Using the Questioning Label

question markOne of the arguments against bisexuality and the bisexual/pansexual community that I’ve seen written on too many gay blogs is the whole “when I first came out I said I was bi too, then later I realized I was gay.” This tiresome argument drives me nuts, because for starters—just because that’s how it happened to some people, doesn’t mean that’s how it is for everyone. But unfortunately, even I can’t deny that it does happen, and I’m not too fond of the whole “bi now, gay later” bit. For a while now, I’ve wanted to say to people; when you first come out, if you aren’t sure, don’t use the word bisexual—because if you do and you later realize you are gay, it will only lend credence to the stereotype. When I first came out, even though I was reasonably sure I was bisexual, I just said I was “not sure” and “questioning”, until I was sure, as I explored the BTLG world. The bi/pan community is a very welcoming place to explore one’s sexuality, something that has always been an asset, but unfortunately this can backfire if people go on to realize they are gay or straight; they can think that bisexuality and/or being between gay and straight in general is just an “in between” phase or label.

I’ve started seeing the whole idea of the “questioning” label being encouraged more, even sometimes being added to the end of GLBT to make GLBTQ. I think it’s a great idea. It seems that for some people—when they first come out,  they don’t know what label to use, and they jump to the bisexual label—because there’s this rather erroneous idea in the straight community (and unfortunately too often in the gay community as well) that it’s the “easiest” label to deal with—and that it’s more acceptable to come out as bisexual. Later on, if they realize they are gay, they drop the bisexual label, and this gives rise to our least favorite stereotype.

Using the questioning label definitely has much less potential for misunderstanding and stereotypes; after all, the label itself implies searching, transition, and being temporary. It sounds a lot better to say “I was once questioning and then I figured out I was gay”, then to say “I was once bisexual, but then I realized I was gay”. As far as I know, there aren’t people who claim questioning as a permanent label—nor is questioning an orientation. The questioning label also allows for “comfortable exploration” even for straight people—if they later realize they are straight, they can always see the questioning as a phase.  It seems most people in the BTLG community are comfortable with people who are just out using that label as well.

So how do we encourage people who are just coming out—but unsure of their orientation, to use the questioning label? The best way is already being done—to make the idea of GLBTQ more visible. Several BTLG centers now use the acronym “GLBTQ” (among others with more letters, such as GLBTQQIA) to acknowledge, and encourage people who are questioning—to come in and use their resources. Several website profiles that allow you to list your orientation, now have “questioning” or “not sure” as a choice. I’ve heard it used more on TV too; “so and so is questioning their orientation.” Hopefully, this will make its way more into BTLG vocabulary. One way we bi/pan people, especially bisexuals, can encourage its use is to encourage anyone we do know who is starting to question their sexuality to use the questioning label, until they figure things out. We can also counter the stereotype of bisexuality as a transitional label for everyone— when someone says, “I was bi once, then I realized I was gay”—we should answer, “No, you were questioning, not bisexual. You were in the process of coming out and then you did.”

To be fair, not everyone can always use the questioning label—some people may truly genuinely believe they are bisexual—then realize they are gay, and vice versa. But, I think that overall the questioning label can be used by most people—questioning their sexuality and coming out or thinking about coming out. The younger generation does seem more willing to embrace it, and both the gay and straight communities seem pretty accepting of using it. It can take the place of the word bisexual—when coming out, and help erase some of the stereotypes and biphobia that have surrounded the bisexual label and orientation. That’s something we can all look forward to in the future.

To learn and read more discussion about the Questioning Label, check out this post on Queers United.

