Bi-Medial
June 23, 2018 6:53 PM   Subscribe

Looking at the current state of being bisexual on TV.
I was told so many lies about what being bisexual means that it took me 27 years to come out as bisexual myself. Friends shrugged that bisexual people just couldn’t make up their minds. Family members insisted that being gay or straight was one thing, but anything in between just didn’t make sense. And in a crushing blow, my beloved escape, television, insisted over and over that someone who might like men and women was a confused joke at best, and a slutty sinner at worst.

Thinking about why bisexuals are better represented on TV than in film. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was moved to song and dance when a character came out as bi. [youtube] New YA Books with bisexual characters. The problems with some of the songs about kissing both boys and girls (and how they still serve a purpose).
posted by Margalo Epps (59 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
 
Finally signed up for Metafilter membership because I wanted to respond to this post.

I don't know how to handle telling people that I am bi. Some of my close friends know, but they are the closest that I have.

It bothers me that even in the LGBT community that there is discrimination against bi people for "not picking a side" or whatever.

I'm too self conscious to really be super open about it, yet at the same time I have many interests and hobbies that are not super manly.

I would argue that I am super "pass for straight" as I am tall, deep voiced, and rather broad-built. This makes me grateful for my friends in and out of the LGBT community that do not follow the suspicious nature that others seem to have.
posted by FleetMind at 8:06 PM on June 23 [55 favorites]


I suspect that House of Cards escaped mention because of star Kevin Spacey's sexual misconduct. In the show-world (spoiler alert), he's bisexual or, according to the creator, just agnostic to labels. Though the show mostly portrays broken relationships and such, that element was kind of well-portrayed, I think. Though as aforementioned, Spacey's behavior casts a shadow on his work product.
posted by tmcw at 8:23 PM on June 23 [2 favorites]


It bothers me that even in the LGBT community that there is discrimination against bi people for "not picking a side" or whatever.

Oh yes. This is so totally a thing that I now just laugh in that not-funny kind of way. Before gender transition no-one believed I was bi: my partner is a woman therefore I must really be a straight man regardless of what I said. Now that I almost pass as cis, people assume I'm a lesbian. When they find out I'm trans, they either shrug their shoulders and drop the topic (most people) or call me a perverted straight man (TERFs). In no version of the conversation I've encountered has anyone ever really considered the idea that being bisexual is just as legitimate as being straight or gay. Can't say I understand why people are like that, but it's pretty consistent.
posted by saltbush and olive at 8:53 PM on June 23 [24 favorites]


I am loving loving loving this current boom of bi fiction, so much. It is healing to past me, who had loved ones who said horrible biphobic things around me when I was still in the closet, then when I was only out to my close family and friends. I did the full public coming out a year ago, and I was so scared and Am I A Fake Bi? and Everyone knows and I'm already like, actively queer, so what does it matter if I tell everyone etc etc but just for me, personally, it's been so much more freeing and amazing than I ever expected. To be able to claim a part of my identity made me take it more seriously - made me see how shitty it was how I was treated, how just not fake I am, how I deserve to treat myself.

I wish I could go back and give scared sixteen year old me all of these characters. It would have made it, not totally doable, but so much easier. Even now, it makes me feel more real. (And so many of these characters are just great characters to watch, period - shout out to Kat Edison on The Bold Type, and of course AVATAR KORRA AND ASAMI SATO, as well as every character almost on Steven Universe if we're including kid's tv, half the cast of Sense8.....)
posted by colorblock sock at 8:54 PM on June 23 [7 favorites]


Something that disappointed me about how TV represented bisexuality in the past is that it'd been all too often used more as plot device, a surprise twist to a character seemingly established as straight, more than a ongoing development from the beginning or something more defining of the character's world view instead of just some switch that gets flipped when they need something dramatic to happen.

The plus side of that was that it created a sense of sexual fluidity, but at worse it suggested sexual desire is just a matter of choice all around, which can be potentially demeaning to gay and lesbian experience, in no small part because too many shows didn't include anything close to a reasonable spectrum of representation.

