Monday, April 6, 2009

It's not FOR you.

So I had lunch with a old and very dear friend of mine and I said something offhand about the gay clubs in our area and how they, like the rest of the local nightlife, pretty much sucked. And she said, "Well, you wouldn't be able to meet guys you could date there anyway."

Yeah, she doesn't know. It just never seems like the right time to tell her. She is just so straight and vanilla that I can't imagine saying to her that I like girls too. That the most important and intimate relationship in my life right now is with a man and a woman, a married couple. That being a "third" makes me happy, that it feels right to me, not anxiety-laden and consuming like my monogamous relationships have been but easy and joyous and whole.

I've never not told her about the people I'm seeing before. Not being honest with one of my best friends bothers me, but I just didn't want to sidetrack our relaxing lunch with the drama of my sexual orientation. I think she would accept, but I don't think she would understand.

Excuses, excuses.

I feel divided in the presence of people who do not know I am bi, feel sharply the difference between their perception, their assumptions, and my reality, clashing like bones out of joint. Every step I take into my real self feels in a way like a step away from my old life, my old friends, and I don't want it to be like that. But I must be afraid that the real me will be even more of a stranger to them, exposed, their changeling friend. I am not someone else entirely but I fear that the aspects of me they do not know will eclipse everything else for them. I worry that I will become their queer friend instead of their friend who is queer, that they will begin to think of me as this exotic creature, talk about me over their dinner tables like I'm a character in a novel and provocative sitcom.

This is not a psychodrama I am living. It's not a sexual comedy. There is nothing performative about my sexuality. This is my real life, this is me out on a limb every day it seems sometimes, trying to find my way to myself, to what I really want and need, to human connection, maybe even to reinvent what love means to me. This is me possibly getting hurt in so many ways, with this new nascent relationship and new kind of intimacy and newly acknowledged desires, and with my old relationships and friendships. I may seem daring but I know, believe me I know, exactly how far I have to fall.

It is important to me that those whom I'm close to know who I am. Paradoxically, I don't want it to be a big deal to them, even as it is a big deal to me.

I want to be seen in full. My queerness is part of that. It is not all of me but it is inextricable from who I am, who I've always been, the person I'm only just starting to get to know. And yet, wanting to be visible, I do not want to be on display. I don't want to embody queerness for a titillated audience. I want to educate, not be educational. Subject not object, dammit!

But I'm not sure if the two can be separated. If I can walk between those lines. If I have any choice or control at all of how I'm seen in this respect. And that's why I stay silent sometimes.

I'm afraid they'll stop seeing me as human.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


"Greedy" is an epithet often aimed at bisexual people. It reflects the myth that we are all oversexed and promiscuous, insatiable and indiscriminate sex fiends. I heard it first from my own father, oh I don't remember when, but I do remember the way my stomach clenched up at his tone. Even though I identified as straight at the time, that was quite an argument. I may have cried. Funny how we know things, even when we don't. Our bodies know what the mind forgets.

Or maybe my body just knew that I am greedy. I've always been a highly sexual person, ever since I can remember, since before I knew what shame was. I love sex, I glory in sensation, I crave touch. I take as much as I can, when I can get it.


What does that mean, anyway, in the context of sexuality? When did sex become a non-renewable resource? Am I taking something away from other people if I check out twice the number of people in the supermarket? Greed is a moral judgment that implies selfishness, and conversely that restraint is altruistic, that it benefits others. It says that if you take as much as you can, as you want, you're taking something away from someone else. But how would restricting myself to one gender benefit anyone?

When you say "greedy" to me, here's how I want to answer: envious.

You wouldn't think I was greedy if I wasn't taking something you wanted. Wasn't doing something you wanted to do. Maybe you don't know it. Maybe you only know it in the clench of your stomach, in the ache of something (yearning) in your chest. A sense of privation. Your body knows, even if you don't. Makes you nervous, doesn't it? Makes you wonder about yourself. So you lash out at me.

Well, I have news for you. There's plenty of partners out there for everyone. I can't fuck all of them at once, even if I wanted to. And in fact, I'm actually very picky about my partners and will remain celibate for long periods of time if no one I want is available.

Still, I am greedy, in a sense. In the way you meant: refusing to choose. Refusing to give up half of myself. Wanting and taking both/and. But I'm not taking any pleasure away from anyone else. That's all you. In fact, the more greedy people there are in the world, the more sex there is for everyone! It's a self-renewing resource. Isn't that nifty?

