The Perception of Attraction

oppinionAs I was reading this article by my co writer, Peter Ruggiero, I was struck by this quote: “On top of this, there are some extra challenges for the bisexual male. If you’re one of the “regular guys,” folks may not want to believe that you are also attracted to other men. If you’re a man who’s gender atypical, folks often have a hard time believing you like women. I have a friend, also named Peter, whom I like to quote on this subject; “I’m here, I’m queer and I like women too. Get used to it!”’ I couldn’t have put it better myself.”

That really made me think—being in the bisexual community has taught me not to judge people by appearances and even mannerisms, because those are not set in stone and mean different things to different people, and can change over time. This brings with it a certain openness, to get to know people for who they are on the inside, not outside, and not to follow stereotypes. Basically, don’t judge a book by its cover, but there is much more to it even than that.

One problem people have with understanding bisexuality seems to be based on understanding gender and gender roles. If a person doesn’t fit into a certain perceived gender box, i.e. they don’t behave, look, or dress in a way that is supposed to fit with their gender, then they can’t possibly be bisexual. This has been a problem for the gay and lesbian community as well, as many masculine gay men and feminine lesbians will tell you—but it seems to be an even bigger problem for bisexuals, because of the duality of our attractions, and because we sometimes change roles and demeanor depending on what community we are in.

If a man is considered masculine, he can’t possibly be attracted to men, if he is perceived as more feminine, then he can’t possibly be attracted to women. For women, if you are “too butch”, it’s hard to imagine you liking men, and if you’re what is considered a feminine woman, people have a hard time believing you can be attracted to other women. I’ve experienced it myself—depending on how I dress, or act, my hair length, my nails-I have to be either gay or straight, because I “can’t possibly be attracted to (insert either gender).” A few weeks ago I met what many would consider a very “butch looking lesbian”—who started telling me she’s actually bisexual and dates men as well as women. I admit, even I had thought she was a lesbian by first glance-which really goes to show that unfortunately these stereotypes get ingrained in all of us at some level.

Since there is a mainstream gay and lesbian community, and several stereotypes have grown up around it (all gay men are feminine acting, all lesbians are masculine acting), bisexuals often get caught between the stereotypes—if we behave “too straight”, we must really be straight and just “experimenting”, if we behave “too gay” we must just be denying we are really gay. These stereotypes that both sides have of each other run rampant in both communities. I tried dissecting it in the gay community once, and asking “what does it actually mean to be too straight? Am I acting too feminine for you? Does this mean I can’t possibly be attracted to women? Would you say that to someone who considers herself a “femme” lesbian?” Naturally I didn’t get an answer, just a look of confusion.

I’m sure if I asked in the straight community-“what exactly does it mean to be too gay?” If a woman doesn’t wear skirts, or has short hair, or is too opinionated— does that automatically mean she can only be attracted to women and not men? If a guy is short, not into sports, and not stereotypically masculine, is he automatically attracted to only men and not women? We’ve seen those stereotypes broken over and over again, that how someone looks or even acts in a given situation doesn’t determine who they can be attracted to—there’s even a name for it in the gay community—“straight acting” gay man or woman” and yet the stereotypes persist.

Then we have the idea of “well you don’t act like a bisexual”—how is a bisexual person supposed to act? Should we have someone of each gender on each arm? Should we be a cross between a gay stereotype and a straight one? Do I need a sign? Do I need to actively chase both men and women in front of people? I never seem to get answers to any of these questions either.

So to paraphrase Peter’s friend: “I’m here, I’m queer, and I like men too. Get used to it!”

The ‘Barsexual’ Debate

debateI wish they would just be labeled as straight girls looking to entertain, not bisexuals. So the question is, how should we view this trend? Many bisexual women’s (including my viewpoint) natural tendency is to get angry—we don’t want to be stereotyped, or have our sexuality associated with something fake—that is just done for entertainment. We feel it cheapens the concept of real bisexuality and leads to people saying it’s fake—it doesn’t exist, or it’s just a phase, or worse yet, that bisexuals are sleazy opportunists and bisexual women are nothing more than sex objects. It only adds insult to injury to hear that many of these barsexuals say they’re really straight, or so the story goes, anyway. I’ve heard several bisexual female friends say “I wish they would just be labeled as straight girls looking to entertain, not bisexuals.” I most definitely sympathize with that frustration, as I’ve felt a lot myself when hearing about this, but recently I’ve been thinking and have begun to ask myself: are all these girls really just “straight fakers,” doing it for attention? Or could some of them be bisexuals who just are not giving people the best impression of bisexuality, or just coming out, or people who came out,  as in this example? Or could some of them be questioning and unsure of their orientation and questioning [their sexual identity]?

