to could add hirself to his contact list. (Although now that I actually look up what’s he’s written for the Blade, I’m not so sure I want to plug him…”Black Opposition to Gay Marriage Remains Strong?” I’m so over that meme. And what ever happened to not calling it “gay” marriage, anyway?)

The closing plenary discussion was less a panel and more a whole bunch of people each getting to speak once — that’s what you get when you put something like two dozen people on a panel. Someone made the irritating assertion that the trans community is pulling ahead of the bi community in the race to our rights, which is problematic on any number of levels. (Can we just agree never to ever say again that anything is the last acceptable prejudice? Please? And “bi inclusion is the unnoticed stepchild of trans inclusion?” For fuck’s sake. I wish I’d written down who actually said that.) I don’t remember most of what was said but bisexual and New York State Assembly Member Micah Kellner was there, and seemed pretty decent for a politician. And you know, he was open about his bisexuality during the campaign, and that’s pretty awesome.

Things I was less thrilled with: It always strikes me as unfortunate when people say things like “In this movement, bisexual men and woman fall through the cracks.” So many people fall through the cracks of that statement. And a surprising number of people who did talk about gender in non-binary terms and even spoke explicitly about bisexuals and trans folks as allies to each other then turned around and used phrases like “opposite sex.” But all in all, I’m very glad I went. If they have it again next year I’ll go again.

Next up: That night’s Bi Lines II performance! (Or at least my favorite segment of it.) Tomorrow’s writing date day again…

07
May
09

The “two” in “bisexual”

As Jen pointed out in a comment a few days ago, The Bisexual Index has a great take on which two things the “bi” in “bisexuality” really refers to:

Bisexual isn’t about there being only “two sexes”

Some people get hung up on the ‘bi’ and protest that gender isn’t binary. In traditional dictionaries:

  • Homosexual is defined as “attracted to the same sex”
  • Heterosexual is defined as “attracted to the opposite sex”

So why then dismiss bisexuality as being about “men and women” when the definitions of hetero- and homo- don’t mention those? In this modern age with a wider understanding of gender some would re-state those as:

  • Homosexual means “attracted to people of broadly the same gender”
  • Heterosexual means “attracted to people of broadly a different gender”

In fact many people say there’s more than two genders, but if two options are either “the same as me” or “different to me” then we think it’s clear that “both” can refer to those two options rather than two perceived sexes.

I love this. Really love it. I’ve written here before about finding the word “bisexual” problematic but feeling strongly about using it anyway. In the past few days, as this way of thinking sinks into my psyche, I’m feeling less like the word is really all that flawed.

There are a lot of genders different from my own (and each other), and several that are similar to mine as well. But I’m perfectly comfortable describing my sexuality as attraction to both similar and different genders. It’s not always the similarities or differences that I get off on or that draw me to someone (though sometimes it is), but as a way of describing the group of people I might potentially be interested in, it works for me. It’s big enough to not make anyone invisible or deny their existence.

If I continue to have a problem with the word, it’s that it implies one is both hetero- and homosexual in a way that encourages people to refer to a bisexual’s “queer portion” or “straight half”. As far as I’m concerned bisexuality is a complete identity in and of itself, not a mishmash of other things. It doesn’t look like a pie chart unless you want it to. But, while it’s something to keep thinking about, I can deal with that for now. I don’t think any of the other words at my disposal are much better.

My very sincere thanks to The Bisexual Index for pointing this out to me. It’s delightful.

05
May
09

OMG Make it stop

For the past three days, 90% of my Google Alerts (for “bisexual” and “bisexuality”) have been about Pink. And you know what? I don’t care.

I really shouldn’t complain about it here, though. I’m probably just doing it to someone else.

Update: OK, actually I do care a little. It just occurred to me that, even if the story was totally fabricated…in three days of articles quoting Pink saying she’s bisexual (or saying she never said any such thing), not one of them was headlined “Pink is a lesbian!!” And that’s progress, of a sort.

05
May
09

Can guys actually be bisexual? Oh, I don’t know, let me consult my magic 8 ball…

Hm. It says “Yes, definitely.” Let’s try again. “You may rely on it.” There, I think that means “No…”

A couple of days ago, bi email lists were buzzing about the two op-eds about bi men on Gay.com. The first was Ari Bendersky wondering “Can guys actually be bisexual?” — and of course concluding that they can’t, they can only be gay men who haven’t yet realized that they’re not actually into women.

Is it really possible for a guy to be bisexual? There are a lot of opinions about this, but when you ask gay men, the answer is often “No.”

Because, of course, gay men are the experts on male bisexuality. It wouldn’t make far more sense to ask self-identified male bisexuals. Their opinions are pretty dismissable, since we already know they’re almost certainly gay, straight, or lying. It’s far more sensible to ask a group which in many ways has privilege over the people in question.