Figuring Out Obama and DOMA

Is the whole BLGT community up in arms about President Barack Obama’s position about DOMA? Read our Op-Ed from our Blogger Mizz.

obamaWhen I heard that the Department of Justice (DOJ) had filed a brief defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), I was surprised, but then I’d read somewhere that there was a legal reason they had to defend it for now. Then I actually read the defense, and along with a lot of the BTLG community, I was shocked. Had President Obama just thrown us under a bus after all the promises he made? Did he have a hand in writing this? Did he know about it? Did someone else write it to make him look bad? I didn’t know what to think. The brief seemed rather passionate in its defense and even seemed to recall some of the stereotypes about BTLG people (a connection to pedophilia, etc.) and going so far as to say DOMA is good for the economy. Many activists began calling for Obama’s head, saying he’d betrayed us. Several are pulling out of DNC fundraisers, and not supporting the Democratic Party anymore. Not long after Obama gave some legal benefits to same-sex partners of government workers; and he has promised to do more, and recently some BTLG activists (including Bi activist Robyn Ochs!) were invited to the White House to talk with him. However, many are saying that it’s “too little too late”, that we “wasted our time with him” and that we “never should have voted for him”. While I too was dismayed, I’d like to ask one question: “Would we be better off if the opposition had won last November?” The answer is a big fat NO. Somehow I doubt anyone would have been invited to the white house or even acknowledged. It could have been worse than the past eight years.

doma protestLet’s face it, this administration is the best we’re going to get, at least for now. While I can’t understand [DOMA] it was written as it was (if they had to defend it, they could have done so in a less inflammatory manner), there is progress on several other fronts-the inclusion of BTLG people, the government benefits, the invitations to the white house, the rumors about repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT – a trans-inclusive EDNA.

Let’s remember, that BTLG issues are not the only ones – when it comes to things like war and poverty, understandably, those will take a back seat. I don’t envy the president’s job — every group wants what they want NOW, you’re expected to fix everything immediately, and no matter what you do, someone will call for your head – sometimes literally. Plus some people hate you for nothing other than being black. You have to try and govern from the center. My personal opinion; if Obama was in on the writing of the brief, he probably figured he’d go ahead and throw a bone to the conservatives since for now, he had to defend DOMA anyway. I think it backfired. The right is going to hate him no matter what he does, and if he wants to throw them “bones”, it shouldn’t be at any community’s expense.

I’m ticked about the brief, but I also understand that when you are a politician in the position of the president — well, let’s just say you aren’t always going be able to keep all your promises, and yes, some things will have to take a backseat, at least temporarily. Then there’s the strong role religion plays in all this-the president is liberal but still religious, and is going to have pressure from several religious groups. To be fair, he’s been honest the whole time that he doesn’t support same-sex marriage because of religious reasons, so maybe supporting the “Defense of (heterosexual) marriage” shouldn’t exactly come as a surprise.

What’s odd is the contradiction between reaching out to the community, the language in the brief, and then reaching out again? As I said, perhaps it was some attempt at a bad concession. I don’t think anyone is really sure, and it’s immature to try and draw too many conclusions. The best thing to do is wait, take every opportunity given us when the administration does reach out, work on educating the public, be cautious about any DNC support, and to hope for the best. When the administration stops inviting our leaders over to the white house to talk, and/or starts behaving more like the previous administration-then I will really worry. For now, I am going to extend the benefit of the doubt, try and reserve judgment, continue with activism, and wait and see. If some in the community don’t agree with me, fine, that’s their prerogative. For the record, I don’t regret my vote at all last November — because I’ve seen work on several other issues — and as far as BTLG issues go — if the other side had won, we wouldn’t even be having this debate because there would be nothing to talk about.

Massachusett: Where Same-sex Marriage is Legal

gay marriageHi everyone, my apologies for being gone for a while — I am getting over an injury that has prevented me from typing much until now. I recently visited the great blue state of Massachusetts, where same sex marriage is legal and has been since 2004, and did my best to record my experiences and observations.

For starters, the lies of the religious right became even more amusing. They would have us all believe that society would literally fall apart at the seams if same-sex marriage becomes legal. I found the opposite to be true. MA seemed to be functioning quite smoothly. Both opposite sex couples and religious institutions (both of which I saw plenty!) are doing just fine, and no one is “persecuting them.” There is a very active Catholic population.

