New Year’s Letter on Bisexality

Dear Readers,

As 2009 draws to a close and 2010 dawns, we are surrounded by a myriad of holidays: Hanukah, Ras as-Sana, Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa and Ashura.  We are immersed in rebirth, miracle and thanksgiving.  I, for one, could not be happier for that.

fire in the skyWhile there is also suffering and bad news just as at any time of the year, tears and laughter are very much a part of life and how we chose to approach both shows a great deal about who we are.

So I am happy and grateful for a time of year that reminds me about the possibility of new beginnings, the nearness of wonder, and the importance of being appreciative.  I find it very important as the new year approaches to take time to evaluate what has happened over the past year to see what I have learned and what the big picture is.

I fully admit to being resolutely optimistic, something born of having been through the ringer more than a few times.  There are moments I have found where the choice is either to throw in the towel or keep on.  I have chosen to keep on.

In particular, I am grateful for the opportunity that writing this column has afforded me to reach out to other bisexuals, especially other bi men.  I have to admit though that I have been challenged by having to discuss myself in such a public way.  Don’t get me wrong, I fancy myself a raconteur.  However, opening myself up to a worldwide audience was not the first thing I had on my mind.  If I had thought about it too much, I might have been intimidated.  Well, I said that bisexual men needed to be more visible and I certainly won’t ask someone else to do what I won’t.  Voila, I found a vehicle to talk about the life of one bisexual man.

Further, I marvel at how my bisexuality has changed me.  I went from a state of confusion, curiosity and despair in my teens and early twenties to the present state of confidence I have, a confidence hard won.  First I was caught in the grip of heteronormativity, knowing there was something different about me.  Then I realized that really did like women too.  I felt as if I was at a tennis match-and I was the ball!  Let’s not forget that it often felt easier to join the Free Masons than to find other bisexuals.  There was a time that not much could be found in terms of information on bisexuality.    Yet, I knew who I was and I felt I had to be true to that in spite of what I heard in general and what was said to me specifically.

Bisexuality has also awakened me and made me go deeper into myself for answers.  For example, I have had to look at the various issues that I bring into relationships with women and men.  Since I don’t have the ability to say, “Well, I really don’t like men” or “Maybe, I really don’t like women,” I need to look at the heart of the matters that come up in relationships, something I used to be good at avoiding.  In my case, I have had to work on trust and intimacy.  This work has made me a new man through the exercise of honesty with myself.

As we move into the new year, I hope you will take some time to look back over the past year.  May you find something to marvel at and something to be thankful for.    May 2010 be a time of renewal and hope for you.  May you find new ways to embrace yourself and your bisexuality more fully.

Thank you for joining me on this journey,

Peter

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.

Challenging the Myth of the Bisexual Man

coupleA man enters a coffee shop, dressed casually but still looking somewhat pristine. Waiting in line, he shifts back and forth on his feet, nervously. He orders a Chai tea Latte, vaguely wondering if the drink choice is “too obvious” for what has brought him to the coffee shop. Taking a seat at a table near the back of the coffee shop, but close to a window, he waits, watching intently. And he waits. And he waits. After what seems like an eternity, but in reality is little more than an hour, he leaves, wondering a bit why he’s been stood up. He replays the events leading up to the coffee shop meeting in his mind’s eye. It had been a simple enough, if somewhat clichéd setup. He’d placed a personal ad on a bisexual men’s site. The man that had answered it had seemed somewhat similar to himself, though he’d been married. That in and of itself hadn’t been an issue though, because it was just a cup of coffee—wasn’t it? Now, latte in hand, he just wondered why? Why is it that finding another like-minded bisexual man is so hard?

A bisexual male can find themselves asking why a lot. If straight is normal, homosexual is increasingly tolerated and bisexual women are vociferously approved by both genders—why is the bisexual male such an outlaw? If a man admits he is bisexual—why is he subject to such ridicule by the straight and homosexual population? Perhaps most of all is, if a man is openly bisexual—why is it so hard to meet another openly bisexual man?