Don't begrudge me what you deny yourself. And if you don't want it, why do you care?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

One of the common myths about bisexual people is that we are incapable of monogamy.

One of the truths about bisexual people is that many of us are polyamorous--in numbers probably disproportionate to the general population, although of course no one has done any studies.

I'm guessing the main reason for this is not because our multi-gender-loving natures make us particularly suited for non-monogamy, or because we're just big sluts.* I think it's because once we start coloring outside the lines, we start to realize that these rules about the way sexual expression has to look are just rules that somebody made up. For some of us, the rules make sense, because we're monogamous by nature or because our partners prefer it or because relationships are complicated and risky enough with just two people involved. But if the rules don't make sense for us--well. We already knew they were arbitrary. We were already breaking one of the big ones.

I always think it's interesting when the "defense of marriage" folks throw out the argument that if we let same-sex couples have the right to marry, we open a slippery slope to legal polygamy--and the "marriage equality" folks say "No, it's not like that! It's about the commitment between two people! We don't want to destroy marriage--we want to join in."

They're not lying. Because the marriage rights movement is a movement to normalize queerness--not just to make it seem normative to the general population, but to actually become normal. To become more like straight people. To attain the house, the husband/wife, the 2.5 kids and the picket fence--and the privilege that goes along with it.

And you know, I support that. I support the right to marry for same-sex couples.

But I also support the right of people to do whatever the fuck they want, as long as nobody gets hurt (nonconsensually, that is). And so to the "defense of marriage" folks, I want to say this: You're right.

It is a slippery slope, and we're not just like you. We're queer and some of us are here to destroy marriage as you know it. We are here to shake the very foundations of the traditional family and change the definition of relatedness. We are here to set this damned binary heteronormative world on its ear by refusing to allow you to define love or commitment. Because love is love, whether it's between a man and a woman, a man and a man, a woman and a woman, a man and a woman and a woman, a woman and a man and a man, an ungendered or multigendered person and a woman (or a man, or another ungendered or multigendered person)...etcetera. And family is family no matter how many parents you have (as we should know in this divorce-happy society).

We are what you are afraid of.

We're not all here to join in.

We're here to break your rules. To break your rule.

I support the right to marry for same-sex couples, so far as it goes. But it doesn't go far enough. It doesn't go far at all. Those of us on the outskirts of the mainstream LGBT movement--the B, the T, the LGBTQOC, the elusive A**, know just how far it falls short. How it doesn't even see us.

Those rights don't benefit all or even most queer people. They don't protect our youth on the streets, kicked out or run away. They don't provide us with sexual health care that meets our needs. They don't protect us from being murdered and raped and beaten and shamed to death. They aren't intended for those of us who haven't bought into the husband/wife two kids condo SUV white picket fence ideal--or for those of us for whom husband/wife is the least of our worries because just a safe place to sleep is more than we can hope for most nights.

The marriage movement is in large part a reach for privilege by the already privileged who feel entitled to the just as much privilege as the SWM down the street. It's a lot of splashing, but not a lot of boat-rocking.

So I say, let's tear it all down. Let's stop basing our arguments for our rights on how "normal" we are, how non-threatening (white, vanilla, classed, cisgendered) we look, how well we fit into the kyriarchy, how much we contribute to the economy, how nuclear our family is, whether we've been good little queers.

How about, instead, we base the argument on the fact that we're all human.

Now there's a radical idea.

* I am a big slut. (Where's my parade?!) I'm one of those bad bisexuals your parents warned you about. But I don't/won't speak for everyone and I'm sure they'd rather I didn't.

** Asexual people. Who may also identify as LGBT and/or Q, by the way.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Loving my queer nature

Inspired by Gay Aspirations and by various other signs and portents this weekend that told me to remember the positive, I thought I would write about the good things that owning my queerness and bisexuality has brought into my life.

First of all, let me just say: I was never anything else. I was twelve years old when I experienced my first same-sex attraction. But when I discovered I was attracted to boys a year or so later, I wrote off the possibility that I was anything but straight, in part because I didn't know it was possible to be both. (Never mind the fact that my feelings for my first crush still tormented me all through high school.) Now, of course, I can look back on my life and recognize the feelings I had over the years for both men and women, but I lived in denial for a very long time.

