Lady Gaga and Beyonce’s Hot New Bisexual Video

lady-gagaEveryone’s been talking about Lady Gaga’s new song and video Telephone, which features Beyonce and Heather Cassils. It’s been labeled risqué and “too hot to handle”, so much so, that there was even a rumor that MTV had banned it, which turned out not to be true. Of course the video is all over YouTube and other sites, and it’s full of bisexual, genderqueer, gay, and trans themes. Commenters all over are using the word bisexual to describe this video, and/or to describe Lady Gaga, who in interviews has talked about the themes in the video and what she wants them to mean. She herself says the words “queer”, “homosexual” and “transsexual” when talking about it. I wish she would say the word bisexual more, but if she isn’t, it’s good that so many others seem to be picking up on it. One of the main messages she was trying to get across in  the video was was that sexuality isn’t a choice , and that binaries of gender and sexuality need to be broken down more.  Encouraging people to think outside of the box can only be good for the bisexual community. There is also the added bonus of the visibility that an out bisexual performer brings. Lady Gaga has also did an interview where she said that both she and Beyonce “liked women”, so, naturally, now people are asking if Beyonce is bisexual (as nice as that would be, playing a character in one video doesn’t make you a different orientation!).

Telephone starts off where the video Paparazzi left off. In Paparazzi, Lady Gaga had poisoned her boyfriend, and Telephone starts with her being brought into jail for murder. The jail is full of women who very obviously straddle the gender line, including the guards who bring Lady Gaga in, both of whom seem to be trans. They undress her to find out if the rumors about her being intersex are true (they confirm they are not). Having previously had a boyfriend, Lady Gaga goes on to find herself a prison girlfriend, played by Heather Cassils, who in real life is a personal trainer who admits she straddles the gender line in both appearance and attitude. They share a kiss in the prison yard. The sequence is complete with several scantily clothed women, including Lady Gaga, and dancing.

Lady Gaga then gets a call from her girlfriend, Beyonce, who bails her out of jail. They go for a ride in a car called the Pussywagon (from the movie Kill Bill Volume 1 ). They drive to a diner where Lady Gaga is the cook and Beyonce meets up with what seems to be her boyfriend; she also appears to have both a boyfriend and a girlfriend. Lady Gaga and Beyonce proceed to poison everyone in the diner, including Beyonce’s boyfriend. There are a lot of genderqueer visibility and bisexual themes here as well, such as dating both men and women, and having a lot of people in the video straddle the gender line in appearance and attitude. The video ends with the police chasing Lady Gaga and Beyonce, who ride off together and promise each other they will never come back. At the very end there is a female power symbol.

One of the best qualities of the video, and probably what is making so many people both love it and hate it, is that it shows a wide range of human sexual behavior, orientation, identity, and expression, including bisexuality, and has them all come across as normal and accepted. Some artists do this just for shock value, but it seems that Lady Gaga really is trying to send a message and get people to think outside of the many preconceived notions that society has; the biggest being that sexuality and gender identity are somehow a choice.

Love it or hate it, Lady Gaga’s video Telephone has definitely pushed the envelope in entertainment and music, and opened some doors for sexual expression in popular culture. And of course-the song itself is pretty catchy!

Coming Out Bisexual On The Real World

real worldWhen I heard that the 23rd season of MTV’s The Real World was going to take place in my hometown of Washington DC, and was going to feature two out bisexuals, I had to tune in. The show has turned out to be quite interesting. The two bisexual characters are Emily Schromm, who is 21, and Mike Manning, who is 22. Both are newly out; Emily was raised strictly religious just had her first relationship with a woman; Mike was raised very religious as well and is struggling to reconcile his faith with his sexuality, and just came out and started exploring his sexuality right before he came to DC. He came out to his housemates at dinner in the first episode, and they all seemed okay with it. He said that while he doesn’t like labels overall, he would label himself as bisexual, and has dated both men and women.

Several articles were written about both characters on BLGT blogs around the time the show premiered last December, and most were positive. Yet only one episode had aired—and already the sirens were off in the form of pages of comments saying “he’s not really bi, he’s gay, there’s no such thing as bi in men”—going on and on about the “bi now, gay later” stereotype, and quoting that ridiculous and disproven J. Michael Bailey study (how many times does a study have to be discredited before it gets through to some people)?! The absolute worst ones were here and here.  Men from both the gay and the straight communities weighed in. It was nice to see that there were several comments defending Mike, more so than the last time a bisexual man came out, so that is progress, but unfortunately the negative ones outweighed the positive ones. It is truly amazing how many people want to decide someone else’s sexuality for them, including sadly, some of Mike and Emily’s roommates who think he’s  ”just confused and is really gay” and tell her that “it’s okay if you are a lesbian”.

