Bisexual Women: What are Our Unique Challenges?

bisexual womenOn a GLBT social site, I run a group for bisexual women. Last week, I asked them the question, “What challenges do you feel that we bisexual women face that are unique to us — both in the GLBT and straight communities?” Today I decided to write and answer that question myself, from my own perspective and my own experiences.

I would say the two main challenges many of us face in both communities are being taken seriously and visibility. Biphobia has gotten significantly better since the 90’s, and although we don’t get many of the comments that Transsexual people get, we still struggle to make our mark in both communities. We need to bring out the “B” in GLBT.

Both communities have one significant thing in common — they want to label us and put us in a box. They ask, “are you one of us, or one of them? You can’t be both!” My reply is always “why not?” to which the answer is a look of bemusement.

In the straight community, bi women seem to be perceived with both a sense of odd fascination and as sex objects. Visibility isn’t as much of a problem here, but it’s not the kind of visibility we want. One of the first questions we often get asked is “can I watch?” or “can we have a threesome?” Our sexuality is often seen as a joke — a drunken experiment, a way to please a male partner, or a cry for attention. While there are some women who fall into those categories, the majority of bisexual women are serious and honest about their sexuality. We don’t want it to be treated as a joke. Many men are in awe of the idea of us, but most of them wouldn’t want a long term relationship with us. We’re just something fun to sleep with a few times. The problem arises in mentioning anything resembling a serious committed relationship; many of them fear we will leave them for a woman. This overlooks the current statistics that it is just as likely that a straight woman would leave them for another man.

The acceptance of the straight community is a backbiter for the bi women community because the “sexual popularity” of bisexual women colors the perception for lesbians. No one wants to be made into a full-time joke or an adolescent fantasy; it’s often popular to have a “woman on woman” scene in a straight porn movie. The most unfortunate part of this scenario is that it is often with two straight women who do not want to be doing it, and they make it obvious. In that light it feels like a slap in the face to all women — who are in loving relationships with other women, regardless of whether they are lesbian or bisexual. This image being presented causes many people to see it as simply something to titillate and arouse.

This has been a growing trend on TV shows; there are more and more female bisexual characters that have full story arcs, instead of being made into just some arousing sideshow. While it is good to see that, you can’t help but notice that it follows the same pattern. It begins with the character going out and having one night stands with a few girls, usually involving alcohol. When the time in the story comes for a serious relationship, it is always with a man. Many lesbians and bisexual women resent this as it perpetrates two horrible myths:

There is no such thing as a “real” lesbian. I can’t even dignify this one with a response.

A bi-woman will always leave a woman for a man. This is the most destructive because it sabotages relationships before they even form.

I have to admit, it would be nice to see a stable female/female relationship on prime-time, and while I have this pipe-dream why not have one involving at least one bisexual woman? The problem is that even when there is one, it does not usually end well, and the character usually ends up with a man.

As a complete opposite of the social syndrome surrounding bi women, bi men experience near complete invisibility. If you think this an exaggeration, consider what happens when a male politician is caught with a man. The first and only assumption made is that he is gay and hiding it. The possibility that he may be bisexual is not even considered.

In the GLBT world, there is the opposite problem when it comes to bisexual women and it provides a dark reflection of perceptions in the straight world. Bisexual women, rather then being lauded instead — exist in the state of invisibility, that bisexual men have in the straight world. If there is a bisexual woman on a gay show, such as the L word, she is turned into a lesbian as time goes on. The message that is sent is that if you have any feelings for women at all, you are a lesbian. Even if you experiment with a guy once in a while, it’s just a phase or a fad and not to be taken seriously. If someone does insist they are fully bisexual, in both worlds, especially in movies, they are too often shown as “unstable” and “unable to make up their minds”.

In a group, I go to for bisexual women that meets once a month. Many of the women talked about having turned to dating only bi women, because of the perception of bi women perpetrated upon lesbians.

Before anyone thinks I’m bashing straight men or lesbians, I’m not. I’ve met many of both that are great people and are wonderfully supportive, that take me seriously, and I’m thankful for them, and I really hope there will be more of them. But unfortunately the trends I mentioned in both communities, even though they have gotten better over the years and are getting better with younger people, continue to persist. I think one way to overcome these challenges, other than what we are already doing by educating people, is to have more of our own “space”. A more general problem in the GLBT community at large is that too often things become more about the G and the L. Many polls have been conducted, and at least as many people identify as bisexual as the total of gay and lesbian. So why are we not more vocal, and more visible?