Since I haven't seen most of the shows mentioned in the article, I hope it is true that current shows are making this less about the "drama" and more about being genuine to the experience. I'd feel better about it were there more major male characters identifying as bi since the way media handles female sexuality as a selling point has been its own huge problem. I am cheered though to see things do seem to be improving.
posted by gusottertrout at 9:00 PM on June 23 [5 favorites]


Saltbush:. I believe that people want things to be either/or. To have to understand degrees of change or how someone fits on a scale is difficult and therefore not worthy of challenging their worldview.
posted by FleetMind at 9:01 PM on June 23


I agree that bi men are underrepresented, and nonbinary bi people not at all.

I was shocked when Santa Clarita Diet used the word "bisexual" explicitly to describe a character at the end of the second season. Not that there was any doubt, it was just refreshing that finally a TV show used idiomatic and direct language to describe that character development.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 9:21 PM on June 23 [7 favorites]


A minor quibble: "Bisexual-plus" is one of the more awkward constructions for dealing with the nomenclature problem. Gods I hope we get a better word.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 9:39 PM on June 23 [1 favorite]


The Captain of the Orville (Seth MacFarlane) had a gay relationship in one episode, with no surprise or judgement even from the ex-wife character, this being the future.
It was cool to see that in a Trek-like setting, and a comedy too.
posted by w0mbat at 9:52 PM on June 23 [7 favorites]


"Bisexual-plus" is one of the more awkward constructions for dealing with the nomenclature problem. Gods I hope we get a better word.

I can't quite figure out if I like pansexual better than bi or not. I like that it's broader and more clearly includes nonbinary amongst the attractive, but I still have a hard time saying it first. It kinda comes out, "I'm bi, well, pansexual, really." Just to make it more awkward. Also not sure it's really a better word.
posted by Margalo Epps at 10:00 PM on June 23 [7 favorites]


I’m sure it’s entirely valid terminology for tiise that use it but it just works out it does not describe anything that no does not. And the flag is worse.
posted by Artw at 10:19 PM on June 23


Completely white cis-dude walking here - am completely surprised that people on any side take this further than the old Woody Allen joke about doubling your chances of a date, because seriously, the heart wants what it wants.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could just drop the obsession with everyone's sexual desires - straight, gay, bi, non, etc. [assuming consent - naturally]

I may not swing the way you swing, but I fully support people's right to find a meaningful happiness.
posted by drewbage1847 at 11:18 PM on June 23 [4 favorites]


Wouldn't it be nice if we could just drop the obsession with everyone's sexual desires - straight, gay, bi, non, etc.

The overwhelming dominance of the social norm of “being straight” warps and distorts how everyone not straight experiences and shares their sexuality. I just see that as a constant that’s not going away anytime soon.
posted by nikaspark at 11:43 PM on June 23 [22 favorites]


I'm still watching the bi-pan terminology debates. I like some of the aesthetics used by the pansexual crowd, but I was out as bi for over 25 years before I'd even heard the term "pansexual;" I'm twitchy about changing how I think of and refer to a major part of my self-identity based on current tumblr fads.

I've seen a lot of comments that "bi is confusing because it implies only two genders" and I really don't have the energy to get into, "pan is confusing because it implies that you will sleep with anyone or any thing," and their strong insistence that that is totally NOT what pansexual means, will not make a bit of difference in how the mainstream media portrays the term.

After all, the mainstream media has been trying to convince everyone that "bi" doesn't actually exist since the moment they decided to grudgingly acknowledge that "gay" does.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 11:45 PM on June 23 [14 favorites]


There’s some shitty /pol/ op on to this effect at the moment too, which does not help matters.
posted by Artw at 11:50 PM on June 23


(I suspect the recent revived “queer is a slur” thing is basically an assault on everyone outside the L and G)
posted by Artw at 11:51 PM on June 23 [24 favorites]


^^^^YUP!
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 11:54 PM on June 23 [4 favorites]


It would be nice. However, I'm just coming out (pun intended) of a period where the stress of trying to figure out who knew what was eating me alive. I'm a survivor of a particularly ugly form of anti-bisexual relationship violence. So are nearly half of bi women and a quarter of bi men. I need to get some serious relationships with health care going, because bi people are at higher risk of heart disease and diabetes, with mental health and access to primary health care as key associated risks there. There are higher risks of suicide and substance abuse also. While I'm not sexually active, many of my peers need PrEP and HIV testing, and so do their partners.

