Bisexual people and their community talk support
June 1, 2015 8:16 AM   Subscribe

A video from Rainbow Health Ontario interviews three bisexual people and their partners about support and identity within relationships. Part of a series including friends and parents. (Bi defined broadly in video.) Other links below the cut... posted by CBrachyrhynchos (17 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
i've known a lot of people who don't define bi as two, but yeah, i have that same problem - it just doesn't seem honest to for me to say bisexual since i am attracted to and have dated outside the binary. anymore i just go with queer, but i know people get their feathers ruffled about that because i'm a cis-presenting woman married to cis man.

love this post <3
posted by nadawi at 9:10 AM on June 1, 2015 [7 favorites]

I treat bi in much the same way that I treat gay and lesbian, as a word with an etymology grounded in nutty Victorian ideas regarding sexuality that shouldn't be taken literally, since we don't insist that lesbians are into tribbing each other while reading Sappho either, much less come from Lesbos. But I'm deeply burned out by the etymology debate and would rather it not become a key focus of this discussion.

Primarily I found the videos important because they address what has to be one of the most common questions I get over the last 25 years. Why do I insist on being out to partners, family, and friends? The Oregon and UK articles have been sitting in my inbox for a week and address larger issues of bi visibility.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:18 AM on June 1, 2015 [6 favorites]

I am looking forward to watching the videos, but I have to say, the news that we can be governors now completely blew me away, had me cheering, and made me so happy to hear something good about us for once!
posted by mittens at 9:25 AM on June 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

I would identify, given a legitimate choice, as pansexual, but I get the sense that the term, bisexual, is taken more seriously.

Well, people are more likely to know what "bisexual" means, but that's pretty much where "taken more seriously" begins and ends.

People on the outside looking in still tend to see it as a switch being flipped between Seeking Men Mode and Seeking Women Mode -- and perceive that as flakiness or denial or some other personal failing -- not understanding that there is no switch! Prospective partners aren't immediately ruled out because of their gender or their sex, and that's all there is to it.

A great many hardline monosexuals seem fundamentally incapable of getting their heads around that.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:07 AM on June 1, 2015 [9 favorites]

i just go with queer, but i know people get their feathers ruffled about that because i'm a cis-presenting woman married to cis man.

I'm in the same boat (although I am a cis woman), and it means that people often assume I'm straight (until they get to know me for like a week), but I'm not always comfortable identifying as "queer" because in the GSA at my high school the Q stood for Questioning which is how I self-identified for a while (although really the only question I was asking was "how can I get ladies to hook up with me?").

It's tough because I have tons and tons of straight privilege since I'm married to a man and it also means I feel like I'm contributing to bisexual erasure (definitely have had people be like "oh, so you're straight now?" Uh, no, I'm bisexual; men were never off the table) and yet this part of my identity is really important to me and is still a big part of who I am even though I am a woman completely devoted to my male spouse. Thanks for posting these supportive links!
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:13 AM on June 1, 2015 [17 favorites]

What is weird to me is how much the first video brings home the issue of visibility in such an emotional way. I mean, I'm always griping about the politics of bi erasure, but I'm so used to that erasure that when I actually see bi people talk about being bi in a video, I don't even know how to react. Laughing? Weepy? It's like, you're allowed to talk about this on camera? They all looked so different, that a stupid thing to react to? It's not like bi gives you a birthmark or something, but to see these people, is it weird to like peer really hard at their faces to see if there's a family resemblance to oneself? To just be kind of in awe that people like you actually exist? I mean, you know they exist, but seeing them makes it so visceral and real.

I don't know, it's like you were raised in captivity or something, the only one of your kind, and then suddenly here are all these others of your species in their variant glories.

I cannot thank CBrachyrhynchos enough for bringing these videos up.
posted by mittens at 11:45 AM on June 1, 2015 [3 favorites]

Same here, on all counts. From recognition to cringing in anticipation of backlash, to terminology difficulties, to the straight-passing privilege concerns. Thank you for sharing these links.
posted by Stacey at 5:44 PM on June 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

Speaking of "partners," there's also a Straight Spouse Network out there that I find a lot of folks don't know about...this seemed like a good thread to drop a link on just in case it helps somebody.
posted by trackofalljades at 8:12 PM on June 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

The idea that a straight partner would need support is...interesting? I'm overusing that word these days. Consonant-with-experience, maybe is what I mean. We use "-phobia" for all the different ways that gender and sexuality get mistreated, but there really does seem to be a fear, a phobia, with straight people (at least I've seen it more with straight people than gay people), that you're going to leave, that you'll decide you prefer X over Y, that they are missing something you want. (It's the only time I've seen a GSM-phobia actually involve fear, come to think of it.)

