On why it’s okay for bisexuals to attack biphobia in the lesbian and gay communities: An Experimental Argument

Feminism today is going after “nice guys”–men that see themselves as nerds who “deserve” a beautiful girl but feel short-changed by women’s “love of bad boys.” Feminism chooses this over pursuing “ass-grabbers.”

The reason for this is that though our culture at one time did not look down on ass-grabbers, it does now. But our culture does not yet sufficiently look down upon self-proclaimed “nice guys,” and they are one of the most dangerous sources of misogyny for women today. Feminists understand that though misogyny is absolutely a structural disease infesting every corner of society, we now have the most to gain from attacking so-called “nice guys;” the situation in the country changed, so the strategy of the feminist movement changed.

In the same way, bisexuals’ most dangerous source of victimization was once explicitly homophobic: society-sanctioned violence against bisexuals, lesbians, and gay men and then a society that ignored the HIV epidemic. Those things are changing, and the society at large is very quickly coming to a consensus that homophobia is wrong and to be shunned. The situation has changed.

There are those that say that all of the problems Gender and Sexual Minority (GSM) people face solely originate from homophobic religious people–that if we all simply stick our noses up at such people in unison until the end of time, all goals of the GSM movement will be magically achieved.

But that does not seem to be true for the problems uniquely faced by bisexuals.

Bisexuals suffer homophobia and biphobia. As the terror of homophobia recedes into history, distinctive biphobia becomes more visible, and its societal consequences are shown to be quite egregious. And biphobia originates both in the straight and gay communities.

Some bisexuals find it difficult to persuade lesbians and gay men biphobia exists at all. Often lesbians and gay men believe or assume that bisexuals have at least some “straight privilege,” and lesbians and gay men are often resistant to evidence that shows if bisexuals benefit from any straight privilege, that privilege’s effect is clearly and strongly outweighed by the societal effects of biphobia.

This is quite a shame because lesbians and gay men have become the gatekeepers of many GSM safe spaces, both physical and virtual. If lesbians and gay men are not partners in the fight against biphobia, then bisexuals lose access to many safe spaces that bisexuals had a hand in creating.

The fact of the matter is that bisexuals would gain so much from the lesbian and gay communities’ empathy and support. Today, bisexuals often first come out to the lesbian and gay communities expecting to find comfort, acceptance, and safety, but too often we find a cold welcome, often encountering our first explicitly biphobic interactions.

Bisexuals often encounter some of the worst biphobia in the places and among the people to which we retreated to find comfort and acceptance within a society that does not accept us. When we left the straight community and entered the so-called LGBT one, we only found the same hurtful ideas but expressed with looser tongues.

There are those that say if bisexuals aren’t happy with today’s GSM spaces, bisexuals should build our own safe spaces independent of existing LGBT safe spaces. I am not opposed to bisexuals building new safe spaces for ourselves alone; indeed I feel such safe spaces are necessary for our future.

But the fact of the matter is that the LGBT movement has already built a huge network of “safe spaces” for lesbians and gay men. If those safe spaces could also function as bisexual safe spaces, bisexuals would gain a world and a half compared to what we have now.

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Biphobic “anti-bullying expert” responds to my email, denies the content of her article

This all started with this article, which someone referred to BiNet USA’s Facebook group.

The article is by a so-called “anti-bullying expert” who wrote a “book about teaching empathy to children” named Stacey Lundgren. She wrote an entire article about the “creeping indecisiveness infecting society,” dovetailing into an ignorant attack on bisexuals, which begins with “But how did the ‘B’ worm it’s way into LGT?”

It’s quite a read, and it’s not very long. I would highly recommend saving this because, if nothing else, it is a great thing to show your friends who think biphobia is not a problem.

The article’s comments section has since blown up and so has twitter.

I sent this woman an email to her website’s email address where I said the following:

Subject: A bisexual who “wormed it’s way” into your inbox

Dear Ms. Lundgren,

You seem to be an otherwise genuinely nice and good person who made some clumsy remarks about the bisexual identity.

I would highly recommend that you please offer a complete, public, and unqualified apology as soon as possible.

If you don’t, I guarantee you will become a very common, public joke of the bisexual community for all time.

I don’t want that to happen; you don’t want that to happen.

So please, apologize as soon as possible.

Thank you for your time, and take care. I wish you luck with all you attempt to achieve in your life.

