Boundaries, Thresholds and Love: why it’s time to take back ‘Bi’. Repost.

I promised you reposts while I’m on holiday, so reposts are what you will receive! This post- Boundaries, Thresholds and Love: why it’s time to take back ‘Bi’–  is extremely close to my heart. I’ve poured a lot of time and love into the bi+ community here where I live. I care deeply about how we create and constitute that community. This post is written especially for people within our nonmonosexual community, but it’s relevant for everyone.

I love ‘pan’ and ‘queer’. They’re fantastic words, and one of them is one of my absolute favourite words to describe myself. To put it in far more words: I am not arguing against the fact that there are a diversity of labels that people in the bi+ umbrella choose to use. We all have differing experiences, orientations, and ways of understanding these, and that is a damn good thing. But their use to the exclusion of bi comes from biphobia.

Let me phrase that again, with entirely different emphasis: Their use, to the exclusion of bi, comes from biphobia.

There are certain biphobic threads that I have noticed within pansexual/queer communities and discourse. Things you hear all the time. Things like:

“I’m not bi- I don’t see gender”

“I’m attracted to the person, not the body”

“Bisexuals are attracted to men and women, but I’m capable of loving all kinds of people”

It’s kind of painful to read/hear, to be honest. But, y’know something? I know what it feels like to say things like that. I used to say those things. All of them. They are, of course, all bullshit.

We all see gender- we’re bathed in gender, whether we like it or not, in every interaction we have with another person from the moment we’re born. It’s one thing to say that we don’t want to live in a world divided along coerced gendered lines. It’s another thing to blithely go about your life pretending that you already do. To do that only ignores the myriad of gendered ways in which all of us act towards ourselves and others. Saying that you don’t see gender just ’cause you can be attracted to people regardless of it isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card from doing the painful work of dismantling your own internalised misogynies and heteronormativities.

As for the second? People who are attracted to multiple genders are no more or less likely than monosexuals to have physical traits they find attractive. And the idea that physical attraction is somehow less valid than, or exclusive of, attraction to someone as a person is the height of sex-shaming. There is nothing shallow or meaningless about being physically attracted to people. And being physically attracted to someone doesn’t mean for a second that you can’t fancy the hell out of their brains as well.

As for the third one? We’ll get to that, but suffice it to say that bi+ communities haven’t been using the definition of bisexuality as meaning attraction to men and woman for a long time.

I said earlier that I’m not here to rag on people who use pan or queer. That’s not what this has been for- hell, I use one of them myself, and used the other for a long time as well. I’m talking about this because all of these statements come from a painful-as-hell place of internalised biphobia, and none of them will, in the long run, do a damn thing to make anyone’s situation better.

I love ‘pan’ and ‘queer’. They’re fantastic words, and one of them is one of my absolute favourite words to describe myself. To put it in far more words: I am not arguing against the fact that there are a diversity of labels that people in the bi+ umbrella choose to use. We all have differing experiences, orientations, and ways of understanding these, and that is a damn good thing. But their use to the exclusion of bi comes from biphobia.

Let me phrase that again, with entirely different emphasis: Their use, to the exclusion of bi, comes from biphobia.

There are certain biphobic threads that I have noticed within pansexual/queer communities and discourse. Things you hear all the time. Things like:

“I’m not bi- I don’t see gender”

“I’m attracted to the person, not the body”

“Bisexuals are attracted to men and women, but I’m capable of loving all kinds of people”

It’s kind of painful to read/hear, to be honest. But, y’know something? I know what it feels like to say things like that. I used to say those things. All of them. They are, of course, all bullshit.

We all see gender- we’re bathed in gender, whether we like it or not, in every interaction we have with another person from the moment we’re born. It’s one thing to say that we don’t want to live in a world divided along coerced gendered lines. It’s another thing to blithely go about your life pretending that you already do. To do that only ignores the myriad of gendered ways in which all of us act towards ourselves and others. Saying that you don’t see gender just ’cause you can be attracted to people regardless of it isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card from doing the painful work of dismantling your own internalised misogynies and heteronormativities.

