Archive for July, 2008

31
Jul
08

OMG My queer identity!

Sarah has already posted here about how she came to identify as bisexual, and introduced herself some in the process. I guess it’s my turn now.

Unlike many of the bisexual-identified women I know, I never identified as a lesbian. I always assumed I was straight, since the culture around me assumed so. I had crushes on boys, and there were other things I could point to to explain why I’d always felt different. It was only when I was 14 or 15 and my crushes started to be more serious and have more of an explicitly sexual component that I noticed some of my “friend crushes” on other girls were sexual in nature, too. This bypassing a lesbian identity and going directly to a bisexual one might explain why, even to this day, I sometimes feel not queer enough and therefore not cool enough to hang out with the dykes. (And oh, the people who know me are laughing incredulously to themselves right now. “Aviva,” they’re thinking, “you’re so much queerer than most of the dykes.”) Of course, there’s a healthy dollop of internalized biphobia in that as well, a lot of not taking myself seriously, but that’s another post entirely.

I don’t remember the timeline exactly, but by 16 I was definitely identifying as bisexual. I wondered if I could be straight after all for about a week before I started dating my first girlfriend; I wondered if I was really a lesbian for about another week when I was ambivalent about the man I was seeing and the sex we were having. But those things happened right after each other, and I figured out that my basic sexuality doesn’t change because I’m attracted to a particular person in a particular moment. Even being the kind of bisexual who goes through phases (which I am) doesn’t mean I’m gay some days or months or years and straight others. Continue reading ‘OMG My queer identity!’

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30
Jul
08

Queer Science Fiction: “Love Might Be Too Strong A Word” by Charlie Anders

We’re geeks, we’re queer, and we like queerness in our science fiction, so I’m thinking this will become a regular feature!

Right now, I am happy to use the Queer Science Fiction feature as an excuse to recommend “Love Might Be Too Strong A Word” by Charlie Anders, which can be found in the latest issue of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. This story is hilarious and sexy, and I absolutely love how Anders explores what queerness might look like in an alien society with a non-binary system of gender. I also really enjoy her wry perspective on the mythologies of love that drive so much popular culture, and how “love” both does and does not map onto the actual experiences the word is supposed to describe.

27
Jul
08

Bisexual dating site “does not support” trans member, part 2

Speaking of my girlfriend, we had a conversation yesterday morning in which she made some brilliant points and I realized that I was so busy picking the details apart in my last post on this subject that I never zoomed back out and looked at the big picture — I did it in my head, but not on the page. So, to sum up:

I guess what it all comes down to (besides Tangowire being transphobic asshats) is that it’s very telling when a statement intended to convince people someone wasn’t acting in a discriminatory manner can actually reveal the problem to be worse than it first seemed. It shows the way transphobia and trans issues are completely misunderstood by the general public — and even by other letters in the LGBT community — that these beliefs can be so widely stated, and no one even realizes they’re offensive. It’s a more insidious form of prejudice, when people who truly believe they view and treat everyone equally have absorbed all the weird messages about trans people that are out there in our culture, and have never stopped to think about whether believing and acting on them could be discriminatory. After all, they would never say “trans people are gross and wrong,” don’t even believe it (consciously, at least), so how could anything they say be transphobic? (This goes back to a conversation I’ve had several times recently, even before I saw it on Racialicious and Feministing, about how much more useful it is to talk about the fucked-up things people say and do, rather than using those to draw conclusions about who they are. Because it’s awfully easy to respond to “You’re transphobic!” with “Am not! How could I be? I’m queer myself, and I have trans friends!” And it gets us nowhere. There needs to be a way to talk about what has been done or said, and whether it was harmful, without calling people bad and insuring they won’t listen to anything you have to say.)

One of the major problems is that only one trans narrative has really made it into the public consciousness. It’s the chrysalis analogy: you go in one thing, and come out something completely different, and while it’s happening you’re totally isolated. But that’s not everyone’s story, and it reveals a pretty deep misunderstanding of trans folks and the process of transition to assume it is. Granted, many trans people choose not to date during transition. Because they want to wait until they present the way they see themselves before getting into a relationship, because they’ve been told and they believe that no one could possibly want them when they’re in between, because if they choose the wrong person they can be in serious danger, etc. But it’s one thing and totally understandable to choose not to date during transition. It’s another thing and totally fucked up (not to mention untrue) to tell trans folks that no one wants them when they’re in between and they should just keep themselves to themselves until they fit a binary gender norm again. Regardless of how loudly the people saying so insist that they’re not transphobic.