The crux of Bendersky’s argument seems to be this:

In our culture, if a guy has oral or anal intercourse with another guy, most would say that he’s gay, because, for many of us, “being gay” describes a man who has sex with other men.

Sure, we can say that many other things go into being gay, but sexual activity is what many of us believe what makes up the person who is gay. A man could be into leather and Levi’s; he could really like theater; he could really be into fashion. These interests don’t necessarily make a man gay, though. But when this man has sex with other men, there’s really no denying what camp he falls into.

So what do we make of these guys who define themselves as “bi”? Are they really fooling themselves as they screw their way down the path to gayhood, or do they really enjoy having sex with women? I realize that some people are just sexually charged and will take it wherever they can get it. But I say that if you’re a guy having sex with another guy, chances are there’s a part of you that’s in denial, and only time will tell when you finally come around to the realization that, yup, you’re gay.

Allow me to translate: “Let’s examine whether male bisexuality seems like a possibility. Well, our culture says that having sex with another man automatically makes a man gay. If we stipulate that, it becomes clear the bisexual men, being men who have sex with other men, are really one epiphany short of identifying as gay.”  That’s a very rigorous, logical approach, and not at all circular. It’s terribly useful to define “gay” as “all men who have sexual contact with men” and then declare that all men who have sexual contact with men are gay. Consider me completely won over. Not to mention the nod to the typical just-looking-for-the-next-warm-wet-hole stereotype that seems to be the only type of bisexuality some people will concede the possibility of. And I do like the way he asks whether bisexual men genuinely enjoy having sex with women, and then ignores the question as if it were totally irrelevant — which it is, to him. After all, even if they enjoy it, it must be only because they haven’t realized yet that they don’t. That makes sense, right?

As well as being less than persuasive, this argument strikes me as buying into a lot of our culture’s oppressive heterosexism. Sex with another man taints you, and once you’ve had it the only possibility is that you’re a big gay homo forever? None of your other behavior or opinions on your own desires and identity matters because you’ve touched teh cock? Um. I know I’ve heard that before, and it wasn’t from our friends.  (Well, actually, I heard it from my first boyfriend, too. “I didn’t know you had a foot fetish,” I said to him one day. “All gay men have foot fetishes!” he declared. Because, um, he was from Texas, and apparently in Texas all men who’ve hooked up with another man are gay. Even if they’re currently lying in bed with me, naked, still catching their breath from the sex we were just having. He identified as bisexual most of the time, but it was a weird moment…Oh, and speaking of my first boyfriend. And my last boyfriend, come to think of it. Yes, guys can be bisexual. I promise. I was there, I should know.)

Now, this sort of faulty and vapid reason is pretty common. And Gay.com is a personals site, it’s not really where I’d expect to find a political analysis of bisexuality. So, while sucky, this is a pretty expected level of fail. But of course, in a space that’s centered around dating it’s especially important to acknowledge and support the existence of bisexuals and treat us like legitimate dating partners. And with a large audience comes a large responsibility to set an example and treat everyone respectfully. Do they really want to serve only gay men, rather than any men seeking to date men? That’s what it seems like right now, and that would be pretty unfortunate.

Also disappointing was the follow-up by Robert Lawrence, which was about as rambling, petty, and illogical as the original post:

Let me pull my mouth away from my boyfriend’s crotch long enough to respond to this question.

The best studies of identity panic show that denialists are the ones you meet later at the glory holes, so maybe there’s a woman in your future. If you ask the scientists, the answer is “Yes, Vagina, there is such a thing as bisexuality.”

Huh? There are a couple of promising leads (“Now you tell me why you refuse to believe in the existence of my female and trans lovers. Do you have the right to define what I am?” “When I came out, our very lives were illegal. We fought for everyone’s freedom to choose partners without straight lines holding us back.”), but they kinda go nowhere. And while I understand Lawrence’s anger and think it’s completely justified, I question Gay.com’s choice of this piece to represent the bisexual community/standpoint.

I’m already irritated by the Point/Counterpoint approach to whether a group of people actually exists. But if Gay.com is going to do such an offensive thing, they could choose an articulate, persuasive counterpoint. They had a chance to showcase an intelligent, reasonable opinion on male bisexuality, and passed it up. I can’t help but think that their choice of this bloggger/article says more about their stance on male bisexuality than even the fact that they ran these two pieces at all.

02
May
09

Raise your hand if you’re a unicorn!

Check out Franklin Veaux’s utterly hilarious flowchart for those hunting the elusive hot bi babe.  It’s dead on.