Now I want to be clear: she knew something was up. Even if she doesn’t check twitter, other people wrote emails to her personal website. She knew something was up.

Pretty soon after that, I received a reply:

Thank you for your email.  If I become a joke, so be it.  Please understand, and read the article again if that would help, that I did NOT say bisexuals are wrong, bad, or indecisive.  I said because bisexuals are attracted to people of both sexes, they have a choice.  You can choose live in a heterosexual or homosexual relationships.  Gays, Lesbians and Transexuals do not have that choice.  This is true, so there is no need for me to apologize for the truth.

What I do apologize for is if my words made you uncomfortable in any way.  It was certainly not my intention.

The acronym LGBT has been used in political and religious discussions in defending the rights of LGBT’s, and I agree all human beings should be given equal rights.  However, I have never heard that bisexuals need to to have their rights defended because they are discriminated against unless they choose to be in a homosexual relationship.  For that reason, they might be discriminated against which is wrong.  I said nothing mean or discriminatory about bisexual people, nor do I believe they should be joked about.

I have respect and compassion for all human beings.  Also, it’s a fact that there is no way to make everyone happy in what I write; there is always someone who will choose to be offended and go on the defense.  What is there to defend?

Stacey A. Lundgren

In some ways, this reply is pretty uninteresting. She just doubles down on her biphobia and gives a common “I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings, but I absolutely said nothing wrong” non-apology apology.

But, she also does something kind of funny here. She says, “read the article again if that would help … I did NOT say bisexuals are … indecisive.”

So the article is entitled, “Creeping Indecisiveness Infecting Society: Make a Decision Already!” and features a story of a friend of hers who could not choose a lunch in order to dovetail into an attack on the idea that “B” should be a part of “LGT.”

When she says, “I did NOT say bisexuals are … indecisive,” it reminds me of a satirical letter I wrote about antisemites, explicitly, and about other oppressive writers, implicitly. The point of the letter was that the fictional antisemite danced around the idea of a new Holocaust without actually saying it. A Jewish writer accuses him of calling for a new Holocaust. But when the Jewish writer makes the implicit explicit, the antisemite attacks by saying that he never said he wanted to kill all the Jews.

In the same way, Ms. Lundgren says she did not call bisexuals “indecisive” when that seemed to be the whole point of the article. She really should not be surprised if people attack her for calling us “indecisive,” a common slur against bisexuals.

But this is the part that gets me. I didn’t even accuse her of calling us “indecisive” in my original letter. She came up with that on her own!

There are, of course, other things very, very wrong with her letter, but honestly I have nothing else to say about it. I’ll send it to the wind in case anyone else has anything they want to say.

Bisexuals Show A Preference For Same-Gender Relationships

The great bisexual activist Robyn Ochs writes,

Many lesbians and gay men believe that bisexuals have less commitment to “the community,” and that whatever a lesbian or gay man might have to offer to their bisexual partner will not be enough to outweigh the external benefits offered to those who are in heterosexual relationships.

And many lesbians and gay men believe “that those who have a choice [bisexuals] will ultimately choose heterosexuality.”

Ochs makes some very good and important arguments in this article, but she does not try to disprove the idea that bisexuals tend to “ultimately choose” an opposite-gender relationship over a same-gender relationship when bisexuals “have a choice.”

In fact, the idea that bisexuals “ultimately choose heterosexuality” when we “have a choice” is a disprovable statement. Indeed, bisexuals show a preference for same-gender relationships.

We do this by comparing the actual genders of bisexuals’ partners against the genders of those partners were they to be chosen by random chance.

For example, if we were to assume partners were chosen by random chance and assume that half the US were straight and half gay, then we would expect 50% of bisexuals to be in opposite-gender relationships and 50% in same-gender relationships.

But this is not the case.

According to Wikipedia, “the Williams Institute review conducted in April 2011” that said 1.7% of the US identifies as lesbian or gay and 1.8% identifies as bisexual.

So when selecting partners via random chance, only around 4% of bisexuals would be in same-gender relationships and 96% would be in different-gender relationship.

The actual numbers are much more skewed toward same-gender relationships: 9% of bisexuals in relationships are in same-gender relationships while 84% are in opposite-gender relationships. That is double the number of same-gender relationships selected under random chance.

Thus, if some bisexuals choose opposite-gender relationships for the associated heterosexual privilege, then that number is overpowered by bisexuals who show a preference for same-gender relationships.

Ochs suggests a few possible reasons someone might prefer same-gender relationships—

the absence of scripted gender roles, freedom from unwanted pregnancy, the ease of being with someone with more similar social conditioning, and so on.

Here’s another she doesn’t mention: a commitment to the LGBT community. Some bisexuals may be highly involved in the LGBT community and thus end up with other LGBT partners; other bisexuals may feel that partnering outside the LGBT community does make them traitors, and thus they feel they have a duty to have a same-gender partner.

But whatever the reason, make sure you take this to heart:

Bisexuals are not traitors; we do not “ultimately choose heterosexuality” because of the associated privilege; and, we see ourselves as part of “the community” whether or not others do. Please speak out against those who suggest otherwise.

*I thank Thomas Van Ness Leavitt for originally bringing up this argument on the BiNet USA Facebook page.

When I Came Out

I came out on August 30, 2014 when I posted a copy of a letter I sent to Emily Yoffe on my Facebook for all my friends to see. Below is a copy of that letter. Please note that many of my perspectives and opinions have changed since I wrote this–

To whom it may concern–
I am an avid Slate reader, and Emily Yoffe is a fantastic advice columnist. But something she wrote recently did very much bother me.

When asked by a bisexual woman married to a man whether she should come out of the closet to family and friends, she wrote:

Let’s say you discovered a late breaking interest in plushophilia, or you now realized you were turned on by being a dominatrix. This would not be news you’d be required to announce at the next Thanksgiving gathering.

I want to put this as delicately as I can, and I will most certainly fail.
Today, bisexuals are the targets of many unfair stereotypes. For example:
  • “There is no such thing as a bisexual. You’re either gay/lesbian or straight, no in-between.”
  • “Bisexuals are confused about their sexuality. They can’t have it both ways… they have to make a choice.”
  • “Everybody is bisexual (so nobody is bisexual).” [You can see why the above are untrue here and here.]
  • “To be bisexual you have to love both genders equally (so you aren’t).” [Nope.]
  • “You can’t be bisexual and be faithful to one person.” [See below.]
Wikipedia even reserves sections for Bisexual Stereotypes, Bisexual Erasure, and Biphobia.
Gays and lesbians had and have problems of their own stereotypes, and their first, most successful act on the path toward cultural legitimization was urging each other to come out of the closet. Polls showed that the more gays and lesbians people know, the fewer stereotypes they are willing to believe about gays and lesbians.
There was a beautiful scene about this in the biopic Milk (2008).
Even Dan Savage strongly believes that bisexual people should come out of the closet, saying:

Closeted bisexuals contribute to bisexual erasure and—while calling out the larger social forces that keep ‘em closeted—they should be challenged to come out, just as closeted gays were and still are. The main image for for the 1987 March on Washington was a banner that read “Come Out, Come Out, Where Ever You Are.” Harvey Milk exhorted closeted gay people to come out while pointing out that closeted gay people, by remaining closeted, were complicit in their own oppression and the oppression of out gay and lesbians. If exhorting closeted bis to come out is biphobic, then Harvey Milk was homophobic.

One of my favorite myths about bisexuality was put quite simply by a friend of mine who happens to be gay:

Everyone defaults to dick.

That is to say, many people believe that bisexual women fake it to please men; many people believe that bisexual men simply haven’t yet come out gay. [“Though 62 percent of gay men once identified as bisexual, nearly as many bisexual men — 56 percent — had once said they were gay”]
Another of my favorite ones since I am a male bisexual who tends toward women:

It would be hard not to think that I can’t satisfy him completely.

and

I don’t want to be in a relationship with someone who I know from the start will be longing for something else.

Both of those from here. This was another instance where that same friend of mine gave me a great line:

Saying you are afraid to date a bisexual man because you are afraid he can’t stay loyal to one gender is like being afraid to date a man who likes both blondes and brunettes because you are afraid he can’t stay loyal to one hair color.

All of these problems (and many others) would be much easier for me and other bisexuals to deal with if more of the 70% of us were to come out of the closet. [70% are currently in the closet]
My point being that next time, please, instead of comparing my sexuality with “a late breaking interest in plushophilia” that should not be announced “at the next Thanksgiving gathering,” help make our lives a little easier and go with the late Harvey Milk’s doctrine: “Come Out, Come Out, Where Ever You Are.”