I Get Bi

Today is Bisexual Pride Day.

You probably didn’t know that. That’s ok, I didn’t either, at least not til Facebook  (or rather, some lovely people on Facebook; it’s not like Mark Zuckerberg put it on the Official Interwebz Calendar) told me that it was. If you’re like me, you might not have even known there was a Bisexual Pride Day. Why would we need one? There’s a whole month for LGBT people!

Unfortunately, there is not always the solidarity within the groups indicated by those four letters that one would expect or even hope for. I’ve written about this before (see Bi-ide for the one that was most at length) and a lot of other people have noted it too (see this response to the video “What Lesbians Think About Bisexuals”).

If during the month of Pride,  bisexual people feel like we’re not welcome, if when I came out to my family they didn’t even know how to react because while they knew the way to talk to a gay child, they had no real handle on what I was telling them, if I continue to see characters on ground-breaking shows like “Orange is the New Black”–shows that unflinchingly show what it is like to be a transwoman in the penal system–who are bisexual but identify as “lesbian for awhile” and then “straight again” and then “lesbian again” instead of knowing that they are the poster-children for a magical term that describes exactly what they’re going through–

Then yeah, I think we need a day.

Let me talk a little bit more about the “OitNB” thing, because I want to make it clear that I’m not faulting the writers or the show itself. It would have been awesome if the character of Piper knew that she could identify as bisexual. It would be even more awesome if she’d felt like she could tell her future in-laws that and essentially shrugged her shoulders and said, “Deal with it,” instead of feeling like she needed to promise them that no, the falling-in-love-with-a-woman thing was a phase and she’s totally 100% hetero now. But come on–how realistic is that?

“Bisexual” is, at least in the popular imagination, not really a valid identification. The term still conjures up phantoms of hyper-promiscuous nymphs and satyrs running around, macking on everything that moves, or of people deeply confused or experimenting. So what’s happening when women realize that, wow, maybe their sexuality (or romantic interest!) is a little more…fluid than they’d thought, when forty-year-old divorcees fall for their female yoga teachers or schoolgirls who are used to swooning over boys develop crushes on the heroine of the school play, they think: “Oh man! I must have been a lesbian the whole time!”

To be clear: This can absolutely be true. Maybe they were swooning over the idea of being with someone and not actually over that boy. Maybe they got married back when you had to find a nice man or else something was wrong with you. Maybe any number of things.

The problem is for the people who see that relationship end or that crush fade and then fall for a man again and think, “…what?”

There are a few ways to deal with this. You can say it was a phase. You can say you were a lesbian for a time. Or you can say you’re bisexual.

To my thinking, option b) up there is actually the most harmful, and yet it’s what we see Piper resort to in “Orange is the New Black.”

See, to be “a lesbian for awhile” implies that you can be a lesbian and then all of a sudden wake up one day straight. That’s exactly what the fundamentalists want. They want you to think that if you try hard enough, pray hard enough, ignore enough hair on the chest or what have you, you’ll be able to go from loving women to loving men. For a lot of people that is just not true. These people are called lesbians.

Saying it was a phase diminishes your own life experience and potentially robs other people’s identifications of their legitimacy or at least of their strength in numbers, but you know what, it’s your life, you do get to identify as you want and if you’re rock-solid sure that any same-sex attraction is completely over, who am I to judge.

But coming out and saying, “Yeah, I’m bi,” is actually pretty liberating. Acknowledging your attraction fluidity means you don’t have to freak out or resort to crazy explanations the next time you find yourself interested in someone, no matter who that person is. It means that when your friends are thinking about who to set you up with, they don’t ignore the perfect person because they don’t think there’s no chance you’d be into them. And it means that when Piper (SPOILER ALERT) hooks up with Alex, her ex, she doesn’t have to figure out if she’s suddenly gay again or how she can still love and intend to marry Larry. There’s a word that covers all that (except maybe the cheating, I don’t sanction that being folded into the term). I wish she’d use it.

