Monday, April 27, 2009

(More) On Bisexuality

A lot of articles are flaring up across the interweb these days about bisexuality, and whether or not its real. (Both of the following articles are thanks to new blogger friend, Cowtown Bisexual).

The first one that's flying around quickly -- which I think tells us how gay men get their news, in truth -- is from
So what do we make of these guys who define themselves as "bi"? Are they really fooling themselves as they screw their way down the path to gayhood, or do they really enjoy having sex with women? I realize that some people are just sexually charged and will take it wherever they can get it. But I say that if you're a guy having sex with another guy, chances are there's a part of you that's in denial, and only time will tell when you finally come around to the realization that, yup, you're gay.

A lot of guys are all about animal instinct. We get it when we can. We need to drop our seed and move on to the next guy. OK, OK -- I just heard a collective scream from all of you who believe in the sanctity of a monogamous relationship. Of course emotions play a role in gay male relationships, and there's no question that men can commit to each other. But think about how many gay couples you know who play around, either together or separately. Why? Because gay men like to screw...

My opinion is that they're not bi. They're not straight. They're gay and they're fooling themselves. Or they're fooling us. But do we care? As long as they bring the six pack, we're usually pretty OK with it.
I've been oft to say that, "If he's having sex with a man, he's not straight," which should be more apprpriately termed as, "If he's having sex with a man, he's not heterosexual." It's a subtle, but important difference.

But let's move on to article two, this time from Michael Musto in the Village Voice:
Everyone always says they're bisexual, blabbing on and on about how "sexuality is fluid, and I don't really like labels"--but usually I find these are just gay men who are afraid to come out. I know there are real bisexuals out there--mainly because I've heard that there are--and I do think it's a lovely idea to actually crave sex with people regardless of gender. I'm just wondering how real a phenomenon this is, as opposed to a smoke-and-mirrors coverup designed to keep antsy gays in the closet.
Now, the Bi Avenger @ Cowtown-Bisexual makes a great point: who the fuck cares what Michael Musto thinks? But that's not my point.

Working in HIV, you get an interesting perspective on the behvavior vs. identity bit that seems to play out in the public discourse on bisexuality -- a lot of people assume that the two are the same, that, somehow, just because you are doing something means that you actively identify as doing it. I think we need look no further than the racist/homophobic/sexist/hateful discourse on the "down low" to understand that it doesn't matter whether or not someone identifies as anything. It matters, more, what their behavior is. If a man is having sex with men and women, he is acting bisexual, regardless of whether he identifies as such. If a woman has a drunken college party threesome with a man and another woman, she is having a bisexual experience, but does not need to necessarily identify as bisexual.

When we ask people about their behaviors, we do not use the terms "gay," "bi," or "straight" to talk about someone's risk factors. We do ask about their self-identifier, but we also go on to ask about their behavior and with whom they have had sex. Why? Because you can identify as gay but still have had sex with a woman in your life. A lot of gay men understand that...

...but we don't seem to understand that you can identify as straight and have had sex with men in your life.

It is not the business of this writer, nor the other writers of the world, to enforce a dogma of sexual or gender identity. It's not our job. If someone identifies as bisexual, but has only had sex with men for 15 years, guess what? They are bisexual. Just because they live an exclusively homosexual life or have exclusively homosexual relations does not diminish their identity as bisexual. If a woman chooses to identify as bisexual, or (as I've heard sometime) heteroflexible, but only has had sex with men in their life... except for that one drunken party when I was 18... then they are bisexual (or heteroflexible).

We should not be in the business, as a community, of placing identities on other people, and we certainly shouldn't be in the business of actively undermining other people's identities just because we do not understand it. We come out and tell people that society cannot define our sexuality... well, guess what, the authors of the above articles now fall into the category of "society" and they are defining someone's sexual orientation for them.

In the race to be equal, we have begun to become ignorant.


Doug said...

Interesting research work, Barry. My frustration revolves around the doubly hidden nature of bisexuality that only helps perpetuate the stereotypes in both opinions.

A bisexual person who is dating someone of the same gender will be assumed to be gay. A bisexual person who is dating someone of the opposite gender will be assumed to be straight. Only public statement or history of behavior provides evidence of bisexual identity.