As much as I didn’t like the overflow of comments, there is actually progress. Much less has been said overall questioning Emily’s sexual identity, at least in the BLGT community—and I do remember a time when that was different, so it seems there is definitely a positive trend a somewhat growing acceptance for female bisexuality, though possibly not always for the reasons we would like. But it seems male bisexuality is one of the last and biggest barriers to more acceptance of bisexuals in general. What are some of the reasons for this? Let’s examine them through the adventures of Mike Manning on The Real World, and through some of the stereotypes that showed up over and over in the comments about him.

For starters there was the whole “I knew a bisexual man and he turned out to be gay”. Well, so he did. I stated in this article my opinion on what label people who are unsure when they come out should use. The actions of a few people who use the wrong label or really do go through a phase should not be used to label an entire community. I’ve actually seen a lot of the opposite: several bi men who do not want to use the bisexual label because of the negative connotation. Secondly, there was the whole “he doesn’t want to fully come out and wants to hold on to hetero-privilege”. Well, Mike Manning is totally out to his family, and came out again on national television no less. Being from a religious family myself, I can tell you that being bisexual isn’t any easier than being gay-neither one is considered good. Just ask Emily—her own sister rejected her after she came out to her on live TV. As for the hetero-privilege myth, this is my answer to that one.

A rather odd argument was that Mike has used the terms  gay  and  bi  interchangeably a few times, so that proves he is gay. I know very few bisexual and transgender people who don’t sometimes do that.  Gay has become a catchall term for BLGT, and since most of society doesn’t treat bisexuals very differently from gays, many of us feel comfortable interchanging the two sometimes.

Another argument was that rumors have said that overall by the end of the show, he had dated more guys than girls.  In the first two episodes, he made out with a girl and a guy. Why is anyone surprised by this? He just came out! He’s been suppressing the side of him that is attracted to men for years, and all those years he’s been able to act on his feelings for women, so naturally he’s going to want to explore the male attractions. When I first came out as bi, I was mainly into women for months. I’d had a 14 year head start on my attraction to men and had barely acted on my attraction to women-I wanted to make up for lost time. Once I got used to the idea of being out, I evened out. I’ve had several other bisexual people tell me they went through something similar, and I suspect that is what Mike went through. This really was not only the first time he was really out, but the first time he had access to a thriving gay community. I would have been surprised if he hadn’t chosen to explore it.

Also, Mike could “lean” more toward men, as being bisexual certainly doesn’t have to mean having a “50/50″ attraction (in fact most of us lean one way or the other).  But if he’s still attracted to both sexes-then he’s bi!  (See latest update below to learn more about this, apparently there was “creative editing” going on). Does someone’s “bi card” get revoked because their attractions aren’t always equal? Many people seem to think a “true bisexual” has to be 50/50. Most of us actually tend to lean one way or the other.

People have come up with other terms to describe which way they lean, such as “bi gay”, “bi straight”, “bi queer”, “homoflexible” and “heteroflexible”. While I don’t like to tell anyone how to label themselves, I do think people need to be less afraid to just use the term “bisexual” somewhere in their label. Words can be very powerful.  When the girl he kissed on the show (and apparently slept with behind the scenes) saw him kissing a guy, she was all grossed out and couldn’t believe she had been with a bi guy. I’m pretty sure that reactions like that from women are another reason male bisexuality isn’t popular—who wants to hear that?

Just recently Mike Manning himself gave two great interviews— one in Metro Weekly , the other in Realitywanted —both definite must reads, and most of the comments were positive!  Contrary to the rumors that he no longer identified as bisexual, he embraces the label (as much as someone who doesn’t like labels can), and talks about the biphobia in the gay community that he’s had to deal with. He also says that once guys he dates actually get to know him, they start to believe he really is bi. Personally I say thank you to Mike Manning for not bowing to pressure, for being true to who he is, and for openly embracing the label.

Emily Schromm recently gave a great interview as well to the website AfterEllen, telling us a bit more about her and her background, and about how while her bisexuality was acknowledged on the show, it was downplayed as far as showing who she dated while on the show and living in the Real World DC house.  She embraced the label as well and I’m proud of her for not caving to pressure either.  My hope is that as more bisexual men like Mike Manning and bisexual women like Emily Schromm come out, more people in both the straight and BLGT communities will take the time to get to know them and try and see them for who they really are—not who they think they should be.

Latest Update as of March 2010:  It turns out that both Mike and Emily’s hookups with women were edited out of the show, but both are talked out in this aftershow video and this interview. Both were made to appear to be mostly attracted to men. Why was it done this way?  Maybe for ratings?  I’d like to hope it’s not due to biphobia, but I really have to wonder.

