Living the Bi Life

for you commie, homolesboswitchhittertranny-lovin' sons-of-guns

Max the Communist

Max the Communist
Location
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Birthday
January 17
Bio
"Her beauty served a mob of terror whose one mission is to destroy." Yeah, that's me alright. I am a writer, actor, activist. That means I've worked in the hospitality and retail industries. Before you ask for fries with that, prepare yourself for political, economic, social, and sexual liberation. Not a total commie. I just marvel at the inflammatory red-baiting language--so much like queer-baiting, it's scaaary. I will be your downfall yet, America. Until then, I go for universal healthcare and making friends with anarchists, hippies, fellow-travelers, philosophers, actors, and other troublemakers. And, of course, da queers. So I'm pinko. Does that make me more Canadian than anything else? How queer are they in Canukistan? And can they put me up for the night--you know, just in case? In other words, just your typical OS blogger.

MARCH 16, 2011 5:55PM

Rejecting Bisexual Narratives of Hate

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 hero or villain

Who are you?  What is the story of your life? Are you the hero, the villain or some poor, misbegotten thing? 

Along the way in life, our lives can pick up fragments of prevailing beliefs, judgements and narratives which, either consciously or unconsciously, we incorporate into our own identity's construction.

If you've been out long as bisexual, pansexual or queer, you've noticed the negative bisexual stereotypes which are the legacy of all people with fluid sexuality--the sum of these forms a narrative about bisexuals that straight and lesbian/gay people often rely on, unquestioningly, for information.  The difficulty lies, not just in getting people to see you--the you right in front of them--past the narrative imprinted in their brains, but also not allowing that narrative to infect your own life in the form of internalized biphobia.  

The dominant narrative about bisexuals is uncertainty, instability, and falsity, as if bisexuality were inherently impossible, imposing the impossibility of being true to yourself and, therefore, anyone else.  The inherent instability of the bisexual state is depicted in goofy or stupid ways, like the below cartoon (created by bisexual cartoonist Melaina) characterizing the "confused bisexual:"

bewildered bisexual

Or the narrative follows a more pathological path, wherein a bisexual character's instability shifts into depictions of madness, amorality, opportunism, manipulation and even murder.  Paul Verhoeven's Basic Instinct is a classic example of this portrayal of bisexuality but it's latest, most popular incarnation may be Natalie Portman's tormented ballet dancer in Black Swan.  

In fact, the mainstream entertainment industry may have an interest in portraying  bisexuals as forever unbalanced--the better to draw bigger audiences, bigger revenue.  Recently, a popular Latina author, of what has been dubbed chica lit in publishing circles, got disturbing news from the production company that had bought the rights to her novel, The Dirty Girls Social Club, for development into a TV mini-series for NBC.  They planned to transform a lesbian character, who was in a long term relationship with another lesbian woman in her novel, into a single, scheming, trampy bisexual woman.

"I was first alerted to the change in this character over dinner with Ann Lopez, Lynnette Ramirez and Luisa Leschin in Los Angeles eight or nine months ago. After a few cocktails, I asked them what major changes they’d made to my book, and they told me this one only.

“We had to make her bisexual because the lesbian story line isn’t fresh anymore,” Lynnette told me. (By that standard, we ought to make all straight characters bisexual too, no?) “And, let’s face it,” she said snarkily, “no one trusts a bisexual.”

I took that moment to tell the ladies at the table that I was, in fact, bisexual, and very trustworthy. Bisexuality, I informed them, did not mean a person had a compelling need to screw everything in sight. It means only that we are attracted to SOME men and SOME women and, just like straight or homosexual people, monogamous and normal when we commit to a person we love.

The women around the table seemed very uncomfortable with me after that. I’m not sure if it was because I’d objected to the change in my character, or because I was bisexual, a condition they clearly saw as pathological and depraved."

What are the consequences of a continual replay of this meme about unstable bisexuality?  Believe it or not, one can still find modern mental health resources positioning bisexuality as a source for mental illness, even though the APA removed bisexuality from its diagnostic manual of mental illness a few years after it removed homosexuality.  J. Michael Mahoney's work, Schizophrenia:  The Bearded Lady Disease claims that schizophrenia is the result of "severe unconscious bisexual conflict and gender confusion" which "are the primary cause of all mental illness."  Never mind that Mahoney is a journalist, not a psychiatrist or psychologist, one can still find the book listed as a current and unqualified resource for information about schizophrenia.

Now you'd think that being constantly labeled and depicted as a crazy, confused, untrustworthy, tormented bisexual would be be enough stigma to deal with--but wait, there's more.

The narrative that a bisexual receives from the lesbian/gay end of the scale is one of cowardice and treason.  Certainly, the lesbian/gay narrative carries all the unstable, unreliable, untrustworthy elements of the mainstream one--where else does the LGBTQ community get its negative beliefs (about all kinds of queerness) except from the dominant culture?  But the bisexual narrative in lesbian/gay culture adds on another layer, a layer of unvalorous perfidy.

In dominant lesbian/gay culture, the prevailing narrative is that the bisexual isn't real and is, thus, a perfidious liar.  A deeply erroneous New York Times article from 2005, "Gay, Straight or Lying? Bisexuality Revisited," is still sited by gay pundits asserting the nonexistence of bisexual men and within the past few weeks, several gay male friends of mine have turned to it in conversation to validate the non-existence of bisexual men.  Fortunately, when first published, GLAAD and NGLTF were both on the ball denouncing it--recalling that its head researcher, J. Michael Bailey, had previously published an equally specious study on transexuals.