As for the second? People who are attracted to multiple genders are no more or less likely than monosexuals to have physical traits they find attractive. And the idea that physical attraction is somehow less valid than, or exclusive of, attraction to someone as a person is the height of sex-shaming. There is nothing shallow or meaningless about being physically attracted to people. And being physically attracted to someone doesn’t mean for a second that you can’t fancy the hell out of their brains as well.

As for the third one? We’ll get to that, but suffice it to say that bi+ communities haven’t been using the definition of bisexuality as meaning attraction to men and woman for a long time.

I said earlier that I’m not here to rag on people who use pan or queer. That’s not what this has been for- hell, I use one of them myself, and used the other for a long time as well. I’m talking about this because all of these statements come from a painful-as-hell place of internalised biphobia, and none of them will, in the long run, do a damn thing to make anyone’s situation better.

Read the rest – I promise, it’s worth your while- and let me know what you think, right?

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Boundaries, Thresholds and Love: why it’s time to take back ‘Bi’. Repost.
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Her Bisexuality Made Him Do It: Amber Heard, Johnny Depp and excusing abusing bi women

In the dissolution of Amber Heard and Johnny Depp’s marriage, I’ve been hearing a lot said about Heard. Including this: Heard’s bisexual ‘tendencies’ (not that he may have been violent towards her) caused the downfall of their marriage. I’m not sure what they mean by a ‘tendency’. Heard has been out since at least 2010 and as far as I can see didn’t try to hide her orientation or relationships before that. When Depp started seeing her he knew this.

But I’m reading that he was driven insane by jealousy over Heard’s orientation. Which he knew about when they started dating. Because everyone knew. Because she was out. Publicly. And by the fact that she has lesbian friends. Not to mention the advice to simply not ever marry bi people.

So here’s what bi people shouldn’t do:

  • be bi, continue to be open about their orientation while in a relationship
  • have queer friends
  • have friends who someone else might think she was attracted to
  • Never do anything that someone might construe as flirting
  • get married at all

Does this seem reasonable to you? Continue reading “Her Bisexuality Made Him Do It: Amber Heard, Johnny Depp and excusing abusing bi women”

Her Bisexuality Made Him Do It: Amber Heard, Johnny Depp and excusing abusing bi women

Should bi people leave the LGBT community?

This video is one of the most thought-provoking, as well as difficult to watch, things I’ve seen in a while. It’s 7 minutes long, so you might want a cuppa before watching. Is the LGBT community biphobic to the extent that bi people should leave?

This is something where his premise is correct, and his conclusion.. incredibly saddening. Is this really all we can do? Is the LG(bt) community really so beyond help? Continue reading “Should bi people leave the LGBT community?”

Should bi people leave the LGBT community?

Bi+ Ireland Upcoming Events

Hello, my lovely bisexual, pansexual and queer readers! If you’re in or around Ireland in the next week or two, Bi+ Ireland have been busy organising meetups in (literally) all four corners of the country. If you’re anywhere under the nonmonosexual/romantic umbrella and in this part of the world, we’d love to have you along. If you’re not, though? I’d appreciate it a ton if you could share the events and let people know about them.

And before I go, remember: Bi+ Ireland isn’t just our public page and events! We have a thriving worst-keptsecret FB discussion group as well- just send us a PM for an invite.

Here’s the details: Continue reading “Bi+ Ireland Upcoming Events”

Bi+ Ireland Upcoming Events

Why Don’t The Bi People Just Come Out Already? An Open Letter To Dan Savage.

Dear Dan Savage,

It pains me to say this. I like you. I don’t think you’re perfect, or have any obligation to be. I don’t think you have a responsibility to be an official representative of everyone with a smidge of queerness in the world. I don’t agree with everything you say- not a bit!- but overall you seem like a decent enough sort. That, and you’re clever, funny, and I think that, overall, you do a lot of good. Also, your podcast keeps me entertained long enough to get a bunch of housework done every week. Me and my laundry say thanks for that, by the way.