Bisexual Veteran Talks About DADT and Community

bisexual-prideCliff Arnesen is the president of the New England Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Veterans, Inc., and a bisexual veteran who has worked tirelessly to help end the destructive military policy of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell(DADT).  His organization lobbies on behalf of BLGT vets and service members, and also provides services to those who have been discharged under DADT, as well as those who have to deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, poverty, homelessness, and several other issues.  This past week Arnesen was kind enough to answer some interview questions.

Interview is from an email Q & A Session

Bi Social Network—Maria: How has Don’t Ask Don’t Tell affected you personally and how do you think it affects the bisexual community?

Cliff Arnesen: I know several service members who have been discharged under DADT. Some were discharged because they admitted their orientation, as they could not stand to live their lives as a lie; and others on hearsay; that has now been changed by Secretary of Defense Gates. The DADT policy specifically includes language in the Dept. Of Defense to discharge bisexual service members, along with gays and lesbians.

The Department of Defense Regulations Regarding DADT Policy State that if you make “Homosexual statements” you are suspect:

“You make a statement that demonstrates a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts. This may include language or behavior that a reasonable person would believe intends to convey the statement that you are a homosexual or bisexual.

U.S. military regulations say this about bisexuals in the military:

“Bisexual means a person who engages in, desires to engage in, or intends to engage in homosexual AND heterosexual acts.” “A member [of the Armed Forces] shall be separated if the member has stated that he or she is a homosexual or bisexual; unless there is a further finding that the member is not a homosexual or bisexual.”

Bi Social Network—Maria: Can you tell us a little bit about your organization and what you all do?

Cliff: Here is our mission as stated on our site:

The New England Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Veterans, Inc., is a not-for-profit, membership based, support organization for homosexual, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered and heterosexual, active duty, reserve and veteran members of the United States Armed Forces, their families, friends and supporters.

Priorities include: providing assistance with upgrades of all less-than-honorable military discharges based upon GLBT sexual orientation(s), VA benefits awareness, and advocating on behalf of GLBT veterans who suffer from AIDS, Homelessness, PTSD, Gulf War Syndrome, Blindness, Drug & Alcohol Abuse, Institutionalized discrimination, and other problems.

Also, to the extent permitted by law, the organization morally opposes the inhumane “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy and all sodomy laws of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which are arbitrarily applied against homosexual, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered service members; and encourages our own members, as well as other groups in a position to do so, and to support their repeal.

Bi Social Network—Maria: What kind of opposition have you faced with regards to your work and where has it come from? Are most anti-DADT organizations you’ve encountered inclusive of bisexual people?

Cliff: Personally, I wish we as human beings did not have to label our sexual orientation(s). But, as is the case in the U.S. Military where bisexuality is “specifically” encoded as a basis for discharge, I must “speak up” when it is not fully integrated in the equation of the generic “gays” in the military,”  that is espoused by many gay organizations.  The same is true for both the gay and straight media – whether intentional or unintentional.

Therefore, in order to secure human and civil rights—not special rights—and win the battle against the military and gain acceptance within society, I submit that all GLBT people must have, and maintain the mindset that “we are family.”

Otherwise, we are shooting each other in the foot!  So, to the “family” I state that bisexuality is NOT a counterfeit behavior. It is a true “sexual orientation.” The fear lies within the mindset of people that oppose the concept of bisexual people as having “heterosexual privilege.”

To those folks I state that people have lived and died without ever having found love in this world. So, love is where one finds it. Thus, no love by anyone of a specific sexual orientation or gender identification or expression should be judged by others! We GLBT people must remember that we are all children of God. We need each other to fight the real enemies: the religious right; perverted organized religions [and] cults; fundamentalists; conservatives; white supremacists; and so many others who hate GLBT people and use the Holy Bible as a means and tool to try and justify their sick hatred of us—collectively.

We must ALL band together to fight the injustice of the aforementioned dark forces of evil. Otherwise, we defeat the very purpose of trying to secure human and civil rights for each other—which is the ultimate injustice!

To this effect, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., stated, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

So, I rest secure in the knowledge that [all] GLBT people have a rightful place in the universe and within our society, as we are God’s children, and God does not make mistakes!

As for myself, I have learned in my painful journey through life that “love is where one finds it.”

Bi Social Network—Maria: Do you think Don’t Ask Don’t Tell will be overturned?

Cliff: Yes! But, I pray it will happen before the November mid term elections. Many Americans are angry at President Obama and Democrats about the healthcare bill, and the backlash will be felt far and wide.

Bi Social Network—Maria: What can we in the bisexual community do to support your work?

All my bisexual brothers and sisters need to be “visible” in terms of writing or calling President Obama and members of Congress to let them know that YOU are BISEXUAL and want the policy repealed. Ditto, for [all] [g]ay newspapers and media which “omit” the term [and] name bisexual in their respective articles.