We need more “just bisexuals” places to call our own. It will help promote both visibility and seriousness. Websites like this one are a great start, along with the bi radio. I’ve heard that some cities have bisexual bars, and that’s great. I want to see more of those — more bi blogs, more bi news places, more of a community and togetherness. It’s harder to see something as a joke, and to keep thinking, it’s invisible and it doesn’t exist — when many people stand behind it and make their voices heard. We women especially need to spearhead this.

When gay people first started coming out of the closet there was a lot of fear, marginalization, and backlash. We can learn from them for they united and they persevered have really managed to build a community for themselves. We need to emulate them — and while working to put the B in GLBT, we also need to have more of a “B” to ourselves.

Proud and Out Bisexual Teacher Commitment Ceremony

Seems there are bisexual men after all, (although Bi Social News knew this). A 32-year-old math teacher invited his class and their parents to his commitment ceremony to his life partner.

Many would think he was gay, but in fact – he’s bisexual and proud of it –or as his students were quoted as saying.

Twelve year-old Japhet Guuzman, “He’s not gay”

Another student concurs, by saying, “He’s not gay. He’s bisexual. Why don’t you ask him?”

BSN mission is to bring all type of bisexual stories, its nice to know — that there are positive bisexuals being bold and speaking out about their sexuality! Thank you Chance Nalley!

If you have a story you would like BSN to feature, email us at bisocialnews@gmail.com to get the word out!

Coming Out, Part 1

A question I often get is: “how [or] when did you know you were bi, and how did you get here?” Honestly, I think some part of me has always known in some way. How did I get here and finally admit it? It’s taken 15-years-and this article will be broken up into four parts.

When I was a kid, I was a tomboy. I preferred climbing trees to dolls, and rolling around in the mud was a lot more fun than playing with dolls or house. I first notice one thing odd when one day in kindergarten, I realized there a difference between me and most of the other girls. We were five and it was the time for “play weddings”. A boy told me, if I agreed to marry him then he would let me play with his trucks. I readily agreed, for they were cool trucks! A girl nearby who was playing with a transformer overheard us, and she turned asking me — if I’d marry her she’d let me play with the transformer. I thought about it for a moment and again agreed. The idea of marrying a girl seemed natural to me too. The boy said “what about me?” and I said “well I could see myself marrying either of you — who has the best toy?” This should have been a wholly humorous story but matters don’t work out that way: the other girls who were around starting laughing and calling me and the other girl “gay.” There was that word; I didn’t know what it meant, but I knew that it was an insult. I asked my mom that evening why the girls had laughed at us, and she replied that only boys and girls get married. I couldn’t wrap my head around this –  the idea seemed okay to me. But apparently something was wrong with it, so for a long time after, I kept it to myself.

As I grew, I kept it to myself, when I had crushes on both sexes, and only talked about boys. I knew next to nothing about sex; I just knew that people who got married loved each other. Even though, I hid my same-gender feelings, somehow the other kids still knew; those of us who didn’t fit in right were constantly called “gay”. I knew it was a bad word; I just didn’t get why.

Everywhere I looked were straight couples, so I figured that was how it was supposed to be and that was the only way. When I actually hit puberty though, a problem presented itself. I learned about sex and began to have sexual feelings, and I realized they weren’t focused just towards boys. In middle school, I finally had heard about gays and lesbians, and actually knew what the words meant. If a girl was “not right” in any way, the boys would call her a “lesbian”. I went to a religious school, so I began to learn that being gay was a “sin.” I had never heard of bisexuality, no one said anything about people who liked both. Between the ages of 12 and 14, I did a lot of thinking — was I a lesbian? Did I like girls more than boys? When I was honest with myself, I could see I liked both. I had no idea what that meant. So I reasoned, if I still liked boys that must make me straight, and was much relived to not be this “gay” thing that kids used to make fun of each other.

Part 2

The GLBT Community and Religion

catholic symbolToday I’m going to talk about something rather controversial — the wacky, love-hate relationship between religion and the GLBT community. Why do so many GLBT people leave religion, and how do those that don’t, make peace with it? From my experience, many of us leave religion because we are tired of feeling hated and hating ourselves. If you grow up in a conservative form in one of the Abrahamic religions, as I did (Catholic), you are taught that homosexuality and bisexuality are major sins, and ‘choices.’ If you discover when you are a teenager, that you are gay or bi or transgender, you feel a big feeling of shame — and then you try to hide, and step into the closet, where you can remain for years.

Some people can’t step out until after they loose their faith. Another reason is because so many religious leaders preach homophobia and do everything they can to block  GLBT rights, such as gay marriage and other equal protections under the law. They seem to somehow think that equal rights will lead to total decadence (like it has in Europe, oh wait, it hasn’t!) Others are just tired of the hypocrisy — for example the Catholic church (especially this latest pope) routinely preaches against GLBT people — yet it’s a not very well kept secret that there are many closeted homo[sexuals] and bisexual priests, as well as nuns, who also have been blamed for the pedophilia scandal. It’s somehow their fault that the church seems to have a hard time protecting children and prosecuting those that would harm them. This is true in many other religions as well.

How do those who manage to stay religious do it?

In my experience, they either go to religions that don’t have a problem with non-straight sexuality, such as Unitarians and Buddhists, or they form their own congregations and churches that are GLBT friendly, and throw out the homophobic parts of their religions. This is true for allies as well; I’ve met many straight people with GLBT friends who are liberally religious who just disregard [with] part of their religion. In some cases, certain sects of religions do evolve to accept GLBT people, as in Reform Judaism.

I think though, one of the main reasons is how many GLBT people are personally affected. Not that long ago, someone I dated and I broke up, and one of the main reasons was thate she feeling conflicted between her religion and her sexuality, she felt that “God did not approve of the relationship”. I asked her if she planned to stop being bi, and her response was “no, I can’t stop being it, but I can stop acting on it”. Oh, brother. This is something people in the GLBT community often hear-both from conflicted people they date and from many religions — “well, maybe science says this how you are born, but you don’t have to act on it, because it’s a sin.” I admit that part really doesn’t make sense to me. I can understand, even though I don’t agree with, right wing people who say it’s a choice, at least then it becomes a “sinful choice”, like lying or a lot of the other “no-no’s” in several of the major religions. What is hard to get is the faction of the religious population that believes you are born gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, yet insist you don’t act on it. Why would an all powerful and loving God make you one way, and then want you to be the complete opposite of who he (or she!) made you, cut off a part of yourself, and make yourself and possibly many other people miserable?

Bisexuality itself, presents another conundrum for the whole issue — it’s been used by both sides both to prove same-sex attraction is a choice and to prove it isn’t. It drives me nuts when I hear some religious leader say “if you like both sexes, it’s a choice, and you should only act on one”. And unfortunately, some gay and lesbian people sometimes believe that too, and then say bisexuality doesn’t exist because otherwise it would mean homosexuality is a choice. Neither is true!

It’s my hope that eventually the right wing religious groups can live and let live. I am seeing a bit more tolerance, so that is hopeful, and more laws being passed to protect GLBT people. I think a good way to help start the process is if, you are a parent — don’t expose your kids to homo, bi and transphobia in the name of religion. Teaching about God’s love is one thing-but please, leave the ancient ideas in the past, where they belong, and hopefully this can add to breaking the cycle of self-hate and coming out that many GLBT people experience. Maybe one day, the GLBT community and the religious communities can coexist more peacefully. Now that’s something I could definitely pray for.

A Bisexual Space to Call Our Own

bisexual clubA Bisexual Club?

People have commented about the “bisexual community”, some praising how it has acted together to combat the latest round of biphobia, others wondering why there isn’t more of a community. I’ve wondered, what exactly constitutes the bisexual community, and how is it different from the gay, lesbian, and transgender community?

Since I’ve been out, I’ve read and researched this. Although I live in a pretty liberal area where I was welcomed into the larger BGLT community, I kept hearing about other bisexuals who were not so lucky in different parts of the country and world. I figured, “well, don’t they have a bisexual community to fall back on?” The answer, not always.

A large portion of the bisexual community seems to have started and still is online. I’ve read many articles that said that if [it] hadn’t been for the rise of the Internet in the 1990’s, it definitely would have been harder for bisexuals to organize, and I agree. If you are in a small town, and both gay and straight people tell you “it’s just you”, it can be pretty discouraging. But if you go on the Internet, in a very short while you’ll see that there are bisexual groups all over the world, and many Websites and organizations devoted to the cause.

The Internet has really helped us find groups and create a sense of community. However, we need more non-internet information.

In many big cities, including where I live, there are bisexual groups, and these tend to be very accepting and welcome most people. Groups like BiNet USA, and the New York Bisexual Network (I wish there was an “official” network for my city, all we have is one women’s group, though it’s a great group!) What I and others have noticed that both gays and straights have, that we seem to lack, are recreational places for us to hang out. Basically: bisexual bars-why aren’t there any? Where are the “bisexual sections of town” the way there are “gay sections?” A friend and I had a great discussion imagining how an ideal bisexual bar would be-all kinds couples dancing together, all kinds of people meeting and getting to know one another-no one getting a dirty look for being the “wrong” orientation or gender. I could bring both my straight and gay friends and no one would be “suspicious” because they were from the “other side” (I know it’s ridiculous, but I’ve encountered both scenarios). Of course pansexuals, transsexuals, intersex people, asexuals, and others would be welcomed too. So how come there hasn’t been an attempt to start one? Certainly there are gay and straight bars that are bi friendly, but how come we don’t have one of our own? We could call it a “bi/trans/pan” type place. I seriously think that if someone started this in a big city where there are a lot of us, it would become popular very quickly.

We also need more of a presence in pride parades  — I know this isn’t always easy, especially when encountering resistance. In New York, where there is a thriving bi network, a big section of it marches in the parade every year. It’s basically a numbers game — the more bisexual, pansexual, fluid people who are active in the movement, the more of a separate bi presence there is. Where I live, that doesn’t happen enough.

Our woman’s group has a booth at the pride street festival-but there aren’t enough of us who are active to have a separate marching block. That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of us-there are many people who are active online but not active in non-online groups. I just found out that there’s supposed to be a “bi/fluid” pride march coming up in California in June! That’s great! I hope we have many more!

Transgender people have done a great job of taking their cause from just the internet to the real world. Often in pride parades you will see a separate block for transgender pride, even if there are only a few people in it, the same with BGLT conferences and pride seminars. They have gotten really good at making themselves visible and making their cause heard even when the larger BGLT movement tries to ignore them. Definitely something to emulate. So to make a long story short, I hope that more of us (who are able to safely be out) can take that energy and passion from the internet and spread it out as far as we can — making ourselves more visible, more heard, and more of a force to be reckoned with. I know we have the numbers — now we just need the voice and the organization. Who knows, maybe one day there will even be a bisexual bar. One can hope, anyway.

Michael Jackson’s Complex Sexuality

complex sexualityThere’s been so much buzz about Michael Jackson lately, since his death, and both fans like me and critics have been wondering-what was the deal with his sexuality?

One thing that I’ve always liked about MJ that scared a lot of critics was that he bent gender roles and sexuality in general, even if he was straight. I remember in the early 90’s he was wearing lipstick and eyeliner, and looking like a woman, but still retaining some “manly” qualities, I found him quite attractive. He seemed to blend what was best about each gender. Male performers often take artistic license with certain things like wearing make up, but MJ took it to another level. He could go from being the tough guy in the “Bad” video and aggressively chasing the girl in “The way you make me feel” to being gentle and almost feminine in videos like “Have you seen my childhood”, and exude a certain vulnerability that men are often afraid to show. In the video “In the closet” (interesting title!) he was pursuing a woman, but could have passed for a lesbian himself. When it comes to performers in terms of sexuality, I haven’t seen any other such versatile performer, and for me and for a lot of other fans I know, it was a big part of his charm. We felt like he was breaking certain taboos that we sometimes were afraid to even talk about in his music videos.

