Yoga for Bisexuals

yogaStop.  Take a breath, exhale through your mouth.  Do that again deepening your inhale and exhale.  Now do it a third time deepening your breath even more.  Raise your shoulders up, then bring them down and back.  Do that one again too.  Now close your eyes for a few moments and take in the sensation.

Feel better?  Good, I thought you might

There are many ways to approach yoga.  One view I embrace is of yoga as a method for integrating the mind, emotions and physical body.  I try to use it as a way to remain centered and peaceful, even in the midst of chaos and upheaval.  In fact, my favorite version of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali translates the second sutra as, “Yoga is the settling of the mind into silence.”

Silence.  Peace.  Centeredness.  Integration.  How in the world do we move towards those states?

There are certainly enough things that can throw us off balance. First of all there are the multiple problems faced by the BLGT community as a whole.  Check out of the news on any given day; biphobia and homophobia are rearing their rather ugly heads with what seems like the wildest of abandon.  From “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” to being denied the opportunity to attend a prom, the situation is tense and surreal.

Of course, there are those issues that bisexuals face in particular: denial of bisexuality and invisibility.  The demon of dichotomous thinking strikes again.

Ah, but wait.  The asanas–or postures–of yoga are there for building more than just physical strength and flexibility.  They also help us cultivate stamina and flexibility for dealing with what life hands us.

For example forward folding has been a real issue for me.  Every time I get on the mat, I have to work various ways to come deeper into any position that requires bending.  After years of practice, I’m a farther along than I was when I started.

So it is with bisexuality.  I’ve found I have to contemplate what it means for me in various ways, coming at it from different angles.  I’ve had to look at how I deal with relationships with women and men and with how I approach the various kinds of intimacy with each.  Years later, I’m a little farther along than when I embarked on the adventure.

Yoga isn’t easy either.  I have a friend who is fond of reminding her classes that, “Yoga is not a pleasure cruise.”  It is work that takes discipline to accomplish.  I’ve lost count of the days when I haven’t wanted to step onto my mat.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fallen out of poses like my major tumble from handstand a couple of weeks ago.  After I go my breath back, I tried going upside again.  I keep at it anyway and feel better for it at the end.

It’s the same again bisexuality.  How many times have any of us had to deal with a question about what bisexuality is?  How many times have we been told that we have “to choose one or the other”?  How many times have we had to explain how biphobia hurts?  These are all things we clearly don’t want to do yet we do them anyway, even those times when we aren’t particularly articulate or when we know that what we say makes no difference.   Nonetheless I know that I feel better for having spoken up and I hope you do to.

Silence.  Peace.  Centeredness.  Integration.  We arrive at them when we fully accept who and what we are.  We arrive at them with work and discipline, with failure and carrying on.  We arrive at them as bi folk when we understand and accept that bisexuality is beautiful thing.  In fact I tend to see bisexuality itself as a form of integration, a way to unite and express all the ways we can love our fellow human beings.  For this, I feel gratitude.

The Difficult House of Joy

What grounds you?  What keeps you rooted and centered?  What is that place of strength from which you move outward?

omosessualiThis was actually asked of me and my mat mates this past Saturday at the beginning of a yoga class.  What came to my mind first was my love of men, my capacity to love other men fully and intimately.

This is so because my love for men has been hard won and therefore something I value all the more.  I’ve had to work on it intensely because while society will always support relationships between women and men, however difficult they may be, it will often try to undermine intimate relationships between men.

In addition, if you are a man who loves other men you have to work on accepting yourself first.  This means not only dealing with the bi- and homophobia that exist outside you but with the bi- and homophobia on the inside.  We all know what a battle that is.  We also know how much harder that makes building a relationship between two men.

Add to that the ludicrous fantasy of what men are supposed to be: unemotional, self-contained, wealthy, aggressive, full of swagger, in charge.  And remember this craziness affects both of you.

Could there be any more roadblocks to two men getting together?

What I have learned from my relationships with men is that it eventually dawns on you that neither you nor the fellow on the other side of the bed can live up to the standards the two of you have been indoctrinated both to adhere to and expect.  You have to work past them into new ways of being together.

If you don’t know them, you have to learn dialog, compassion and cooperation.  You also have to learn to see someone as he really is, with all his faults and virtues.

In the end money, power and prestige can’t buy you love.  Being emotionally unavailable is antithetical to relationships.  And no one wants to be pushed around by a tough guy.  Besides, Prince Charming is a narcissist.

Eventually you have to learn to talk it out, work together and accept that you can either build a life with someone who helps to pay the bills or someone who spends all day in the gym working on six-pack abs.

In other words building a relationship between two men requires consciousness, dedication and effort above and beyond what opposite-sex couples have to put in.

For me this is what the late poet Paul Monette means when he writes in “Committing to Memory,” “No point/in having so much rope unless you can/tie a knot.  It has to hold.”  And that which holds will keep you grounded in what at the end of the same stanza Monette refers to as “the difficult house of joy.”

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!

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.