And lastly, here is a letter which our board wrote to President Obama; as well as a photo of my testimony before Congress.

“As a bisexual in the military, there is no distinction in terms of punishment,
no refuge in being bisexual. You get the same consequences; you don’t get half a discharge.”
–Cliff Arnesen Quote from Lesbian News: October 2001

Bi Social Network—Maria: Thank you so much for your valuable input!

Sunday’s Rainbow “Torch Run” from San Francisco to Cologne

Germany, Will Launch World’s Largest Gay Sports Event

Symbolic “Rainbow Run” will travel to New York, Vancouver, Sydney, Amsterdam and Chicago before heading to Germany for this summer’s Gay Games

eventsSan Francisco, CA – Less than 10 days after the Olympic flame was lit at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, the LGBT sporting world will begin its own countdown to the 2010 Gay Games that take place later this year in Cologne, Germany. The International Rainbow Memorial Run (IRMR) gets underway on Sunday, 21 February, 2010 at 10:00 am in the San Francisco National AIDS Memorial Grove.

Every four years, the Rainbow Run helps the Federation of Gay Games (FGG) celebrate the lives of those who have graced the Gay Games movement and served or participated in the Games. “In many ways, this is our own ‘torch’ run,” said Brent Nicholson Earle, founder and organizer of the IRMR, “and we begin by renewing our connection with San Francisco, ‘our Athens,’ the city of our birth.”

San Francisco Celebration

On Sunday, 21 February 2010, the FGG will launch the official countdown to the Cologne Gay Games with a press conference and quilt ceremony at San Francisco’s National AIDS Memorial Grove. Led by event creator, New York activist Brent Nicholson Earle, the event celebrates friends of the Gay Games lost to AIDS and other diseases, including US Olympian and Gay Games founder Dr. Tom Waddell.

After performances by Cheer San Francisco and remarks by California State Senator Mark Leno and San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty the special Memorial Rainbow Flag will be carried on a symbolic run to San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium, the founding stadium of both the Oakland Raiders and the San Francisco 49ers, and the home of the Gay Games I (1982) and Gay Games II (1986) Opening and Closing Ceremonies.

The AIDS Memorial Grove is located at Middle Drive E at Bowling Green Drive in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Kezar Stadium is at 334-670 Kezar Drive, at the SE corner of Golden Gate Park. The event gets underway at 10 a.m.

Olympic Charter

“As the world celebrates the Vancouver Winter Olympics, most don’t know that the Olympic Charter does not expressly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or health status,” said Kurt Dahl and Emy Ritt, FGG co-presidents. “The International Rainbow Memorial Run not only launches the quadrennial Gay Games, but also helps to remind us of the relevance of our movement in a world that still makes it difficult to compete and be openly gay, [bisexual, transgendered] or lesbian.”

World Tour

The Rainbow flag will travel to each of the former Host Cities of the Gay Games with symbolic or 5K runs held in each city. The flag will travel to Vancouver, Canada (Gay Games III, 1990), New York, USA (Gay Games IV, 1994), Amsterdam, The Netherlands (Gay Games V, 1998), Sydney, Australia (Gay Games VI, 2020), and Chicago, USA (Gay Games VII, 2006) before traveling to Cologne, Germany, host of Gay Games VIII, 31 July to August 7, 2010. Similar events are being held throughout Germany in cooperation with local AIDS service organizations.

Cologne 2010 Opening Ceremony

The International Rainbow Memorial Run will make its way to Cologne after a tour through Germany in late July. On the morning of Saturday, 31 July, a special ceremony will be followed by the official International Memorial (5K) Rainbow Run. The flag and flag bearers will enter RheinEnergieStadion, Cologne’s famous soccer stadium, that evening during Gay Games VIII Opening Ceremony leading the parade of athletes.

To learn more about the history of the Gay Games movement, or to learn about an upcoming stop by the International Rainbow Memorial Flag, visit www.gaygames.com. For information about the 2010 Gay Games, visit www.games-cologne.com (English) or www.games-cologne.de (German).

About the Gay Games:

The Federation of Gay Games is the international governing body that perpetuates the quadrennial Gay Games and promotes the event’s founding principles of “Participation, Inclusion and Personal Best”™. The Gay Games was conceived by Dr. Tom Waddell, an Olympic decathlete, and was first held in San Francisco in 1982 with 1,350 participants. Subsequent Gay Games were held in San Francisco (1986 – 3,500 participants), Vancouver (1990 – 7,300 participants), New York (1994 – 12,500 participants), Amsterdam (1998 – 13,000 participants), Sydney (2002 – 11,000 participants), and Chicago (2006 – 11,700 participants). Gay Games VIII will be held in Cologne, Germany on 31 July-7 August 2010 and information is available at www.games-cologne.com.

