When I was a baby sex-positive feminist with polyamorous inklings, Dan Savage was the breath of fresh air I was looking for. I had spent much of my adolescence reading advice columns and self-help. In contrast to the heteronormativity and primness that most advice columnists both believed in and promoted, he was brash and frank in a way that made his occasional tenderness and compassion seem far more meaningful. After listening to many years’ worth of his podcast and reading his column regularly for a long while, however, I found I could no longer in good conscience promote or endorse him or much of his work. Continue reading “Dan Savage: Always & Forever a Mixed Bag”→
The millisecond after you tell them, most of your friends will roll their eyes and say “duh, you like girls.” Those who have seen you at parties won’t say anything but will nod sagely. You won’t have the heart to tell them that all those girls who kissed you for male attention actually set back your coming-out process.
After you tell her about it, your best friend will look at you a bit askance and blurt out “So do you have a crush on me or something?”
Your male friends will suddenly expect you to start “getting” the mainstream porn that they enjoy. You will in fact find that mainstream porn makes even less sense to you than it did before.
The adamantly self-identified bicurious woman you met that one time will ask you out for coffee. The words “Do you use a dildo or is it all just foreplay?” pass her lips and it takes every iota of self-control you have not to tear her a new one.
Wannabe male suitors will proposition you using their girlfriends, wives, and female friends as enticements. They will expect you to describe your “type” by chopping women into body parts the way that they do, KFC style. Do you care more about chicks’ legs, breasts or thighs? Do your prefer white or dark meat?
The weekend before last, I gave a talk in Akron at the second annual Sexy Secular Conference on the history of LGBT folks in societies dominated by Muslims. The title was Queerness and Islam: A Longer History Than You Think in deference to the fact that the non-cis and/or non-hetero side of history is often erased in popular discourse. Such erasure is especially prevalent in areas where very little in the way of LGBT rights and acceptance has been achieved, but is hardly limited to such regions.
The fact that LGBTQ people exist and always have existed seems to miss many. I found out just how much my talk was needed in the weeks leading up to and following the event. The response to the topic of my talk from the atheists of non-Muslim backgrounds to my talk was often, “Isn’t that an oxymoron?”
Whether meant in earnest or in jest, saying that there can be no such thing as an LGBT Muslim is to be complicit in harmful erasure that supports the hateful message of religious fundamentalists.
Last week, I said that a certain conversation I had “took a turn for the very queer: methods by which to freak out straight people.” It finally happened, folks: I got accused of being homophobic for saying something that, to me, was a queer in-joke.
If you’re scratching your head at “radical queer” and “pansexual,” I ask that you pardon my preference for precise terminology. Laci Green breaks down pansexuality pretty well. As for being a radical queer, that’s the more political side. To quote Nick Benton:
Those who see themselves as oppressed—politically oppressed by an oppressor that not only is down on homosexuality, but equally down on all things that are not white, straight, middle class, pro-establishment. It should harken to a greater cause—that cause of human liberation, of which homosexual liberation is just one aspect.
This isn’t really about me, though, and for those who suffer, I offer a prayer not to a god so indifferent it appears not to exist, but to myself and others with the ability to make things better.
On this National Coming Out Day, let us remember those whose situations make it difficult or even deadly to come out. Let us remember that being not-straight and/or not-cis is a death sentence — literally, economically, or socially — in many places in the world, including places within the Western sphere. Let us remember the brave trailblazers who sacrificed their emotional and/or physical well-being in order to make the places where coming out is no longer as scary as it was what they are today. Let us remember those who died alone thanks to the bigotry of others and those who watched all too many die due to ignorant silence.
Let us not forget the trans women, especially those of color, who experience daily the fear that they are not safe no matter where they might live. Let us not forget the homeless gender nonconforming young people who make up an appallingly disproportionate majority of homeless LGBT youth but who are often forgotten in the charge forward for LGBT rights.
Most importantly, allow our thoughts to continue to lead us to action as they have with us and with those before us. May we all work to the best of our ability to make it so that we can all live openly without fearing multiple forms of violence. May we rejoice in the victories that encourage our actions and mourn the setbacks that motivate us to do more. May we carry the lessons of both our joys and our sorrows with us as we build a better world.