It pains me to say it, of course, because as someone with a tendency to run his mouth on things (something I can well identify with), when you get things wrong it can be.. shall we say spectacular? But I appreciate that you don’t silence dissent, that you acknowledge that you piss people off, and that most weeks you even run some of those pissed-off voices on your show. Good job with that, by the way.

Dan, if you’re reading this? I’ve got a bone to pick with you today. This is where I’ll become one of those hordes of angry bisexuals that you keep hearing from. I’d appreciate if you hear me out, though, before dismissing me as just another carrier of the Angry Bisexualist Gene. I mean, after all the time I’ve spent hearing you out, it’s the least you can do. Also? Dude, you know how many SuperQueer™ Points I’ve just lost by admitting that I have your podcast queued up on my iTunes. And that I still use iTunes (I’m lazy, okay?). I’ll never hear the end of this one.

The other week, you were talking about bisexuality. As you do. By the way? Thanks for changing your mind on the whole business of the existence of male bisexuality. And thanks for having bi people of all sorts of genders on the show- both to talk about bi things and to discuss entirely different topics. Huzzah for being fully-rounded people who aren’t just showing up as tokens to talk about one small aspect of ourselves!

But while we do exist now, however, it seems that we- The Bisexuals- are still letting the side down. One of the arguments that you’ve been making lately is based on quoting stats that indicate that bi people are significantly less likely than lesbian or gay people to be fully out. I’m not sure what the exact numbers are (or where you got them), but I gather that it’s something along the lines of 4/5 of L and G people being out, as opposed to only 1/5 of the Bs.

According to you, this means that bi people have an increased responsibility, as a group and as individuals, to come out already. Lesbian and gay people are out, so why not us? If LG people can, as you would say, pussy up and deal with the consequences of coming out, then bi people need to get off our collective asses and do the same thing. I’ve heard you (briefly) acknowledge that bi people can be on the receiving end of hassle from LG as well as straight people. But the solution is the same- bi people need to come out, so that our voices can be heard and we can be represented.

Here’s where things get complicated. I don’t deny that coming out is one of the most powerful tools we have. I’ve been openly bi for almost half my life (a terrifying thought). I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I wasn’t out- I’d be missing many of the people I call family, I wouldn’t have had the chance to learn half as much as I have, and I wouldn’t have been able to do my bit for The Cause. That, and I’m quite frankly useless at lying, so I doubt I’d have managed to be closeted very long.

I also think that, when it comes to being out, bi people are in a unique position to challenge the idea that there’s anything even faintly superior about heterosexuality. If I fall in love with a woman, it’s not because of any lack of socially-more-acceptable options. It’s not that I can’t help it. It’s that love (and sex, and relationships, and all of it) is awesome, regardless of the gender(s) of the people involved. None of this “we can’t help it” crap. I could help it if I wanted to, and I wouldn’t change what I am for the world. I bet we can agree that that’s pretty damn powerful.

So yes. On one level, we do need more bi people to come out already. We need more queer people of all kinds to come out already.

Where you and I disagree is on how to make that happen.

Here’s the thing. When you say that bi people need to come out already, it feels like that statement comes with an underlying assumption that we’re some kind of monolith. Like we’re a united group of people who have made the decision to hide 4/5 of our orientations from the wider world.

Dan, you know better than that. You’ve said yourself that one of the things you appreciate so much about the LGBTQ community these days is how much we disagree with each other. We’re a big, diverse group of people from every background in the world with feck-all in common aside from a shared exclusion, and the more successful we are in fighting that the less we’ll feel like we need to put forward a united front.

Y’know what’s telling, though? That in one group within our umbrella, being out is no longer the preserve of hardheaded loudmouths like you and me with more stubbornness than sense. But in another? It seems like the vast majority of people simply aren’t taking that step.

