Posted by: aediculaantinoi | September 23, 2013

Bisexual Visibility Day 2013

Today is Bisexual Visibility Day–can you see all of the bisexuals around you? Or, are they invisible, and you don’t have your special viewing lenses to see them? ;)

But seriously, now, folks…

Bisexuals are a sizeable, but still largely invisible, sexual minority amongst the vast spectrum of queer identities. How bisexuality is defined is a matter that is up for perennial debate, even in the minds of many bisexuals (not that it should be otherwise!). Are bisexuals simply self-identified, or is someone who identifies as gay but occasionally sleeps with women, or who identifies as straight but is on the down-low for whatever reason, also bisexual and just self-deluded? Answers at every point all across the board are just as tenuous and controversial as anything, and there are no real once-and-for-all “rules” or “guidelines” on which to make such determinations responsibly or in full deference to the integrity of each person to self-identify as they might wish.

No matter how acceptable gay and lesbian identities have become over the last few decades, bisexuality is still misunderstood, marginalized, and even to an extent vilified by not only straight people (who sometimes see bisexuality as little more than “gay with hope for conversion” much of the time) but also gay people (who often see it as “a stop on the way to gay-town” rather than a destination on its own). Biphobia is alive and well, unfortunately, along with many of the other “-phobias” out there.

But, on a different note, what is interesting or unusual in terms of bisexual visibility these days?

Anything-That-Loves-490x700

One thing that I can highly recommend is the new comics anthology, edited by Charles “Zan” Christensen of Northwest Press, called Anything That Loves. I supported the Kickstarter campaign for this book, and I enjoyed it very much indeed, and look forward to reading some of Northwest Press’ other publications in the near future (and have read some of their current ones as well, which I hope to review on here in the months to come!). It is about the various ways that bisexuality can be identified, according to a number of different comics artists; and the title of it is based on one of the old bisexual newsletters from this area of the world (Northwest Press is Seattle-based), which was called Anything That Moves. The book does not provide answers, it simply exhibits many different ways that the question has been approached by different individuals over their lifespans and in the context of their own artistic work. And, it can also serve as a great introduction to the work of many of the artists featured in the anthology, which is also great! So, I highly suggest picking it up!

And, since this is the blog that it is, I’ll just also note that Hadrian, for all that many modern historians want to say he was “gay,” was from all that we can tell not unlike any other Roman or Mediterranean upper class male of his day, i.e. culturally bisexual, enjoying the physical appearances and emotional attachments to males as well as females, and his different sorts of love for Antinous and for Sabina (and probably any number of other males and females throughout his life) are not any kind of mystery for anyone who actually sees what was going on with his life, rather than reading into it any modern notions of identity for their own self-justification. Just sayin’. ;)

*****

Today is the first day of class for the Fall quarter, and I’ve got one coming up shortly, so I must rush off. But, my colleague Tony Mierzwicki sent me the following article link on the poverty of college teaching, amongst other jobs, and to say that it rings true for my own experience is a colossal understatement. Eeesh. So, all of you underpaid, undervalued adjunct collegiate teaching personnel (and other teachers as well) out there, my respect and solidarity to you as the quarter starts again.


Responses

  1. That’s another title that I’m looking forward to adding to my library’s collection. Tai pictured her Kickstarter-sponsored copy a few weeks ago, and now I’m eagerly waiting for it to enter my greedy little hands. I’m not bisexual myself, but the continued instance on its not being a real orientation and its villification from all sides is a source of deep frustration and sadness for me.

  2. For me, the mantra has always been “Nobody knows I’m bi,” but “Nobody BELIEVES I’m bi.” *sigh*

    • (Missed a rather crucial “not” there.)