Note: I’m going to use more than one term to describe similar things. All less usual terms regarding gender and sexual orientation are linked to explanations of their meanings.
Of all the misguided things Woody Allen and his movies have stated about gender and sexuality, the most grating to me is his quip about nonmonosexuals:
Bisexuality immediately doubles your chances for a date on Saturday night.
This was perhaps intended to be tongue-in-cheek but sentiments along those lines are often expressed in earnest, resentment, envy, or some combination of the preceding feelings. Essentially, the claim is that people who can be attracted to more than one gender identity must be multiplying their number of potential non-platonic options.
On its face, it seems to make simple mathematical sense. Let’s pretend that I’m a woman who is only interested in men. As a straight woman, I’m limiting myself to less than half the population, i.e. excluding all non-male people. Now, let’s say that I’m bisexual, pansexual, or otherwise into not only men. The more gender identities I’m potentially attracted to, the more people are options for me, right?
It ain’t necessarily so. Love (or lust or attraction) is not a straightforward lottery system. If you’re calculating your perception of someone else’s odds, you may not be seeing all of the factors at play.
If by “options,” you mean “people that person could be attracted to,” perhaps such is the case. However, the word “options” (as well as what Woody Allen is saying) quite strongly implies that the attraction is reciprocated. Someone is only an “option” for you if they’re into you, too. This complicates matters significantly. Just because a person could potentially be attracted to more members of the human population doesn’t mean that more members of the human population are attracted to them in return. It could mean that for some people, perhaps, but such is not necessarily the case. Monosexuals, even the queerer ones, aren’t always the biggest fan of nonmonosexuals.
Further limits may arise when considering the preferences that nonmonosexuals may have. Specifically, I will venture to guess that many people who identify as pansexual (as opposed to those who do as bisexual) have political reasons to limit their dating pool. Pansexual people both acknowledge and could potentially be attracted to people who aren’t cis men or cis women. This could mean that they would be far less likely to accept intolerance of trans* and non-male/female-identified people in their partners. Basically, my conjecture is that fewer pansexual women will brook bigoted boyfriends and vice versa.
To be fair, I definitely know of pansexuals who experienced an increase in options when going from identifying as straight to identifying as pansexual. Such is not universal, however. To cite my personal experience, I had far more options (albeit only male ones) available to me when I was a straight-identified woman than after I started identifying as bisexual. While the culturally-assumed straight male fetish for female-on-female “action” might have just caused a collective eye-roll, consider the important difference between reality and fantasy. Plenty of men who enjoyed porn featuring only women expressed insecurity about my leaving them for another woman, believed that homosexuality is generally wrong, or otherwise felt uncomfortable with dating a bisexual woman. Then there were the fetishists: men who had a pre-made fantasy about femme women performing sex acts on each other for his viewing pleasure rather than for their own pleasure (i.e. the ones scared off by my talk of butch lesbians).
As for women, many of the lesbians I met were wary of me, fearing that I might leave them for a man — that I was just “experimenting.” Validation for their fears existed with some of the bisexual women I met, the ones who were only interested in sexual play with other women, not necessarily anything beyond a casual encounter (and sometimes one that had to involve her male partner, no exceptions).
Later, when I started identifying as pansexual, my pool shrunk even further to preclude the option of people who think “pansexual” is a silly and pretentious orientation (you wouldn’t believe how many people there are who think that way) and those whose transphobia was revealed when they realized that some of the people to whom I am attracted are trans*. Good riddance, certainly, but still a limit placed upon number of options. My lived experiences as a radical queer, atheist, and feminist woman of color further constrict my options: I am wholly uninterested in anyone who opposes or questions the rights of my friends and I to exist and live as we do.
Orientation aside, one’s attractiveness (or perceived attractiveness) plays a significant role in the number of one’s options. A very attractive straight person would likely have more options available to them than a less-attractive pansexual person.
Individual experiences notwithstanding, saying that pansexuality or any other nonmonosexual orientation by definition and by default means more options available is a false generalization The number of available options really depends on the person in question.