You could say that that’s because us Bs prefer to retreat into comfortable assumed heterosexuality. I think that that’s a lazy answer, though. It’s based on a few stereotypes about bi people that, in all honesty, bug the hell out of me- the idea that bi people somehow choose who we love, and the idea that we’re duplicitous, dishonest people.

Dan, you’ve fallen in love. You even went and married someone you were in love with. And you listen to phone calls and read letters every day (or however often you do that- I ain’t policing your schedule) from people who do profoundly stupid-ass things for love. Or lust. Or infatuation. Do you really think that 4/5 of bi people are simply immune to the universal human tendency to be blithering idiots when we’re head over heels? Come on. Bi people are the same as anyone else. We fall in love, lust and infatuation with people, and we have precisely the same ability (or likelihood) as anyone else to deny or suppress that.

Instead of making this all about bi people, let’s see if there isn’t somewhere else we can go to see why bi people are a hell of a lot less likely than their lesbian and gay counterparts to be out.

There are more L&G people out these days than even a short few years ago. Is that because the gay and lesbian Borg decided collectively to come out? Or is it because many thousands of people worked their butts off to make spaces for them to come out to? We’ve been reaching out for years, building communities, creating visibility, letting people know that they’re not alone and that there are people who will love and appreciate them for who they are, and give them the support they need if they do end up turfed out of their homes, families and communities. Things aren’t perfect yet, but for many they’re a lot better than they were. Not because queer people are intrinsically stronger, as individuals, than we used to be. Because some of us were able to help make things just a little better for some of the rest of us, and we kept chipping away, bit by bit.

Come Out To Where?

Dan, when you talk to queer kids from crappy homophobic communities, there’s a thing that you always tell them to do: work your ass off to get out of there. Get thee to a college or a big city where you can find a community of people who’ll love and support you as you are. Make your own damn family. Because you know as well as I do that coming out isn’t something that can happen on its own. We need somewhere- some community, some people who love us- to come out into, especially if we are to stay out.

There’s a piece of research just out that’s important here, on attitudes to bisexuality among people of different orientations. Here’s some key quotes- emphasis is mine.:

[R]espondents were generally negative in terms of their attitudes toward bisexual men and women, with almost 15 percent of the sample in disagreement that bisexuality is a legitimate sexual orientation… Of note, respondents who identified as gay or lesbian responded significantly less positively toward bisexuality than those identifying as bisexual, indicating that even within the sexual minority community, bisexuals face profound stigma. In addition, these findings indicate that male bisexuals likely suffer more stigma than female bisexuals.

Dr. Friedman explains that when a bisexual person perceives that his or her sexual orientation is not recognized by peers, it can cause the person to feel socially isolated and unable to talk openly with friends, family and school mates.

“Having hard data to back up why a bisexual person might feel the need to be secretive about sexual orientation, something that can lead to higher depression and many other negative health outcomes, is very useful to people trying to fight stigma and marginalization,” said Dr. Friedman.

And that’s not all. This factsheet from Rainbow Health Ontario has links to oodles of studies from the US and Canada showing that, while L&G people have worse mental health and are more likely to be victims of abuse then their straight counterparts, bi people fare even worse than L&G folks. And when it comes to what our communities could do about that? I’ll let them tell you- again, emphases are mine:

Research on LGBT populations has found that a sense of community belonging can
buffer the effects of minority stress… Due to biphobia and monosexism, bisexuals
may lack access to community support. Research in both Canada and the US has
found that bisexuals feel marginalized by heterosexual, lesbian, and gay
communities. Bisexual-specific support, which has been found to reduce the effects
of biphobia, is particularly lacking.

Owch.

And there, you see, is the problem. It’s one thing to tell people that they should, if it’s at all feasible, come out. It’s another thing entirely to do that when research shows clearly that the very communities that give lesbian and gay people a place to come out to and the support they need? Not only don’t do that for bi people- but can actively marginalise them. Speaking as someone who has been openly bi for half my life, and who has been facilitating bi safer spaces for several years now? The story I hear time and again- one of the many stories that breaks my heart every time I hear it, over and over again- is from people who, despite being part of queer communities, never had a space where they felt safe being themselves.