26
Jul
08

Four bi articles? In one magazine?!

My girlfriend pointed me toward the current issue of Curve magazine (thanks, love!), which has a grand total of four bisexuality-themed articles. And they didn’t do a bad job of it, either, even if the articles are in the table of contents under the heading “Bi-Licious.”

In “Coming Out As Bi,”* Catherine Plato writes about, well, coming out as bi, and captures a few of the difficulties particular to that experience. (“With every new relationship, our public image and perceived sexuality can change completely, as if ‘true’ bisexuals could exist only outside of committed relationships.” Yup.) She also write of her hesitation to claim a place in the LGBT community – particularly before her first meaningful same sex relationship – when bisexuals are perceived to have so much more access to privilege than gay men and lesbians. While in a relationship with a man, she wondered, “What was more disrespectful to the LGBT community: Allowing people to mistake me for a straight girl, or insisting on inclusion in the community while suffering none of the social stigma?” And while I think that that question misses the point somewhat — both because it assumes that identifying as bisexual doesn’t come with its own set of stigmas and because I would argue that which is more disrespectful to Plato’s sense of self is as important as which is more disrespectful to “the community” — I understand its poignancy, and I know the feeling.

“Keeping Women Healthy” by Amy Andre discusses the health of bisexual women, and why lesbians should care. Apparently bisexual women are more likely to drink, use drugs, and smoke; experience more domestic violence; and have higher rates of depression and mental illness and “other health problems” than people of other sexual orientations — including gays and lesbians. And many bisexual women don’t come out to their doctors, which interferes with their doctors’ abilities to give medical advice. I’m not sure what medical advice would be specific to bisexual women, but maybe I don’t know because I haven’t received it. Or have and didn’t recognize it. After a couple of eyebrow-raising moments that are more about writing style than anything else, Andre concludes that bisexual women’s health and safety should be important to lesbians both because it impacts the queer women’s community and because many lesbians care deeply about bisexual friends and lovers.  She doesn’t say what they can do about it, but it’s a nice sentiment.

Melany Walters-Beck’s “The Ultimate Threat” addresses biphobia, both internalized and in the lesbian community. While Walters-Beck doesn’t do a thorough critique of any of the stereotypes mentioned (I keep reminding myself that it’s a magazine, because in general I don’t read magazine, and the way they skim over things always surprises me), she does conclude that bisexuals are people, too (thanks!), in a way that implies that a lesbian’s odds of happiness are just as high in a relationship with a bisexual woman as with any other queer woman, and her odds are being dumped for someone else aren’t any higher, and if she meets a bisexual woman she likes she should just go for it already.

I’m not really in a position to assess Jenny Sherman’s “I Want My Bi TV,” since I also don’t watch much TV. (And how do I learn about the state of the world around me, I hear you asking? Often I don’t…) but her characterization of Alice on The L Word losing her bisexual identity seemed right to me, and I didn’t feel any need to watch any of the other shows mentioned. In general she seemed to be coming from the perspective that bisexual women on TV should come across as genuinely bisexual rather than as confused straight girls or confused lesbians, and I agree with her there. I’m willing to trust her when she says it’s pretty much not happening.

This is the first time I’ve read Curve, so I have no idea what their record is on writing about bisexuals, but this collection of articles was respectful and sympathetic. Thanks, Curve!

*The articles seem to have different titles in the table of contents than they do heading the actual pages – possibly they’re titled “Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are!” “From Kinsey to Crisis,” “The Bisexual Threat,” And “Bi On The Boob Tube,” respectively.

24
Jul
08

Bisexual dating site “does not support” trans member

I’m a little bit behind on this one – but then, I’m always a little bit behind.

In the past couple of weeks, while Sarah and I were setting up the blog, I saw several references (which I now don’t remember – that’s what I get for needing to actually start a blog before I can write about something) to a story about a bisexual dating site deleting a trans man’s profile. According to Ethan Jacobs at Bay Windows,

When Nick Teich created a free account on the online personals site BisexualDatingNow.com last week, he decided to disclose that he is transgender. Perhaps he shouldn’t have ….
Teich thought little of his decision until he wrote to the site’s customer service staff about a problem he was having using the site. He exchanged e-mails with a customer service representative named Kiar Dupuis, and after reading his profile Dupuis informed him that the site does not allow transgender users.
“I am sorry, as a transgender, our site would not meet your needs. I am afraid we have to remove your profile,” wrote Dupuis, according to an e-mail provided to Bay Windows by Teich .

