Archive for the 'omg my queer identity' Category


Zecher Tzaddik Livracha

(Hebrew: “May the memory of the righteous be a blessing.” The traditional Jewish honorific for the dead when speaking of a rabbi or other righteous person.)

I was too busy fielding phone calls from family and other loved ones to write about it, but last Wednesday was the 13th anniversary of my father’s death. He died less than two weeks after my 14th birthday. And so of course for the past week or so I’ve been thinking about him even more than usual. Gathering the memories I have and trying to keep them fresh. He wasn’t perfect, and I do remember his faults, but he was one of the best men I’ve ever known. He had a sweetness and warmth that everyone who met him noticed. Strangers in elevators liked him instinctively, and at least half a dozen people considered him their best friend. Even his mother-in-law thought the world of him (“He had a heavy foot ont he gas pedal,” she likes to say, “but other than that he was a saint”). Over a thousand people came to his funeral, some flying from all over the country on almost no notice (Jewish funerals happen as quickly as possible, usually the day after the death…this one was a day later to give people time to fly in), and seven or eight cantors sang in the service. A cantor himself, he officiated at same gender weddings, but not interfaith ones. Much of what I know of compassion, generosity, and good manners I learned from him. Also perfectionism, a perhaps over-developed sense of propriety and reluctance to start conflicts or otherwise rock the boat, a tendency to sing everywhere and at any time, my excellent deadpan and dry humor, and a love of roller coasters and adrenaline highs. When we went to amusement parks I rode everything I was tall enough for with him, while my mother and little sister stayed on the ground. I still think about him every time I ride a roller coaster, especially the ones that scare me. I used to get up at 5am take martial arts lessons with him, and I realized only later that it was less because I was interested than because I wanted the time with him (and if you know what my sleep schedule is like these days, you know that’s a big deal). He died before he could teach me to drive, but I might as well have learned from him. My mother tells me how much I remind her of him more when I’m driving than at any other time, and I think of him every time I find myself saying “The gas pedal is the one on the right!” or “The left lane is for passing, asshole.” The smell of comic book stores always transports me back in time, and to this day I find myself reluctant to read single-issue comics, which clearly belong wrapped in plastic and not in my grubby little hands (never mind that my hands are no longer grubby nor quite that little). I inherited the full run of The Sandman and treasure it, but I bought the graphic novels to actually read. We sang “Hit the Road, Jack” and “Sixteen Tons” in the car. He had multiple long cute nicknames for both me and my sister that we still use with each other, and he used to change the names in old songs to mine, sometimes along with other lyrics, and sing them to me (“I have a girl, and Viva is her name…” I thought of this especially poignantly last night as Girlfriend, Esq. sang to me on the phone — “You are my Viva, my pretty Viva…”) I stayed home from school the day he died; he’d been in the hospital dealing with some heart issues, and even though they sent him home that morning with a clean bill of health, I was scared and needed to spend some time with him. I’m grateful for that, now. It was a terrible day — his mother went with him in the ambulance, leaving me home alone to wait for my mother so she’d know what was happening and telling me now that I had to be strong for my mother and sister, and it was years before I could pace impatiently without starting to cry — but I’m still glad I was there. To spend that last morning with him. To see how absolutely furious he was when he realized he was having another heart attack, how determined not to leave me and my sister while we still needed a father.

And of course that’s only a tiny piece of the picture. Because this is a blog post, and because (I realize as I write this) I knew so little of him, and remember even less. One of the things I yearn for most is an adult relationship with my father. I find myself asking my mother searching questions about his beliefs or habits, asking her to explain things she doesn’t really know because I never got the chance to have those conversations with him myself. She thinks that he didn’t perform interfaith weddings, not because he didn’t support them as unions, but because he didn’t consider them Jewish marriages — but I’d like to know for sure. I’d love a sense of whether he was as conflict-avoidant as I am (and if so whether that was something he was working on or considered a good thing), or if that was more about how cantor’s children should act, particularly when they’re too young to understand synagogue politics or recognize which of the things they hear at home they shouldn’t repeat to congregants. I know a fair amount about how Judaism views atheists, but I’d love to talk to him about being both Jewish and an atheist (If, even at this point, I’d have the nerve to tell him I’m an atheist. And — and goodness, this thought feels weird — if I even were an atheist, in a life that had gone that differently.) I miss the chance for those conversations as much as anything else.