[Note:  since the OS link program is currently not functioning, you will have to paste these URLs into another window:

 http://main.bisexual.com/forum/showthread.phpt=3799

http://main.bisexual.com/forum/showthread.php?t=4349 ]

Just like the straight narrative for mainstream society, the dominant L/G narrative is always there to refer to as a guideline:  too scared to adopt a "real" queer identity--lesbian or gay--bisexuals are liars.  There's no valor in being a liar; hence, within gay and lesbian subculture, bisexuals cannot be true to others, not being true to themselves--connotations of being a "user" or "traitor" follow.  The loyalty of a bisexual person, either to a lesbian or gay individual or to queer struggle in general, is perennially suspect.  In the narrative, such a person is always cowardly and a risk to associate with.  There is nothing honest, trustworthy or heroic about them.  

Of course, lesbian and gay culture is not monolithic, nor are all lesbians and gay men the same--dialogue and education can always loosen the hold a defamatory narrative has.  But one is, in a sense, standing against a tidal wave of disbelief about you.  And all the faith in the innate goodness of people, especially lesbian and gay people, doesn't necessarily prepare one for the shock of overt biphobia when expressed by L/G queers attacking bisexuals who have come out to be a part of the struggle for LGBTQ rights.

[http://www.starobserver.com.au/news/2011/03/16/pride-march-biphobia-‘not-acceptable’/47068] 

It was with no small sense of relief that I received the news that San Francisco's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Advisory Committee (LGBTAC) approved a report on the impact of stigma on bisexual men and women, to recommend to San Francisco's Human Rights Commission--the first governmental body in the US to acknowledge our condition in social and civic life.

[http://visible.bisocialnetwork.com/bisexual-invisibility-report-makes-history/] 

Cobble that with the presentation that I and other members of Bisexual Queer Alliance Chicago were able to give to LGBT and straight mental health professionals in February at the Center On Halsted, plus the presentation of The Legacy Project by Victor Salvo at our March BQAC meeting, which includes bisexual along with lesbian, gay and transgender historical figures, and I begin to feel something like promise and hope.  

[http://www.legacyprojectchicago.org/] 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     

 

  

           

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"Promise and hope," indeed. We can be part of the solution by continuing to tell our true stories. Thanks for sharing yours!
When I leaved in Seattle, the gay community was dominated by GUPPIES - gay upwardly mobile professionals. Their motto was that being gay, bi or trans was socially acceptable provided you were financially successful.
@ Dr. Stuart Jeanne Bramhall--that's pretty sad, considering that the whole struggle for LGBTQ rights was kicked off by people who made minimum wage or less, economic as well as sexual outsiders.
I deeply appreciate the Center On Halsted in Chicago. They show dedication to serving LGBTQ of all income levels with their programming, which involves job training skills as well as LGBTQ support. But the most demeaning language has come from moneyed, conservative, upwardly mobile--okay, I'll say it--gay men who think that the presence of LGBTQ youth of color is an invasion of "their" center. I can only hope that the Recession will open their eyes to their own economic vulnerability and open their hearts to LGBTQ who don't wield the economic power they do.
PS. I like the "bewildered bisexual" cartoon. I actually look sort of like her!
@Eva--seriously? Are you a brunette?
Yup, totally with you on this. The Jerry Springer model of bisexuality is alive and kicking. I'm a bisexual married to another woman and people ask, "So, you're a lesbian?" Yes, my sexual orientation changed because I got married. What ever happened to Kinse'ys continuum?
@Yawp--Kinsey? Largely ignored, time and again. Appearance is everything; lack of imagination is everything. If they don't see the bisexuality--like you holding a multi-gender orgy in the middle of the street--they don't believe you. Only those who have been there believe it and too many of us are silent. So, come on folks, screw your courage to the sticking post and come out.
When Newt Gingrich said that he had an affair while his wife was in the hospital because he loved America, he was lying. If he really loved ALL of America, he'd have to be 100% bisexual.
@old new lefty--excuse me while I feel ill at the thought of Newt being bisexual . . .
Nevertheless, your logic is impeccable.
i thought this myth was well debunked by kinsey many moons ago and it is now agreed within the "educated" community that most are in the middle and not on the fringes in terms of sexuality as in everything else--at least in theory if not in practice.

The problem is the paranoids on either end of the spectrum who have to have their way and are out prostelytizing with the dumb dumbs who still don't know their own freedom to be themselves.
Wow. I never knew there was a dimension of class-politics in the LGBT community. Fascinating. I learn something new every day!
The truths of Marx reveal themselves in new ways, constantly!
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I know that I might deserve to get a face full of oleoresin capsicum, but you say that bisexual people people settle down with one person that they are committed to. This implies that the "norm" in human relationships is a one-to-one ratio whether man/woman, woman/woman, or man/man and not man/woman exclusively as has been standard for thousands of years. The question that then must arise is why we should limit it to one-to-one. It it makes sense to abandon the man/woman-only mores, then why not embrace polygamy or other forms of plural marriage?
I am very grateful that Chicago finally has a bisexual community. Before I came to Chicago I was in a small town and read a pamphlet that a counselor gave me that said Gay & Bisexual. I had hoped to find a safe place in a gay & bisexual community. I was very disappointed when I found out that I didn't exist. And anytime I entered into the gay community I was hurt over and over again. Bisexual people need to create strength through community. We need to help each other and celebrate our relationships. We need to create the safe places for young people. We need to mentor. - In the 1990's I did find a bisexual "community" it was an invisible one, a closeted one, a discreet one, and most of the men did not talk about their lives much. This is one of the last sexual frontiers.
Fear and rejection of the different is not exclusive to heterosexual homophobes, unfortunately. It is interesting how the thought processes can parallel each other: homophobes might say gays are untrustworthy and promiscuous, and biphobes think bisexuals cannot be monogamous.
Thanks, Max, for articulating it so clearly.