“Gay Games,” “Federation of Gay Games,” the interlocking circles device, and the phrase “Participation, Inclusion and Personal Best” are trademarks of the Federation of Gay Games, Inc. Trade marks are registered in the USA, Canada, Benelux, the UK, Germany and Australia.

Isolation, Health, And The Bisexual Community

Isolation_StreetAt the beginning of June, a study came out about the health differences of BLGT people versus straight people. When I heard about it I figured it would show something similar to what previous studies with the same idea have shown: that overall BLGT people have worse health, more depression and higher suicide rates than straight people. Considering the hurdles so many have to face, such results are unfortunately not surprising.

However, this study was different in two ways: first, its sample was from one entire state, Massachusetts, and second, a major difference was noticed and pointed out about bisexuals and how they compare to both straight people and gay and lesbian people. The ultimate finding: bisexuals, especially bisexual women, have the worst health of all of the groups that were studied.

This quote sums up some of the more alarming findings: “Compared to heterosexuals, gays, lesbians, and bisexuals were more likely to say their health was worse on 16 of 22 measures. They were more likely to be tense or worried, to smoke, have asthma, abuse drugs, or be victims of sexual abuse. Bisexual men and women were also more likely than heterosexuals to say they faced barriers to getting health care, had higher cardiovascular risk, felt sad, and had contemplated suicide in the past year. Binge drinking was more common among bisexual women than heterosexuals. Bisexuals, but not gays or lesbians, were more likely than heterosexuals to be poor. Bisexual women were the most likely to report having been sexually assaulted. ‘All told, bisexual women had the worst health,’ Conron [the scientist who did the study] said in an interview. ‘We were surprised that there were such differences for bisexual people compared to gay and lesbian people.’ Although the study didn’t investigate the causes for the gaps among people with different sexual orientations, Conron said she hopes further research will look at the social stigma bisexual people may face not only from heterosexuals, but also from gay men and lesbians. ‘Bisexual people may feel in between the two and may not necessarily be fully accepted by either group,’ she said. ‘I think it merits further investigation. We know isolation is bad for health.’ ”

I have to admit, it was nice to see the researcher of a study come right out and admit that isolation is a big problem for many bisexuals instead of trying to make the usual excuses. Of course, this is not good news. But as much as I hate to say it, is it really surprising? Bisexuals face some of the worst ostracism of any sexual minority group. Often we are rejected by the straight world, and contrary to popular belief, this can happen even if we are in an opposite-gender relationship if we admit to being bisexual. We start to hope there is an accepting community out there for us, and hearing the letters BLGT gives us hope.

However, too often, we face ridicule, exclusion, and social pressure, as well as being told we don’t exist, and being blatantly made fun of in some cases. Who wouldn’t have issues when their existence in constantly questioned? The very first comment under the article that totally misses the point of it illustrates how far we still have to go: “They may have the poorest health, but they get to play for both teams. So they have their perks.”

So, what can we in the bisexual community do about this? Fighting for acceptance is the first step, and not backing down about it. If we are excluded from something, we should do what the transgender community does (and possibly team up with them!) and have our own version of the event. We also need to reach out to newly out bisexuals or people who may be about to come out as bisexual; they need to know that there is a community that supports them. Secondly, there need to be health programs specifically aimed at bisexuals to help us deal with our unique set of problems, something other than just lumping us in with “BLGT.”

I’ve read that more health programs aimed at bisexuals are popping at BLGT centers, so that is a good place to start. Bisexual organizations need to strongly encourage such programs. Thirdly, there need to be more studies like this one done that take the unique experiences of bisexuals into account; hopefully more such studies will lead to a dialogue between the straight, bisexual, and gay and lesbian communities. I hope this study and others like it will get peoples’ attention and eventually lead to some gains, understanding, and acceptance for the bisexual community.

Challenging the Myth of the Bisexual Man

coupleA man enters a coffee shop, dressed casually but still looking somewhat pristine. Waiting in line, he shifts back and forth on his feet, nervously. He orders a Chai tea Latte, vaguely wondering if the drink choice is “too obvious” for what has brought him to the coffee shop. Taking a seat at a table near the back of the coffee shop, but close to a window, he waits, watching intently. And he waits. And he waits. After what seems like an eternity, but in reality is little more than an hour, he leaves, wondering a bit why he’s been stood up. He replays the events leading up to the coffee shop meeting in his mind’s eye. It had been a simple enough, if somewhat clichéd setup. He’d placed a personal ad on a bisexual men’s site. The man that had answered it had seemed somewhat similar to himself, though he’d been married. That in and of itself hadn’t been an issue though, because it was just a cup of coffee—wasn’t it? Now, latte in hand, he just wondered why? Why is it that finding another like-minded bisexual man is so hard?