In addition to general musings on a man I loved and still feel the loss of, I’ve also been thinking about the ways being fatherless has or might have shaped me. Like the above thought about atheism, and in other ways as well. I have a book on my shelf specifically about the ways women who lose their fathers in adolescence are often shaped by that, and recognize myself all too clearly there. I know there’s a connection to the way I never really believe, deep down, that anyone will stick around in my life for the long term.* I know that many of the stupid choices I made as a teenager came down to being willing to do almost anything for male affection and approval. I feel like I’m only recently healing from some pretty awful related relationship patterns and learning to do things a better way.  I wonder what my dating life would have looked like if my dad had lived, both whether I’d have been healthier in approaching it and how he would have handled meeting the often unconventional people I’ve been involved with. Fathers meeting their daughters’ dates is such an iconic image in our culture, I can’t help wondering what dating would have been like with a father — with my father.* My path into queerness and political activism feels somehow very linked to losing my father, though perhaps more because those are both so integral to my life than because of any real causal relationship. I think I’d have been far more likely to go to college if my father had lived, but I suspect I’d have found my way into radical queer community from there eventually, just as I did from living in an intentional community with a bunch of polyamorous queers. It would have looked different, but probably gotten me to a similar place.

Maybe what feels linked about it is the way I fell out of the public eye at 14, before or as I was even starting to realize I might be bisexual. So what I wonder is how I’d be different if I’d grown up still a clergyman’s daughter, having to navigate that world. I remember so clearly how the politeness felt like a mask, and I still have a lot of the habits I picked up then. I still pretend to recognize people who act like they know me, usually faking it for long enough to figure out or remember who they are (this gets embarrassing occasionally, when I’m caught). I can still tell from the way someone walks up to me whether they want a hug or a kiss hello, and if so I tend to give it to them as a reflex. My first instinct when an acquaintance says something fucked up is to smooth it over, and it sometimes takes me a few days to realize I actually really need to address it. Etc. And these are mostly habits I’ve been working on breaking for the past ten years. I wonder what I’d have been like if instead I’d continued to have them enforced, if I were trying to balance my principles against a consideration for my father’s public image. And not just my activism — I don’t try nearly has hard as I should to obscure my identity when I blog about my sex life, usually not in much detail but often in ways that reveal it to be, um, outside the mainstream. (The recent switch to blogging under my nickname is about that; don’t worry, it’s still me.) I wonder how that would go over, and what compromises I’d make. Would I still be an activist? Would I talk about bisexuality politically as much, but less about how it relates to my actual sex/love life — or share the insights I gained there but not the stories of how I came to be thinking about such things? Would I put privacy filters on more of my online presences? Would I be active and visible in the same ways, with more of an effort made from the beginning to keep my online, activism, alternative sexual community, and family personae separate? I have trouble imagining the compromises I’d have to make to live this life, to seek the connections I find meaningful and do the work I feel called to, while worrying that any misstep could lose my father his pulpit. I don’t even know if that would be a real risk, no matter what anyone knew about me.

Of course, given the assumption that I’d have gone away to college, and considering I didn’t start getting really out there with the queerness and the politics until I moved away from home, perhaps more relevant is wondering, if I’d followed this same path, what it would have done to my relationship with my father and my family. And this is where I really get stuck, thinking about it, so maybe it is the core issue. I wonder…as I came out as bi…as I got more involved in a radically political queer community…as I started dating multiple people at once, often married people…as I did activism around (for example) meaningfully welcoming trans women into “women and trans” sexual and kink spaces…as I learned to argue, politely or not as the situation and my mood at the moment called for, with everyone who said dumb shit about bisexuals, queers, trans people, fat people, women, etc. etc. etc…what would that have looked like? Would I have tried to keep that part of my life hidden from my father, so he wouldn’t worry about it getting out and reflecting poorly on him? I hope not…I don’t feel any need to talk about my sex life with my remaining parent, but I’m out to her (as poly, as queer, even as kinky) so that I can tell her about the important things going on in my life. If I can’t imagine coming out to and being open about my life with my father, that may have more to do with still being frozen in time at 14 as far as he’s concerned and less to do with a realistic idea of what our relationship would have been like after 13 years. But even if I’d told him, would that all have to be hidden when I visited home and went to synagogue? Would he have to ask me to tone things down to protect himself? How much would I have to pretend to be someone I’m not, and how much would I resent my father for it? And if I refused to pretend, would I be less welcome in his home and congregation? I don’t have any idea, but these are the things I wonder when I’m daydreaming about how lovely it would be to still have a dad. I can’t seem to help reminding myself that it probably wouldn’t be that simple.

In a way, these aren’t risky musings. I’ve been reading Sassafras Lowry’s new anthology Kicked Out (which is absolutely worth picking up), and I am about as certain as it’s possible to be that I’d have kept my home and my family. But I wonder what my life would look like now, and if my adult relationship with my father would be as uncomplicated as I like to imagine it.

I hope I would be the person I am now even if my father had lived. I hope I’d have found a compromise between my politics and activism and his place in the public eye, that I’d have managed to both be true to myself and not damage his professional reputation. I hope, and usually believe, that he’d have embraced me in all of my complexity even if it didn’t always reflect well on him at work, that we would have both found ways to navigate our very different public lives. I don’t know how realistic that is, but it’s what I like to think when I think about this. I even like to think that he’d have admired me for commitment to social justice that maybe I had something to teach him, too, and we could have grown from knowing each other. At my most optimistic, I like to think he would have been proud of me.*

And…I hesitate to admit this, when I’m so committed to my politics and my ideals, but…every time I think about it I also realize that I’d take the chance. In a heartbeat. In most of my life, I don’t regret terribly the things that have gone wrong or been painful, because I can see their role in shaping me and my life, and I like where I am now. This is different. I’d risk losing the path I’ve found to have my father back. I don’t know what I’d have found in its place, who I’d be today if he were still alive…but I’d be willing to find out.

*edited 11:15pm 3/11/10


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.


Queer as an oppositional identity

I saw a great comment on a Bilerico post a day or two ago that really resonated with me.

I think this represents a fairly common and rather large misunderstanding of why a lot of (but not all) younger folks use words like queer ….  For me it’s not about neutralizing an offensive word, it’s about aligning myself with a radical political identity …. It’s really not young folks who are trying to change the  meaning of words — it’s participants in the assimilationist, mainstream gay rights movement who are fighting to transform the word gay into something indistinguishable from the word straight. That’s where the real language shift is occurring. But I want a word that won’t slide smoothly down anyone’s throat. Something that says, yes I am different for all of these glamorous and tragic reasons, and I don’t have, or want, any place in this violently racist, anti-womyn, queerphobic, culture we live in.

I love this, because it helped me see one of the reasons I’m drawn to “queer.” It’s true that I want to reclaim the word, in the sense that it’s quite a powerful word and I want its power to work for me rather than against me. I may even want to neutralize it, the part of it that people call on when they react to us with hate and violence, and make “queer” into a place of love and welcome and solidarity. But it’s a word with a lot of kick, and I’m not trying to neutralize that. I’m trying to make it my own.

And I love the idea that the real change in meaning is happening with “gay,” that it’s coming to mean “just as white and middle-class and conventional as any straight person, and ready to cast aside the less conventional and socially acceptable segments of my community to get there” when it, too, used to be a radical thing to claim, a political statement in and of itself. That’s what I want from “queer.” I don’t really want everyone to start using it. Broad and welcoming as it is, it means some very specific things to me. It means setting myself against what society expects of me as a soft-spoken white girl on her way from and most likely to the middle class. It means radical lefty politics, and standing against racism, sexism, class-based oppression, ableism, fatphobia, etc. as much as I can and ideally as much as I do against heterosexism, biphobia, etc. It means being drawn to queerness in others, and building a community of people who share those values and convictions with me. Placing myself in a history that has involved riots and marches and protests and angry people of all colors and genders who’ve had enough, not corporate-sponsored parades attended mostly by white people claiming to be inclusive. Fighting for immigration righs and universal health care and the right to decide who makes one’s medical decisions and inherits one’s property regardless of whether one is coupled, rather than a few more coupled people’s right to access those things through marriage. And it means all of that much more than it means being attracted to other girl-creatures, though that’s a part of it and part of how I got here. “Gay” used to mean some of those things, I think, but it doesn’t anymore. I’m glad we have a word that does.


Queering it up, dumbing it down

I’ve found myself, a few times in recent months, dumbing down my queerness so it will be visible at all. This mostly consists of allowing people to perceive me as a lesbian in situations where I know bisexual girls will be viewed as straight girls with a sexy, exotic add-on rather than as genuine queers. Even though  I am so much queerer than many lesbians. As an example, recently when a waiter mysteriously brought an extra order of sausage to our table at a friend’s birthday dinner and the classic straight girl next to me declared “Everybody always wants more sausage,” all I could think to do was tell her that I don’t. Even though, comparisons of body parts to sausages aside (ew! Wrong on so many levels I can’t even count them!), I’m a big fan of that particular body part. Store bought or factory-installed, on boys or girls, I could not be less grossed out by it. But here I was pretending to be, just to register on the queer-o-meter at all. And even then, at first she thought I was referring to being a vegetarian and just couldn’t take a joke.

Sitting around talking to a couple of coworkers a while ago, I was remembering just how alien my sexual views and practices are in Heteronormativeland. Continue reading ‘Queering it up, dumbing it down’


National Coming Out Day

Happy Coming Out Day, everyone! I’m sorry things have been so slow around here lately; Sarah’s being eaten alive by grad school, and I’m being eaten alive by moving. But I’d like to introduce you all to my shiny new Eee PC, which is my new favorite toy and is also very effectively distracting me from the despair of moving. It should mean that I can continue to keep things running around here even while I have to spend every spare minute at home going through and packing up my belongings. I’ve been writing on the subway (as right now) and during slow times at work, and I’ll definitely be making better use now of those long bus rides to and from DC. Yay!

It’s hard to say exactly what my coming out story is; it happened over so many years to so many different people. And I’ve talked about some of it here already. I don’t really remember when exactly I came out to my friends. I know that, with several of my friends, I was talking about it as I figured it out and so was already out by the time I realized myself. I waited much longer to come out to my mother; I put it off until I had my first girlfriend at 20 (even though my sister had been out to her since she was 12, when I was 16). I still feel a little bit badly for springing it and my polyamory on her within a week of each other, but I was dating a dyke couple, so both were really relevant to understanding my life. She took it pretty well, too, although she did ask me if I had any other bombshells to drop on her. And these days I’m out to pretty much anyone I interact with meaningfully – I used to slip in a mention of my ex-girlfriend, and lately I talk about my girlfriend or this blog. A friend and I call this the slip-out, and I absolutely love it. With people who haven’t known me my whole life, my sexuality is just not such a big deal that it needs a whole announcement and production. An off-hand mention suffices to let people know where I’m coming from. I love that the world has changed enough to allow for that.

At the same time, there are people I’m not out to, for various reasons. Most of my clients, because I don’t generally talk about my personal life with them. Really, in my line of work it’s better if my clients don’t think about me *having* a personal life. I’d rather they never think of me and sex/sexuality in the same sentence, in any context and for any reason. On the other hand, I wonder how much of not “coming out” is about it being inappropriate to talk about myself to clients I don’t have a long-standing relationship with (and many of my oldest clients do know) – and how much is a worry that male clients will be inappropriately intrigued, while female clients might no longer see me as “safe” in whatever way requesting a female massage therapist makes them feel safer. Still, while it’s a good part of my life’s work to combat that kind of sexism and homo/biphobia, I just don’t think while I’m at work is the right venue. I’m out to my employers and coworkers, but coming out to most of my clients feels inappropriately personal in a way I just can’t get past. Maybe because it is inappropriately personal, or maybe because even I am vulnerable to societal pressure to stay closeted. I honestly couldn’t tell you.

I’m also not out to most of my father’s family (specifically my grandmother; I’ve been mentioning it to aunts and cousins whenever I have the opportunity), and that’s definitely about societal pressure to stay closeted. This is a woman who still doesn’t know that my parents lived together before they were married – not because they didn’t tell her, but because she didn’t hear them. And she’s old, and it would make her unhappy, and it just doesn’t seem worth it. I’m fairly certain she’s pro equal rights for queers in general, and just wouldn’t be terribly pleased that her granddaughter is one. But I wonder about this impulse in myself, whether Kant would say that if everyone stayed closeted just to their own grandparents, no staid old people would realize they know any queers (and as little as I think of Kant, the universal imperative always made sense to me. I just thought he applied it too broadly.) And there’s an uncle on the other side I also need to do the slip-out around, and that’s going to lead to one of those conversations where family members question my choices and my knowledge of myself. In that case, though, I’m ready and just waiting for the right conversational opening, so I can be casual about it and don’t have to do the big announcement. So I’m still thinking, still in process. I strive toward being totally out with everyone, and maybe someday I’ll get there, but right now there are still things holding me back.

Here’s my favorite coming-out story: I was working in a bookstore in one of NYC’s gay gay gay gay gay neighborhoods. My boyfriend at the time had come and picked me up earlier that day to have lunch with me, and I’d greeted him with a quick, chaste kiss – pretty indistinguishable from the way I greet some of my platonic friends, really. The event that night was for a photography book of male nudes, and *all* of my gay male coworkers (who were legion) were standing behind the audience watching. “Wow,” I observed, “all of the fags who work here have found some excuse to be at this end of the store.”

“You know,” a coworker scolded, “in the south where I come from, that’s really not a polite word to call someone.” I responded that I’m allowed ’cause I’m queer myself (it’s since been pointed out to me that the way we talk in public around people who aren’t intimately acquainted with our identities and politics still matters, and I buy that, but that’s neither here nor there.) To which this charmer responded, “You’re not queer – I saw you kissing your boyfriend earlier!” Um, yeah. Can’t fool you, you’re sharp as a tack. If you’re not careful, you’ll cut yourself. A quick “Yeah, he’s queer, too” shut him up, though – he suddenly had something to do at the other end of the store. I was amused. And that was always my major frustration in that relationship; as indviduals and as a couple we were about as queer as it’s possible to be, but people looked at us and saw one boy and one girl, and that makes a straight couple.

How about you? I’m totally going to use today as an excuse to get to know some of our lovely commentors. It’s Coming Out Day – what’s your story? Your coming out story, or anything else about yourself you’d like to share.


“Lesbian relationships” and bi visibility

I was talking with my girlfriend the other day while she and her wife Lee drove through West Virginia, and we were speculating as to why a guy in a pick-up truck had given them the finger. The relevant information here, which I’m sure you all were about to figure out for yourselves, is that my girlfriend is a lesbian and her wife is bisexual.

Me: Maybe they were like, “Fucking lesbians, wasting it on each other.”
GF: We weren’t smooching or anything.
Me: But you were being gay, weren’t you? Well, you were, anyway; Lee wasn’t.
GF: Yes, it’s true, I was being gay. And Lee was, too, she was just half-assing it.
Me: Oh! You’d better watch it! I have a blog now!
GF: A blog! Now I’m scared. I’ll never have dinner on the internet again?

Hmph. Half-assing it indeed. At first I just thought I’d share the giggle, but this also reminds me of something I’ve been meaning to write about.

Every once in a while GF refers to ours as a lesbian relationship – which, what with it being between two girls, makes a certain amount of sense. And it’s a phrasing Lee doesn’t have a problem with, so of course GF used it with me without thinking it might be problematic for me. But I can’t quite figure out how I feel about it.

(Note: this entry is not to be interpreted at “My girlfriend does this thing I hate, and I’m airing it on the internet because I can do that now.” I really haven’t figured out how I feel about it. I’m thinking it out here, where I can get feedback and opinions from other bisexuals and queers of various flavors.)

The thing is, obviously, that I’m not a lesbian. And yet, does that necessarily mean that what I’m in is not a lesbian relationship? It is a relationship made up entirely of women, which seems to fit the definition. I understand why it doesn’t bother Lee; it seems accurate. Hell, even I defaulted to the phrasings “fucking lesbians” (even if I was speaking for a most likely straight dude who most likely wouldn’t know any better) and “you [collectively] were being gay” before I specified. And I’m not coming up with anything when I try to brainstorm other things it could be called – while I always refer to “same sex marriage” rather than “gay marriage,” to say I’m in a “same sex relationship” seems awfully cold and detached. But I manage to get by somehow not only never referring to it as a lesbian relationship but also never thinking “This would be so much easier if I could just give in and refer to it as a lesbian relationship!” I refer to my girlfriend, or say “relationship with a woman,” and I can’t remember it ever coming up in such a way that my vocabulary seemed lacking. Possibly I’ve even referred to it as a queer relationship, which is true on so many levels. And I tend to think that referring to relationships that contain at least one bisexual as “gay” or “straight” erases bisexuals in a way I’m not comfortable with. Bisexuals are so invisible already that it never crosses anyone’s mind unless you say it straight out. You hear someone say “lesbian relationship” and you think, “Aha! Two lesbians!” I’m not willing to play into that. It reminds me of the commentary on all of the straight allies at Pride, which misses the possibility that many of those supposed straight allies are actually queers in different-sex relationships.

