Lesbian and bisexual women are being incorrectly told they don’t need smear tests, LGBT charities say


Half of all eligible lesbian and bisexual women have never had a smear test, an LGBT partnership revealed
CREDIT: ALAMY

Women who have sex with women are often wrongly told they do not need
to attend cervical screening test, LGBT charities have warned.

omosessualiResearch highlighted by the National LGB&T Partnership – an alliance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender charities – reveals that 37 per cent of women who have sex with women have been told they do not require a cervical screening test due to their sexual orientation.

This results in half of all eligible lesbian and bisexual women never having had a smear test, they said.

The human papilloma virus (HPV), which causes most cervical cancers, is passed on through intimate skin-to-skin contact, which includes sex between two women.

The partnership surveyed women on their experiences with sexual healthcare as part of the inaugural National Lesbian and Bisexual Women’s Health Week, which aims to highlight that “lesbian, bisexual and other women who have sex with women are experiencing a range of health inequalities and both face barriers to accessing healthcare and are having poor experiences when they do”.

“Lesbian, bisexual and other women who have sex with women (LBWSW) lack acknowledgement both in mainstream society and LGBT communities, and to the NHS we are largely invisible,” says Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Elizabeth Barker in the foreword of the report published in November.

“It is unacceptable that LBWSW continue to experience discrimination and that thoughtlessness compromises our healthcare.”

Other issues highlighted by the partnership’s report are that 21 per cent of bisexual women and 12 per cent of lesbian women reported a long-term mental health problem, compared with 4 per cent of heterosexual women, and that 29 per cent of lesbian and bisexual women report more binge drinking compared with 12 per cent in the general population of women.

Around 3,200 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the UK each year. About two out of every 100 cancers diagnosed in women (2 per cent) are cervical cancers, according to Cancer Research UK.

Article from: Telegraph.co.uk

7 Very Real Struggles Of Online Dating As A Bi Woman

search a bi dating site

And two very real benefits…

1Threesome requests

At least 60% of your messages, if not more, are likely to consist of words to the effect of: “My girlfriend and I were very interested in your profile…” Even, that is, if you have said you are monogamous on your profile. Even, indeed, if you have expressed a specific interest in retreating to the top of the mountain with The One, a couple of pairs of Birkenstocks and 50 cats, and avoiding all other human company for the rest of eternity (not that I would ever write anything like that on a dating profile, ahem).

2. Other rude questions

“How can you like both?” “What do women do in bed?” Um, who the f**k are you? Do I know you? This isn’t how you politely introduce yourself to people. I am not won over. Sorry. I came here to find the love of my life, not engage in smutty chat about the way I like to play with boobs – unless, that is, the person I’m speaking to is wearing those boobs. Unsolicited comments from guys wanting to presumptuously perve over or pry into my desire for women are not welcome. The politeness rule goes for men messaging self-identified non-monogamous bi women, too. Especially for them, as they’re even more open to this kind of abuse than the rest of us.

3. The lesbian filter

Unfortunately a lot of lesbians seem to take advantage of any mechanism that will erase bi women from their search results. Even if they haven’t really thought it through. It’s easy to tick a box quickly when you’re running through a huge list of questions. So, how to find and meet bisexual women online? In some cases, it’s not even immediately clear that ticking said box has eliminated a huge swathe of women-loving women.

4. The male mailbox issue

As you might have guessed from the previous points, bi women get a lot of messages from men. And, as a general rule, we don’t tend to get many from women. It’s true that women don’t message first as much as men do on dating sites. I’ve heard from more than one straight male friend with an excellent profile that they almost never get any messages. However, I do think bi women have a particular problem: Filtered out by the lesbians, fetishized by the guys.

5. The lack of bi dating sites

There’s really not very much out there, alas. And what is out there is usually sparsely populated and not very well publicized. Plus subscribing to a specifically bisexual dating website then eliminates lesbians and straight men from your search and… argh! You’ve automatically shrunk the net yourself this time. Back to square one.

6. Dropping the ‘B-bomb’ straight away

Online dating means baring all on your profile right away. No agonizing about how the hot girl flirting with you in the bar might freak out if you tell her you like guys too. You can be yourself right from the start, from behind the relative safety of your computer screen. Much easier than a lot of “real life” coming out situations.

7. Meeting other bisexuals

There’s nothing quite as refreshing as getting a message from someone else bi who is going through the same aggro. Whilst online dating can be a real b***h for bis, it can also be a great way to find like-minded souls if you’re feeling like the only bi in the village. It’s a bonus, of course, if some of those souls are cute and smart. And they want to meet up.

The article is from: http://www.curvemag.com/Lifestyle/5-Very-Real-Struggles-Of-Online-Dating-As-A-Bi-Woman-1650/

Bisexual Veteran Talks About DADT and Community

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

Interview is from an email Q & A Session

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Germany, Will Launch World’s Largest Gay Sports Event

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

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

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

San Francisco Celebration

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

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

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

Olympic Charter

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

World Tour

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

Cologne 2010 Opening Ceremony

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

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

About the Gay Games:

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

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

Isolation, Health, And The Bisexual Community

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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!