I've come to the conclusion in the last few years that the only way I'm going to get the support I need to live a healthy life in spite of all those factors is to aggressively advocate for my own health care needs (including mental health care). (While my partner and I figure out our own genders in middle age.)
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 12:12 AM on June 24 [7 favorites]


I'm still watching the bi-pan terminology debates. I like some of the aesthetics used by the pansexual crowd, but I was out as bi for over 25 years before I'd even heard the term "pansexual;" I'm twitchy about changing how I think of and refer to a major part of my self-identity based on current tumblr fads.

This debate significantly predates tumblr. It's awfully disingenuous to suggest that people attempting to parse out the better choice are basing it on "current tumblr fads".
posted by hoyland at 3:05 AM on June 24 [6 favorites]


That probably sounds harsher than I intend. Being caught on either side of the bi/pan debate really sucks.
posted by hoyland at 3:31 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


I can't stand the bi/pan argument. People can use both or neither, and that's entirely up to them.

I like bi because it gives me a connection to queer history, because it's still not really recognised so why introduce a new word, because I understand bi to mean same gender and different gender, and because the first few pan people I met happened to be assholes so it never had a chance to be something I wanted.

On the other hand, people might be pan for equal and opposite reasons. Homeless rates for LGBTQ kids are astronomical. My friend got assaulted by their dad for being queer. There are so many more important things for me to care about than the vocabulary someone uses to describe themselves and their experiences. I wish we could reframe it as a positive, oh you're pan, what does that mean to you? How lovely! I like bi because of these other reason. We're both great etc.
posted by Braeburn at 6:07 AM on June 24 [13 favorites]


While the original debate goes back to the 1990s, I think it's shifted in recent years from, "here's a better synonym for bisexual" (which I moderately agree with, but the "-sexual" root is just as problematic), to "if we have two words, we must construct two completely separate categories." The latter argument seems to come with increasingly strident erasure of nonbinary and genderqueer lives from LGB history. One of the things that bi theory brings to the table is that the interstitial and frequently invisible experiences of bi people exposes how our labels and community boundaries are fuzzy and culturally constructed.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 6:24 AM on June 24 [6 favorites]


Can i just use "queer" instead and let other people try to figure out what I mean exactly (pro tip: it's not necessarily their business!)?

I am very reluctant to even do that publicly though because I've been in a straight ltr forever and even prior to that because of where I was living (tiny rural college, the 90s) my opportunities for gay relationships were very very limited. I dated around a bit but then met my now-husband pretty young by modern standards and we're monogamous, so. I am queer, but identifying that way feels like I'm appropriating something that isn't mine. I think a lot of monogamous bi/pan people whose relationship roulette wheel came to a stop on a straight relationship feel the same.

I came out to my parents when I met a woman who I thought I might actually be dating for a while (it didn't actually work out in the end) and I was shocked at how my heretofore socially liberal parents reacted. They have had gay friends etc but bi was this whole other thing they couldn't wrap their heads around. It was shocking.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:56 AM on June 24 [24 favorites]


Anyone who tries to gatekeep your out of being queer because you haven't dated enough people of the same gender can get lost. They're no different from adults saying 13 year olds can't be gay because they're too young to know, or just need to find the right man/woman.
posted by Braeburn at 7:36 AM on June 24 [11 favorites]


I like bi because it gives me a connection to queer history, because it's still not really recognised so why introduce a new word

Same. For me, using "bi" is a political act and I say this as a trans spectrum person who is often attracted to trans spectrum people.

There's something really fierce and in your face about saying bi and I like that. I have no idea if I'm making any sense.

The struggle of writing bi people is real, though. If you have them end up with a man or a woman will readers interpret it one way or another? If they are poly or are in too many relationships will it seem like you are writing them as promiscuous?

