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.

The Bisexuals In Uganda

lgtbIn the past few months, so many of the BLGT blogs and organizations have been writing about the possible anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda. Proposed by an extremist religious group. There are also rumors that some homophobic politicians in the USA here have been supporting this group.  The bill makes any type of behavior that is not heterosexual a crime punishable by death, and it goes after anyone who in any way helps BLGT people—if you are a parent or a friend who knows someone who is queer and you don’t turn them into the state, you could be executed as well! It has been proposed supposedly to “protect children from homosexuals who recruit.” There has been much pressure from both domestic and international groups on the Ugandan government to drop the proposed bill, and many Ugandans of all orientations and political affiliations are against it as well. The most recent development is that instead of execution, BLGT people and their allies might face life imprisonment. Even more disturbing is that a chapter of the Kill the Gays movement is organizing in Newark, New Jersey.

As I’ve been reading about this bill, I’ve wondered where the bisexuals in Uganda stand in all of this. Obviously many of them face the same threat as the gay Ugandans, but they may or may not experience threats unique to them as well—and are they even out as bisexuals and visible in this fight for human rights? If some of them are married to opposite sex partners, and could possibly hide—dare they risk coming out and fighting alongside their queer brothers and sisters, even though they risk imprisonment, torture, and death? The answer turns out to be a resounding yes.

I got invited to this face book group, and I started researching more about bisexual organizations in Uganda and what they are doing to combat the bill. I found a blog and a listing about Bisexual Movement Uganda. On a list of BLGT organizations on Wikipedia, this group is listed as “a group of university students fighting for a livable environment for all LGBTs in Uganda.” Their website says: “The vision of Bisexual Movement Uganda is to have a well organized Bisexual Movement in Uganda which is aware and capable of advocating and defending for their fundamental Human Rights.” It goes on to list some great goals and objectives, enumerate the many problems facing all BLGT people in Uganda, and explain how Bisexual Movement Uganda is working with other Ugandan BLGT groups to try and change social attitudes and fight for equality.

Bisexual Movement Uganda fights against the bill and for the rights of all BLGT people in Uganda, while affirming and contributing to a positive and visible bisexual identity, and giving bisexual people in Uganda a place to turn to that reaffirms their needs and identity. The overall message is one of empowerment and unity, and a courageous way for Uganda’s bisexual community to show that they are not afraid to speak up and stand by their BLGTQ brothers and sisters.

Here in our own bisexual community, as we also join in the fight to help all BLGT people in Uganda, let’s especially remember to do what we can to help out  Bisexual Movement Uganda, as well as other organizations fighting for BLGTQ rights in Uganda, by spreading the word about its existence, giving donations, and any other way we can.

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!

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.

What Does The Removal Of Proposition 8 Mean For The Bisexual Community?

communityWith all the depressing headlines lately, last week when I heard that Prop 8 had been overturned in California,at first I thought it was either a joke or I had to be dreaming. I admit I had stopped following the progress of the anti-Prop 8 fight, having lost faith in CA ever giving BLGT people back their rights after they voted in Prop 8 in 2008. I never thought they would strike it down so quickly (within two years).

Naturally what followed was a lot of celebrating in the BLGT community (especially in CA!) and then the sober realization that Prop 8 or something like it could very easily be reinstated; within 24 hours anti-equality groups had already filed an appeal, and hateful articles and quotes have sprung up all over the internet.

In the aftermath of everything, an interesting question popped up: what does the overturning of Prop 8 mean for the bisexual community, and how will it affect us? For starters, many of us remember it was only a few months ago that we were being brought up as a scapegoat reason not to get rid of Prop 8! Some cynically said that’s the only time we’ve been mentioned in the whole Prop 8 saga; and unfortunately there is some truth to that. It seems that one thing the celebrations have shown is that we’re still barely being acknowledged as even being part of the fight for same-sex rights; at least not when there’s good news.

I kept hearing and reading last week about the rights of “gays and lesbians” to marry and how this will affect them marrying in California. Occasionally someone said or wrote all four BLGT letters, I think I actually saw the word bisexual written out once. You’d think after being listed as a reason not to take away Prop 8, we’d at least get more than that!

That being said, this also presents several positive opportunities for the bisexual community; to celebrate with the rest of our BLGT brothers and sisters, to be more vocal and visible, and to remind people that as bisexuals, this is a victory and a right for us too. A big part of the victory is that bisexual men and women living in CA will now be able to marry their same sex partners, and for some in the closet, it may mean finally coming out.

It’s also a new opportunity to put ourselves in the spotlight more as out bisexuals and help in the fight to keep Prop 8 (and other laws like it around the country) from coming back and/or from being passed. This can be accomplished both by working with other BLGT people and by focusing on the unique needs of our own community. If we step back and get discouraged, things will never change.

The War for Equality

lgtb equalityThe BLGT community has been enjoying a lot of victory and support of late. Gay, lesbian and bisexual people are portrayed positively on our televisions and in film, there are many gay, lesbian and bisexual performing artists and now the community has begun to realize some real life victories. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has been repealed by a 234-194 vote. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has been repealed—making the definition of marriage something that State governments determine rather than Federal. Joining this list of victories is the overturning of California’s “Prop 8” bill declaring:

With so many victories under our collective belts it can be easy to trick one ’s self into believing that the war for equality is being won. The danger in believing this is that it tempts us to forget the other battles that are being fought.