To quote Adrienne Williams, founder of Bi Social News: (See Types of Bisexuals)

Bisexuals come in all shapes and sizes, and what’s okay for some isn’t okay for others. If girls are going around kissing girls in bars—it could mean they might be a different [type of] bisexual than what you think bisexuals are—the scale does slide after all.

That statement really made me think, and it makes a good point. While I definitely don’t doubt that there is a sizable chunk of these “barsexuals” who are straight, it wouldn’t surprise me if some of them did turn out to be bisexual, or emerging bisexuals. We see this trend in porn movies too—while sometimes the “girl on girl” ones made for men will be just straight women doing “gay for pay”, there are bisexual women involved in that kind of work as well. And as much as both instances might make some of us cringe because it’s really not giving the rest of the world the best impression of bisexual women, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are not bisexual—if they are, they are, whether they express it right or not. Should we automatically label them “fake bisexuals” just because we don’t like how they express it? And who gets to make these rules anyway?

Part of the problem with this is that bisexuality still isn’t accepted nearly as much as it should be in either the gay or straight community. In the gay community too often it’s considered a phase or nonexistent, and in the straight community—especially with women, it’s used for entertainment or titillation. So naturally, most bisexuals understandably are not going to want something that adds to negative perception to be associated with them. I will say I’m glad people have given this trend its own word.

Personally, I’m not sure what to think? Being in the bisexual community has taught me to look at the grey area in a lot of issues—which is why I’ve tried to express both sides above. I wonder, how many of the people who get into these situations are questioning or even bisexual,  but I also can’t help but wonder how many are just straight girls playing into the trend.

So I am leaving this article open-ended and am asking you—our readers: What do you think, and why? How does the bisexual community feel about this issue? What has been your experience? Please feel free to post a comment, wherever you see this article, or to send me an email at bisocialnews@gmail.com. If I get enough answers, I’ll write a follow-up summarizing them. This is one issue we should be talking about!

Bisexuals, the Hetero-privilege Myth?

As bisexual, gay and lesbian groups take sides on the validity of the true bisexual — BSN steps up and gets personal, regarding biphobic in the gay and lesbian community. Are you surprised? We’re not?

two young womenI’ve been hearing [on the Web] that bisexuals “enjoy and are just trying to hold onto hetero-privilege.” I can honestly say from my own personal experiences that this is completely untrue, and an extremely unfair and ignorant thing to say.

While we are in the closet, yes, we take advantage of hetero-privilege, as does a gay person when they pretend to be straight. I wouldn’t call it a privilege, because pretending to be something you are not and burying a part of yourself is a deeply painful process. When we do come out, many in the straight world lump us in with gay people — the same people that won’t accept a gay person won’t accept a bisexual person either.  A simple Google search will show several websites that prove this.

I have to stay in the closet with my family, because to them, it wouldn’t be any different than if I were gay. They wouldn’t say I’m only committing “half a sin”. Since I’ve come out, dated both genders (not at once) and been active in the BTGL community and advocacy, I’ve experienced being accosted while going to and from a lesbian bar, being yelled at when picking up a BTGL newspaper, and hate mail in my P.O. box because I was receiving mail from BTGL and bi organizations. Someone in the mail room wrote, “damn, dirty queer” on my letter. I’ve received  worse threats on Myspace, Facebook, and other social networking sights for being out on my profiles,  though they are not public, and harassment from religious organizations. Religious friends who found out are now former friends, and some religious acquaintances, I can’t tell. I now carry pepper spray when I go to lesbian bars (unfortunately the ones around here are not in the best neighborhoods) so I’m not accosted by people yelling homophobic slurs at me.

Does this sound much different from what a gay person has to deal with? No. So tell me, everyone who says, we are hanging on to “hetero-privilege”, how, exactly, am I benefiting from this so-called “privilege?” I’ve experienced more homophobia than some gay people I know. Many of us are teased as kids in the same way gay people are. A queer basher isn’t going to stop and say “hmm, you’re bisexual, I’ll only hit you half as hard”, or the person writing things on my mail isn’t just going to write half a slur. The hate and vitriol directed my way is the same — for daring to admit, ANY sort of attraction to the same sex, regardless of whether or not — I still maintain an interest for the opposite sex. This is something bisexual people have been trying to explain for years, yet too many people STILL don’t get it.