My solution has been to write almost exclusively queer people and many many iterations of bisexuality.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:07 AM on June 24 [9 favorites]


Also it might be recent and historic experiences with queer gatekeeping but fuck this noise:

I am very reluctant to even do that publicly though because I've been in a straight ltr forever and even prior to that because of where I was living (tiny rural college, the 90s) my opportunities for gay relationships were very very limited. I dated around a bit but then met my now-husband pretty young by modern standards and we're monogamous, so. I am queer, but identifying that way feels like I'm appropriating something that isn't mine. I think a lot of monogamous bi/pan people whose relationship roulette wheel came to a stop on a straight relationship feel the same.

You're not appropriating anything and the closet is a prison and anyone who tells you that you're privileged just because you are forced into the closet by both queer and straight society (and therefore cut off from supportive queer community, too) is flat out wrong. All the rage.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:10 AM on June 24 [17 favorites]


I'd just like to take a moment to say, as a straight white cis man, that I am profoundly grateful for the thoughtful and articulate discussions about these issues on Metafilter over the years. I think of myself as a reasonable and tolerant person, but I don't have much real-life interaction with the queer community. When my daughter came out to me as bisexual, my instincts were almost entirely wrong. I think that the main reason I managed to be actually supportive, rather saying things that were well-intentioned but damaging, was the time I've spent reflecting on what I've read from you guys.

That includes the mistake that "bi" is somehow "halfheartedly gay." After all the tension in our house about possibly working up the nerve to ask a girl to the big school dance, I was genuinely surprised by the crush on a boy later in the year.

Thanks, Mefi, for helping me be a non-shitty person.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 8:46 AM on June 24 [36 favorites]


I suspect the recent revived “queer is a slur” thing is basically an assault on everyone outside the L and G

Really? That's happening again? Because this bi woman married to a man identifies as queer and I really don't plan on stopping because fuck gatekeeping. The last time anyone referenced me as bisexual was when Kid Ruki outed me to her friends to let them know that I was a safe person. (And I've since become the mom who takes them to Pride every year.)
posted by Ruki at 9:38 AM on June 24 [9 favorites]


It’s been cropping up on Twitter a lot. I suspect it’s more of a TERF thing than “drop the B”, which is proven as a channer op.
posted by Artw at 9:45 AM on June 24 [5 favorites]


Sigh, yet again, genre fiction only gets peripheral attention in discussions of TV shows that might be relevant here, which is too bad. An entire article about this in 2018 that doesn't mention the gloriously fluid sexuality of multiple characters on The Magicians? That's unfortunate.

Seriously, if you like supernatural shows at all and want to see lovely, so millennial, no-one-really-blinks queer and bisexual representation, check it out. Yeah, it's campy sometimes. That's part of the point.

For myself, yeah, I've definitely been told by both gay and straight folks, some of the people closest to me, that I'm not really bi, and it led me to not claim that for myself for way longer than I should've let their judgments affect me. When I started to realize I was genderqueer and come out to a few people, I tried to explain it to some of the people closest to me and got thoughtful questions from one, total understanding some others, but unfortunately just not really a lot of understanding from one of the same people who told me I wasn't really bi. Instead, he started complaining about labels and why can't we all just stop labeling ourselves and each other and just be, and while I sort of agreed, that's not where we are societally and this label is important to me and one I've only just started to apply to myself, so can we get back to any substantive discussion of what I just came out to you as? But that's about as far as that discussion went. (For the record, I'm both bi and genderqueer, but also a woman married to a man who likes stereotypically femme stuff like candles and scented bath salts more than I do, and all of that is real.)

We're so close and yet so far from understanding. I'm just glad that there's more vocabulary available now for what I am and my friends are than when we were younger.