So, Internet, public, everyone who cares although it’s probably not your business: I’m still bi. I may marry a man, have six children with him, and move to a farm where I only wear gingham and I delight in my secret recipe for grits, but even when I’m 87 and on my deathbed with my 43 grandchildren by my side, I will still be bi. I don’t intend to make a big secret out of it. If you’re feeling torn, maybe you don’t have to either. In my experience, you just say it and move on, and let the people who can’t deal with it get out of your life.

Happy Bi Pride Day, everyone. May it always be a day, may it become a day more people know about, and may it someday be unnecessary but welcome.

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3 Comments

Filed under Musings, Story Time

3 responses to “I Get Bi

  1. Jacob Watson

    Love you, and love this. Really good points here. HOWEVER, I’m gonna disagree here. “Lesbian” is, like any other noun we assign to ourselves, an artificial label that (at best) correlates with certain feelings or behaviors. So, to be “lesbian for a while” is to choose to identify in that way for a period of time.

    There are a number of reasons one might dislike the word bisexual (it implies binaries, it places the focus on “sex” and not on love), and so people who feel attraction to both women and men might prefer a label like “queer,” or “lesbian,” or even — yes — “straight.”

    Here’s the thing: we can’t change our sexual orientation, who we’re attracted to. If you are regularly attracted to men and women, chances are you’re oriented in both directions. We can do whatever we want with that information, and those actions become our sexual behavior (e.g., “I feel attracted to men and women but I’m gonna ignore the latter half of that and only have sex with men for now”).

    The identity (G/L/B/S) piece comes last, because identities are made up of: 1) how we feel (orientation), 2) what we do (behavior), and 3) how we FEEL about what we DO (because of, you know, society). So we give it a name based on those 3 things.

    In a perfect world, would all three things line up? Of course. But….well, you know the rest.

    (See this for more: http://itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Genderbread-2.1.jpg)

    • I guess what I’m trying to say is that while I completely agree that people have the right to identify however they want, the terminology and the identification you choose does impact other people. I don’t want to put any conformity mandate on anyone, but the more people who experience dual-sex attraction or romantic feelings or whatever and who identify as bi, the more people know someone who is bi, the fewer people think that it’s not a real/legitimate identification, and the less people who have grown up in just such a binary as you’re describing (this one being “gay/straight”) get confused about how to describe or feel okay about their own attractions when they don’t fall that way.

      So while I can see why someone would choose to identify as “lesbian” and then “straight” and then “lesbian again,” for example, as a member of an identification that many people openly scoff at and say does not exist, it frustrates me that those people do not recognize and consider the identification that was invented for just such folk.

  2. I wish people didn’t have to identify as anything and could just accept that their sexuality, whatever it might, is one facet of many, many, many facets that come together to make up them – unique, imperfect and wonderful, but not defined by any one thing. I’ve known too many people that, upon deciding that they are gay, or lesbian, or bisexual, or asexual, or thespians (=D) or what have you, suddenly think that they need to conform to an ideal of what that is. Suddenly the way they talk, the way they dress, the people they hang out with, the music they listen to, even the subject matter they talk about, no matter where or when, is reduced to center around that one part of their identity.

    And I get that, and I get wanting to express yourself. And you should be free to do so. But I’ve – upon discovering my sexuality, which I just like to say is fluid leaning heavily on the side of liking men, when asked – never really saw things that way. I’d hate for someone to look at me and think, ok she’s bi, so that means.. XYZ. And I guess that goes along the lines of what you are saying in the first place. I still am the same person, and like theater and dance and music and writing and going out and drinking good coffee and drinking mojitos on summer afternoons and I like to speak french and I love my friends, and I’m a little impatient and super sensitive and I giggle when I’m uncomfortable and I flirt with everyone and blah blah blah, and I should hope that there are a whole lot of other things about me that are infinitely more interesting to people than to whom I want to make mad mad passionate love. Similarly, I’ve learned I am attracted to people based on all sorts of different combinations of physical and character attributes and there is no one formula for why I want to be with them.

    I want to be seen as person first and foremost. It seems like that’s what GLBTQ rights activists want in the first place. And I am a super strong ally. I just hope that someday, when everyone has equal rights, there won’t be all this pressure to define it.

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