A bisexual male can find themselves asking why a lot. If straight is normal, homosexual is increasingly tolerated and bisexual women are vociferously approved by both genders—why is the bisexual male such an outlaw? If a man admits he is bisexual—why is he subject to such ridicule by the straight and homosexual population? Perhaps most of all is, if a man is openly bisexual—why is it so hard to meet another openly bisexual man?

Studies have been done, books written and surveys taken. Alfred Kinsey’s original report onSexual Behavior in the Human Male suggests that 3 out of 10 men will have a same sex encounter in their lives. A recent Gallup Poll shows that over 50 percent of men and women in America consider lesbian and gay relationships to be “morally acceptable”—though the poll says nothing about bisexuality. Perhaps this is amongst the reasons that many bisexual men still live comfortably “in the closet.” A quick search of the craigslist.org personals in the “men seeking men” category reveals that there are just short of 300 ads in a 24 hour period and that roughly 10 percent of those are from men proclaiming to be bisexual married men. Perhaps this lends itself to many of the myths about the bisexual man. It would seem—if one listens to the myths—that the monogamous, non-promiscuous, committed bisexual man is as rare as a unicorn. Men like Robert Winn challenge this opinion.

Robert, 40, has been bisexual since he met his wife Christine, 41, when the two were college. The couple’s nearly 18 years of monogamous marriage would seem to challenge the myth that bisexuality is “just a phase” as Robert has been openly monogamous for that entire 18 years. Robert is not immune to scrutiny and ridicule, however:

“There is a whole list of assumptions of what my life might be like, that somehow she is some sort of front for me because I’m not willing to accept I’m gay. People are confused by bisexuality. There’s just not a lot of support for people who fall in the middle like me.”

Bisexual men do ask why a lot. Perhaps a shift in the paradigm is needed—perhaps it isn’t a question of why the bisexual man is such an outlaw. The question that seems more suitable would seem to be—why are so many people confused by a person that is willing to love so indiscriminately?

The Other Bi: Bigender

Bigender_prideThe labels associated with the BLGT community are many and varied. Bisexual, as we know is generally accepted as the attraction to both genders but is often confused with pansexual–the attraction to people regardless of gender.  The subtle difference being that a bisexual person must be attracted to men and women, whereas the pansexual can be attracted to men, women, transgendered persons and anyone who doesn’t identify as being either male or female or part of the gender-binary system. Add to this the plethora of other labels, such as intersexed, genderqueer, heteroflexible et. al. and it becomes a bit more clear why it is so hard for a bisexual, homosexual—and yes transgendered person too—to discover what fits them, and why; and perhaps most importantly, to be accepted and what they are once they find it.

When doing research for a recent article, I came across a new term that immediately prompted the need for more research. The term “Bigender”—previously unknown to me, but apparently around since the late 90s—denotes a tendency to move between feminine and masculine gender-typed behavior depending on context. A 1999 survey conducted by the San Francisco Department of Public Health reported that less then 3% of men and 8% of women identified as bigender.

What exactly is Bigender though? Beyond the basic definition above, there doesn’t seem to be much known about it. What is a bigender person? The American Psychological Association’s report Answers to Your Questions About Transgender Individuals and Gender Identity uses the term only once, saying:

“Other categories of transgender people include androgynous, bigendered, and gender queer people. Exact definitions of these terms vary from person to person, but often include a sense of blending or alternating genders. Some people who use these terms to descrive themselves see traditional concepts of gender as restrictive.”

Elsewhere on the ‘net, bigender is defined as having the job of describing the behavior of a person, particularly a person who can identify as a male in certain situations and as a female in others—this would seem to be analogous to the way that intersexuality would apply to someone who is born with physical characteristics that are not exclusively male nor female.

While not much is known about this other “bi” culture within the BLGT community, it does seem to share a common thread with bisexuality.  Both are all inclusive gender–bisexuality allowing one to be attracted to and have relationships with both men and women interchangeably–bigender allowing on to present themselves as a man or a woman interchangeably as the situation dictates.  Both share the stigma of being misunderstood as well.  Bigender is often confused with crossdressing or transvestism, rather than being understood as the fluidity of gender that it is meant to represent.  One thing is certain, however, the two terms should not be confused with each other.  It might seem that a bigender identity must go with a bisexual identity but gender identity and sexual orientation are independent. It is possible to be bigender and not bisexual, or bisexual but not bigender.  Regardless of whether bigender defines who you are or bisexual defines who you love, it would appear that being bi is seemingly more complex and more amazing than previously believed.