A report from the Kyrgyz Republic—released days after the Prop 8 ruling—reveals that the lives of thirty bisexual and gay men are fraught with danger and persecution. Of thirty men interviewed for this report, twelve identify as bisexual men while fifteen were age 25 or younger. The report goes on to reveal stories that many in the BLGT community are familiar with:

“It happened in December. A guy was stopped by militia. Out of nothing they start checking for documents. He didn’t have any. He’s a bit feminine, mannered – so they got it immediately. They said: “You’re gay, aren’t you? Let’s go to your parents now.” They demanded eight thousand soms.”

Labrys, an orginazation aimed at improving the quality of life for the BLGT community in the Kyrgyz Republic was founded in 2004 and currently has 1,000 members. Syinat Sultanalieva, executive director of Labrys, said in February that violations of the rights of people of non-traditional sexual orientation occur most frequently within the family, saying of her organization: “Our organization has started a ‘refuge’ project. We provide temporary accommodation to those people who have been thrown out of their homes, or who have left of their own accord because their families do not accept the choice they have made,” With bisexual and gay youth being thrown out of their homes and forced to seek refuge, it begins to become clear that the struggle for equality and acceptance is far from over.

Other battles are far more subtle and far more dangerous. Also within days of the prop 8 decision, bioethicists are accused a noted American pediatric endocrinologist and researcher of what they claim is the first attempt to prevent homosexuality and bisexuality in the womb. The pediatrician, Dr. Maria New of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Florida International University, is a longtime champion of the prenatal use of a powerful steroidal medication called dexamethasone to prevent the development of congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH )— a condition which can result in girls being born with ambiguous genitalia.

Amongst the bioethicists charging Dr. New is Alice Dreger, professor of clinical medical humanities and bioethics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine who charges:

“Her main goal has been to prevent ambiguous genitalia and all the things that come with it, including what she calls ‘behavioral masculinization’ [sic] She includes in that what she calls ‘masculinized orientation.’”

CAH has a status as a rare condition—prompting several medical societies to suggest guidelines be put in place that establish prenatal treatment for CAH as experimental. Additionally the guidelines will note that dexamethasone can cause low birth weight and birth defects. The proposed guidelines do not mention and are not concerned with sexuality or orientation.

This style of Eugenics may seem like something from science fiction—however, it is clear that the prejudices against gay, lesbian and bisexual men and women are alive and well and it appears that there is a long way to go before the war for equality is over.

Bisexuality And The “Ex-Gay” Industry

Ex_Gay_SurvivorPretty much everyone in the BLGT community has heard of it, and most of us would like to pretend it doesn’t exist. For some it’s a joke, for others it represents a deeply painful experience they have actually lived through. It’s the “ex-gay” industry. And despite our living in one of the most democratic countries in the world, there are still plenty of people who are against equality for BLGT people; and these “ex-gay” industries are multimillion dollar businesses. Many are run by some sort of faith group, others claim to be based on science; still others are run byindividual people. Very often it’s families seeking to “cure” a loved one of same-sex attractions that encourage people to go to these programs; other times it’s BLGT people who honestly think that there is something horribly wrong with them that they need to fix. The techniques of the “therapy” seem to mostly center on “praying the gay away” and doing “gender specific activities”, which, as we’ve seen, are very often unsuccessful.

A question I’ve heard asked time and time again is: how do bisexuals figure into this whole “ex-gay” business? You almost never hear about bisexuality in regard to the “conversion” process. It’s all about being gay and going to straight. The“ex-gay” industry mostly acts like bisexuality doesn’t even exist (unfortunately not too different from the rest of society), and mostly talks about “gays and lesbians”. Every once in a while when bisexuality is brought up, it’s often used by both sides to bolster their arguments of “gay people can change” vs. “they can’t change”. I’ve also seen bisexuality mentioned one time when someone was writing about how they thought that some of the “success stories” presented by “ex-gay” organizations were actually bisexuals who just were not acting on their same-sex attractions. I had hoped this would be elaborated on, but that turned out to be the only thing mentioned about bisexuals.

How would paying attention to bisexuals change the face of the “ex-gay” industry? For starters, it would be interesting to know just how many of the people who go into these industries to seek help because they’ve been convinced that there is something wrong with them are actually bisexual. Perhaps if someone is bisexual but leans more toward same-sex attractions, they can classify themselves as gay and think they need reparative therapy. Also, if someone feels they have somehow “cured” themselves, could they just be bisexual but not acting on their same sex side (which as any closeted bisexual can tell you, is still horrible)? Are any of the examples of people that supposedly went from” gay to straight” that are touted by these organizations really bisexual?

We don’t know for sure about any of these questions, because bisexuality and bisexuals are pretty much ignored in this industry by both the straight and the gay communities. It would be very interesting if somehow a study could be done to determine some idea of the number of bisexuals that are involved in these “ex-gay” programs, how they influence the “success” rate, and how the programs affect their sexuality and sense of self. What would this mean for the BLGT community, and for the “ex-gay” industry? Most importantly, what would it mean for the bisexual community?

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.