By Wendy Curry
( Copyright 2007. The
views expressed are strictly those of the writer and not necessarily those of
BiNet USA or any of its other officers.
Quick update: No accidents, no drama, still love my new job. Oh, yeah… and I’m out again.
One of my concerns with moving to my new job was that dreaded “outing” task. Every time I start over, I’m torn between having “the talk” and appearing like a nut job (does anyone in the high tech world care what my sexuality is?)… or not voicing my sexuality and feeling like a hypocrite.
This time, I opted to try to work it into conversation naturally. How hard could that be? 5 months later, I knew exactly how impossible! The effort started well. In week one I was discussing the local Fetish Flea (bi-annual alternative lifestyles flea market). I followed it up with a chat about volunteering to help sex workers organize.. Got a buzz cut.. Discussed escorting guests into Planned Parenthood. Mentioned watching porn (not as shocking as it might seem else where; my company’s roots are in porn technology). I explained how my “House” avatar should be “number 13” (“the one that goes both ways?” Exactly!). Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt Sandwich.. Torchwood… Visiting my dominatrix friend in Canada. Gay marriage in CA. Nothing.. I mean nothing.. worked. I couldn’t understand how my coworker was that dense.
I was getting ready to leave explicit pictures involving myself “accidentally” lying about, when 2 events occurred within minutes of each other.
Derrick (the guy from the subject line) asked me how come I hadn’t added him as a friend in myspace. Derrick is savvy/streetwise enough for me to know – if he’s seen my myspace account, I’m out to him. If he didn’t spot by self identification or my queer friend base, the blog would give it away.
Big D is a man’s man – volunteer fire fighter who can hold his own in a fight, but he’s a freak, in a good way. He’s pals with my younger, more innocent coworker. If Joe had yet to figure me out, Derrick would explain my facts of life.
As I was letting that sync in, Joe and I started discussing whether anyone was bothered by the Patriot Act. Me, being the flaming liberal I am, was. I was explaining how I was not naïve enough to think anyone interested didn’t know me via google (I mentioned BiNet USA). He admitted he had googled me before I started working here.
For the past 5 months the two of us had been playing chicken. With Joe trying to make me say the word, while I was awaiting him showing a clue.
This all happened a couple months ago. I’m still not certain whether he was taunting my attempts as self outing or being respectful of my privacy. Our receptionist has offered to tease them back by having a torrid affair with me (they all kind lust after her, at some level). So, all in all, being out is a good thing.
Once upon a time, every "tv watching" home needed a TV Guide. It told you what was on at what time. Without it, you were forced to stand by the tv and manually switch between channels until you found something good.
Eventually, cable companies added a scrolling guide, which morphed into a searchable guide.
There was no longer a need for a paper guide.
Similarly, there was a time when bisexuals were isolated, lacking in references, depictions in the media, or acceptance by the larger glbt community. Bi organizing grew out of a need for a generation of self identifying bisexuals to find out about
ourselves, to connect with others who felt the same way, to create a large enough presence to be taken seriously by the glbt community.
These days, there are whole libraries of bi themed books, dozens of discussion groups online, myspace, facebook, yahoogroups. We have bi characters in film and on tv. And almost all major glbt organizations have out bisexuals on staff.
We set out to do what we meant to do. We're now at a crossroads. Do BiNet and other national bi groups step back and become merely a directory for other bi groups? Do we serve solely as a 501c3 placeholder for smaller bi groups to fundraise through? Or do we retire?
We are run currently by the same generation who saw the original need for bi activism/organizing. We are lacking perspective to make these decisions on our own. We desperately need people willing to join the board volunteer 5 or so hours a week and help us steer BiNet into this century.
We can't seem to find anyone. Is that our answer? Is it possible - with war, the economy, health insurance, famine, and all the other issues today, when compared to the current level of bi acceptance... that people's volunteer hours are better spent elsewhere? If that is the case, are we fooling ourselves by keeping this going? Do we need to step back and let BiNet go away? Keep the listserv and let all else die? Eventually, the few remaining board members will fade away and the decision will be made.
My job coach has forced me to picture my ideal job; not what I can do or am qualified to do, but what I want. It turns out even my ideal job is bisexual: part software engineer, part support, part management.. A little from column a, a little from column b, yet something much more. The people who recognize the value in this role are rare; so many companies are mono-taskical.
I managed to find a company who realizes the power of complexity. I had a second interview on Wednesday. And I nailed it (cue the balloon drop)! I'm waiting for the offer (it must be coming; my soon-to-be coworker spent our interview time training me). I am not a good waiter.
I've started my second stint as Lammy judge this year (not in the bisexual category this time; I'm not allowed to tell you which one until after the awards). As I wade through the 20+ submissions, I've learned that the bisexual category is not that unique. Last year we debated how to compare bi fiction to bi memoir; how unfair it all seems. This year I'm having the same problem. My genre is one I've loved forever, long enough to know the subgenres and have strong biases.