I was going back through photos from the past few years to find some to post on Instagram for Pride, since I'm currently recovering from injury and won't be going to Pride festivities myself to take new ones. One that I posted, a nostalgic shot of a local theater marquee at sunset, listing Rocky Horror Picture Show, got mixed reception (well, just didn't get liked by everyone I thought it would), and I was doing some reading and thinking about how times have changed, that we can acknowledge the damage queer and bisexual depictions like that did while also recognizing it was part of our experience growing up. I don't recall ever doing the whole experience at the theater—I saw the movie with my parents, on VHS, at home, which really took a lot of the fun out of it and highlighted how bizarre it was—but friends did, and I think it influenced the behavior of some of my friends in high school (e.g., it likely inspired some actually predatory and hypersexual behavior that has since been apologized for).

But my nostalgia for seeing that on the marquee is about more than that—it's about representation, about coming of age and coming out and living in an area for 10 years that was where young queer and rocker and goth and any other "alternative" kids went to promenade and see shows and buy records and try new-to-them cuisines on the weekends. I smile when I see that because even if those kids weren't all the way to wherever they were headed on their respective journeys, and even if at the end of the night they'd go back to judgmental suburban or rural communities, and even if the movie just isn't that great, they at least had the freedom to come there and have those experiences and see that midnight showing.
posted by limeonaire at 10:07 AM on June 24 [9 favorites]


Didn’t know TV Constarine was going there, though, that’s pretty cool.

/continues to ignore CW DCU.
posted by Artw at 10:14 AM on June 24


I really like queer SFF these days because it offers stories where homophobia and transphobia are not the primary conflicts, or even conflicts at all. I'm happy that I'm now spoiled for choice rather than picking from single-page pull lists. Comics are in a good space. (I really need to catch up on Saga and WikDiv.) TV I'm a bit mixed on because there are few of the shows mentioned that are on my routine rotation. Sure, there's a quick hit in Black Mirror: Kill the DJ, but that's blink-and-you'll miss it stuff.

Blockbuster cinema? I call the contrast between safe off-screen statements by directors, actors, and writers compared to what we actually get onscreen bi erasure. I'm a bit annoyed with creators saying "of course you can read it that way" to fans, but never investing anything more than a wink-wink-nudge-nudge. I want them to invest the obscene costs per minute of completed footage to actually doing it.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 10:38 AM on June 24 [5 favorites]


Ooops, I forgot to mention that the other side of the equation is that if the word "bisexual" or "pansexual" is not explicitly said on the screen, people will debate what that scene really meant. And one of the uglier parts of fandom these days is a willingness to get fighty over any bit of ambiguity, even if intentional.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 10:41 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


Blockbuster cinema? I call the contrast between safe off-screen statements by directors, actors, and writers compared to what we actually get onscreen bi erasure.

I just watched Love, Simon last night and it made me sad that they erased the bi characters. In particular, they had Cal on screen expressing sympathy after Simon has been outed, but don't bother to have one sentence more of, "I'm bi" that the book had. Once they decided to have Cal in that scene, why stop him there?
posted by Margalo Epps at 11:06 AM on June 24


Just came here off seeing people I thought I respected on twitter getting all snotty about the term queer.
They said they were upset that straight people used it. This is not something I've really seen. I'm sure it happens, but I wonder if the people they're upset with are actually straight, or just not some narrow definition of queer.

Fortunately the queer groups I'm in don't ask people why or how they define themselves as queer. Yet I'm still afraid of telling people that I'm bi, and I'm relatively sure that a lot of the people I know in them think I'm gay. I'm scared of letting slip that I also find not-male people attractive. I shouldn't be scared of that. Yet I am.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 11:21 AM on June 24 [8 favorites]


I'm bi, and have been in a relationship with another bi person for seventeen years (exactly seventeen years today, actually!) We've been discussing this post today.

I got a fair bit of flack for being bi when I was in college, mostly from a certain subset of people in the gay community. I haven't noticed any disapprobation so much since then (I mean, aside from outright general homophobes), but on the other hand, as has been noted, a lot of bi people can end up "passing" one way or the other, because people make assumptions. No one necessarily knows I'm bi unless it comes up. So I don't know if things have changed a bit or if I simply am not in a position to notice it now. I hope it's the former. I feel like it may be, at least to some extent.