    • For me, I’d have to identify as “leaning bisexual”; even though I’m pansexual and metagendered, most people I find myself attracted to are either male or female, since there are far more of those than anything else, and thus in practice, “bi” is relatively accurate. However, I don’t think that bi is comprehensive enough for my own mental and emotional position at this point, given that it still tends to be understood as starting from a comparison of one’s own gender which is likewise binary. Anyway…

      I wrote a master’s thesis on bisexual theology, and used to identify much more strongly and consistently as bi, and thus I have a great affection for the entire label and community and the struggles involved with it that I’ve likewise helped to fight, not to mention a huge number of bisexual friends and exes (though that latter number isn’t as huge as the friends!). So, it’s always important for me to have more visibility around this specific matter whenever possible.

      • So, how do you feel about Serrano’s piece Bisexuality Does Not Reinforce the Gender Binary?

      • I hadn’t known about it, so thanks for pointing it out!

        It’s a good piece, and well intentioned, and makes some important points; however, I also think she’s aiming it toward non-bisexuals who tend to marginalize bisexuality, and who have all sorts of interesting ways of doing so. (I remember being told when I identified as bi, “Well, we all are, so big deal” or “Why can’t you just say you’re sexual, then, and why do you need to put a label on it?”) She does ultimately end up doing exactly what she says bisexuality doesn’t do–i.e. reinforce the gender binary–by saying that there are people who present as men, people who present as women, and even though there may be other genders and other ways of doing the binary genders, nonetheless those are the options and there you go. That she experiences attraction to males and to females as two entirely different things, and therefore that means she’s bi, is fine and good and well; but, what about bisexuals or pansexuals or others who don’t experience attraction to males and females (and other genders) as different at all?

        That trans folks are more accepted amongst bisexuals is a good thing, and a true thing, but that mere fact doesn’t mean that therefore bisexuals aren’t thus reinforcing gender binaries, because most trans people are mtf or ftm, and even if they have unusual gender performances within trans-man-ness or trans-woman-ness, nonetheless they’re not something other than the binary genders most often.

        So, it’s kind of a strange tautology in a way: as a bisexual and a trans woman, Julie Serrano is not reinforcing the gender binary because she says she’s not, and other people (gay, lesbian, and straight folks) actually are even though they say bi and trans people are…and yet, people of other genders barely get mentioned at all, which would be one of the easiest ways to definitely suggest that a person is not reinforcing the gender binary (i.e. by acknowledging that it is not the only reality).

        Anyway…

      • While I do like a lot of Serrano’s writing, I don’t always agree with her and I do tend to agree that she sort of makes non-binary people a bit of a non-issue, which is problematic and arguably erasing –but at the same time, I can certainly understand the argument I believe she made in another piece I’ve lost track of, that for the most part, non-binary people tend to get read as either men or women, and while this is certainly a non-consensual passing for cisgender, there really isn’t much that can be done about it without re-working a visible identity for non-binary people (such as exist in some traditional communities that still recognise “third sex” identities), and that without those visible markers for non-binary identity it’s harder to argue that non-binary identities don’t benefit from some modicum of binary privilege, and that this is especially true of those who both maintain a non-binary identity as well as a completely non-transitioning status. Like I said, I wish I could source that argument I paraphrased, but it certainly makes a lot of sense, even if it does open itself up to some of the same holes as suggesting that a pre-transitioning trans woman benefits from “male privilege” if she doesn’t internalise an entitlement of that privilege –but I also have some ideas that are kind of at odds with the TS/TG/etc…, “status quo”, as it were, as I certainly de feel I benefited from some of the cis-female privileges, pre-transition, even if I never once internalised any of the negative repercussions of being female in Western society and *did* internalise some degree of male entitlement. (I also believe that the overwhelming majority of TS people would admit to this, as well, if they were being 100% honest with themselves and each-other, but that’s another story for another time.

        I also get hints here and there are Serrano is of the opinion that either being TS, men or women, is to just be at another point on a continuum between “Male” and “Female” (which you know as well as I do is just a re-working of the binary), or that being TS/TG is somehow necessarily a non-binary identity that simply rests closer to cis identities than not. She also make a differentiation between “cisgender” (binary gender identities, even as held by TS men and TS women) and “cissexual” (cisgender people who are non-transsexual), which at the very least suggests a very layered and tiered interpretation of how sex, sexuality, and gender identity work on a large scale of categorisation. She certainly has some interesting ideas that I think might be closer to reality than I see from a LOT of other TS/TG/etc…, people of various genders all over the Internet, but so does Raven Kaldera, and I stopped counting TS/TG pagans on the Internet who think he’s somehow worse than some of the senile HBSers still puttering around (I mean, yeah, they’re mostly on Tumblr, in my experiences, but that’s still too many).