You could say that bi people should “just” go make our own communities. I’m sure you see as well why a minority within a minority reinventing the wheel feels a little.. Well, it feels a little People’s Front of Judea to me, if you know what I mean. There’s already a B in LGBT (and a T as well, but that’s a whole other conversation for a whole other day). And you know as well as I do that the lines between LG and B are not always clear-cut, often blurry, and occasionally subject to change without notice. Given that we live in a world that’s often hostile to all of us queers, the least that we can do is be a little kind to each other.

So yes, encourage bi people to come out. Let’s all do that! And in the meantime, let’s make sure that when bi people do come out, that our communities- which were built by bi (and trans) people as much as by lesbians and gay men- provide more than a literally half-hearted welcome to them.

And while we’re at it? When bi people come out, we need to believe them.

I know you are, but what are you really?

I know what you’re going to say. I’ve heard it many times before. You’re going to say that of course you accept that bi people exist. But that if someone comes out as bi at a younger age, there’s no way to know that they won’t be one of the many people who use the identity as a transitional one, and will come out as gay eventually.

On one level, you’re right. There’s no way to know that.

There’s also no way to know that the teenager coming out as gay won’t amend that to bi a few months or years down the line. Maybe that seems less common from a gay perspective, but as someone who spends a lot of time talking to bi people about their stories? It’s very common. And people do it for exactly the same reasons that people that they transition through a bi identity to gay- because they’re still working things out for themselves. Or because they feel like it’s a safer space to be. Or because for a while it seemed like the truth.

For me- because for a little while, I was one of those people- it felt like all of those reasons and more. I was a scared, confused kid (who isn’t?) who dearly wanted to feel secure about something (who doesn’t?). I came out as bi, then started calling myself gay. After a while, I realised that wasn’t right, returned to bi, and have been there (with a side order of queer) ever since. I could talk about my reasons and how it felt all day, but for the moment let’s just stick with this: I, and many bi people I know, stopped over in gayville on our ways to our identities. And before you ask, I’m talking about people of all sorts of genders here, not just women.

Like I said, though, that’s a topic that could go on all day, so let’s go back to the big topic: getting the bi people out already.

One of the profoundly annoying things about being out as a bi person, you see, is the way you keep on having to defend yourself. And not just in the ordinary way that all of us queer folks have to defend ourselves from the homophobes of the world who figure we’re all a bunch of filthy sinners (blah blah blah ad nauseum). As a bi person, you don’t just have to defend being queer and also a decent human being. You have to deal with the fact that, unless you give sufficient proof, nobody will believe you

Me, I have it easy. I can provide references for ex-partners of all sorts of genders who would be only too happy to verify that I did, in fact, fancy the pants off them. I also give talks, run workshops and write articles about bisexuality. Google my name, and it’s right there in the first couple of results. I still find it harder to be openly bi than openly queer. People stillwith the absolute best of intentions, assume I’m gay all the time. If I sometimes have a hard time being out, how much trickier must it be for people who don’t get to say things like “Sorry I can’t make it to [event], I’m just giving a talk on bi awareness this evening”?

This isn’t because anyone has something against bi people or is trying deliberately to erase us. It’s just that, in people’s minds, queer=gay and evidence to the contrary simply slides by. Remember last week, when Tom Daley and Maria Bello both came out as being in same-sex relationships? Remember how both of them mentioned things about different-sex attraction (crushes, partners), and both of them ended up reported as coming out as ‘gay’? If an article in the New York Times, or a YouTube video by an Olympic athlete, talking about fancying people of different genders isn’t enough for people to assume non-monsexuality, then what on Earth is?