Studies have been done, books written and surveys taken. Alfred Kinsey’s original report onSexual Behavior in the Human Male suggests that 3 out of 10 men will have a same sex encounter in their lives. A recent Gallup Poll shows that over 50 percent of men and women in America consider lesbian and gay relationships to be “morally acceptable”—though the poll says nothing about bisexuality. Perhaps this is amongst the reasons that many bisexual men still live comfortably “in the closet.” A quick search of the craigslist.org personals in the “men seeking men” category reveals that there are just short of 300 ads in a 24 hour period and that roughly 10 percent of those are from men proclaiming to be bisexual married men. Perhaps this lends itself to many of the myths about the bisexual man. It would seem—if one listens to the myths—that the monogamous, non-promiscuous, committed bisexual man is as rare as a unicorn. Men like Robert Winn challenge this opinion.

Robert, 40, has been bisexual since he met his wife Christine, 41, when the two were college. The couple’s nearly 18 years of monogamous marriage would seem to challenge the myth that bisexuality is “just a phase” as Robert has been openly monogamous for that entire 18 years. Robert is not immune to scrutiny and ridicule, however:

“There is a whole list of assumptions of what my life might be like, that somehow she is some sort of front for me because I’m not willing to accept I’m gay. People are confused by bisexuality. There’s just not a lot of support for people who fall in the middle like me.”

Bisexual men do ask why a lot. Perhaps a shift in the paradigm is needed—perhaps it isn’t a question of why the bisexual man is such an outlaw. The question that seems more suitable would seem to be—why are so many people confused by a person that is willing to love so indiscriminately?

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.

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!”

You Don’t Look Italian

As the bromide goes-if I had a dime for every time someone said that I didn’t look Italian, I’d be a millionaire.  Admittedly at 6’4” with blue eyes, less-than-olive skin and long, light brown hair, I am not what most people in the United States would imagine an Italian American looks like. However, visit my mother’s hometown of Isola del Liri in Italy’s Lazio Region and you will see plenty of people with my features.

So what does this have to do with being bisexual?  Well every year in October when Italian American History Month rolls around, I  fulminate about how much I want nothing to do with Columbus, how little anyone knows about Sacco and Vanzetti, and how I wish I had other Italian American bisexuals, gay men and lesbians to hang around with.  It’s as if I spend the month in a protracted and wide-ranging intellectual version of hide-and-go-seek.  Come out, come out wherever you are.  Please.

In fact, I see the surface level of parades, nostalgic remembrances of Little Italies, and the struggle to ‘make it’ in the United States.  What I see little of is critical discussion of Italian American history and the state of the community as it is.  In fact, one of the few places I see such is the Italian American studies discussion list, which I have been following for a few years now.  What I see nothing of is a continuing discussion of what it is to be BLGT and Italian American so there are moments when I feel on the margins of margins because of my ethnicity and sexuality.

I have an intense hunger for connecting to other BGLT Italian Americans because of our common culture and history.  As an Italian American, I have maintained a certain attachment to tradition.  One of the things this means is that I value community , although not necessarily in ways my ancestors would have understood.

In my great hunt for other Italian American bisexuals, here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

When I was on the board of the Bisexual Resource Center a few years ago, I asked my confederates if they knew of any other Italian American bisexuals-especially men.  My colleague Sheeri mentioned Tom Limoncelli and I immediately went to his web site.  Well, I’m not the only one, I thought.  Anyone else?

Well, there are two women I can think of: Camille Paglia has been out for quite a while and Lady Gaga seems to have joined the ‘party’ lately.

And that’s where my line of inquiry ends.