I'm personally more comfortable with the term "bisexual" than "pansexual", simply because of the connotations the terms have for me, although I acknowledge that "bisexual" has problematic linguistic aspects (e.g., reinforcing the idea of a gender binary.) "Queer" has always seemed useful as a term since its reclamation, for just that kind of reason.
posted by kyrademon at 11:41 AM on June 24 [3 favorites]


I wish everyone along the non straight axis could recognize that we’re all defined and rotating around the gravity well of what straight is. There is no degree of queerness, there’s only a razor thin event horizon between straight/not straight and cis/not cis.

How queer people trespass into cis/straight and back out is a whole kind of clusterfuck orbit unto itself that is worthy of specific validation and I am so so so tired of the internecine bickering between queer groups failing to recognize that we are all “in service” to whatever bullshit straight world is on about. We’re hitched to their train, this is the straight’s world and the rest of us are being whipsawed by it. I just want for queer communities to do a better job recognizing how we’re all shaped by straightness, that it’s a common bond from which we can build relationships and communities as opposed to neverending discourse on where exactly the label boundaries begin and end and apply.

All of us queer folks are adrift and fluid in the queer Oort Cloud suspension that is orbiting the black hole of the Heteropatriarchy. I’m not here to talk shit about your specific orbit, I’m here to support you and listen and understand and hold space for the phenomenological wonder that you are.
posted by nikaspark at 2:48 PM on June 24 [19 favorites]


Thanks for the post, OP. I am cis woman who was married to a man for really long time. I am old and have dated only two women in my life, briefly a few years ago. So I feel like a fraud if I say I am bi. When I told one of the dates I was nervous and explained it was because I hadn’t dated many women, she asked me why not. And I had to explain, because she was 20 years younger than I am, that when I was growing up I didn’t know I had a choice. Like, you could be straight or you could be gay and I clearly wasn’t gay. So it only recently occurred to me that there was actually another choice—for me. And I remembered the huge crush I had in college on one of my girlfriends and it was not an innocent, friendly crush.

So I am super late to the party and can’t imagine getting to date women at my age given my lack of experience. It’s a terrifying thought. Also, I have plenty of gay friends and have one bisexual buddy but no real experience of queer culture however one might define that. Which makes me feel sad.

I’m in a new city this year and pride here is in August. Several years ago I saw a pair of baby lesbians or perhaps baby pansexuals (obviously not babies but a super young couple adorable in every way) here in Stockholm. Just seeing them together during pride week kept a smile on my face for days. I was so happy for them. I recently found out during a conversation with my son-in-law that he is bisexual. I turned to my daughter and said, why didn’t you tell me, that would’ve made me like him all the more.

In short: I’m old, I don’t know anything about being bisexual, but I’m pretty sure I am. But I am not sure I will get to explore more about that part of myself or not. Maybe it’s time for a bunch of educational TV watching. :-)
posted by Bella Donna at 2:59 PM on June 24 [13 favorites]


One of a handful of books that changed my life: Bi Any Other Name.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 3:08 PM on June 24 [5 favorites]


nikaspark, I have flagged your comment as fantastic. Yes, please, more of that!
posted by Bella Donna at 3:38 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


I’m slowly wrapping my head around my non-binary self, and I’m having a hard time with those who hold so tightly to the term bisexual over pansexual. As they talk about feeling erased, they brush aside and “well actually” away my feeling about being erased by the term bisexual. Impact matters more than intent, friends. It sounds so much like those explaining to me that fireman includes women because mankind or something.
posted by advicepig at 6:12 PM on June 24 [3 favorites]


I think if we’re actually acknowledging they are synonyms that allows for a lot of progress. The conversations where that doesn’t happen are a dumb roundabout.
posted by Artw at 7:00 PM on June 24


It constantly weirds me out that denial of bisexuality is a thing. Like, ever since the beginning of scientific study of sexual orientation (Alfred Kinsey) we've known that sexual orientation is a continuum with most people at least a little ways toward the middle rather than totally off to one side or the other. Like, I consider myself straight, but I've been attracted to men before and I've had sexual encounters with men. Not for years and years now, but who knows? