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On being Bisexual in a predominantly binary (Straight/Gay) world - Zer Netmouse
July 15th, 2014
11:04 am

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On being Bisexual in a predominantly binary (Straight/Gay) world
There is a great video out this/last week in which R.J. Aguiar goes on record about his bisexuality, being perceived as half of a gay couple, and facing down biphobia in the LGBT community.

It was especially interesting to me to watch this now in that I had two recent experiences that reminded me how I am default closeted as a bi woman who is married to a man, and has a child.

One of them was just hanging out at a bar with a bunch of my older sister's friends from highschool (and earlier) swapping college stories (e.g. "That story didn't have any sex in it. Where's the sex?") and realizing that I was sort of editing out stories that I might have told because of three reasons, one of which had to do with my sense that nobody in the room except me and my sister knew that I'm bi and I didn't want to derail the conversation to focus on my coming out in that social context. I didn't know if people *would* focus on that or make any sort of deal about it, but I didn't want to go into explaining myself right there, right then, and plus the whole conversation was very heteronormative and I didn't want them to all feel self-conscious about that because old friends, right? Right.

(The other second reason was that the conversation was also about parties and drinking and whether people were physically attractive or not, and my college experience was mostly not like that (I mostly don't drink, for example, and never beer, and we didn't have fraternities) and I'm a geek, and some of the sexiest people I know are not, like, conventionally attractive, and anyway I'm not into bashing people based on looks, so that was not really my sort of discussion anyway. And the third reason? My sister's friends. Not mine. These are, like, my older siblings. You may feel comfortable talking sexy stuff with your older siblings but I usually don't go there, and the couple of times I tried that night, it felt awkward, so I stopped. On the whole, though, it was fun to listen and laugh along...)

And then I went to my awesome Grinnell alumni facebook group Everyday Class Notes and got that off my chest and shared a story I hadn't shared at the bar, and had people relate and that was fine.

But the other experience I wanted to mention was when Rosie and I went to march with the Jim Toy Community Center (the GLBT place on Braun Court) in the fourth of July Parade in Ann Arbor. Everybody was friendly and welcomed us and all, and they liked our rainbow umbrella and "Justice for All" sign on Rosie's wagon, but at one point while we're waiting for the parade to start one of the women there came over to me and said, "I always wonder why people choose to come out and do these things when you're straight."

And there it was - the assumption on the part of a gay person that I'm straight because I'm a mom (I don't think she'd even been there when Brian walked up with us and then headed off to find a place on the parade route to sit and watch and take pictures). I didn't take offense or anything, I just explained that I'm bi and also told her about some of our family who are gay and have kids, so we were also there to march on behalf of their right to marry and have parental rights. But somewhere in there she surprised me by bringing up the notion that "You're just attracted to people's spirits, and it doesn't matter what package they come in." And I was, like, "No, I've heard people who are, like, omni-sexual or whatever describe it as a spiritual thing, but that's not how I am, I'm attracted to people's spirit, and their bodies, both men and women."

And that took me into another assumption some people make, which is that people who are bisexual are attracted to *everybody* or are otherwise hypersexual compared to some other orientation, and I don't think that's true, either. I told her about a pin I have that I used to wear sometimes. It says, "I'm bisexual and I'm not attracted to you." And she got that. "You just don't limit yourself to half the population," she said, and I agreed. Conversation ended amicably.

So, I don't know if I'd describe that as bi-phobia, but still, it was like, as a gay person, she had clearly not really gotten her mind around what it is to be bi, and wanted me to clarify. And there are also a lot of people, gay or straight, who don't really believe bisexuality is a valid orientation.

To go back to the conversation at the bar, there was some point at which we were talking about someone who is now out as a lesbian but dated guys in high school. And someone commented that she "might have been bi-curious" back then. In my mind, I was thinking, "Or maybe she was just bi. Maybe she still is." Because bisexuality or "being bi-curious" is not a stepping stone to being gay. It is its own thing. But it is much easier to be out and Gay than to be out and Bi. Much less explaining, whether to gay people or to straight people. So who knows if she's somewhere on the spectrum but chooses to just be gay, or if she's really just gay, or what. And I don't care. As R.J. says, the label you choose is your own business, and people should not go around policing other peoples labels or telling them what their sexual orientation means as far as how they should behave in order to be Doing it Right. What you do is not sexual orientation anyway, that's sexual conduct.

And on that point, if there's anyone reading this wondering, "But you're married to a man! Doesn't that make you feel unfulfilled, because you won't be sexually involved with any women anymore? Shouldn't you also be with a woman to be complete?" I just have to say, sure, there are a lot of people out there that don't necessarily match my husband's phenotype that I might find attractive, but that I'm not going to have sex with. That's true for anyone in a committed relationship - we see other people we find attractive, that we won't be involved with. In my case, some of them are women, and some are men. But no, I don't feel like I'm missing out because OMG women are sexy! They are. But so is my husband. :)

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From:mrissa
Date:July 15th, 2014 03:26 pm (UTC)
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but at one point while we're waiting for the parade to start one of the women there came over to me and said, "I always wonder why people choose to come out and do these things when you're straight."

Excuse me while I weep, because there are so many problems with that. I'm glad you got a chance to talk her through some of them. But uff da. So many problems.
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From:ckd
Date:July 15th, 2014 04:09 pm (UTC)
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Seriously. I missed marching with the office contingent for Boston Pride this year because I was on call and didn't want to haul my laptop all over the South End in the heat, but...WHAT.