I’m sure at some point I’ll write at length about my own feelings about M/F couples looking for another F. But in the meantime, the Sex Geek eloquently feels about the same way I do on the subject.

if I knew of a couple who was actively seeking to bring a bi girl in, it would likely decrease my interest in them because I’d worry about how they’d like to fit me into a pre-existing plan, without necessarily considering that I’m a third person involved in the dynamic, as opposed to the embodiment of their hopes.

Basically any situation in which I felt like a predatory eye was being turned my way, or I was being pressured to hop into bed, would be an instant turn-off.

when the quest for a hot bi babe effectively or explicitly becomes a rule about what sort of non-monogamous arrangement is permissible for a given MF couple, what assumptions does such a rule make about the validity or “realness” of same-sex relationships?

Yeah.

29
Apr
09

One Woman Show

As the more astute among you have probably noticed, it’s been all Aviva all the time around here for a while now. Sarah’s been eaten by grad school, which has been demanding all of her energy and filling all of her analytical needs. So, despite my pouty face, she’s going to be stepping down as my co-blogger. She’ll still guest post whenever she feels moved to, and I for one am hoping that will happen a lot — particularly since it’s almost summer, and perhaps school will relinquish its grip a bit for a few months. And I’m still hoping to convince her to come to New York for queer film and theater festivals and check out all of the bi-themed offerings with me.  I’m eternally grateful to her for deciding we should start a blog and getting it started with me.

I hope there will be other co-bloggers in my future, when I meet people who are invested in bisexuality as a political identity who are willing to put in the time to write about it regularly here. But for now you’re stuck with me. I’ll try to live up to the burden.

And really, I’ve been pretty absentee myself lately. I’m working on that. In the meantime, there have been some interesting posts about bisexuality up on Bilerico in the past couple of months. Half of these are by a guest contributor and the other half by people who aren’t bisexual-identified, and I still maintain that they could use a bi-identified contributor who covers that angle (or, if they have one or more, they could use more active ones).  and it says something that I consider four articles in two months to be a lot of bi content on an LGBTQ blog, let alone such an active one. But take a look at what’s been going on over there while apartment drama (leaking! associated ceiling problems! bedbugs in the building! — though, so far, not in my unit…cross your fingers for me), broken computer (I fixed it! All by myself! I bought a new screen, and I installed it!!!!), and relationship processing have kept me away from you:

Ellyn Ruthstrom, President of the Bisexual Resource Center, has a list of tips on how to be a good ally to a bisexual person. I could suggest some additions — really move through the world as though you believe bisexuals exist and don’t assume anyone’s sexual orientation based on (what you perceive as) the gender of the partner you see them with, just off the top of my head — but it’s a good start.

Cathy Renna also writes about being an ally to bi folks, from the ally side. It’s good to know we have allies out there who are taking on the crazy things people say when we’re not around.

Ellyn Ruthstrom posts again, on how gay men and lesbians often use bi space as a place to come out and adjust to the idea that they’re not straight. It’s an interesting take. Many people argue that bisexuality is always just a phase on the way to feeling comfortable in a gay identity — often because it was for them, or someone they know.  This article looks at it from the other direction and suggests that one of the wonderful things about bi space is that it allows people that sometimes-necessary phase, without judging them or telling them who they should be or how they should identify. Presumably while also serving the needs of people who are bisexual as a stable and long-term identity, which seems to me to be a more important goal. Particularly when many of those same people, having arrived at a gay or lesbian identity, turn around and argue that we don’t exist and must just be taking our sweet time on the same journey. Still, I take her point that the bi community and the gay and lesbian community, to the extent that they’re separate, should try to be welcoming and good to one another, and worry less about who’s using whom and more about easing our common struggles.

And finally, Jess Hoffmann reposted an earlier article on why she doesn’t identify as bisexual. I agree with much of her reasoning, even though she avoids “bisexual” because of its binary connotations and I use it in order to change those connotations. In practice there are bisexuals who buy into the gender binary and are only attracted to people within it and bisexuals who don’t and are attracted to a wide range of genders, just as there are gay and straight people who believe in two genders and are only attracted to one and gay and straight people who see a range of genders but are only attracted to one or a few. I think it’s important to distinguish between a problem with the word’s roots with the behavior of the people using it; the bi and trans communities have a history of being allies to each other, and I personally find that more important than the Latin origins of the word. I certainly agree with her reasons for choosing “queer;” I’m also a big fan of the word’s political connotations, and almost always pair it with bisexual. But I still think that, despite the word being less than perfect (not only for the “bi”‘ but also for the “sexual,” which puts the focus on sex rather than identity in a way that “gay” and”lesbian” are clearly trying to avoid), it’s the best one I have to talk about who I am. Queer is descriptive of my politics but could mean just about anything as far as my attractions, and I appreciate the specificity of bi. The comments on both this and the 2007 post are also interesting and worth reading, and probably informed what I had to say on the subject.




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