 

My Experience At The National Equality March

bisexualSo many things had been speculated about the National Equality March that took place last Sunday, and there had been so much controversy and hastiness in throwing it together that no one was sure how well it would go. Well, despite all the trouble leading up to it, the march went off amazingly well, and I had a blast.

The march weekend for me started on the night of Saturday, October 10th, when I went to the BSN/Purrr Enterprises/Binet “Social Mixer for a cause” at the Shadow Room Club in Washington DC. It was a lot of fun, and I got to meet some wonderful people. It was good music, good conversations, and good times all around. I was so glad we actually had a bisexual event of our own before the march. On Saturday things were happening all over DC in preparation for the march-the biggest news being the flash protests that took place all over the city.

On Sunday morning, I was supposed to meet the bisexual groups that were marching at a coffee shop not far from where the march was supposed to start. I took the subway into town with another bi friend, and on the way in we ran into two guys who were together and also were going to the march. They saw our bi flags and asked what they stood for. We told them, and they responded that it made sense and they were glad to see us out. I had also heard on the radio an announcer had been interviewing one of the organizers of the march, and the announcer had called it the “gay and lesbian march” and the organizer had corrected him “gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender” march. I was amazed, and I hoped these were good omens!

We met at the coffee house. There were four official bisexual groups: BinetUSAThe New York Area Bisexual Network, the DC Bi Women, and BIMA DC, and three of them brought banners. Overall, there were about 25 of us total that showed up there. I had hoped there would be a bigger turnout, but I was glad to see the people that came. I heard later that there were other bisexual people marching with other groups, so I’m guessing that there were probably quite a few of us overall.

We gathered together with the rest of the crowd—I looked around, and in every direction I had never seen so many people! There were all kinds of neat signs, outfits, and flags. We got our banners ready, tried to line up as best as we could (there was no official order for the groups to line up in) and waited. We waited for about an hour before things started, by which point it was getting hot and we were ready to go!

Around one o’clock, we started to march. It was quite fun, people came up with all kinds of chants, and as we walked, people came out of office buildings and stood on the sidewalks and cheered us on. There were press and camera people all over filming us and taking pictures—I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many in one place! There was only one heckler—and he didn’t get too far. Other groups started marching with us, one example being a group that was marching for breast cancer awareness. It was really great to march—the only thing that got annoying was that there was no official order for the how the groups where supposed to organize, so everyone was marching however best they could, and people kept getting separated. Our own groups got separated several times.

At several people found a “shortcut” through the white house lawn! So we walked through there and took some great pictures of people standing in front of the white house holding their banners. Then we marched on, until we hit the west lawn of the capitol, tired and thirsty! Everyone tried to get as close as they could to where the speeches were going to be, and people found places to sit. We sat pretty far up, but still not close enough to actually see the speakers, although we could hear them. The speeches  were moving and inspiring, and they energized the crowd, even though people were tired from marching. In the opening convocation, several GLBT pioneers were mentioned, and to my pleasant surprise, they mentioned a bisexual one. Pretty much all of the speakers said GLBT, some even going so far as to say all four words.

There were four bisexual speakers—Penelope Williams, Lady Gaga, Michael Huffington, and Chloe Noble. Except for Lady Gaga (who everyone already knows is bisexual), each one of the speakers used the word bisexual and conveyed that they were proud to be part of the bisexual community. What was great was to hear the thunderous applause after they said it. They all did wonderfully well and I am so proud of them and honored that they represented us. I actually felt well represented and acknowledged as a bisexual for once.

As the rally was coming to a close, several people in our groups had to start leaving, as they had planes, trains, buses, and rides to catch home. The rest of us went out to dinner, and found the restaurant we went to full of other tired and hungry marchers. After dinner, we went our separate ways and started to try to get home. The process of leaving DC took quite a while because so many people were leaving and it was very crowded. As I was waiting for a subway, I saw civil rights leader Julian Bond, who had spoken at the rally. He was sitting not far from me talking to a family. I now had a confirmed celebrity sighting! After that I made my way home and eventually got there. I know there were several parties in city after the rally, and I wish I could have gone to them, but I was just too tired! I heard they were a lot of fun though.

bisexual justiceWhat was truly amazing about this day was all the energy of the crowd—I could literally feel it-and it energized and motivated me as well. Near the end of the march my feet were killing me, but I marched on because I really believed in what I was marching for. The best part was, I felt totally included that day. Everyone who saw our bi groups was friendly and welcoming, and one of the groups even got interviewed for GLBT.TV.com! It was a great opportunity to come together and focus on the positive and what is best about your community instead of our divisions.

The march seems to have made a real impact-several media outlets have been talking about it. I hope that people can take the positives from it and use it for local activism. Most importantly, I hope that the message of inclusion will bring equality for the BLGT community, and will also inspire more inclusion in the BLGT community itself, especially towards the B and the T.

 

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!