Any large category has sub categories. Go up to your average sci fi geek and ask them if star trek fan-fic is more literate than star wars. LOTR or Harry Potter? Biography or memoir? Hard boiled mysteries or cozies? Every book is unique. How can one judge art? This must be when an oscar judge feels like.
I picked a fight with Andrew Sullivan this week. or more precisely, I countered his biphobic blog with a Blade quote. He questioned the recent Hunter studies results (saying half the LGBT community is bi), saying he doesn't "see" us. It's tough to see anyone when you're only looking at yourself.
Several weeks ago, I developed a crush.. on a tv reality show contestant (no.. that's not my "outing," but it is kinda pathetic). Tila Tequila's Shot of Love has the most amazing soul (at ,least, she's filmed that way). Dani, the "butch lesbian with a heart of gold," made me love her - not because she's physically my type (though she is), but by constantly taking the high road, avoiding drama, always seeing the good, and being completely accepting. Ok, so what can I say.. Opposites attract.
I've avoided this long enough.
There's something about me that few people know. Something I'm not ashamed of, but I do avoid speaking about because the announcement is always followed by the difficult responses... Why? Are you afraid? You can change if you want to!
This is something that I've come to consider part of my identity. Yet its something I'm being forced to change. At times, this change is painful, but it's time.
I have never had a driver's license. Yes, the 40-something, adventure loving, world traveling, rural home owner has never been able to jump in a car and go.
After losing my job working from home, I know it was time to get a license. I'm 5 weeks into driver's ed. My hope to to take the test next week. I was going to take it today, but I was in a car accident this week (rear ended at a red light; NOT my fault!!!) and have lost my test car. Today I start relearning in our only other car (a big SUV - parallel park anyone?). Wish me luck.
In the mean time, suffice to say that life's been throwing me a mess o' lemons. I won't bore you with the whole lost job/Tucker's knee surgery & rehab/trying to get a drivers license for the first time at 42/mourning loved ones lost/trying desperately to keep others alive through the new year. Darn it! too late.
Any hew.. The point is, we all have times in our lives when everything gets turned upside down and we're forced to reflect on our place in the universe, the choices we've made, and the upcoming decisions we must face. Let's call it the phoenix period.
As terrifyingly stressfully overwhelming these times can be, they are also freeing. When your entire routine is shattered, you get to build a new one. It's like a cosmic "do over".
Activists get to reexamine their time spent trying to change the world. Is what we're doing time well spent? Or is it merely a distraction from the rest of our routine? Something to make us feel like we haven't simply sold out and become "the man"?
The bi activist community has been having this discussion on one of the justice league, super secret, ultra cool listservs dedicated to ending bi phobia in our life time.
We tend to still act - us old time super heroes - like we must protest for bi inclusion at every opportunity. But while we were fighting for this, something weird happened.
For the most part, we got what we asked for. There are bi leaders in most major GLBT organizations, there's that bi lammy. I'm judging a GLBT lammy category this year, as we have too many bisexuals involved to stay ghetto-ized in just one award. More and more lesbians can shake my hand without flinching as I come out. And the new generation is increasingly scratching their heads when listening to us old folk talk about biphobia. They live in a new, better world.
Yet bi activists have been slow to change. Have we won everything? No. is there more to do? sure. Do I like to answer my own questions? you betcha.
The main problem is - why would anyone change a tactic that clearly has worked?
Each of us, at one point, will be forced into a phoenix period. One by one, we will have to examine why we do what we do, how effective it is, and how best to move forward.
While reflecting on this, if you happen to know someone who works at a high tech company in in need of a high tech type bisexual in the New England area, drop me a line. My job coach says I should be networking to find that next job adventure.
What Really Matters
Queer activists live in Wonderland. Where every minor event results in a
dramatic action.. Where small slights result in screams of protests. Where,
while focusing on minutia, we ignore more and more family events, friends'
problems, and international disasters.
Yesterday, BiNet USA signed a coalition note calling for the
continued inclusion of gender identity in the Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA),
due to be reintroduced into The House later this year.
The most common question I'm asked each Sept 24rd is "what did YOU do to celebrate bisexuality?" I built a greenhouse.
Social change work matters (otherwise I wouldn't volunteer all my free time. You thought BiNet board members got paid?? Silly you!). Yet, bi activism doesn't have victories like other forms - no individual life saved, no elections results altered, few concrete results one can point to and say "I did that".
No - the reality is a day of web site additions, emails from closeted bisexuals looking for others who can help figure things out, letters to prisoners, exchanges with partners doing similar work, fielding requests for information on starting a local group. It's all valuable, important, and satisfying - at some level.