Some have speculated that MJ was really gay, but struggled with accepting it because of his strict Jehovah’s Witness upbringing. I wouldn’t be surprised. I know firsthand how repressive religion can make you hate yourself and your sexuality, and from what I have heard, the JW’s take it to a frightening level. Repressing this and trying to sometimes “prove” he was masculine may have led to some of the odd and self-destructive behavior we saw (for the record, I do not and have never believed the allegations against him, but that’s a whole other article). It could also have explained why he sometimes came off as ‘effeminate” to a lot of straight men, and why he seemed almost afraid of his sexuality. Some people actually liked him because despite his gender bending ways, to them he himself seemed almost asexual-like a little boy trapped in a man’s body (which he himself later said he was), who was just coming to terms with sexuality or trying to, and was still “innocent”. I think one reason the allegations where so shocking, besides the obvious, was that for those who believed it, it ripped away at the idea that MJ was innocent at all.

Could he have been one of us-a bisexual? Another strong possibility. When the police raided Neverland in 2003, they found both straight and gay porn. Assuming it belonged to him, and not to one of his employees, this does make me think he may have been either bi or at least trying to figure out if he was. His first wife, Lisa Marie Presley, claims they did sleep together and it seems that even though it didn’t work out he did really fall in love with her, so it seems he was capable of loving and being with a woman, assuming she is telling the truth. If he was bi, repressing this would also have been very difficult just like repressing being gay, and it would have clashed with his religious upbringing. I think that one reason he was so comfortable bending gender roles and “cross-dressing” in his videos was because it gave him a chance to express the sexuality he seemed almost afraid of in real life.

And of course, MJ could have been transgender. It would explain some of the dressing, and maybe even the plastic surgery-before it went totally wrong it did make him look more feminine, more attractive in a female sense, and I wonder if that was as far as he felt he could go with expressing his inner female. Perhaps he liked women, men, or both, but also felt that he himself was really a woman. As many transgender people can tell you, repressing a transgender identity can lead to real pain and self-destructive behavior.

Of course we’ll never know, but I’m glad he broke the gender barriers in the music industry that he did-perhaps more people will follow him and won’t be afraid to come out. I’m just sorry that his sexuality, whatever it was, brought him such pain and that his vulnerability caused so many people to try and take advantage of him and harp on every thing he did. He took us to new frontiers-in both gender bending, and of course, in music. Whatever his sexuality was, long live the king of pop.

Other articles about this I highly recommend:

http://www.bilerico.com/2009/06/goodnight_sweet_princeor_princess.php

Micah Kellner: New York’s Openly Bisexual Assemblyman

MicahKellnerLearn about Democratic Assemblyman Michal Kellner from the state of New York. Did we mention he’s a proud and out Bisexual? Read our exclusive interview.

Micah Kellner is a Democratic Assemblyman from the state of New York.  He is a disabilities and bisexual/GLBT advocate.  He is one of five GLBT members of the New York Legislature.

How did you get into politics?

I had actually gone to school for film and television. In 2000, I volunteered for Al Gore’s campaign, and I wound up interning at Senator Schumer’s office. I worked in his fundraising office and spent everyday fundraising, and that got me hooked into politics.

How much of an issue has your bisexuality been in your political career?

It’s an issue because people are always interested. Before running for office I thought of myself primarily as a disabilities advocate. When I ran, everyone was intrigued and had all sorts of questions so it’s something I’ve really embraced. It’s a label that’s going to be with me forever, whether I like it or not, so I try to make the most of it.

There is a real prejudice against bisexual men. How have you been treated by the gay and straight communities?

When I first ran for office, a group of my friends, mostly gay men, decided to sit down with me to determine “what Micah was going to be”, because he couldn’t be bi. They felt no one would ever accept a bisexual, so some said “say you’re straight”, and others said “say you’re gay”. Someone suggested that I should state to the Stonewall Democratic club that while I’ve had sex with men in the past, I just don’t identify as a member of the GLBT community, which I took to mean that I was openly on the “down low”, which made no sense.

We finally decided honesty was the best policy, but sadly, too often I’ve found as a public official that bisexuals are the last group that are easily held up to ridicule. That’s mostly because the gay and lesbian community allows it. There are too many people in it that perpetuate that bisexuality isn’t real and mock it, and by doing that they are allowing our straight allies to do the same thing.