So it is an incredible relief, incredibly freeing to get to the place of self-acceptance I'm in now, and more, to be increasingly out. I feel like I can be myself, be authentic in a way I never was before. People have noticed the change and mentioned it to me--that I seem happier, more open, more confident, more present. It takes a lot of energy to suppress a huge part of yourself the way I had been, and now I have that much extra energy to put forth into the world. (This is one reason I'd argue that "bi privilege" is a false concept or at least extremely limited--sure, we can "pass" as straight or gay to avoid biphobia, but that doesn't take into account the price of passing, which requires sacrificing/concealing a crucial part of who we are. In my experience, that's hugely significant.)

On the shallow side: there are so many beautiful women in the world! Giving myself permission to look at other women with lust in my heart was a revelation. It brought a joy into my life that I didn't know I was missing and opened the door to relationships that I once only dreamed about. As it happens, on a purely physical level I am more attracted to women--or rather, given a group made up of 50/50 males and females, I'll probably see a high ratio of attractive women to attractive men. So the world got a hell of a lot sexier when I accepted that attraction.

However, many of my deepest and most irresistible attractions have been to men, and I also find androgyny to be deeply sexy, so go figure. It's not simple. Which is another part of living in this space that has enriched my life: it's a constant reminder that nothing is simple, that very little in life breaks down to A and Not A. That dichotomies are almost always false. That society's paradigms are almost always wrong. There are three sides to every coin, and the world is so much more interesting in its shades of grey than it is in black and white. This awareness colors everything I do, from my spirituality to my career, and I believe it makes me a better person--not better in the sense of better than others, but a better me.

This may be going out on a limb and betraying my heathen sympathies, but I believe that there is a shamanistic quality in living "between" that is inherent in being bisexual, transgender, or genderqueer. Shamans travel between the physical and spiritual worlds to bring back wisdom and insight that has the power to transform and heal those worlds. And so we, as queer folk, travel between the worlds of male and female, masculine and feminine, and/or same sex and opposite sex attraction. By doing so, by declaring our truths with courage and refusing to be invisible, we can be agents of change and transformation. We challenge the very foundations of traditional gender roles and ideas about sexuality in ways that can only improve society for everyone--because everyone suffers to some degree from the imposition of false dichotomies.

So for me, my queer nature is a source of joy, pride, and personal/spiritual empowerment (which is, unfortunately, not the same as political empowerment!) Furthermore, my as-yet tentative engagement with the LGBT community has brought me into contact with some amazing people and revolutionary ideas. While I didn't choose to be queer, and while it's not always easy, I wouldn't choose to be straight if I could. I would lose far too much of what I hold dear.

Friday, February 13, 2009

More on "bisexual" versus "queer"

I've been very pleased to find a few other bi-identified bloggers through other folks' blogrolls and have been doing a lot of reading today. Some of my reading led to further thoughts on definitions and labels.

Aviva at Bi-Furious! writes that for her, "queer" is an oppositional identity:

Broad and welcoming as it is, it means some very specific things to me. It means setting myself against what society expects of me as a soft-spoken white girl on her way from and most likely to the middle class. It means radical lefty politics, and standing against racism, sexism, class-based oppression, ableism, fatphobia, etc. as much as I can and ideally as much as I do against heterosexism, biphobia, etc. It means being drawn to queerness in others, and building a community of people who share those values and convictions with me. Placing myself in a history that has involved riots and marches and protests and angry people of all colors and genders who’ve had enough, not corporate-sponsored parades attended mostly by white people claiming to be inclusive. Fighting for immigration righs and universal health care and the right to decide who makes one’s medical decisions and inherits one’s property regardless of whether one is coupled, rather than a few more coupled people’s right to access those things through marriage. And it means all of that much more than it means being attracted to other girl-creatures, though that’s a part of it and part of how I got here.
I feel similarly about the word "queer"--that it means much more than attraction unbounded by gender, but also an unconventionality of identity as regards gender and sexuality, and an identification and solidarity with other queer folks of all stripes.

As a ciswoman, I have never doubted my femaleness but have never felt particularly feminine in the traditional sense. I am attracted to androgyny as much as maleness or femaleness. I am kinky and perverted and poly-open. As I become more and more "out" in the world, I experience my queerness more and more--sometimes as alienation, sometimes as pride, sometimes just as difference: being outside the norm. Queer, strange, bent. I've realized that I have always unconsciously recognized and been drawn to other queer people, to my people.