Yet, as the leaves start to change color in New England, my drive starts to wane. Does any of this matter? What did I DO with my life for the past year? Autumn is a natural time for reflection, I suppose. Life cycles coming to an end, harvests fill the house, the outdoor freedom of "snow free" walks are limited.
Years ago, I combined this seasonal "blah" with CBD. Each year, I build something. Something physical, visible, and needed. Something to represent the non-physical tasks I've done in the name of bi activism.
This year, it's a second greenhouse. OK, technically, it's a greenhouse. It's true purpose (besides providing year round lettuce) is to shield our outdoor hot tub. The plan is to ensure access to a warm relaxing spot on those "too long" days in February. Those days when everything seems pointless.
The construction was an adventure. For example, we didn't notice until the roof was over our heads that I built it one section too small (for the wall frame) and had to start over. Or the time when one of our dogs stepped on (and through) one of the louver kits. None of that matters in the end.
For the next year, I have something that represents my bi activism. When my inbox is overflowing, I can look to my backyard and be reminded - the decision to do "something" yields more than the choice to do nothing.
As the event continues to take on traction, there's a morphing of the name in some circles. Some groups call their event a "bi pride" event or they celebrate "Bisexuality Day". This drives me insane.
Why? Shouldn't I be proud that this is growing, regardless of the name? Sure. Absolutely. If you had told me 10 years ago this would be still going on, I'd have thanked you for being so overly optimistic.
Perhaps it's because 3 of us spent 6+ months brainstorming on a name, a date, and a theme. The name is not just a name to me - it was out gift to our community.
So, here's my last attempt (this year) to define what went into making this celebration and why its named as it is.
In Early 1999, 3 BiNet USA national coordinators: Michael Page (originator of the bi pride flag and original owner of the Bi Cafe), Gigi Raven Wilbur (first weekly bi themed radio show hostess, out of Texas of all places), and I started brainstorming on bi day.
In the 90's, much of the bisexual activism involved one of three actions:
1) "we're here too" at "gay" events; trying to prove we were an important part of the GLBT family
2) countering the belief that bisexuality is just a phase. Because so few people identified as bisexual in the previous decades, we'd prop up the one or two people we could find who had identified as bi for a decade or two and say "see? it is possible to be bi for life!"
3) Fight our biggest obstacle - invisibility. Because most people at the time see other's sexuality based on their current partner or whom they see you eyeballing, few bisexuals were/are recognized as such, but misidentified as straight or gay
The common theme in the above actions is a kind of defensiveness. we ARE here; we ARE queer; gosh darn it!
Many of us felt like we were on this endless treadmill, fighting the same battles every day. We'd see colleagues drifting away, burnt from years of the same battle with little "real" progress.
If you really study civil rights/diversity acceptance, you'll see that people start to respect people once they respect themselves. As long as we were in this endless begging for inclusion, we weren't addressing the respect issue.
So, those two themes - wanting to respect ourselves and wanting to celebrate the previous year's battles were the dual driving forces behind CBD.
We wanted to celebrate our fabulousness and remind our peers to celebrate THEIR fabulousness. On this one day, who cares is the less enlightened can't see us or if the national GLBT groups/media weren't including us? Who cares if some ignorant lesbians see us merely as disease carriers?
The day was not an about education day. It was not a coming out day, it's not about glbt partnerships building or proving ourselves to anyone else.
It's not a "pride" day, though many of us our proud. it's not about usurping a gay event and making a smaller one for ourselves. it's a truly unique day, just for us.
What we asked people to do was find some time on this day to celebrate who they are. That could be lighting a candle, saying a prayer, buying a bi pride flag, getting together with other bisexuals for brunch, having incredible sex, march somewhere, whatever they desired.
We picked September because it was Freddie Mercury's birthday month (though not his actual birthday because it didn't fall on a weekend day that first year). We finally went with the 23rd as it was one of our birthday's.
And we sent out a bunch of emails. the rest, as they say, is history. Michael, Gigi, and my gift to the community was the seed. However you all chose to grow that seed is up to you.
Many a fantasy life was dimmed last week, when it was reported
that the bigger lipped half of Brangelina has given up her bisexual label. Upon
hearing this, I donned black for a week (the official mourning time for ex-bi's).
Surely, this highly evolved goddess didn't compare bisexuality to S&M! How
could the womyn who caused my breath to stop continually for over a decade.. how
could SHE minimize who we are?
Imagine a dozen or so cabins, sandwiched between Lake Michigan and a little wanna-be lake, accessible only by boat. Kids kayaking, swimming, hiking, doing arts & crafts, and learning how to lead the GLBT movement.
I was lucky enough to participate in the first national Camping
Out (http://www.campingout.org/) last
week. 21 youth interacted with camp counselors, professional GLBT youth service
providers, and national GLBT organization reps.