Some people say “if you are in an opposite sex relationship, you get all the benefits, so you can just choose that”. Not really. For starters, I can’t just “choose” who I fall in love with — it could be a man, a woman, a transgender person, or someone else. If I fall in love with a person, I fall in love with them regardless of what they have or don’t have between their legs. Secondly, as many straight allies will tell you, you don’t have to be in a same-sex relationship to get “queer bashed”-many bigots will bash anyone who supports BTGL people in any way.

Whoever wrote on my mail didn’t know, if I was dating a man or a woman — from what I was getting. It was clear I was bi and yet they still chose to engage in a hate crime — no different than if I were gay. I could have a boyfriend and still go to a BTGL bar, and be treated just like a lesbian would be by bigots. Homophobia isn’t cut in half just because sometimes I have an opposite sex partner. People who are half black and half white are often going to be treated no differently than a full black person by racists, and the same is true of homophobic bigots with regards to a bisexuals.

These are some reasons why being accused of “hetero-privilege” by some in the gay community just adds insult to injury. We suffer homophobia (and biphobia from the straight world that has many misconceptions about bisexuality), just like gay people do and it would be nice, to have more understanding and not face biphobia on top of that from parts of the gay community. I know. I am not the only bisexual person who feels this way and has these experiences, and my hope with this article is to shed some light on the fact that we have more in common with the gay community than many people realize, and that we all need to support, help, and try to understand each other — not create more fictional barriers.

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.

Coming Out, Part 2

In high school, (in the 90’s) — which was liberal but still religious, I started dating a boy and we were together all throughout high school. He [was] great and we really did like each other; but that didn’t stop [us] from also having crushes on girls, as well as on other boys. I put the girls in the back of my head and didn’t give them a second thought. Then one day, I was sitting next to a girl in class, and she wrote the word “bisexual” down. I asked her what it meant. She explained that it was a word for people who were sexually attracted to both genders. I almost fell out of my chair — there was a name for it? That must have meant there were others like me! I was happy for the next hour — until it hit me that I could never admit it, if that’s what I was. Being attracted to the same sex was a sin. I didn’t want to go to hell and I didn’t want anyone to hate me. My parents never said anything hateful about gay people, but they did say I should agree with the church’s teaching on sexuality.

Coming out, Part 4

I have to admit the discrepancy between my online experiences (I have experienced very blatant biphobia online), my friends’ experiences, and my experiences in person have both puzzled and pleasantly surprised me. Am I just in a good area that’s very open (I do live in a big city that’s pretty liberal on a coast)? Is it that I make friends easily and am just very social? Is it that many of the GLBT people I’ve come in contact with are under 35, like me, and our generation is much more open about such things? I have heard that there is a generational gap when it comes to bisexuality, and that older people, both gay and straight, get touchier about it. I’ve also heard from friends in this area that have had biphobic experiences, so I guess I’ve just been lucky so far. I am hoping that that luck represents a trend-maybe attitudes are finally becoming more accepting? I try to come across as confident in who I am and in my sexuality and I am always ready to speak up if someone says something biphobic. Maybe people see that attitude in me, and it discourages biphobia?

Coming Out, Part 3

So, how have things been for me since I came out? At first, I felt relief — like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Then came the fear, “oh my God, what have I done, I’m such a horrible sinner, I’m going to hell, etc.” I [not] religious anymore, but I had grown up in conservative religion and that kind of thinking was still part of me. There was also the fear of society. Acknowledging my sexuality opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me — and [they] were both exciting and scary. It was exciting, because now I was free to fall in love with a person, not a gender. It was scary, because I knew that many parts of society expected me to always have an opposite sex partner, and scary because I thought of some people in my life that I really cared about, but I knew would probably never accept it — if I chose to have a same-sex partner.

Rants of the Bisexualist Begins…

The Bisexualist movement has begun. Join Bi Social News (BSN) as we shed light on this deep dark secret, regarding how the LGBT communities want the “B” out of gay and lesbian lives.

My name is Adrienne Williams — I’m the owner of Bi Social News (BSN). I call myself a bisexualist, which means and advocate for bisexual causes, and I’m pissed off! “What about you ask?” We at BSN have started a movement. Our goals will be to pull out of the closet the biphobia that exist in the straight, gay and lesbian worlds. Wait a minute, I included gay and lesbian but didn’t add transgender. Well, I haven’t personally had issues with the transgender community — denying that I’m not real or confused; lying and need to be wiped off the face of the earth — that my friend, have come from the gay and lesbian community. And sorry to say, it’s been happening even more this year.