Shall We Dance?

danceI guess it was inevitable.  I bought the pickup truck almost a year ago.  I baptized ‘him’ Lyle, my six-cylinder beau.  At the same time, I began listening in earnest to WUMB, the local folk station–which has plenty of country music as well–so the next step had to be dancing.  This past Saturday, that’s exactly what it was.

I had gotten an email from a friend a few days beforehand asking me if I liked to dance and wanted to go out to an event put on by Gays for Patsy, a Boston-based BLGT Country/Western dance association.  Well, I’ve always wanted to learn to dance so this seemed like the opportune moment to go beyond disco-floor freestyle and that waltz I learned in high school so I could competent at weddings.

I had no idea what to expect and I was a little fried from having put in a whole day of work, which actually meant I went in with a completely open mind and had no energy to worry about whether I had two left feet or not.  Happily, there was a lesson before the dance began and I was able to grasp the rudiments of the two-step for the evening’s festivities.

You may be wondering who danced with whom and indeed the floor was filled with same-sex couples as well with some mixed-sex pairings.  When the two-step was being taught, the instructor referred to the positions of the dancers as the “lead” and the “follow”.  At this soiree anyone could lead, follow or do both.  In fact we all had name tags on, writing our names in blue ink if we were leads, red if we were follows or a combination of the two if we did both.

Is this bisexual heaven, or what!

I had the pleasure both to lead and follow some very charming men and women around the dance floor.  If dances were like this when I was younger, I would have signed up for lessons years ago!  I can’t tell you how much I ate it up.

It was liberating to be on the floor without cumbersome and useless gender-role expectations being heaped upon the enjoyment of tripping the light fantastic.  It’s like a little mirror of life: sometimes we lead, sometimes we follow, and the experience teaches us different things.  Hopefully we feel safe in either case and have fun along the way.

It was also freeing to be in an environment where choice of partner was irrelevant.  It was all about music, dancing and community.  You know, the things that really matter in life.  And once you’re concentrating on what matters, you never know what will happen be it on the dance floor or in life.

I am now looking forward to the next dance.  Maybe I’ll even try a line dance.  Who knows, one of these days I may even get cowboy boots–to go with the truck of course!

By the way, if you’re interested in trying Country/Western dancing yourself, follow this link for more information and groups near you.

Labels and Identity

my name isWith the recent controversy, which was basically a big argument about labels, I started to think about labels and identity in the BLGT community. Ultimately, do labels serve to unite, or divide? Would a more general label help unite those that are similar or have similar goals, but are not necessarily the same? Would it obscure people’s true identities? Do more specific labels help us understand each other better, or do they only serve mostly to divide us and make some people feel more excluded than others? What about people who use certain labels for political reasons, but don’t actually fit the label in their behavior? There’s a quote from the GLBTQ Encyclopedia that sums it up really well: “A significant distinction is between sexual preference and sexual identity. Sexual preferences are about various desires, positions, and fantasies one might have, whereas sexual identity is about how one self-identifies in terms of straight, gay, or bisexual.”  As that quote rightly points out, the two don’t always match up.

Whether some people want to admit it or not, the truth is that there are a significant number of people either in the BLGT community or who dabble in it—whose behavior and self-professed identity labels don’t match up: men who have sex with other men and label as straight, gay labeled men and women who engage in straight and/or bisexual behavior, and yes, some people who exhibit bisexual behavior who label themselves as gay, lesbian, or straight while not behaving like it or vice versa. What is the real “truth” here? Are these people who are in denial, use the labels to fit in, or are confused? Would using one label for the entire community, such as “queer”, put an end to this endless speculation about labels? What about those who want to add more labels to the community, such as pansexual, intersex, questioning, and asexual? Don’t they deserve to be included too? We do all share the experience of being ostracized from straight society. And each letter, B, L, G, and T, is so much more than just the letter or the word-there are many sub communities and subcultures of each, as well as overlap with other communities.

There really is no one answer to all of these questions, for some people it’s none of the above, for others, all of the above, and yet for others, a totally different reason; or there’s no explanation. Personally, I do like the idea of unity and inclusion and adding more letters, even though it may become cumbersome; as many communities as possible deserve to be represented. I also like the idea of having a more unified label such as queer, and have  used that term myself on occasion, but as I mentioned in my last article, it shouldn’t be used as an excuse to not want to admit you are bi or to say “bi but.”  A great example of the unifying power of using one term is the website Queers United , which has made a wonderful effort to include everyone. A unifying world would also help the whole “alphabet soup” problem, where some people think too many letters keep getting added on to the BLGT acronym.

love no genderHowever, I can also see the other side; if we all have one label, our diversity and individuality may vanish, and will it really put us all on an “even keel?” People who are really attached to their label and/or who have fought hard to use it will use it anyway, and not many will argue that they shouldn’t. I know that especially for the bisexual community, it’s important to be visible, out and proud, as discussed on the last Bi Talk Radio podcast.