Prior to transitioning Teich had joined one of TangoWire’s lesbian sites, but he said he hadn’t been an active user. When he registered with BisexualDatingNow.com he assumed he was signing onto a completely new site, but in fact the profiles for each site are linked to one massive database, meaning that someone on one of the bisexual sites could view the profile of a member of one of the lesbian sites. One of Dupuis’s e-mails to Teich accused him of trying to force his way onto the lesbian site .
“It’s that T side [in LGBT] that we have not been able to fully accommodate within our program. That is shown [by the fact] that in our registration, transgender is not one of the options we provide, and we don’t provide that as such. … That identity is not an identity we have an ability to support,” said [chief technical officer Bryan] Brown.


Nice, right? My first thought was “Hey, there’s a bisexual dating site?” followed by “Pity I won’t be joining it, since I don’t support transphobic asshats.” The way their network of sites works, if you originally join the lesbian site, that’s where your profile stays. Even if you later register on the bisexual site. Seems to me that’s a problem not with Teich’s identity but with the way Tangowire’s system is set up. Especially when you take into account that tech support, when you come to their attention, will say not “Hey, I notice you’re bisexual and a dude now, and our system is kinda wonky and doesn’t allow you to move your profile to a different site yourself, how about if I delete it from the lesbian site and put it back up on the bisexual site for you?” but rather “You’re trying to invade women’s space and we don’t know what to do with trans folks around here! We will solve this problem by getting rid of you!” And “that identity is not an identity we have an ability to support,” hm? Them’s fighting words.

And check out this pricelessness (you’ll have to scroll down a bit to find it): a letter to the editor from Joseph Lee, the CEO of Tangowire, in which he tries to explain that it was all a big misunderstanding and instead makes the whole thing reflect even more poorly on him and the company. Let’s take a look:
Continue reading ‘Bisexual dating site “does not support” trans member’

24
Jul
08

Race, Bisexuality, and the Rhetoric of the Closet

This New York Times article came in with my Google Alerts this morning, and while it’s just a short article buried in the Metro section, I’m struck by some of the rhetoric it employs when discussing male bisexuality, and specifically bisexuality among men of color.

The headline, “Many Gays Don’t Tell Doctors Their Sexuality, Study Finds,” is actually inaccurate; the study surveyed men who had sex with men, which is a much larger group than those who identify as gay. And in fact, it’s generally not the gays in this group who aren’t disclosing their sexuality to their doctors, but rather, the bisexuals:

The survey found a striking distinction: While 78 percent of the men who had sex with men and identified themselves as homosexual said they had discussed their sexuality with their doctors, none of the men who had sex with men but identified themselves as bisexual had told their doctors.

So why did this article identify all of these men as gay in the headline, even though some self-identify as gay and some do not? Yes, “gay” makes a shorter headline than “men who have sex with men” or “gay or bisexual,” and part of this has to do with the general invisibility of male bisexuality, but I also think it’s pretty relevant that 75% of the men in this study who identified as bisexual were black or Hispanic. There’s a revealing quote here from Dr. Monica Sweeney, the city’s assistant health commissioner for H.I.V. prevention and control:

“There is a frequent phenomenon in the black community in which a man who is gay, by the conventional ways that we all know to identify somebody as gay, identifies himself as bisexual,” Dr. Sweeney said, referring to the phenomenon known as the “down low.”

By the conventional ways that we all know: what’s going on here? Who is “we,” and whose conventions are valid? Who is granted the authority to determine whether an individual’s sexual identity is credible, and on what basis? There is a whole lot going on in the rhetoric of the “down low,” and that could be a whole series of posts in and of itself, but in the context of this particular article, I am interested in the discourse of “true” sexual identity and the notion of the closet.

Continue reading ‘Race, Bisexuality, and the Rhetoric of the Closet’

23
Jul
08

Why Am I Bisexual, Anyway?

Well, it must have had to do with my subversive feminist upbringing, or perhaps a quirk of the DNA, or maybe was just the radon in the basements of New Jersey… no, don’t worry, I have no interest in explaining my queerness. I’m interested in exploring why I have chosen to label my queerness with the word “bisexual,” despite my serious problems with this label. I really dislike how the the very structure of the word assumes a rigid gender binary and ignores the actual diversity of genders and presentations out there. I don’t like its place on the hetero/homo/bi system of identities that leaves out every other possibility. I don’t like how it places the focus squarely on the genders of one’s partners and leaves out the tradition of sexual transgression and liberation implied by “queer.” Identifying as queer would be so much closer to my politics, so why am I so enamored of the imperfect “bi?”

Continue reading ‘Why Am I Bisexual, Anyway?’