Using the Questioning Label

question markOne of the arguments against bisexuality and the bisexual/pansexual community that I’ve seen written on too many gay blogs is the whole “when I first came out I said I was bi too, then later I realized I was gay.” This tiresome argument drives me nuts, because for starters—just because that’s how it happened to some people, doesn’t mean that’s how it is for everyone. But unfortunately, even I can’t deny that it does happen, and I’m not too fond of the whole “bi now, gay later” bit. For a while now, I’ve wanted to say to people; when you first come out, if you aren’t sure, don’t use the word bisexual—because if you do and you later realize you are gay, it will only lend credence to the stereotype. When I first came out, even though I was reasonably sure I was bisexual, I just said I was “not sure” and “questioning”, until I was sure, as I explored the BTLG world. The bi/pan community is a very welcoming place to explore one’s sexuality, something that has always been an asset, but unfortunately this can backfire if people go on to realize they are gay or straight; they can think that bisexuality and/or being between gay and straight in general is just an “in between” phase or label.

I’ve started seeing the whole idea of the “questioning” label being encouraged more, even sometimes being added to the end of GLBT to make GLBTQ. I think it’s a great idea. It seems that for some people—when they first come out,  they don’t know what label to use, and they jump to the bisexual label—because there’s this rather erroneous idea in the straight community (and unfortunately too often in the gay community as well) that it’s the “easiest” label to deal with—and that it’s more acceptable to come out as bisexual. Later on, if they realize they are gay, they drop the bisexual label, and this gives rise to our least favorite stereotype.

Using the questioning label definitely has much less potential for misunderstanding and stereotypes; after all, the label itself implies searching, transition, and being temporary. It sounds a lot better to say “I was once questioning and then I figured out I was gay”, then to say “I was once bisexual, but then I realized I was gay”. As far as I know, there aren’t people who claim questioning as a permanent label—nor is questioning an orientation. The questioning label also allows for “comfortable exploration” even for straight people—if they later realize they are straight, they can always see the questioning as a phase.  It seems most people in the BTLG community are comfortable with people who are just out using that label as well.

So how do we encourage people who are just coming out—but unsure of their orientation, to use the questioning label? The best way is already being done—to make the idea of GLBTQ more visible. Several BTLG centers now use the acronym “GLBTQ” (among others with more letters, such as GLBTQQIA) to acknowledge, and encourage people who are questioning—to come in and use their resources. Several website profiles that allow you to list your orientation, now have “questioning” or “not sure” as a choice. I’ve heard it used more on TV too; “so and so is questioning their orientation.” Hopefully, this will make its way more into BTLG vocabulary. One way we bi/pan people, especially bisexuals, can encourage its use is to encourage anyone we do know who is starting to question their sexuality to use the questioning label, until they figure things out. We can also counter the stereotype of bisexuality as a transitional label for everyone— when someone says, “I was bi once, then I realized I was gay”—we should answer, “No, you were questioning, not bisexual. You were in the process of coming out and then you did.”

To be fair, not everyone can always use the questioning label—some people may truly genuinely believe they are bisexual—then realize they are gay, and vice versa. But, I think that overall the questioning label can be used by most people—questioning their sexuality and coming out or thinking about coming out. The younger generation does seem more willing to embrace it, and both the gay and straight communities seem pretty accepting of using it. It can take the place of the word bisexual—when coming out, and help erase some of the stereotypes and biphobia that have surrounded the bisexual label and orientation. That’s something we can all look forward to in the future.

To learn and read more discussion about the Questioning Label, check out this post on Queers United.

A Bisexual Space to Call Our Own

A Bisexual Club?

bisexual clubPeople have commented about the “bisexual community”, some praising how it has acted together to combat the latest round of biphobia, others wondering why there isn’t more of a community. I’ve wondered, what exactly constitutes the bisexual community, and how is it different from the gay, lesbian, and transgender community?

Since I’ve been out, I’ve read and researched this. Although I live in a pretty liberal area where I was welcomed into the larger BGLT community, I kept hearing about other bisexuals who were not so lucky in different parts of the country and world. I figured, “well, don’t they have a bisexual community to fall back on?” The answer, not always.

A large portion of the bisexual community seems to have started and still is online. I’ve read many articles that said that if [it] hadn’t been for the rise of the Internet in the 1990’s, it definitely would have been harder for bisexuals to organize, and I agree. If you are in a small town, and both gay and straight people tell you “it’s just you”, it can be pretty discouraging. But if you go on the Internet, in a very short while you’ll see that there are bisexual groups all over the world, and many Websites and organizations devoted to the cause.

The Internet has really helped us find groups and create a sense of community. However, we need more non-internet information.

In many big cities, including where I live, there are bisexual groups, and these tend to be very accepting and welcome most people. Groups like BiNet USA, and the New York Bisexual Network (I wish there was an “official” network for my city, all we have is one women’s group, though it’s a great group!) What I and others have noticed that both gays and straights have, that we seem to lack, are recreational places for us to hang out. Basically: bisexual bars-why aren’t there any? Where are the “bisexual sections of town” the way there are “gay sections?” A friend and I had a great discussion imagining how an ideal bisexual bar would be-all kinds couples dancing together, all kinds of people meeting and getting to know one another-no one getting a dirty look for being the “wrong” orientation or gender. I could bring both my straight and gay friends and no one would be “suspicious” because they were from the “other side” (I know it’s ridiculous, but I’ve encountered both scenarios). Of course pansexuals, transsexuals, intersex people, asexuals, and others would be welcomed too. So how come there hasn’t been an attempt to start one? Certainly there are gay and straight bars that are bi friendly, but how come we don’t have one of our own? We could call it a “bi/trans/pan” type place. I seriously think that if someone started this in a big city where there are a lot of us, it would become popular very quickly.