I also did a web search for works on BLGT Italian Americans, I found Fuori: Essays by Italian/American Lesbians and Gays,  one of whose authors, Giovanna Capone, suggested I also look at the anthology Hey Paesan! Writing by Lesbians and Gay Men of Italian Descent. Although these insightful and poignant books do not mention bisexuals, they have become indispensible to me as a way to assure myself of the existence of other BLGT Italian Americans.  In short, I’ve grabbed on to what was there.

But that is not enough.  I salute the authors of the above works, although it is clear that more is needed.  This more is part of the reason I do this column.  The Italian American community prefers not to talk about ‘alternative sexuality’ and so, maintaining family solidarity, opts for silent tolerance.  The BLGT community, I have found, seems ill-at-ease in discussing ethnic differences that do not fit neatly into the Black/White/Asian/Native American/Latino rubric.   Not that we are all that comfortable discussing race and ethnicity at all in the United States.  We all have an ethnicity-or ethnicities-and it plays in how we view our sexuality and act it out.

Given all that, here’s what I want to see:

I want more Italian American BLGT folk to come out of the closet, tell their stories and build community.  I want the larger Italian American community to listen with respect to and embrace its BGLT members.  I want the BGLT community to understand and honor the fact that its Italian American members come from a different cultural space.  I also want the BGLT community to have more open and honest discussions about race and ethnicity, as well as religion and class, that lead to more effective representation of the community as a whole.

Bi Talk: Loraine Hutchins Honored by ‘Rainbow History Project’

Loraine Hutchins shares with BSN her bisexual activism on what’s happening now and how we need to get equal representation in our community.

Loraine Hutchins is a bisexual activist, professor, and author, who is also involved in civil rights and social justice work. She is the author of Bi Any Other Name: Bisexuals Speak Out, which she co-authored with Lani Ka’ahumanu and several chapters and essays about bisexuality. She also teaches a class on lesbian, gay, bi and trans[gender] studies at Towson University, and a class on sexuality and women’s studies at Montgomery College. She has done local work with The Alliance for Multicultural Bisexuals and national work with BinetUSA, and has been an out bisexual activist — advocating for bisexual rights and bi visibility since the nineteen seventies.

She was recently honored by the Rainbow History Project in Washington DC, which keeps tracks of and archives the stories of BLGT people. Every two years they have an awards night when they honor DC Community Pioneers who’ve contributed to BLGT DC history. Not many out bisexuals have been honored, and it was great to see someone who has done so much [to be] honored for her hard work and also to see more bivisibility.

I caught up with Loraine and asked her what achievements she was recognized for and how was the ceremony.  [What were] her thoughts on the growing acceptance of bisexuals in the BLGT community, and also how far we still have to go?

Here are some of her thoughts, reflections, and ideas:

“The Rainbow Project honored me for my books and organizational work. For years I’ve tried to speak up at local queer events, and I remember going to events in the 80’s where I was the only out bisexual there. I marched in the 1985 Gay and Lesbian march for equality before it was called LGBT as a bisexual contingent of one. I had a sign that says “peace to all closet bisexuals and to those already out” and I was riding a “bi”-cycle! I’m pretty sure some of the other people at the awards ceremony have had relationships with both genders, even though they don’t identify as bisexual. I hope my being there and being out has helped them to realize it’s alright to feel feelings for people of all genders. I don’t know if there will be any major news about the ceremony, but I personally love the Rainbow History Archives because I am into documentation and chronicling and history and I’ve seen this group struggle to survive and sustain itself over the years. Mark Meinke the founder got it affiliated with the DC historical society. That has helped because the city itself is helping to document the history and stories of gay, bi, and trans people. It’s a fascinating eclectic multiracial and multicultural collection and an interesting overlap of people you don’t often see mingling in DC, and that was refreshing to see.