In comments to her post, Aviva goes on to talk about the word "bi":

I’m deliberately queering the word bi by using it to describe my orientation, which goes far beyond liking “both” genders. I use it to fight the stereotypes that have grown up about bisexuals, things like us being confused, young and undecided, fickle, untrustworthy, etc.
Challenging the stereotypes of bisexuality is definitely one of my reasons for claiming bi identity. My main problem with the word is, as discussed in my last post, that it invokes a binary paradigm of gender and sexuality that is potentially offensive/oppressive to trans and genderqueer people. Is it possible to queer the word, as Aviva puts it? I'm not sure, but at the moment I do feel like it's as important to use the word as it is to challenge the assumptions on which it is based.

Bliss Warrior brings up another important aspect:

By creating a bisexual community that is strong and vibrant, we can show our diversity. Bisexuals can and do have successful monogamous relationships. Bisexuals are not liars, or confused, or discontent in their relationships. They are not trashy girls who will jump into bed with just anybody. The problem is, if we all go around saying we are ‘beyond labels’, how do we create community and fight the negative stereotypes?...

When we have no visibility or power, it’s easy for pornographers to define our culture.
Community and visibility are both sorely needed among those of us who exist between the lines of gay/lesbian and straight. Bliss Warrior also mentions a friend "who is ’straight’ when she’s with her heterosexual friends and ‘lesbian’ when she is out with her dyke friends. But she has no space to be her real self and few friends who understand who she really is." This really resonated with me personally. I am extremely lucky to have a small community of close friends who are queer/bi (or genuine allies) to whom my bi-ness is visible. But I also still have heterosexual friends who I'm not yet out to, and belong to an LGBT student group to whom I've never outright declared myself. In contrast, the relief of being among people who really know who I am is palpable, liberating, and it binds me very tightly to those friends.

I've seen a couple of queer-identified people who have rejected the word "bisexual" discuss how they enjoy throwing people for a loop by refusing to identify as straight, gay or bi. I feel the opposite: I want people to be as little confused as possible. I want to be very clear about who I am in this regard. And so I very much agree with Bliss Warrior that "floating under a non-labeled identity" makes us invisible.

Let me be clear here as well: I would never tell anyone how to identify. But I myself am driven by a personal and political desire (need?) to NOT be invisible, a need that emerges as much from my (admittedly spotty) knowledge of the history of the LGBTQ movement as from my emotional experience of being closeted--both voluntarily and involuntarily, as by other's assumptions--versus being out. Identifying as simply "queer" allows too many assumptions to stand for my comfort--by not defining myself, I feel like it gives others too much room to define me.

I guess, in considering all this, I am best identified as a queer bisexual/bisexual queer. All hail the both/and!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The wrong word

Bisexual(ity) is the wrong word.

It's wrong from beginning to end. "Bi" implies binary: only two genders, two sexualities. "Sexual" implies that this is all about sex and with whom we have sex, that we must all be sexual or sexually active people. It excludes trans people and asexual people and genderqueer people. It ignores the fluid nature of sexuality, identity, gender. In defining "in between" it misses the point of between.

And yet I've been very careful to use it on this blog, in describing myself. It's a deliberate choice, despite the fact that I feel increasingly at home with the word "queer" and, as the above paragraph explains, increasingly dissatisfied with all permutations of "bi."

Why this choice? Because when, just a few years ago, I was struggling to come to terms with my own identity and sexual orientation, I never thought to use "queer" as a search term. "Bisexual" was the only word I knew that might apply to what I felt. It was the only thing I had to hang onto. And it allowed me to find people like me, people who were going through the same thing, who understood.

I talk about "bisexuality" and define myself as bisexual here because I want to make sure people can find me.

But I also wear the label because there really is no good, precise word for who/what I am. "Queer" covers a multitude of identities and preferences, and non-queer folks have no idea what it means. (Sometime, I'll have to write here about trying to explain queerness to my parents.) "Pansexual" seems like an overstatement (especially for someone who is extremely picky in her attractions). "Non-monosexual" is overly technical and a negative definition. "Polysexual" suggests non-monogamy as much or more than non-gender-based attraction. I'd kind of like to popularize "humansexual" but for shorthand use, again, no one has any idea what that means.

"Bisexual" is the word people know, and language is inadequate, and oh hell no one really knows what "bisexual" means either. But it provides a starting point, at least. It opens a dialogue about between-ness. It allows me to be visible in my communities.

And visibility is crucial, which is one reason I've begun this blog.

More later.