When one of the couples in the main video mentioned being together for several years, I thought, that was really important to have out there, that we aren't somehow incapable of steady relationships, that we're not, I don't know, mindless gluttons at an anatomical buffet.
posted by mittens at 5:08 AM on June 2, 2015 [4 favorites]

Can we please STOP starting every bi thread with a complaint about how the term supposedly reinforces the gender binary? We don't bring up Greek islands when talking about lesbian issues. It's a historic word, and the issue has been addressed over and over and over again - how about some Bi-101 before every bi thread is derailed by this? You can personally chose any word you like, but reading into other people's identity meanings they have explicitly said do not apply is really not appropriate.

These videos and this campaign is really important. It's a message not just to the wider world but also to the LGBT community itself.
posted by jb at 7:42 AM on June 2, 2015 [5 favorites]

To add: I actually avoided the LGBT community for years after I came out in the late 90s - I was 18, looking for support, but the youth coming-out group made me feel like I wasn't queer enough to be part of the community. I was told that I was in denial and would come out as a lesbian, or that I wasn't really queer because I had crushes on boys. It felt like there was no place for me, so I left.

20 years later, I'm angry about it - because I feel like I was denied my chance to participate in queer culture and the queer community. I was the kid hanging out in the LGBT collection at the downtown library, I soaked up queer history and literature and film, but the people didn't want me because I didn't fit their idea of what queer meant.

I was joking to someone that I've started clubbing recently, as I missed out as a poor & nerdy 20-something. I always loved dancing, but didn't know that there were clubs where women could wear sneakers and cargo shorts.
posted by jb at 7:52 AM on June 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

it's not a "complaint" - it's people discussing how they see themselves in the queer space and why the word might feel uncomfortable. i'm sorry that has raised some hackles, i really am, but in a thread about bi-visibility, part of the conversation is going to be about how we've felt uncomfortable in this way or in that around the community. it's really not that different from you discussing how you felt shunned or how you didn't know about dance clubs that catered to you. the terminology is part of the erasure/visibility discussion, which seems pretty obvious since the videos take time to expand the definition in the beginning and giving space for people who don't classify as bisexual, but still fall under the umbrella of non-binary attractions.
posted by nadawi at 8:34 AM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

jb, I really like that Bi-101 link. Thanks for sharing it! There are so many different ways you can be bi. For me, it's masculinity I'm attracted to: I like manly men and butch women. It's a vast world of possibility out there!
posted by fiercecupcake at 2:23 PM on June 2, 2015

Kalessin said, My spirit in discussing the suitability of "bisexual" as a label/identity for myself was to try to contribute to the conversation in the sort of way I think MetaFilter does well.

You know, when fiercecupcake above says "there are so many different ways you can be bi," I wholeheartedly agree. Among those differences, obviously, is how we come to name ourselves, so I don't see that as a derail at all, when we're talking about self-definition and the need for some basic human understanding from the people we are in relationships with--people who don't necessarily have some sort of built-in reference point to help them understand.

I think it is very fortunate that there are people who see bi as unmoored from its history. I think exhaustion over rehashing etymology is very healthy and natural. It is good to reclaim and recreate words.

Me, I'm in the camp of obsessing over etymology and history, and talking endlessly about it, to the point that I totally alienate people: that's my way of being bi. I mean, I learned today that people are making antimacassars for Ikea furniture--how can we say we've escaped our Victorian heritage?

I choose "bi" for the same reason I choose "queer": I want to foreground (to myself) how problematic I find all this stuff. It's for the same reason I reject "pan." Pan sounds like a weak compromise, a way of being polite. It's the sexuality version of having to bring every kid in class a Valentine. I prefer the clunkiness and wrongness inherent in bi. The confusion in its creation between biology, sexuality, and gender. The way Fliess and Freud treat it as a way of being gendered, in their coke-fueled boys-laughing-at-each-other's-scabs way (Fliess asks Freud for reading recommendations in 1904, because he's not well versed in the literature of bisexuality; Freud takes a break from describing his nasal secretions and recommends Psychopathia Sexualis). The way even when people talk about it in modern times, when they talk about their attractions, they so often fall into binary terms. Bi ends up drunkenly stumbling through all these categories, which is really kind of fascinating and horrible and that's why I like it so much, because I experience my own sexuality and gender as fascinating and horrible, a skill set I'm constantly getting wrong, getting confused, and so why not use a problematic term?

Also, come on, Krafft-Ebing describes us in the same chapter as murderers, in the most florid catalog of vice since 120 Days of Sodom, how can one not love just how wrong these doctors were, how fevered their imaginations, how goth it all is?
posted by mittens at 6:24 PM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

Man, I WISH I had a florid catalog of vice's worth of sordid sexual past to shock and horrify heterosexual people with. I think I might be doing bisexuality all wrong.

(If only I had realized before my twenties that bisexuality was even an option, a thing that existed in the world! My fevered teen dramas and fantasies could have been so much more fevered!)
posted by Stacey at 6:44 PM on June 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

Gah, the newspaper article it links to is just awful. How much agony is one kid supposed to go through, before someone will step in and help? The article mentions that he came out about six months before his death. But was bullied long, long before that. I swear, it's like people spend all their time sniffing out difference, declared or undeclared, so they can have a hand in smashing it.
posted by mittens at 3:22 PM on June 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

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