As far as bi-visibility goes, every little thing helps. People who otherwise wouldn’t know about Rainbow History Project came to the awards ceremony because I was in touch with them. There was an overlapping of lots of communities and I loved that. There are people who came that I knew who where heterosexual, polyamorous — from the swinging community, public interest lawyers, and people who are active in the sexual liberation fields who are not necessarily queer identified, but have done some of their homework in understanding bisexuality better, because of my work in those areas. It’s always good for people to learn about other communities. Even my mom came! She was active in the nineteen nineties helping her church become a reconciling congregation. There were a lot of connections made between people. The bio that was written about me on the Rainbow Project website did a lot to educate people on some of the realities of being bisexual and how hard it is.

What came out of it concretely in one way I didn’t expect, was that I was there with Billy Jones – the only other out bisexual that I know, [who’s] ever been honored by theRainbow Project.  He told me that a few days after the ceremony, he’d be testifying at the DC city council meeting on marriage equality and asked me if I would come and testify too.  So there would be more than one out bisexual person there. I couldn’t make it but I did submit written testimony — which helped to show that bisexuals have concerns and interests in marriage equality issues too, just like lesbian and gay people do.

In some ways, the overall LGBT atmosphere has gotten friendlier for bisexuals, but I wouldn’t say that it has unqualifiedly. In my LGBT studies class recently I started talking about bisexuality and the stereotypes bisexual people face. My class is made up mostly of queer friendly straight people, some gay people, and a couple of bi people. I asked them what they had heard about bisexuals around campus, and they said things like “bisexuals are dirty and greedy.” They acknowledged that they thought it was a negative stereotype, but the fact was that the stereotypes are alive and they don’t seem to be hearing the same stereotypes about gays and lesbians. I was explaining to one student that there is more to biphobia than just homophobia — that we can be hated for “refusing to choose” or being “too sexual.” One student in particular didn’t know that under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, bisexuals are not welcome in the military just like homosexuals. So yes, it has improved, but we also still have a long way to go.

It was nice to see that the word bisexuality was mentioned by several speakers and organizers at the National Equality March, much more so than in 1993 and 2000, and that we had our own speakers. Even Cleve Jones mentioned us! I’m also seeing more acceptance for non-straight people in genera, in the younger generations of the straight world through people who sign up for my classes. There’s more of an openness to listen to the experiences of LGBT people. There is good change happening but it’s back and forth, and there’s so many other problems people are worried about right now. And when people are having a rough time that’s when they can fall back into patterns of hate and distrust of those who are different from them.”

Thanks and congratulations to Loraine Hutchins for being recognized for all the hard work on behalf of the bisexual community!

Celebrate Bisexuality Day

bidayGet into the minds of our columnist, Peter as he shares his thoughts regarding this national day.

Celebrate Bisexuality Day is upon us once more and I’m thinking about what it is we have to celebrate.  OK, that sounded like a heavy dose of bitter with a side order of grumpy, so let me explain.  We seem to have a lot of days, festivals, parades and everything else in our society meant to highlight a certain subgroup, but besides perhaps having a soirée-and I’m all for having a good time-what is the net result of having had the day?  Are we as bisexuals underlining how we’re different from the rest of the pack?  I for one don’t need a day to point that out; I know that 365 days a year.  A little less standing out would be nice, actually.

I also don’t what you to think that I don’t own being a bisexual man.  If that were the case, I would not be writing this column.  Heaven only knows that we need more bisexual voices-especially those of bi men-out there to be heard and understood.  But more to the point, I am neither proud nor ashamed to be bi; I simply am bisexual.

So what’s the point?  What do we need [to] Celebrate Bisexuality Day for?  How about this: a day to contemplate what bisexuals bring to the table and what we offer to the larger society.

First of all, I believe we should be the representatives of the Beatles classic, “All You Need Is Love.”   Whether we happen to be monogamous, polyamorous, alternating, or Kinsey 0-6, we bisexuals represent the capacity to love and engage fully with other human beings in the most intimate and varied ways.  That’s a level of openness you don’t necessarily find.  It is both precious and vulnerable.  It means living honestly, which entails more than a few painful moments.

How many of us have had our hearts broken whether from a mismatch with a potential partner or from the proverbial barking up the wrong tree?  What happens when we find that we have more in common emotionally than romantically with someone else?   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.