..straight people making comedic movies around the GLBT community. They are targeted at a straight, somewhat phobic, crowd (watch the commercials if you doubt that). They contain the requisite awkward straight boy moments (sleeping in the same bed, being told they have to kiss, pretending not to be turned on by a pretty lady, etc). Yet, tucked in between the "frat boy guffaw" scenes is pure GLBT propaganda.
It's brilliant! The audience is taken on a ride: an absurd, yet "soon to be common," adventure that occurs when insurance company bureaucracy forces a devoted dad to take extreme measures in order to ensure his kids will be cared for if he dies fighting fires.
Once the audience is sucked in by the perfunctory macho aspects - fire fighters, men who can get twin sisters to fight over him by tongue wrestling, and hooters girls.. they are slowly introduced to the ugliness of homophobia.
You've got a Fred Phelps character calling the straight boys "faggots".. There's a fire house full of men who reject their brothers - the ones who have saved their lives in the past - simply because they perceive them to be gay. You've got people rooting through their trash to "out" them. Slowly, you can hear the audience morph from people laughing at the gay jokes to cheering when the phobics in the film lose out.
Sure, there were bi invisibility moments that could have changed the film. While Dan Aykroyd may have said "bisexual, tri-sexual, pansexual, omnisexual, and asexual" (not in that order), they missed the perfect defense of bisexuality in response to Sandler's dalliances with women.
I can excuse that. The reality is - there's a large population that will never come to a GLBT made movie that explains why we should be respected. Sandler, Michael Moore (rumored to be considering doing a documentary on GLBT issues), etal can reach the people we can't.
They may say things that make us cringe at times, but they're speaking in a way that brings those people in and enables them to effect change.
Advanced "C&L" realities: If and when you see this, look for the following
1)Who seems offended by two men defining their relationship in a way that provides them benefits? Str8 people? Or GLBT? Why is that?
2) Who DOES their relationship hurt any way? Using the same argument we used for same gender marriage, how does their definition of a family harm your relationship?
3) Reread the "Beyond Same Sex" petition (http://www.beyondmarriage.org/). Does the movie create an argument for this?
4) If you were/are a fire fighter, would you agree with the endorsement by NY's gay fire fighters? Or do the stereotypes override the positives for you?
5) Does the inclusion of some gay notables (Lance bass, Richard Chamberlain) make the movie OK?
It's amazing how controlled I've become. I've been to Canada & France in recent years. I've spoken to many, many citizens. They've confirmed they don't wait for years for heart surgery. And, no.. their taxes aren't THAT higher than mine. They all seem more relaxed, have a higher quality of life, and appear to be more tolerant than the average US citizen. But even with that direct confirmation, I'm apathetic.
... I see some squirming in the back. Don't worry - I'm not sliding down that slippery slope of anti-US propaganda.. no conspiracy theories here. Stick with me.
I've been trying figure out why my apathy seems to reign on so many topics these days. Sure, it could be age. It could be that post 9/11 fear.. When your country becomes one where descent from popular opinion causes hateful backlash, it can tempting to hunker down in an undisclosed location until everyone's done killing each other.
For me, it's something more subtle. Part of what made the Christian Coalition so successful was their ability to isolate large groups of people. Anyone who's taken Horror Film 101 knows that "fear of the other" is the root of most scary movies. The CC became powerful by preaching to hate the gays, the feminists, the abortionists, single moms; the list goes on and on. This divided people into the holy and the rest of us. Unless the sinners wished to show shame and repent, there was no point in speaking with us. Those of us facing the hate felt shame and/or anger. So we stopped talking back.
As this method became more popular, it caught on with other groups - right wing pundits, radio show hosts, politicians, all day news channels, and bloggers preached against a larger list of "others". It's become a game, trying to figure out which "other" will be the focus of the next election cycle. We've become a country of people who can only speak to others with the exact same values.
The most shameful part of this lies on our - the glbt community's - doorstep. Many of us have become what we hate. We contribute to the lack of understanding and lack of dialog by naming names and publicly listing enemies.. I'm not talking Rush Limbaugh, here ok?
I'm talking about outing an 18 year old working for a right wing politician. How many of us did screwed up things while trying to figure out our sexuality? Have we left this child an open door when he finally learns to love himself? Or have we doomed him to purgatory?
Do we think we've increased Isiah Washington's tolerance by making him enemy number 1? Or have we widened the divide between two "other" communities? Look, I'm not saying the use of the "f" word is ever right.. My god! The fact that I feel nervous about discussing this only proves why we've become no better than them.
If I were to use a rumor about the president being bisexual merely to "take him down" because I don't like him.. If true, have I decided to keep even my community members at bay? If not, what would it mean if I choose to use my own label to disempower? What would that make me?
It would make me one of those people on the right side of my little walled in section of the country. And when we're all closed in, with the power of our own little group of ditto heads, then the current health care system will remain unchallenged.