The very community, that wants legal marriage and as one op-ed piece in the Chicago Free Press by the name of Jennifer Vanasco screams in her column — “The truth is that gays and lesbians are Americans. And like the rest of America, we are hurting.” Fair to say this time, she was discussing the topic of President Obama, and the gay and lesbian vote that wants action in the years ahead. But notice what’s missing? Ah, yes, the ‘B’ and the ‘T’ in that statement. Well to be clear, many times in the gay and lesbian publications around the nation, they are erasing the ‘B’ out of their articles. For that matter their papers, newsletters, magazines, and media.

When was the last time you read a great coming out bisexual story? What about a love story on LOGO® regarding real bisexual men and women — confessing their love to the world and each other? Nada, zippo, niche.  Because the truth of the matter, not one gay and lesbian magazine, that I have read in my 15-years of being out and proud, has there been much about anything dealing with bisexual issues in clear definition.

Well, BSN, is here to change all that. We are starting a movement to call out, show up, educate and denounce anyone, and I mean anyone, that is trying to misrepresent the bisexual population.

Will BSN be confrontational?
When BSN needs to be – we are here to shed light on the elephant in the room.

Will BSN try to go for the truth?
Always, our goal is to bring all communities together, for the good of the whole community. We want all bisexual, lesbian, transgender, gay, pansexual, asexual and queer people, to feel they belong and are apart of the community. It won’t happen until we root out this infection that has been lying dormant, in the closet — as it is between our communities, at this very moment.

It ends now, the moment is now.

“We’ll be watching.”

Margaret Cho Caves On Bisexuality Stances

Margaret Cho Caves into saying she’s gay as New York Times ask her about her sexuality. Is it just me, but if you have dated women and men, you are bisexual!

Margaret ChoWell, seems like the bisexual community has been hit hard with another (or we thought) bisexual icon — claiming they are gay, instead of the true facts about the meaning of bisexuality. Margaret Cho interviews with the New York Times and comes out Gay?

MC: I refer to myself as gay, but I am married to a man. Of course, I’ve had relationships with women, but my politics are more queer than my lifestyle.

Let’s look at some pure facts about what bisexuality is and is not.

One of the best Web sites about bisexual facts are by Kathy Labriola where she breaks down the fluidity of bisexuality.

  • Alternating bisexuals: (Cho and my sub type)
    may have a relationship with a man, and then after that relationship ends, may choose a female partner for a subsequent relationship, and many go back to a male partner next.
  • Circumstantial bisexuals:
    primarily heterosexual, but will choose same sex partners only in situations where they have no access to other-sex partners, such as when in jail, in the military, or in a gender-segregated school.
    Concurrent relationship bisexuals:
    have primary relationship with one gender only but have other casual or secondary relationships with people of another gender at the same time.
  • Conditional bisexuals:
    either straight or gay/lesbian, but will switch to a relationship with another gender for financial or career gain or for a specific purpose, such as young straight males who become gay prostitutes or lesbians who get married to men in order to gain acceptance from family members or to have children.
  • Emotional bisexuals:
    have intimate emotional relationships with both men and women, but only have sexual relationships with one gender.
  • Integrated bisexuals:
    have more than one primary relationship at the same time, one with a man and one with a woman.
  • Exploratory bisexuals:
    either straight or gay/lesbian, but have sex with another gender just to satisfy curiosity or “see what it’s like.”
  • Hedonistic bisexuals:
    primarily straight or gay/lesbian but will sometimes have sex with another gender primarily for fun or purely sexual satisfaction.
  • Recreational bisexuals:
    primarily heterosexual but engage in gay or lesbian sex only when under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
  • Isolated bisexuals:
    100% straight or gay/lesbian now but has had at one or more sexual experience with another gender in the past.
  • Latent bisexuals:
    completely straight or gay lesbian in behavior but have strong desire for sex with another gender, but have never acted on it.
  • Motivational bisexuals:
    straight women who have sex with other women only because a male partner insists on it to titillate him.
  • Transitional bisexuals:
    temporarily identify as bisexual while in the process of moving from being straight to being gay or lesbian, or going from being gay or lesbian to being heterosexual.

When are we going to embrace the truth that is bisexuality — in all it’s facets! We are unique, diverse and real!

I feel cheated and let down by Margarets comment.  When can we hear the facts about atrraction and feelings about women and men? Although, I can’t judge her for what she’s feeling, I’m waiting for the day when people in the media can feel free to say, “Yes, I’m Bisexual!”