Again, you don’t just have to believe me. A couple of Canadian researchers, Milaine Alarie & Stéphanie Gaudet, published a brilliant article this year. It’s called “I Don’t Know If She Is Bisexual or If She Just Wants to Get Attention”: Analyzing the Various Mechanisms Through Which Emerging Adults Invisibilize Bisexuality“. It’s worth reading the lot, but in short, there are four mechanisms they highlight: “(1) ignoring bisexuality, (2) depicting bisexuality as temporary, (3) making it almost impossible to be a ‘real’ bisexual, and (4) devaluing bisexuality”.

Dan, it’s not just that people aren’t taken seriously when they come out- which is, in itself, a major disincentive to going through the whole damn thing again and again. It’s that there are multiple ways in which coming out and being out is made more difficult for bi people than our lesbian and gay counterparts, how both the orientation itself and our right to it are questioned, and how even clear statements indicating attraction to multiple genders are sometimes ignored entirely.

Listen, you and me both agree that the world is a better place when people of all orientations (even straight people!) are able to be out and open about who they are and who they love and fancy. You’ve worked your ass off for decades making it easier for lesbian and gay people to take that step. All I’m really asking is that you understand that, just like for lesbian and gay folks, the reasons that bi people are able to come out are as much to do with everyone else- be they straight, gay, asexual, or even other bisexuals- as the person making that decision. All I’m asking is that, as well as encouraging bi people to come out already, you encourage gay people to lay off the biphobia in queer spaces, and everyone to quit questioning our right to exist.

It’s the least you can do.

Why Don’t The Bi People Just Come Out Already? An Open Letter To Dan Savage.

Elsewhere this week: Julie Bindel and the Trans Health Forum

Over at Gaelick, I wrote a response to Julie Bindel’s latest biphobia:

I’m not sure how bi women’s liberation is in pretending to be lesbians. I’m not sure how we’re supposed to be ‘liberated’ by sublimating many of our desires, re-closeting ourselves and denying ourselves love if it happens to come in her idea of the ‘wrong’ package. Of course, in Bindel’s world being a lesbian or bisexual doesn’t seem to be about love. It’s about patriarchy and politics and tyranny.

TENI held a Trans Health Forum in Dublin this week. I livetweeted (check out my twitter in the sidebar!) and blogged about this over at Feminist Ire:

Trans people don’t just show up from nowhere. We all live in local communities, go to schools and colleges, live in neighbourhoods, go to jobs. Trans kids growing up should know that there are other trans people out there, and so should the cis kids growing up with them. They need to know that they’re not the only one out there. The media have a huge role to play here in providing positive and varied non-stereotyped portrayals of trans people. Trans people are part of our society, and it’s time our society started acting like it.

Also, I’ve been playing around with the look of this place. What do you think?

Enjoy!

Elsewhere this week: Julie Bindel and the Trans Health Forum

Bi Visibility

Bi visibility is always an odd one. We’re constantly on about being erased, and we’re hyper-critical of anyone who is openly bi. We expect perfect behaviour from our role models. Can’t be too stereotypical. Can’t be seen to be sleeping around too much. If they dare be in a monogamous, long-term relationship, they lose either way. Either they’re taking the easy way out from within nice safe het boundaries, or they’re letting the gay side down

Better written late than never, my post for Bi Visibility Day is up on Gaelick. Check it out!

Bi Visibility

In Defense of Barsexuals and Faux-Mos

Last weekend was Pink Training! Which was wonderful, because I got the chance to give a couple of awesome workshops (Bi Awareness and a bi space) and spend time with some of the fantasticest people in the country. It also meant that I got way too little sleep and DEFINITELY had no peace ‘n’ quiet to do some writing. Am still recovering. May always be still recovering. So here’s a repost, originally published in BoLT Magazine. Enjoy!

I have a confession to make. Despite appearances, and the very title of this article, I am guilty. I’ve done it, you see. I’ve made the snarky comments and given the disparaging looks alongside the rest. The targets of this behaviour? You know, ‘them’. Those expletive deleted straight girls who go around kissing each other to attract guys. Seriously, who do they think they are? They give the rest of us a bad name, right? Aren’t they pretty much the reason why some straight guys seem to think they have a right to elbow in on gay lady couples? Don’t you know how annoying that is? Jeez.