And they win
She's been on the other side of the country for 3 years. Part of me has been on autopilot since she left. Well, that's not exactly true. It happened before she left.. Being on opposite sides when our company split up (knowing she was to be laid off before she did).. Her fear of dogs and my growing pack at home. My job constantly at risk, while she couldn't find a new one. Her added responsibilities raising her nieces while mine where not in my life.
There was a time when I thought it would be easier to let her go. She'd move on; I'd meet other people. But, from the moment we met, she's opened my eyes to a life I'd only read about.
Sure we had a lot in common - recent college grads adjusting to a professional, high tech life, but resisting becoming "corporate." Two of a handful of females in a male dominated company. We both love video games/horror movies/sarcasm/books, are tom boys, and have sister drama.
...yet we were worlds apart. She went to Wellesley; I went to a state college. My dad left after a bad divorce; hers was assassinated for leading a uprising against Idi Amin. She's African; I grew up in a 98% white mid-coast Maine town. I'm the oldest of 3 girls; she's the youngest. I love politics; she never watches the news. Oh, and there's the sexuality thing.
She's straight; I'm bi. It's funny though, because she got mistaken for a lesbian more than I ever did. Since I was out at work, everyone thought we were having an affair. I used to tease her about this. While I kid, I have never thought about her "that way." It would be like having sex with your sister.
Growing up, I never had a "best friend". In the days before GLSEN and GSA's, rural queers kept to themselves. Even though it took me forever to figure out WHY I was different, I knew I should never let my guard down. I think the most intimate thing I ever heard from a girl in high school was "I read 4 books at a time, rotating when I get to the end of a chapter."
That all changed when I met T. I can't explain it, but we recognized each other and connected right away. She never judged me, let me talk out my bi political stuff, and ALWAYS had my back. That's no small thing when hanging out in Ugandan/Kenyan circles; the queer thing is not cool. Yet, she wouldn't think to tell me to hide who I was. She'd be right behind me if things got rough.
I've missed having that energy in my life. Having someone's full acceptance and support, never needing to defend myself. Knowing there was one person on this planet (who I wasn't sleeping with) who "gets me." Email and the phone are ok, but it can't compare to real life chill time.
Whenever you get a ton of bisexuals together, someone always notes how other bi's get them in a way monosexuals never could. There's a truth to that. But there's no sexuality restriction on whom we bond with. Perhaps this is unique to bisexuals - because there's so little "real life" bi community, many of us have blended chosen families.
I get to spend time with mine this week and I couldn't be more excited. In case you're wondering, she now owns 2 dogs of her own, so she should be ok staying here.
I’ve uttered one word since Massachusetts stood up to bigotry, refusing to
let voters decide a civil right – “Mah-widge”.. as in “Mah-widge is a
say-quid institution” (Monty Pythoners out there can probably cite the exact
scene this comes from. I, thinking this was Mel Brooks until a few minutes ago,
I did not sleep last night; my lammy books showed up.
I adore reading, but I have zero tolerance for bad books. Blame it on growing up with the tv for a nanny; a introductory sentence can cause me to toss a book. This wouldn't be a problem if I lived in a city. I could get my latte, sit down with a pile of candidates, filter at will. This winners would get to come home with me and either relax in the hot tub or curl up in my bed.
Alas, that is not to be. I live in "the sticks", 45 minutes from the closest book store. Said book store has two whole shelves of GLBT books! They add one title per decade. My book seller of choice (she says with some humility) is amazon.com. Sure, I would be a better human if I supported a queer book store, but I don't just like queer books. I like straight ones, gay ones, boys, girls, intersex, trans, and asexual books.
The main problem with amazon is the search criteria. They recommend books, sure, but they are wrong as often as they are right. I like tough female detectives - then I must like a 40 something year old recently divorced mother of two who finds the bad guys while searching for her true love. Huh? Or I like Augusten Burroughs memoirs, so I must want to read thoughts from the former head of the armed forced in Afghanistan. My tastes can't be summarized in a book database.
Enter the lammys. Sure, I got into the "bi inclusion" action for purely political purposes (and to avenge "Bi Any other Name"). What I came away with was a better way to find books. The Lambda Book Report provides full page insights into the latest in GLBT literature. Better yet was the experience at the lammies. Attendees could speak with authors, judges, publicists directly. We could ask, for example, how bitter the author was when they wrote it; how much of that comes across to the reader. Or we could learn never to support a particularly biphobic author.
From my hotel, I was able to order 13 new books (free 2 day delivery with amazon prime). Opening the boxes was better than Christmas. I was overwhelmed. Should I start with the the book with the best graphic? the best summary? or opening line ("Parmesan cheese. My troubles all started with parmesan cheese.").
I went with the one with the quote from Diane Sawyer (The History of Swimming by Kim Powers). Amazing book, but a bad one to start at 5pm. Oh well, I can sleep when I find out what happened to his brother.