      • Yes, there’s a lot of subtlety to the issues you’re addressing here…

        Unfortunately, one of the markers for maleness is height. There are no end of very tall trans women, and while I’m sure they are as upset about the “tall = boy” reading that often occurs, just because males are usually taller doesn’t mean there aren’t tall women, or that people can’t start to migrate their understanding of “tall = male” to being more nuanced based on who is actually standing in front of them at any given moment.

        When I was younger, I didn’t get read as “boy” or “girl” while I was still under six feet tall, I tended to just get read as “other.” And, that would have been fine, until I got tall, and then got more hair…and, even worse in the last thirteen years, I started to lose hair in ways that are thought to be applicable to only one of the binary genders. This pisses me off to no end…

        I am trying to figure out what would work best for other-than-binary gender markers in dress and comportment at the moment, and it is sort of hard to do on a limited budget…but also, what currency will these things have on a culture-wide basis? None, unless I (or someone else who is in my same position) becomes a celebrity. And the thing is, I’m not a non-transitioning person either, it’s just that I currently don’t have the means to pursue those options, and they don’t exactly “exist” either…but I’ve been thinking about how to start addressing this in the near future.

        If anything, this entire discussion (and many others I’ve had with a wide variety of gender-diverse people) has suggested to me something that we hear about as a platitude and even an ideal all the time, but we very rarely (if ever) apply to the matter of gender: don’t judge a book by its cover. You never know whether that person sitting next to you on the bus who might appear to be presenting as one of the binary genders is actually someone who is full-on trans and plans to transition until you get to talking with them; so, it really is better just not to judge or assume anything about anyone’s gender identity, or sexual orientation, or anything else until you get to know them. I’ve made as much of an effort as possible on this when dealing with people, even when they don’t realize that’s what I’m doing, by calling them “people” instead of “women/ladies” or “guys/gentlemen/men,” etc. It’s not a de-sexualizing, it’s a non-specifying until I’ve been told explicitly what they might prefer.

        There’s an insurance commercial that just started coming on television in the Obamacare age, and it shocked me to hear it say “Insurance coverage is now available for every man, woman, and child in the state.” Okay…so, children have no gender, and those of other genders are not covered? And, the latter part of the statement is very true, in many respects!

  3. How bisexuality is defined is a matter that is up for perennial debate, even in the minds of many bisexuals (not that it should be otherwise!). Are bisexuals simply self-identified, or is someone who identifies as gay but occasionally sleeps with women, or who identifies as straight but is on the down-low for whatever reason, also bisexual and just self-deluded?

    Absolutely, especially in the case of the latter, wherein it’s clear that “straight = normal” as the only reason to be so secretive and desperately cling to the label of “straight” is simply to maintain a sense of “normalcy”.

    Answers at every point all across the board are just as tenuous and controversial as anything, and there are no real once-and-for-all “rules” or “guidelines” on which to make such determinations responsibly or in full deference to the integrity of each person to self-identify as they might wish.

    Ha! Friend, you’ve met me, you know I’m right about everything. :-D

    By the way, were you aware that the Christopher Street march, the prototype of the Pride Parade, was organised by bisexual woman, Brenda Howard in commeration of the Stonewall riots on its first anniversary, and most of the rioters were transgender? For serious, the Guacamole and Lettuce stomps on the Bacon and Tomato like no-one’s business, when half their culture, in this day and age, is because of us moreso than them.

    • I did not know that Brenda Howard organized the first march; but, I did know that most of the original Stonewall-ers were trans and gender-variant folks, and there were plenty of bisexuals there as well.


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