Add into the mix that the loudest of the people shouting their bisexuality tend to BE badly adjusted and you've got a recipe for a horrible public image. It still rankles, though. *Especially* the self-loathing part...

I mean really, you know me Barry. There's maybe 5% of the LGBT community in Cincinnati that's as out as I am in daily life. By identifying as bisexual I get all the wrath from the straight community while simultaneously dealing with the disdain from the gay side. If I was just flat-out gay, is there any sort of reason why I wouldn't identify as such?

But I'm not. A couple days ago I almost got into a wreck twice as the UC track teams (both male and female) jogged by my car. I get hot and bothered by the soft curves of a woman and the firm torso of a man. All I can do is channel that primal reaction into a constructive and healthy romantic outlet.

Jere Keys said...

The thing I find most fascinating about this whole debate is that it's fueled by people not bi-identified asking the question "does bisexuality in men even exist?" The question itself is biased and offensive, ignores a great deal of scientific and historical evidence (hello, Greco-Roman culture!), and the entire debate only serves (whatever the intention) to further marginalize and hide bisexuality.

Michi said...

In the race to be equal, we have begun to become ignorant.

Indeed -- AND

There's no diversity because we're burning in the melting pot.

Unknown said...

OK. Now let's talk about the women who identify as bi and how there was no mention of them in the two original blog posts you reference. Fascinating. Is it just because they were male? Do women not matter in the equation because in general we are perceived to be more fluid in our sexuality? Or is it just that gay men are really only hacked off about men who identify as bi? Or are they threatened somehow? I find it so hard to understand the vitriol directed at us bisexual folk!

And seriously? The original question posed was whether or not bisexuality is real? Wow. I'm so impressed with the enlightened place this dialogue began...
C'mon - have they forgotten what the B in LGBTQ stands for? It's not like we just needed another letter in the alphabet soup to spice it up. Of course bisexuality is real. I identify as bi and just because some people experiment with bi behavior and decide on their way to figuring out who they are doesn’t mean that I don't exist. Since when did we get so judgmental as a community that we immediately dismiss as non-existent that which we simply do not understand? I really appreciated your distinction, Barry between identity and behavior and how important both are in understanding the issues.

I swear if one more person insinuates that I’m “on the fence” or “confused” or my personal favorite “a repressed lesbian” I’m gonna throw something at their head. At 47, having had enough relationships in my life to know, I can tell you that women and men appeal to me in very different ways, but I am nonetheless almost equally attracted to them, although I have technically been in more relationships with women than men. I have said since I was about 18 that I fall in love with people and their gender either became an issue with society - or not. And now my identity is becoming a big issue in the community that I supposedly belong to and have identified with and fought for the rights of for a really long time? It’s very frustrating.

I'm not into a narrow binary definition of anything, but for me, being a practicing bisexual is problematic. I can't manage sleeping with one person of each gender at the same time. And yes I tried it once when I was in my 20’s. I was an emotional wreck. So were the two people I was sleeping with because I’m an open book and they both knew. I can only handle the complexities of one romantic relationship at a time. So I choose a person I’m into and if it’s a chick – we’re presumed lesbian. If it’s a guy we’re presumed straight. Or in my current situation, working my ass off in the LGBTQ community, sleeping with no one and constantly presumed to be a straight ally ... but I’m not any of those things. Lesbians don’t want to date you because you might leave them for a man. Men who identify as straight say they are cool with it – but really it’s because they want to watch you get it on with at chick and that’s not how this girl operates …

I get the most flack of all from the gay community. I dated a guy for a few months 2 years ago now. A LOT of people in the LGBTQ community had opinions about that. Most of them were pretty disrespectful. When I did decide that saying something might actually make a difference, I would tell the person that I’d been fighting for the rights of people to love who they want for over 20 years and I expected them to respect my right to do the same. Really shouldn't we all be encouraging one another to find healthy, loving relationships that enhance our lives and stop playing identity politics?

So to borrow (and modify) a line from the most recent GLSEN ad campaign: When you say bisexuality doesn’t exist, do you realize what you say? KNOCK IT OFF!