Yeah, I’m sorry.

All this time I’ve been blaming them and you know what? They are not the problem. They’re really, really not. If any of you readers here today are straight (or straightish) women who like to get drunk and kiss girls in bars? And if you think it’s fun that lots of straight/bi guys are into that? Awesome sauce. I wish you much fun and many margaritas.

See, here’s the thing. It’s easy to blame the barsexuals and faux-mos for homophobia and objectification of women. But, seriously? Homophobia and objectification of women are things that have been around a long time. They were there long before Katy Perry, before Madonna kissed Britney, before tAtU. They were even there before Ellen got dumped by whats-her-name who decided she’d been straight all along. They’ve been around since before the ice melted in the world’s first mojito, and nothing the drinker of that mojito did afterward is to blame for their existence.

When talking about straight girls who kiss girls, it’s easy to forget that they’re a lot like, you know, us. Us queer (or queerish!) types. We are all figuring out ways to navigate being women in a society that has some seriously messed-up ideas about female sexuality. Except that straight girls have to do it without one major superpower that queers get. You see, queer chicks and gay ladies have the option to do that navigating relatively free of the pressure to be sexy-to-men. We get to define ourselves, to desire as well as to be desired, and since we’ve gone to the trouble of coming out we might as well just own up to what we’re into, quit stressing about whether it’s socially acceptable, and bloody well have some fun with it. We’ve already been called dykes and queers – so what if someone thinks we’re slutty as well? We get to play with how to do gender and relationships, to write our own scripts in a way that’s really difficult for straight people. Trust me on this one. It’s harder for me when I’m involved with straight cis guys*, and I’m a queerass bi chick who’s been living in gayland all my adult life.

So while straight women get all that awesome straight privilege and can merrily skip down the aisle to have their love blessed by any religion, and legitimised by any state they choose, while their parents cry tears of happiness, those of us of a queerer persuasion do have an edge when it comes to exploring our sexualities**.

You know how annoying it is when straight guys go around assuming that queer chicks are all there for their amusement and gratification? When you’re off having a decidedly one-on-one night out with your ladyfriend and some guy comes up and grabs your ass? Or sits down right next to you and asks if he can join in? Isn’t it nice when you get the hell out of there, go home, close the door behind you and don’t have to deal with that anymore? Straight chicks don’t get to do that. For them, there isn’t that space to be romantic, and be sexual, without any sexist or misogynistic assumptions. Or any risk of male privilege raising its (often unwitting) head.

We live in a world steeped in sexism, in misogyny, in male privilege, and in heteronormative assumptions. In the male gaze. Is it therefore surprising that, in that world, a lot of women explore their desires within that context? And given misogyny, given sexism, given the ubiquity of the male gaze and heteronormativity, why the hell are we blaming the women for the actions of sexist men?

Men don’t take same-sex lady couples seriously because they don’t take women seriously. They think they can elbow into our time and our space because they’re used to thinking they can elbow into women’s time and space. They think all lesbians want is a man because we live in a culture that tells us, time and time again, that sexuality is about men and done to women.

At the end of the day, it’s nothing to do with the straight chicks kissing each other in the bar. They’re just women living in a heteronormative, patriarchal world and having a bit of fun within that context.

And hey, I know more than a couple of queer chicks who started figuring out their sexuality when they were straight chicks kissing other straight chicks in bars. If that doesn’t subvert the paradigms, I don’t know what does.

What do you think? Agree? Disagree?

* Because trans guys are way more likely to have had to have done a lot of script-writing and figuring-stuff-out of their own. Not because they’re less dudely. Because they’re not less dudely. Duh.

