“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” – A Memorial Day Reflection

memorialSince the end of the Civil War, the United States has honored its fallen service members on Memorial Day so it seems appropriate for those of us associated with Bi Social Network to remember the members of the BLGT community who have served and died in action.

It also seems rather appropriate to note the continued effects the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy has on bisexual, lesbian and gay service members.  It’s even rather interesting — shall we say — that the House of Representatives voted to repeal DADT so close to the holiday.  The Senate Armed Services Committee in turn voted to approve the repeal measure, sending it to the full Senate for a vote.  If the Senate votes to repeal, then it would go into effect only after the projected December 1st submittal of a report by a Pentagon Working Group.

There seem to be more politicians for the repeal than against.  There seem to be more military top brass for the repeal than against.  More Americans are comfortable with same-sex attractions than ever before.   Yet there still seem to be a fair number of heels dug in. If the measure voted on by the House passes the Senate, then we need to wait for a Pentagon report to come through.  It seems the closer we get the more games are being played.

I remember when “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” went into effect seventeen years ago.  I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing.  The convoluted compromise to the outright ban on bisexuals, gay men and lesbians in the military sounded more like Ionesco than sound, mature defense policy.   You must be joking, I remember thinking.  No, they weren’t joking, using irony or displaying one iota of wit.  The government was as earnest as ever.

As a nation we have been going back and forth over DADT since then.  I find it a sign of progress that former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State Colin Powell has changed his mind on the issue.  The current Chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, is also in favor of repeal.  Have we finally understood the many costs of this policy?  Some 13,000 women and men have been discharged from the Armed Forces and we have lost some $1.3 billion in training as blogger Megan McDonald Scanlon notes in “The Hidden Costs of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’” at thehill.com.

We have highly qualified personnel who are willing to fight and put their lives on the line for the United States.  We are in the middle of two wars, as well as a continuing economic downturn and worsening environmental degradation to name just two other pressing matters.  We should already have joined all the other nations which do not measure the competency of their soldiers by their sexuality.

In spite of all the people of good will trying to move us forward on this matter, I find it disturbing that we have been so slow integrate bisexuals, lesbians and gay men into the military — among other areas.

What is it in the national character that makes us so resistant to change?  What makes us so unwilling to take the decisive steps necessary and instead plod along with the more level-headed among us trying to do a delicate dance?

It seems rather disrespectful not only to BGLT service members but all members of the Armed Forces.  Let’s so some respect for our military women and men by closing this matter once and for all so we can attend to the critical issues facing them and our society today.

A Bisexual Space to Call Our Own

A Bisexual Club?

bisexual clubPeople 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.

Vive la Différence!

Let me say this in case it isn’t at all clear: Women and men are different.  Peter, you’ve finally lost your mind, you may be saying to yourself right about now.  How long did it take you to figure that one out?  Well, it’s not that it took me any time to discover that central tenet of life.  It’s just that it seems that part of being bisexual is that it really doesn’t matter whether you’re dating a man or a woman. Sex and gender are irrelevant.  Only the ‘human qualities’ of the person we’re dating is important.

I feel as if I hear that a great deal. And in fact, I did some rooting around on the net where I found articles from Newsweek’s 1995 “Bisexuality” to the New YorkTimes’ 2001 “Love in the 21st Century; Polymorphous Normal” in which people appear to dismiss the gender of their love objects as only a minor consideration.  If you take a look at the 2008 documentary Bi the Way – and I really wish you would – you will notice that even more than the gender of the love object, but even the labeling is often avoided.

What’s going on here?  Saying that gender is unimportant – like saying the label ‘bisexual’ is unimportant – is in the same league as saying race, ethnicity, class, and a raft of other attributes don’t matter either.

Now, don’t get me wrong; I wish we lived in a society that was free of racism, sexism, biphobia, homophobia, classism and other the other notorious isms.  However, even if we did, these attributes would still be noticeable and have effects on our lives.  After all, we live this life in a physical body, through which we experience the world and hopefully draw lessons.  Even the fact that I am 6’ 4” means that I interact with the world differently than someone who is 5’ 4” or 7’.

Talking about difference – which we so seldom do thoroughly and honestly in our society – doesn’t mean that I think men should be the breadwinners and women should stay home and bake cookies.  That kind of analysis – men are big, strong and courageous; women are kind, shy and fragile – is too simplistic and is in the same vein as assuming that the masculine resides exclusively in the male and the feminine in the female.  We are far to complex to be stuffed in boxes of the sort.

Talking about difference means acknowledging that we all interact with the world in a myriad of ways and that they are valid.  I don’t even know if the word ‘valid’ is correct because the differences just are and to a large extent the interactions they lead to just are as well. For example, the mechanics of physical intimacy will vary depending on the sex of the partners involved.  That’s just how it is; being intimate with a man is not the same as being intimate with a woman.  And I like that.  That’s the variety that is the proverbial spice of life.

Beyond the physical though, I know that as a man I process information differently from women.  For example, like most men I navigate by feel, using more of the visual-spatial and kinesthetic.  Women tend to use landmarks.  (No, this is not a fancy way to say that women ask for directions and men don’t even though it may seem so.)  Imagine the scenarios possible as my partner and I go off for a vacation in the White Mountains. Two different genders, at least two different storylines possible.  Given that I’m involved, it’s probable that both are very humorous!  Humorous, but quite different.

That’s the point though: We’re not the same.  What a dull and lackluster world it would be if we were!  When I use the bisexual label, I mean that I like both men and women and while there certain qualities I find attractive in both – smarts, laughter, political awareness – one is certainly not the other. As they say in France, Vive la différence!

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.