Thank you Lambda for opening my eyes to so many great works.
Well, the first ever Bisexual Lammy was presented on June 1, 2007. I could write an entire book on the experiences, interchanges, connections made over this weekend. I have a half dozen column ideas in my head about this, but have been stuck with where to start. I finally decided to start with the worst of the weekend; those gaffes that make us look for a time machine, so that we can redo our words.
Sometimes the words themselves are not the problem, but the timing .
I was talking to Clarence Nero at the big bi book event. I adore him and his work. Before the "soon to be described" moment, I had had a verbal hiccup at the lammies (in response to people laughing at his book cover, I blurted "this is a very good book; you should read it", not knowing if the mic even picked it up) and had gushed and got his autograph. Later at the raffle table, I told him "you know, the book would have had better chance (for a lammy) if you used that one 2 letter word". which I planned to follow up with, "but I understand that word isn't used in the culture depicted in the book." My intent being to find out if he saw the character as bi.
Unfortunately, while Mr. Nero was trying to figure outwhich 2 letter word, another author - a gay man, lammy winner who had been invited to read, heard this part of the exchange, gave me the dirtiest look and said, "isn't that the truth?". I suddenly went from the biggest fan wanting to discuss the conscious decision to not use b words into a pushy bi activist trying to increase the number of books who use our "preferred" label.
I desperately tried to figure out how to undo the damage, but was at a loss. I like to think Clarence's public acknowledgment of me helped, but c'est la vie.
A slightly more painful exchange occurred at the post-lammy social. We were all at this table. Two women were having a discussion. And one (who is married to a Jew, and is prominent in the Hollywood scene) teased "The Jews control everything." Just as the words were coming out of her mouth, another woman at the table, who happens to be Jewish, tuned into the conversation. ouch!
She stated her religious affiliation and her offense. The other woman countered with her partner's religious affiliation and tried to explain content, but the damage was done.
A minor "oops" moment occurred at the post Bi Lines dinner. Someone was explaining their reasons for dying her hair with "if I didn't dye it, I'd be all gray." Something we've all heard a zillion times, right? But let me paint you a picture - of the 6 people at the table, everyone else had either reclining of the hairline, of some visible gray hair (the younger set dropping out after hearing out post event celebration was dinner and not club hopping). It's the end of 2 long days of discussing inclusions, slights, offenses - you know, the typical bi/pc topics.
A distinguished white haired man at the table asserts that he is offended and that people like her have been putting him down his whole life, as he began to go gray in high school. I'm pretty sure he was joking, but it was hard to tell, given his dry delivery. There was an awkward pause, after which us touchy feely bi's tried to smooth things over.
We've all had moments like this. For some reason, they seem to happen more at queer social events. Perhaps because we have permission to state our offence; perhaps because we tend to have baggage from dealing with past rudeness.
Worst are those insults that were intended. Like when our first ever bi lammy winner congratulated his fellow Alyson lammy winner. His outstretched hand was met with a scoff and "I don't do bisexuals"! For real. Mike was left hanging.
Or when his co-author heard, in response to the announcement of the bi category, a sneer and something like "oh great". From the stage, all I heard were cheers; my experience is definitely the preferred one.
In October 2006, the bi community cheered at Lambda Literary Foundation's addition of a bisexual category. Since "Bi Any Other Name" was forced to compete as a lesbian anthology back in 1991, bisexuals authors and readers have yearned for a category where our best can be judged against similar books.
Getting the category, it turns out, was the easy part. Charles Flowers, executive director of LLF and a superb ally, embraced the new category and guided us through the inclusion process. It was easy to identify more than a dozen books with "bisexual" keywords. Rather quickly, we had the award. We had the books. Publishers and authors submitted the books. Judges were recruited. What could be easier?
Then the judges began reading... and debating... and struggling... (quick note: judges remain anonymous until after the award ceremony. No outings occur in this column). The judges' task was simple. Find the 5 most literate books with the highest bisexual content.
As is always the case, nothing in bisexuality is that simple. Sure anthologies can easily depict bisexuality. But how to you capture the diversity of our experience in a single story?
Does a book that depicts a life long love story between two flawed male characters (one of whom has one night stand with a woman) fit into the bisexual category if no labels are used?
Is a book where a man clearly loves his female high school sweetheart, only to get over her by falling in love with a man, bi? What if the man, in the midst of his relationship with the other man, calls himself gay? Is it not true that many bi men have this experience in their past? Do labels in fiction bear higher weight than in reality?
How about a memoir that depicts a woman having both male and female lovers? What if, years later, the author comes out a lesbian? Does that change the "bisexuality" of that period?
What if a gay romance book has a secondary character who is bi? If the character was well developed and non-stereotypical, would you consider this? What if the secondary character was a complete negative stereotype?