Is the concept of "ally" that hard to understand?
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From:netmouse
Date:July 15th, 2014 06:05 pm (UTC)
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yeah, I didn't really go into that one.
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From:jinasphinx
Date:July 15th, 2014 08:56 pm (UTC)
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Yes! Good god, that one made me throw my hands up in the air. Even if she had correctly identified a straight person... Is it impossible for her to imagine that a straight person is capable of perceiving social injustice where it so obviously exists and wanting to join the fight against it? Is it so unlikely that a straight person would have a gay sister, friend, or cousin, and want to publicly stand up on their side?
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From:voidampersand
Date:July 15th, 2014 03:48 pm (UTC)
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Well put.
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From:netmouse
Date:July 15th, 2014 09:03 pm (UTC)
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Thanks!
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From:autopope
Date:July 15th, 2014 05:08 pm (UTC)
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Yes, and I was hearing that exact same shit 20-30 years ago.

Sigh.

Many people like to put other people in neatly labelled boxes. Bisexuality by definition doesn't fit. Our mere existence is an irritant, and so must be denied at every opportunity.
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From:netmouse
Date:July 15th, 2014 06:22 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, I haven't heard it recently, but I've heard it before. It sort of goes hand in hand with people who think bi folks are just indiscriminate and want to fuck everybody. We really don't. We just don't discriminate specifically/solely according to sex/gender.

But yeah, there's that whole sense of "you can't really be bisexual if you're happy being with just one person, especially if that person is a member of the opposite sex." It's like I would be an ok bi if I had settled with a woman, but settled with a man I'm up for suspicion and judgement. Or I'm invisible/ignored/maybe don't really exist. Except if I were with a woman and still said I was bi I might be getting the same "just admit you're gay" crap as R.J. is. I dunno.
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From:the_leewit
Date:July 15th, 2014 09:27 pm (UTC)
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Frankly, I'd be more alarmed if my spouse said "Well, if you can't fuck everyone you're attracted to, you'll be completely unfulfilled and forever unsatisfied in a monogamous relationship and probably cheat," than if she said she was bisexual--- but that's what you just said isn't it? It just seems... unconnected to how sexuality and partnership works, mono- or bi-.

And I'm reminded, somehow, of McKinley's Rosie talking about a stallion being put to stud: "Yes, but that's not what you do. Is it?"
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From:netmouse
Date:July 15th, 2014 09:54 pm (UTC)
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Well, and I think there may really be another axis, like, mono or poly (and just like all men who have sex with men are not homosexual, not all people who sleep with multiple people in the same time frame are poly).

But that's a whole separate thing.
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From:the_leewit
Date:July 16th, 2014 06:01 pm (UTC)
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Sigh. Why can't sex (and romance) just be about *people*? A brief Internet search reveals that we'll probably meet around 15,000 people in our lifetime. If we're statistical outliers, maybe we'll be sexually intimate with 200. (I have been an extraordinary slut, and have slept with less than one-tenth that number.) Can't the world just assume the answer to "Am I going to sleep with this person," is "Probably not, regardless of gender," and turn its curiosity to more fruitful ends?

Seriously, how is it anyone's business what my sexuality is, so long as I'm not scaring the horses?
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From:parsleigh
Date:July 15th, 2014 07:38 pm (UTC)
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Well said.
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From:netmouse
Date:July 15th, 2014 09:03 pm (UTC)
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Thanks!
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From:jinasphinx
Date:July 15th, 2014 09:02 pm (UTC)
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There was a really good bit in a comic book I saw a couple decades ago (Love and Rockets maybe?) where one character, a waitress, is going through all these common misconceptions about being bi (including no, I don't want to sleep with everyone). I feel like it should be xeroxed and handed out to everyone in the world to save time.
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From:netmouse
Date:July 15th, 2014 09:51 pm (UTC)
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That would be awesome!
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From:echoweaver
Date:July 16th, 2014 12:48 am (UTC)
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Fascinating.

You know what best underscores your point to me? The fact that we have never had this conversation, despite both being bisexual women in heterosexual marriages with a kid. I spend a real amount of time fretting that I blend in so well that it takes real effort to stand with LGBT as a member.

When the subject of relationships or sexuality comes up, I usually jump at the chance to come out. But the response has been kind of strange. I've come out multiple times to my geeky knitting group because they FORGET. Because being bisexual in a monogamous heterosexual marriage means what? Recently, we were all sharing naughty stories about our history. I enjoy doing that, actually, and my naughty stories turned out to be not at all what my fellow knitters were expecting. Except that I KNOW I had brought up the fact that I was bisexual at a previous conversation with many of the same women.

I have no idea who RJ Aguiar is, but I watched the video you shared on Facebook, and I thought he was pretty awesome. Very smart, very witty, very clear.

(Actually, I really do feel that there's something different about sex and romance with a woman, and i miss it. I don't know if that's exactly *unfulfilled*, but yeah -- I feel like being bi and monogamous means giving something up in a way that might not be true for someone who is either gay or straight.)
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From:muffyjo
Date:July 16th, 2014 03:23 am (UTC)
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This is up there with my mom declaring that bi-men where simply gay men still in the closet. Until I introduced her to some married friends who explained their situation convincingly. She's open to the ideas, she just doesn't quite grok them. Me, I figure I'm probably only a dozen or so people sexual, more or less. Currently, those people seem to be male. But I'd hate to rule anything out. ;)
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