And there’s another particularly awkward construction for you – “different-sex relationships.” And yet all of this is complicated by the fact that I would never, in a million years, refer to (or let anyone else refer to) a relationship I was in with a boy as straight. (And I’m not going to refer to an opposite-sex relationship, since that assumes that there are only two sexes and they’re, um, opposites.) There’s just nothing straight about me, including my relationships with boys. I used to walk around with my cock-sucking faggot boyfriend and think with frustration that, if the people around us thought anything disapproving, it was probably that he seemed a bit old for me. And yet we were as queer an item as it’s possible for a (mostly) cisgender man and a cisgender woman to be, and the sex we had was completely unrecognizable as straight. And that’s pretty typical, really, of my past relationships with men; I don’t think I’ve had anything that could be recognized as straight sex since I was 19, and I’ve been with precious few straight boys. I want that to be reflected in the language I use to discuss those relationships. I don’t want to tuck it away into “straight” because it was with a boy.

“Lesbian” at least recognizes my queerness, seems less to erase my identity than “straight” would. But it still seems to overlook not only my bisexuality, but all of the other ways I’m subversive and queer. Perhaps I could fold all of those into “lesbian,” or use it in conjunction with other words, if I only dug chicks. But that’s not the case, and it just doesn’t feel like the kind of word that speaks about me. I don’t know if the way it leaves so much out as a description of me also leaves a lot out in its description of my relationship. I just can’t tell.

And can you imagine the reaction if someone referred to their “bisexual relationship”? I imagine a lot of confusion, and I wonder if all of it is due to the way that the name doesn’t tell you anything about the gender of any of the participants. That is the kind of thing many people are uncomfortable with, and I think that’s worth challenging. I also imagine the non-bisexual partner (if there is one) objecting (although that seems less likely from my particular non-bisexual partner), and that in and of itself tells me that I’m not crazy to object myself. I think your average non-bisexual person would not only have a problem with the way “bisexual” in regards to their relationship failed to describe their identity, but would also strenuously object to the possibility of being mistaken for a bisexual. And whether something could be turned around is a great litmus test for whether it’s acceptable.

So what do you all think? Do you have a better way to refer to a relationship between two girls than the cold “same sex” or the sometimes inaccurate “lesbian”? Is this one of those things I should just let go, accepting that a description of my relationship is not the same as a description of myself and we’ll never have all of the language we need to represent our varied, uncategorizable selves? What terms do you use, and how well do they work for you?

(PS: reading this, GF suggested both “queer relationship” and “sapphic relationship.” I use the former, and am absolutely delighted with the latter. I want to go out and use it right now. But I still want your opinions and suggestions.)


Passing and Privilege

In her last post on the cabaret duo The Wet Spots, Aviva wrote:

The Wet Spots play up their queerness in a way that’s engaging and hilarious, and don’t seem at all self-conscious or apologetic about doing so while being in a different-sex marriage. It’s refreshing to see them appearing to avoid the trap even I sometimes fall into, of preferring to be seen with someone of a similar gender and assumed gay than seen with someone of a different gender and assumed straight.

I want to use this as a jumping-off point for my post on different-gender relationships and straight privilege, because I often wonder why you don’t see that many couples like Cass and John in the public eye, and why different-gender relationships seem to lead so many bisexuals to feel their queerness has been rendered invisible.

I definitely fell into that trap of invisibility for a while, and I think a huge part of it came from my obliviousness to the privilege I reaped from being assumed to be straight. I could have been more visibly queer then, but being seen as straight was so easy, I barely even noticed it was happening at first, and being out seemed impossible and scary. Why? Because I would have lost some of my privilege, and I think the prospect of losing privilege that you don’t even understand is much scarier for a lot of people than understanding your privilege and voluntarily giving some of it up. Sometimes I wonder if this is what is going on when some bisexuals pass as straight. But I ultimately can’t speak for anyone else, so here’s how it was for me. Continue reading ‘Passing and Privilege’


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!’


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?’