From what I saw — most of the people seem pretty liberal and easygoing (unless the Red Sox8 loose!). Boston itself is very diverse, and they appear to be proud of that fact. I saw much diversity and all kinds of couples-interracial, opposite sex, and same sex. A pleasant surprise was that I saw several same sex couples walking about openly holding hands in the “mainstream” public. Where I live, you really don’t see much of that except in the ‘gay section” of town, even though I don’t exactly live in a conservative area. I saw one same sex couple sitting in a park being very affectionate with one another-and no one around them seemed to care. There wasn’t starting, or pointing, or laughing. It was just another couple being cute with each other like all the couples. Now granted, MA has had five years to get used to the idea, but I really hope what we are seeing is a trend-that hopefully in a few years in most states, the idea won’t be such an alien one, and a same sex couple will be just “another couple”.

Boston of course, is the proud home of the Bisexual Resource Center. They had a meeting while I was there, but unfortunately I couldn’t attend. I did talk to some people at the center, which is downtown, and they told me that Boson has one of the largest bi networks in the country, and that the BRC participates heavily in pride every year. They were preparing for pride, and they do a lot to promote bi visibility. Although Boston is better than most places when it comes to bi visibility, there is still work to be done, and I’m glad that the BRC is there to do it! I was really proud to speak to them and hope to actually go to a meeting next time I visit.

I did have a chance to check out the BTLG bar scene, and I met some really interesting people, B’s, T’s, L’s and G’s all of which seemed cool with the fact that I was bi. The bars were pretty interesting.

Unfortunately, no trip seems to be complete without at least one homophobic experience, and even though MA is a great liberal state, it’s no exception to that rule. From what I was told by the locals, up there it happens quite a bit less then a lot of other places, but it still does happen. I personally experienced it myself-coming out of a gay bar where I’d met up with some friends who unfortunately had to leave. I was planning where to go next, when big guy approached me and started screaming homophobic slurs at me. I admit my response wasn’t the smartest-I yelled back at him. He started walking toward me. I pulled out my pepper spray and said “if you come any closer I will spray you”. He stopped and we stood there. What happened next was totally unexpected. There were some guys walking by, on their way to the bar I had been at, and they stopped and defended me-and told him to leave me alone. Outnumbered, he left. They and I started talking and hung out for a while, and they escorted me to the subway to make sure I got there safely. They told me to be careful, that homophobes in that area like to come out at night and especially like to pick on girls coming out of BTLG bars alone. I guess no area is perfect unfortunately, but I have to admit it was nice to have my own little gay liberation army! To me this really underscores how we all need to stick together when confronted with bigotry.

On the whole, I had a lot of fun, and I hope to go back soon. I also hope that my experience of seeing so many same sex couples blend will be something we’ll all start to see in many more states!

Bringing Back the ‘B’ in LGBT

Voice your opinion on changing up the “B” in LGBT to BLGT — Do you agree?

PrintAs we move forward with celebrating our bisexual selves, I begain to noticed that every year gay and lesbian media (print and online) change up the “L” for lesbian and “G” for gay, why? Do they feel they want to be top dog? Do they feel they are NOT being represented? Clearly, this is not the case, as there are hundreds upon hundreds of sites dedicated to gay and lesbian freedom – as it should – but some continue to not even mention bisexual or transgender on there very site, column or title.

We also have to come to grip, that all things are not equal in the land of rights for all in the LGBT community; in fact, I continuously try to find content regarding bisexual and transsexuals news – though transsexuals are getting more airtime of late – which we say “about time!”

This is why we have decided – being a bisexual and an activist, about all things bisexual — I’m a Bisexualist.  We are going to only use the coin phase for things LGBT to BTLG or BLGT. We have to understand this is needed to make a point, that we still have a long way to go regarding the separation of our community.

I live in Chicago and all too well, we see gays and lesbians not mixing, or sad to say white gays and black and Latino gays in different circles? Nani? (Japanese for What!) So, we at BSN are giving the bisexuals time on the top of the community! Google and Bing take note! We are now using BTLG for (Bisexual, Transsexual, Lesbian and Gay) content. We feel we must state this cause until more content is free flowing thought-out our community!