Also, some people have trouble with the word “queer,” as it has been and sometimes still is used an [and] insult—even though the BLGT community has done a good job of taking it back. No one has been able to come up with a better word to signal unity. More importantly, even with all the labels we do have, people are so much more than a label, and a label shouldn’t ultimately make one feel they must restrict their behavior—if they see an opportunity for love that is outside of their label. In the end, love always wins out, which is why we sometimes hear about people who thought they were a particular orientation falling in love with the “wrong” gender; love knows no bounds or gender. So, how can we seek to unify ourselves, minimize distrust among various BLGT groups, and minimize bickering over labels and identity?

First of all, people need to understand that a label doesn’t always equal identity, and like it or not, labels can be permeable and fluid, and some people can move across the spectrum. The younger generations seem to be understanding this particularly well compared to previous generations. Secondly, we should celebrate the diversity and individuality of the BLGT community, by celebrating and including all the letters and adding more if necessary, but we should also focus on a word or words that helps to unite us as well; and try to move towards the day when labels won’t be as necessary or as big a deal. I see no reason we can’t aim for unity, while celebrating diversity at the same time, though I’m sure it won’t be easy.

So readers, I ask you for your comments and opinions; what do you think about the need for labels and how they affect identity, the difference between the two, and how we can do more to unite the BLGT community without loosing our diversity? Please write and let me know, and if I get enough responses, I’ll write a follow up article!

 

What I’ve Learned Since Coming Out

come outSo it’s been over a year since I’ve come out, and a few months since I wrote my four part coming out series, which you can read here. On this National Coming Out Day 2009, I wanted to go ahead and share what I have learned since I wrote those articles last April.

I’ve learned there is politics as usual in the BLGT community, just like in any other community. Growing up Catholic, I always had this idea that “those gays” were a big united front that wanted to take over (yes, they actually told us this in church). Having been in the community; I have to laugh every time someone talks about the “gay agenda”. If there is an agenda, no one can seem to agree on what it even is! There is infighting in the community just like any other community. There are many voices, not just one. Unity is one thing many minorities have had trouble with; BLGT people are just like the others that way.

The irony is that the diversity of voices and opinions that can sometimes contribute to the infighting also contributes to an amazing community that so many people like. You can find and meet so many different kinds of people, so many different ideas about gender, looks, sexuality, politics, and many other things. What needs to be done is to find a way to at least have the different voices “sing in the same key”, so the community can present a more unified front and get what it needs. We need to focus on what unites us and common goals we share, not what divides us. Those are two major things I’ve learned about the community in the past few months.

I’ve learned that religion still plays a role in many BLGT people’s lives. Another thing I heard growing up—that gay people are all “godless heathens”. I lost religion myself, but I have noticed that in the community there are many BLGT religious clubs and institutions, and there are several liberal churches that are accepting; for many people religion or some form of spirituality is still important. I’m glad they have this in their lives; as this seems to also help people deal with any guilt issues they might have, of which unfortunately there seem to be many.

I’ve learned that just like in the rest of the world, there is tension between genders, orientations, and races. People of color, bisexuals, transgender people, and many others too often feel excluded and not represented, as do some women. I’m seeing this problem addressed more and more, so that is a good thing to see. I’ve also learned that there is such a thing as BLGT Republicans.

I’ve learned that you don’t have to be “gay” to be bashed. I unfortunately know this from personal experience. As I wrote in my article about the myth of bisexuals and “hetero-privilege” bisexuals most definitely can be victims of hate crimes, as can be straight allies who support BLGT people.

I’ve learned that BLGT people throw amazing parties. Seriously, no offense to my straight friends, but you’ve haven’t been to a party till you’ve been to a “queer” one!

I’ve learned that beyond the four letters of B, L, G, and T, there are many sub communities as well, that you don’t’ always here about, such as bears, leather, polyamory, pansexuals, intersex, genderqueer, asexual, heteroflexible, homoflexible, questioning, and others. I’ve also learned that some people just prefer the word queer and don’t like to focus on other labels; this is particularly true among the younger generation.

Last, but certainly not least, I’ve learned that the bisexual community, which I never knew much about and always assumed was just integrated into the gay community, is a wonderfully amazing and diverse group of people with a great subculture, where I feel the most at home. Over the past few months working on bringing our bi contingent together for the National Equality March, I have seen unity and the bi community rally for representation when asked to, showing that yes we do exist and we do have large numbers, and getting results! I am so proud of them, and I hope this is the beginning of something wonderful leading to a bigger community of our own.

I’ve learned so much, and I hope to learn much more by next year. Happy coming out day to all of you, and you were all with us at the National Equality March in spirit.