Labels are either imposed on you or you impose them on yourself. Some parts of the lesbian and gay community basically say “it’s not cool to be bisexual, you will face ridicule”, so there are many bisexuals who choose to identify as being lesbian or gay. I feel sometimes like a bisexual confessional—people come up to me and say “Oh, I’m really bi, but it’s just easier to say I’m gay” or “well I’m probably bisexual but for political purposes I’m gay”. Until the L and G fully accept bisexuality, we are going to have a hard road up.

Is there a strong bisexual community where you live, and if so, how involved are you?

Recently I’ve gotten involved more in the bi community here. Up until I ran I was involved in a GLBT community that has been pretty supportive of me. The people at the Stonewall Democratic club, of which I’m a member, were my first and strongest supporters. I didn’t really feel a backlash for the bisexual label until I ran for office.

The gay and lesbian victory fund supported your campaign. Have you had a positive relationship with them and have they been supportive of your bisexuality?

Yes, they were terrific. They came in and offered financial support, strategic advice, and they had a great coordinator and organizer come and help me.

With everything that has happened in the past year, the political environment for GLBT people is constantly changing. What role do you feel the bi community is playing and can play in influencing GLBT politics in general?

The important thing is making sure that people understand what bisexuality is. Recently, during the marriage debate on the assembly floor, the leader of the Republicans got up and started asking “What about bisexuals? What if they want to marry a man and a woman?” He completely confused bisexuality with polygamy!

I happened to be the next speaker, and I commented on that coincidence (which got a chuckle out of all of us) and I explained the difference between bisexuality and polygamy, and that while I’ve dated both men and women, only one at a time, and that I’m sure that there are plenty of bisexuals who are in same-sex relationships who want to get married and have all those rights. We need people at the forefront who identify as bisexual whether it’s politically correct or not. Cynthia Nixon is a great example of this.

After the questions, he also added: I’ve worked with great GLBT advocates that have made sure to include the B and the T, especially in legislation, and I hope that the days where it was just the G and the L are slowly passing.

I’d like to thank Assemblyman Kellner for the interview, and to say “thanks for representing us!”

If you’d like to know more about Assemblyman Kellner, please visit: Micah Kellner Website

Additional Sites:

Dating a Bisexual: Should Straights, Gays or Lesbians Go for It?

dating a bisexualMany in the straight, gay and lesbian community are afraid of the big “B” word—Bisexual. Would you date a bisexual? The biases might surprise you.

The hot topic of the moment—not withstanding, First Lady, Michelle Obama’s shorts dilemma—should straight women and lesbian women date a bisexual?

Being a bisexual myself, I find this topic of discussion very humorous. Really, the very same groups who say, ‘its love,’ rights for choice—wouldn’t this fall in line with dating anyone?

I hear it all the time on the streets of Chicago—from the BLGT community that they “tried’ it once, but just couldn’t get over the fact that bisexuals like the opposite sex. Granted, if you are not into it, it can be a hard sell—sort of like udon (Japan noodle) or sushi…I get it. But stop to think; is it really all that different?

In relationships, everyone has had a partner they dated and for whatever reason, it didn’t work out. Do you get upset because they dated someone before you? Of course not! It’s just apart of their past.

They Might Leave Me for Another Man
Well, sorry to state the obvious, but they can leave you for another woman too! Relationships are complicated all by themselves. The fear is internal—it has nothing to do with the person you are dating. If they really truly love you, it shouldn’t matter what partner they had in the past. It’s behind them—they are focusing on you.

They will Never be Satisfied with Just Me
I see a pattern here. Is this something you might be thinking for every relationship you are in—or just bisexuals? Reason, what motives do you think your partner isn’t happy with the relationship you have? It’s true, that there are open relationships popping up all around the world—but this has been since the beginning of time. We puritans (Americans), like to have the one partner—but lets say Japan, there is no divorce—you know why? Because, everyone is having it on the side! (Yes, I’ve lived there for two years—I know)

What Works for One, doesn’t Work For All Bi’s
Just think, some politicians are straight, but they seem to be acceptable to the open marriage rule. It’s only means that you and your partner need to decide what will or won’t work out for the two of you. Generalities don’t play in the whole scheme of the bisexual community. What works for one, may not work for all. Find that special person you can love with your whole heart and mind, and work from there. Love manages a way.