We also need more of a presence in pride parades  — I know this isn’t always easy, especially when encountering resistance. In New York, where there is a thriving bi network, a big section of it marches in the parade every year. It’s basically a numbers game — the more bisexual, pansexual, fluid people who are active in the movement, the more of a separate bi presence there is. Where I live, that doesn’t happen enough.

Our woman’s group has a booth at the pride street festival-but there aren’t enough of us who are active to have a separate marching block. That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of us-there are many people who are active online but not active in non-online groups. I just found out that there’s supposed to be a “bi/fluid” pride march coming up in California in June! That’s great! I hope we have many more!

Transgender people have done a great job of taking their cause from just the internet to the real world. Often in pride parades you will see a separate block for transgender pride, even if there are only a few people in it, the same with BGLT conferences and pride seminars. They have gotten really good at making themselves visible and making their cause heard even when the larger BGLT movement tries to ignore them. Definitely something to emulate. So to make a long story short, I hope that more of us (who are able to safely be out) can take that energy and passion from the internet and spread it out as far as we can — making ourselves more visible, more heard, and more of a force to be reckoned with. I know we have the numbers — now we just need the voice and the organization. Who knows, maybe one day there will even be a bisexual bar. One can hope, anyway.

A Bisexual Space to Call Our Own

bisexual clubA Bisexual Club?

People have commented about the “bisexual community”, some praising how it has acted together to combat the latest round of biphobia, others wondering why there isn’t more of a community. I’ve wondered, what exactly constitutes the bisexual community, and how is it different from the gay, lesbian, and transgender community?

Since I’ve been out, I’ve read and researched this. Although I live in a pretty liberal area where I was welcomed into the larger BGLT community, I kept hearing about other bisexuals who were not so lucky in different parts of the country and world. I figured, “well, don’t they have a bisexual community to fall back on?” The answer, not always.

A large portion of the bisexual community seems to have started and still is online. I’ve read many articles that said that if [it] hadn’t been for the rise of the Internet in the 1990’s, it definitely would have been harder for bisexuals to organize, and I agree. If you are in a small town, and both gay and straight people tell you “it’s just you”, it can be pretty discouraging. But if you go on the Internet, in a very short while you’ll see that there are bisexual groups all over the world, and many Websites and organizations devoted to the cause.

The Internet has really helped us find groups and create a sense of community. However, we need more non-internet information.

In many big cities, including where I live, there are bisexual groups, and these tend to be very accepting and welcome most people. Groups like BiNet USA, and the New York Bisexual Network (I wish there was an “official” network for my city, all we have is one women’s group, though it’s a great group!) What I and others have noticed that both gays and straights have, that we seem to lack, are recreational places for us to hang out. Basically: bisexual bars-why aren’t there any? Where are the “bisexual sections of town” the way there are “gay sections?” A friend and I had a great discussion imagining how an ideal bisexual bar would be-all kinds couples dancing together, all kinds of people meeting and getting to know one another-no one getting a dirty look for being the “wrong” orientation or gender. I could bring both my straight and gay friends and no one would be “suspicious” because they were from the “other side” (I know it’s ridiculous, but I’ve encountered both scenarios). Of course pansexuals, transsexuals, intersex people, asexuals, and others would be welcomed too. So how come there hasn’t been an attempt to start one? Certainly there are gay and straight bars that are bi friendly, but how come we don’t have one of our own? We could call it a “bi/trans/pan” type place. I seriously think that if someone started this in a big city where there are a lot of us, it would become popular very quickly.

We also need more of a presence in pride parades  — I know this isn’t always easy, especially when encountering resistance. In New York, where there is a thriving bi network, a big section of it marches in the parade every year. It’s basically a numbers game — the more bisexual, pansexual, fluid people who are active in the movement, the more of a separate bi presence there is. Where I live, that doesn’t happen enough.

Our woman’s group has a booth at the pride street festival-but there aren’t enough of us who are active to have a separate marching block. That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of us-there are many people who are active online but not active in non-online groups. I just found out that there’s supposed to be a “bi/fluid” pride march coming up in California in June! That’s great! I hope we have many more!

Transgender people have done a great job of taking their cause from just the internet to the real world. Often in pride parades you will see a separate block for transgender pride, even if there are only a few people in it, the same with BGLT conferences and pride seminars. They have gotten really good at making themselves visible and making their cause heard even when the larger BGLT movement tries to ignore them. Definitely something to emulate. So to make a long story short, I hope that more of us (who are able to safely be out) can take that energy and passion from the internet and spread it out as far as we can — making ourselves more visible, more heard, and more of a force to be reckoned with. I know we have the numbers — now we just need the voice and the organization. Who knows, maybe one day there will even be a bisexual bar. One can hope, anyway.