What are your thoughts on these issues? Will you come join us? We hope so! Do you think we are being to sensitive? Voice your opinion and comment on our site! We love positive and negative feedback, as long as it’s respectful.

Figuring Out Obama and DOMA

obamaIs the whole BLGT community up in arms about President Barack Obama’s position about DOMA? Read our Op-Ed from our Blogger Mizz.

When I heard that the Department of Justice (DOJ) had filed a brief defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), I was surprised, but then I’d read somewhere that there was a legal reason they had to defend it for now. Then I actually read the defense, and along with a lot of the BTLG community, I was shocked. Had President Obama just thrown us under a bus after all the promises he made? Did he have a hand in writing this? Did he know about it? Did someone else write it to make him look bad? I didn’t know what to think. The brief seemed rather passionate in its defense and even seemed to recall some of the stereotypes about BTLG people (a connection to pedophilia, etc.) and going so far as to say DOMA is good for the economy. Many activists began calling for Obama’s head, saying he’d betrayed us. Several are pulling out of DNC fundraisers, and not supporting the Democratic Party anymore. Not long after Obama gave some legal benefits to same-sex partners of government workers; and he has promised to do more, and recently some BTLG activists (including Bi activist Robyn Ochs!) were invited to the White House to talk with him. However, many are saying that it’s “too little too late”, that we “wasted our time with him” and that we “never should have voted for him”. While I too was dismayed, I’d like to ask one question: “Would we be better off if the opposition had won last November?” The answer is a big fat NO. Somehow I doubt anyone would have been invited to the white house or even acknowledged. It could have been worse than the past eight years.

Let’s face it, this administration is the best we’re going to get, at least for now. While I can’t understand [DOMA] it was written as it was (if they had to defend it, they could have done so in a less inflammatory manner), there is progress on several other fronts-the inclusion of BTLG people, the government benefits, the invitations to the white house, the rumors about repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT – a trans-inclusive EDNA.

Let’s remember, that BTLG issues are not the only ones – when it comes to things like war and poverty, understandably, those will take a back seat. I don’t envy the president’s job — every group wants what they want NOW, you’re expected to fix everything immediately, and no matter what you do, someone will call for your head – sometimes literally. Plus some people hate you for nothing other than being black. You have to try and govern from the center. My personal opinion; if Obama was in on the writing of the brief, he probably figured he’d go ahead and throw a bone to the conservatives since for now, he had to defend DOMA anyway. I think it backfired. The right is going to hate him no matter what he does, and if he wants to throw them “bones”, it shouldn’t be at any community’s expense.

I’m ticked about the brief, but I also understand that when you are a politician in the position of the president — well, let’s just say you aren’t always going be able to keep all your promises, and yes, some things will have to take a backseat, at least temporarily. Then there’s the strong role religion plays in all this-the president is liberal but still religious, and is going to have pressure from several religious groups. To be fair, he’s been honest the whole time that he doesn’t support same-sex marriage because of religious reasons, so maybe supporting the “Defense of (heterosexual) marriage” shouldn’t exactly come as a surprise.

What’s odd is the contradiction between reaching out to the community, the language in the brief, and then reaching out again? As I said, perhaps it was some attempt at a bad concession. I don’t think anyone is really sure, and it’s immature to try and draw too many conclusions. The best thing to do is wait, take every opportunity given us when the administration does reach out, work on educating the public, be cautious about any DNC support, and to hope for the best. When the administration stops inviting our leaders over to the white house to talk, and/or starts behaving more like the previous administration-then I will really worry. For now, I am going to extend the benefit of the doubt, try and reserve judgment, continue with activism, and wait and see. If some in the community don’t agree with me, fine, that’s their prerogative. For the record, I don’t regret my vote at all last November — because I’ve seen work on several other issues — and as far as BTLG issues go — if the other side had won, we wouldn’t even be having this debate because there would be nothing to talk about.

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

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