**Assuming, of course, that we live somewhere with a reasonable number of us.

In Defense of Barsexuals and Faux-Mos

Marriage equality and the trickle-down effect

I’m writing this on a Saturday, before tomorrow’s* March for Marriage. Marriage equality is something incredibly important to me. It’s important because I care that my friends all deserve the same protection and dignity under the law. It’s important because I want any future relationships I’m in to be judged on something other than single letters on our respective legal documents. It’s also incredibly important because I never seem to have enough chances to dress up pretty and cry in public.

But here’s the thing. While marriage equality is essential, I worry that it might be taking attention from all of the other things that we need to do if queer people are to live our lives with the same dignity and respect given to our straight friends and loved ones. I worry that equality under the law is taken as synonymous with social equality. I worry that assumptions of equality could mask some of the most horrific excesses of homophobia and transphobia.

I worry, in short, that marriage equality isn’t going to Make It Get Better. It’s not going to stop queer kids being excluded, being abused, being kicked out of their families, ending up homeless and dead.

Marriage and Equality
The first thing I’d like to reiterate is that I am absolutely and without reservation in favour of marriage equality. It’s one of the few things that will get me off the sofa and on to the streets. The right to have our families equally protected and respected regardless of the gender(s) of the people who make them up? It’s essential. It’s essential both practically and symbolically, and it’s essential that we legislate for it now, because there are kids out there who are legal strangers to their parents, there are people forced to live thousands of miles away from their loved ones, there are people without rights to visit their sick partners and bereaved people having their homes taken from them. And there are people getting sick of the airquotes around “husband” and around “wife” when people talk about their relationships.
None of this is okay. It is absolutely a good thing that we campaign and work towards marriage equality, and it’s frickin’ awesome that we’re making (sloooooowww) progress.

Marriage equality is very, very important. Essential, even. And yes, I do expect that the legal rights it grants same-sex couples, as well as its symbolic importance, will absolutely do something to erode some of the most pernicious aspects of homophobia in our societies. But it’s not the universal panacea that it’s made out to be, and I want to discuss that.

Equal legal rights are not the same as equality, as anyone with a background in anti-oppression work will know well. They’re an essential part of attaining equality, but they’re just the beginning. Once equal marriage rights are achieved, we’ll have reached an important and visible milestone. We’ll be able to point to the laws of our country and see that they acknowledge our equal dignity and that of our relationships. But will still have a hell of a lot more work to do. The legal system, while all-pervasive and incredibly powerful, is not the only institution of this kind in our societies.

Our laws, you see, are the easy bit. They’re written down, for a start. We have specific and recognised methods for changing them. We have specific and recognised methods for enforcing them. It’s relatively easy to tell at a glance if our laws discriminate against us. If someone disagrees with this we can simply copy and paste the laws that discriminate against us, go make a cup of tea, and automatically win the argument.

Making our society a place which values queer folks as much as straight, though? That’s hard work. A lot harder than legal equality. It’s a job every single one of us has to do every day. It’s a relatively-thankless job, where the things we’re working against are varied and often vague, and it’s hard to tell if we’re making any progress at the time. We’re talking about everything from violent homophobia to unconscious prejudice and heteronormativity, and the whole godawful spectrum in between. We’re talking about making every workplace, every school, every hospital, every hotel, every village and town as welcoming for queer folks as it is for straight.

I don’t say this because I’m looking for some kind of utopia. I say this because I’m sick of hearing about homeless queer kids. I’m sick of hearing about dead queer kids. And I’m sick of hearing all of the concerns of LGBT people narrowed down to “gay marriage”.

Like I said before, I am absolutely in favour of marriage equality. I’m planning on marching for marriage equality tomorrow*. It has huge legal significance. It has even bigger symbolic significance. And I truly hope that the wonderful momentum and energy that’s gone into marriage equality can be harnessed for all the other, fuzzier, but still incredibly important work that needs to be done. But that’s not going to happen by itself.

So what do you think? Do you think I’m asking too much? Or not enough? How do you think we can harness the energy of the marriage equality campaign and put it to work elsewhere? Do you think we need to?

*Last week, to You Lot. I’m trying out writing posts in advance for once.

Marriage equality and the trickle-down effect