This leads nicely to my second point.  Bisexuality is an invitation to complexity.  There is no coloring in between the lines with bisexuality because there are no lines to color in between.  The world is open to us.  What matters here then is defining an ethical code of our own.  In other words, an invitation to complexity is an imperative to critical thinking and making reasoned choices.  Who can we approach?  Will that person—those people also be interested in us?  Is our attraction physical, emotional and/or intellectual?  How do we eventually come out to this person/these people?

For me being bi means always having to come out in order to be clear and honest.  That’s my ethical choice, one that involves great risk that the other will reject me in terms of a romantic relationship. If the people in our lives don’t know, then we as bisexuals have to come out—because our bisexuality will eventually make manifest.  Bisexuality exists as both potential and realization always, especially if you are monogamous.  Your involvement with a man doesn’t negate your attraction to women and vice versa.  Talk about complexity!

For the record, let me state that I don’t find lesbians, gay men and straight women to be hardhearted dolts.  I am saying that being bisexual is emotionally intense and intellectually demanding, because it requires constant engagement and evaluation as part of the package.  When we bisexuals live up to the challenge, we show healthy models for human relations and that’s what we should be aiming for.

BSN Celebrates Bisexual Day: Move into Activism

happy-bi-daySeptember 23rd is Bisexual Day? What are your plans to celebrate — and how can you move into activism?

As a new and upcoming bisexual site, I’m so happy to say that “we’ve come a long way baby!” Our goal has been clear from the start. Try to expose bi news more to the main stream—including lesbian and gay Web sites. We are happy that this day is a national event!

The History of Bi Day, was it Really Needed?

The account of “Bisexual Day” started back in 1999—by three bisexual rights activists named Wendy Curry, Michael Page, and Gigi Raven Wilbur. In a quote on Wikipedia, Wilbur was stated,

Ever since the Stonewall rebellion, the gay and lesbian community has grown in strength and visibility. The bisexual community also has grown in strength but in many ways we are still invisible. I too have been conditioned by society to automatically label a couple walking hand in hand as either straight or gay, depending upon the perceived gender of each person.

Bi Social News (BSN) whole-heartedly believes this declaration. Our whole mission and why we started BSN was to take back our voice—clearly without fear and continued labels to diminish our voice in the gay and straight communities.

When even one bisexual can’t say the word, it decreases our voice and stops our power, to be exactly who we are—bisexuals.

BSN mission is clear—we won’t run from it, dilute it, and cover over it, under and around it. We won’t escape from it—change the meaning of it and appease it! This is our day—my day! Seize the moment to stand up and be counted in the land of every person, race, nationality, sex and gender that goes boldly into the night proudly on their particular belief—are you?

This is the moment to speak up regardless of what team your family or friends are batting. This is the time for every teen to come to terms that they are neither gay nor straight—and are still proud to be apart of the full community. This is the time to speak out to every BLGT community that “will not” show more visibility for the “B” in LGBT! This is the time to raise your voice when others in “our” community speak against the bisexual boy, teen or man who has not come out as gay—thinking there are no real bisexual men! This is time to speak out—without fear that it’s not a “phase” or you are not trying to be cool. This is a time to speak out for the nullification of bisexual erasure in all communities. One voice, clearly, loudly and without fear—I’m bisexual!

Why Does BSN Exist?
BSN feels that there needs to be more representation regarding the bisexual community. BSN feels that many are demising their voices; because of fear of the term “Bisexual or Bi” due to the unfavorable connotation that it brings any given individual. We are proud to be associated with the term and will use it without fail to state the nature of our voice. Though, we welcome all—regarding content and news worthy stories—this site is a bisexual site, and we are so proud of this fact, and glad to be apart of the full spectrum of our community.

Your voice is our voice; your cause is our cause. “Speak out. Live out. Voice out. Be heard.”