With all the depressing headlines lately, last week when I heard that Prop 8 had been overturned in California,at first I thought it was either a joke or I had to be dreaming. I admit I had stopped following the progress of the anti-Prop 8 fight, having lost faith in CA ever giving BLGT people back their rights after they voted in Prop 8 in 2008. I never thought they would strike it down so quickly (within two years).
Naturally what followed was a lot of celebrating in the BLGT community (especially in CA!) and then the sober realization that Prop 8 or something like it could very easily be reinstated; within 24 hours anti-equality groups had already filed an appeal, and hateful articles and quotes have sprung up all over the internet.
In the aftermath of everything, an interesting question popped up: what does the overturning of Prop 8 mean for the bisexual community, and how will it affect us? For starters, many of us remember it was only a few months ago that we were being brought up as a scapegoat reason not to get rid of Prop 8! Some cynically said that’s the only time we’ve been mentioned in the whole Prop 8 saga; and unfortunately there is some truth to that. It seems that one thing the celebrations have shown is that we’re still barely being acknowledged as even being part of the fight for same-sex rights; at least not when there’s good news.
I kept hearing and reading last week about the rights of “gays and lesbians” to marry and how this will affect them marrying in California. Occasionally someone said or wrote all four BLGT letters, I think I actually saw the word bisexual written out once. You’d think after being listed as a reason not to take away Prop 8, we’d at least get more than that!
That being said, this also presents several positive opportunities for the bisexual community; to celebrate with the rest of our BLGT brothers and sisters, to be more vocal and visible, and to remind people that as bisexuals, this is a victory and a right for us too. A big part of the victory is that bisexual men and women living in CA will now be able to marry their same sex partners, and for some in the closet, it may mean finally coming out.
It’s also a new opportunity to put ourselves in the spotlight more as out bisexuals and help in the fight to keep Prop 8 (and other laws like it around the country) from coming back and/or from being passed. This can be accomplished both by working with other BLGT people and by focusing on the unique needs of our own community. If we step back and get discouraged, things will never change.
Pretty much everyone in the BLGT community has heard of it, and most of us would like to pretend it doesn’t exist. For some it’s a joke, for others it represents a deeply painful experience they have actually lived through. It’s the “ex-gay” industry. And despite our living in one of the most democratic countries in the world, there are still plenty of people who are against equality for BLGT people; and these “ex-gay” industries are multimillion dollar businesses. Many are run by some sort of faith group, others claim to be based on science; still others are run byindividual people. Very often it’s families seeking to “cure” a loved one of same-sex attractions that encourage people to go to these programs; other times it’s BLGT people who honestly think that there is something horribly wrong with them that they need to fix. The techniques of the “therapy” seem to mostly center on “praying the gay away” and doing “gender specific activities”, which, as we’ve seen, are very often unsuccessful.
A question I’ve heard asked time and time again is: how do bisexuals figure into this whole “ex-gay” business? You almost never hear about bisexuality in regard to the “conversion” process. It’s all about being gay and going to straight. The“ex-gay” industry mostly acts like bisexuality doesn’t even exist (unfortunately not too different from the rest of society), and mostly talks about “gays and lesbians”. Every once in a while when bisexuality is brought up, it’s often used by both sides to bolster their arguments of “gay people can change” vs. “they can’t change”. I’ve also seen bisexuality mentioned one time when someone was writing about how they thought that some of the “success stories” presented by “ex-gay” organizations were actually bisexuals who just were not acting on their same-sex attractions. I had hoped this would be elaborated on, but that turned out to be the only thing mentioned about bisexuals.
How would paying attention to bisexuals change the face of the “ex-gay” industry? For starters, it would be interesting to know just how many of the people who go into these industries to seek help because they’ve been convinced that there is something wrong with them are actually bisexual. Perhaps if someone is bisexual but leans more toward same-sex attractions, they can classify themselves as gay and think they need reparative therapy. Also, if someone feels they have somehow “cured” themselves, could they just be bisexual but not acting on their same sex side (which as any closeted bisexual can tell you, is still horrible)? Are any of the examples of people that supposedly went from” gay to straight” that are touted by these organizations really bisexual?
We don’t know for sure about any of these questions, because bisexuality and bisexuals are pretty much ignored in this industry by both the straight and the gay communities. It would be very interesting if somehow a study could be done to determine some idea of the number of bisexuals that are involved in these “ex-gay” programs, how they influence the “success” rate, and how the programs affect their sexuality and sense of self. What would this mean for the BLGT community, and for the “ex-gay” industry? Most importantly, what would it mean for the bisexual community?