Speaking of negative... What if a clearly bisexual memoir depicts an unlikable protagonist? The story's truly bisexual. Do you have to like the bisexual characters in order for them to qualify?
Or what about men who do dishonorable things, like cheat on their wives with other men?
Or controversial topics like describing Jesus as a shape shifting, multi-gender character who has other worldly sex with the holy spirit?
At what point do the "PC" police draw the line? Should they draw the line?
Think about your own life. If I were to randomly pick 2 years in your life, how would it read? bisexual? gay? straight? asexual? Assuming you're currently identified as bisexual, can I find a time in your life when you didn't think of yourself that way? If you consider yourself gay, can I identify a time when you used the bi label - or acted in a "bisexual way"? If you consider yourself straight, can I find a period in your life where you questioned, flirted with the idea of expanding your horizons?
Did that period in your life contribute to who you are today? If so, is the story part of a larger one, characterized by your current identity? Or is it a separate entity, identified solely by the thoughts and actions in that period?
People "read" us every day - making (usually monosexual) interpretations of our life based on our partners, the pictures in our office, who we say is cute. Unless we walk around carrying bi pride flags 24/7, someone will misread us at some point in each day. If we can't be read correctly as 3 dimensional humans, how to we expect to properly read a 2 dimensional character?
I do encourage you to read the nominated books and draw conclusions for yourself. The discussions that come out of these efforts can be quite enlightening. If you can't find someone with whom you can discuss these books, I'll play. I'm dying to chat about all of them. Drop me a line - email@example.com
According to the "official" tv commenters, there are no bi characters on TV in 2007. However, if my DVR is any indication, there's plenty for a bisexual to see:
One Punk Under God, Sundance Channel - Jay Bakker (Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker's son) stars in this series surrounding his efforts to start a new kind of church - one that is open to everyone - the pierced, the tattooed, and yes.. the queer. For those who have felt abandoned by the church, yet yearn to fill that gap, Revolution brings hope. Most interesting to me, however, was how the funders of such a church quickly pulled their dollars (and threatened the future of the church) when Jay dared say that GLBT people deserve love, respect, and marriage rights.
Surreal Life Fame Games, VH1 - A guilty pleasure, fans of the original series will tell you that this is the craziest of the "celebreality" shows. Of bi interest, Bridgette Nielson cuddles with female wrestler China Doll and is caught kissing male porn star Ron Jeremy.
The L Word, Showtime - The Hollywood queer gals are back for another season. You love 'em, you hate them, yet you can't help but watch. Bi notables include Alice (who in critiquing Tina's current "straight lifestyle" remarks that she got smart and came back to the lesbi-world)... Tina who seemed to jump from full time lesbian into snotty soccer mom in one second... Actress Kristanna Loken (In real life, she's dated guys & dated girls.. she's now taking on the toughest role of all - Shane's new love interest). Also, look for Cybil Shepherd, a married college head who is mourning the life she could have had.. had she only come out as a dyke.. Jenny continues to be ex-bi, crazy as ever. The drool factor is high this season with Shane, Max, and the new character, Papi - she can show me her circles any time).
Three of hearts, Encore - this 90s movie is be re-shown in January
Gay USA, Free Speech tv - this weekly GLBT news show out of New York features Andy Humm and Ann Northrop. It is one of the few TV news shows that is bi inclusive (even if the name is not)
I finally sat down to read the latest BiTribune (http://www.bitribune.com/) and was reminded why such a publication is vital to our culture. Perhaps it's because I spent yesterday morning critiquing a mainstream GLBT periodical, but I felt compelled to write a media critique, part 2....
1) obits... There is no news filter that will ensure you find out about the passing of important bisexuals. This week's advocate refers to Ruth Bernard without ever using the "b" word. Although I do my best to track any historical bi lives, I somehow missed a big one! Thanks to the Bi Tribune, I was alerted that Scott Lofgren died over a year ago. How did this never come up???? Was I asleep when it was mentioned on some email list? Did the mainstream GLBT media think it not noteworthy that someone who once was responsible for the only big bi magazine ("Anything That Moves", a periodical that took the negative bi stereotypes and turned them on their head) has passed? And that he died trying to save someone else's life?!?!?!
Thanks to google, I did find that Liz Highleyman wrote an obit for him (http://www.ebar.com/obituaries/index.php?id=86).. It quoted Lani, talked about ATM and Black Sheets (another incredible, bi positive magazine.. this one featuring the best in bi erotica and sex stuff). I still don't know how I could have missed this. I guess because we're often focused on countering the biphobic stuff out there and forget to out for each other *sigh*. Thanks Bi Tribune, for making sure I knew about this.
So many wonderful people have advanced the cause of bi visibility and enriched our culture, only to fade back into their regular lives. We often lose track of each other. Without the bi press, we may never know about people who have touched out lives and who have left this world.
2) Advice columns - many of us cheer when Dear Abby says something nice about the "bi" word. We write letters when Dr Ruth says something dumb. But where do we go when we have an honest to goodness relationship question? Sure you can ask in a support group, but what if you only have one question? Do you need to join a group just to ask an expert one question? The Bi Tribune features the "ask a bisexual" column; this expert is an honest to goodness bisexual, author ("Bi America"), organizer of perhaps the most successful repeated regional conference (BECAUSE), long time bi organizer, and all around neat guy Bill Burleson. Here's someone who has actually spoke to - and LISTENED to hundreds of us over the years. He answers questions in a way we can only hope the more renowned advice columnists will some day do
3) Un-news coverage, aka full news coverage. You might ask yourself... why pay for a national bi magazine when I can get my news faster by watching emails from the BRC/BiNet USA/Bialogue? Answer - because a devoted, paid media outlet gets the whole story. A volunteer based media dissemination catches what it spots.
One example, I sent out a note when Nelly Furtado claimed her bisexuality. I missed (as apparently everyone else did) that she later recanted this (as did Megan Mullally). Bi Tribune followed the story and kept us informed.
You may wonder why we should care that people recant their bisexuality... The mainstream GLBT press may report their blips as silly str8 celebs looking to shock, or even typical confused bisexuals. If that's the only reporting, then that's the reality!! How about the truth that many people who come out as bi are forced, rather quickly, to recant.. to pick a side, so as not to ruffle those monosexuals' feathers? Could it be that grrls who kiss other grrls are fun, but once they use the "b" word, their acting offers start to dry up? Or they can't get the press to focus on their career, because they all focus on is the titillation factor or critiques on the reasons behind their coming out?
I could go on and on about this topic, but the point is, we aren't alerted to the full picture unless a dedicated bi press follows the stories and makes sure we're informed.
4) Other bi media - Thanks to the Bi Tribune, I now know about a little known (in this country) British show, Torchwood. It is reported to have 5(!) bisexual characters defying typical gay/str8 roles. Can you imagine??? According to the Trib, Julia Gardner, executive producer of Dr Who,hopes it'll cross over to the US sometimes this year. If it does, I'm sure we'll reads about it in the Tribune.
5) New music - Robin Renee's third cd will be out shortly. She's a "myspace friend", a fellow bi activist (former BiNet USA regional coordinator and Transcending Boundaries co-creator), promoter, someone with whom I exchange emails with on occasion, but I some how missed her new cd is forth coming. Robin has a unique voice. You should absolutely check her out (http://robinrenee.com/musicstore.html). Only the bi press covers these wonderful artists (for now; I have every confidence the larger world will catch on soon). You can be ahead of the musical curve!
6) Marriage news - Isn't it neat to see coverage of the ongoing marriage debate without ever once seeing the term "gay marriage"? 'Nuff said
7) Book Reviews - Natasha gives the goods on "Phyllida and the Brotherhood of the Philander"... a book many of us have heard about, but not in detail.
8) Non-gender assuming relationship articles. Shawn Stewart's article on Valentine's day, goes into detail into how you can determine the reasons behind your kinky holiday gifts in a gender neutral fashion. I don't know about you, but as soon as an article makes assumption re: the gender of my partner, I turn into Xena... ignoring the content as I grumble about the exclusiveness of the article. Here is a fully inclusive bit of relationship advice.
9) bi classified ads!!! This may only appeal to a true media nerd, but I always read the classified ads.. To me, they represent the heart of any periodical.. You can tell who the magazine/newspaper's target audience is based on who is willing to pay for a tiny ad. The Advocate's tend to focus on gay vacation venues, gay wedding rings.. USA Today is full of "get rich quick" schemes and swampland for sale in Florida. The Bi Tribune's classifieds are just for me!! Bi Pride Scarves (which I have & use), bi pride jewelry, bi books, queer cd's, bi therapists (yep! Vanessa Brown is here), queer bar listings and Bi groups
10) Faces of Bi community - listservs are awesome, but you can often get to know a name/nom-de-plume, yet walk by that person on the street without knowing it! The Tribune shows you the face of Bi Organizing, Activism, Celebrity. I hate how I photograph (as do many of us), so you won't see my face many places, but you will in the Tribune. You'll also see Bill Burleson, Robin Renee, Fritz Klein, the 9icb folks, and so on and so on. The people behind the opinions appear more real once you can see their faces.
Support your bi press (national, local, whatever you can)! Without you, we could go back to a time when we are forced to rely on the gay and straight press. That would be a sad day
Other bi media I subscribe to:
* Bi Women (you don't have to be from Boston or even be woman to enjoy this) http://www.biresource.org/bbwn/newsletter.html
* North Bi Northwest http://www.geocities.com/sbwn/north_bi_northwest.html
* The Fence - http://www.thefence.ca/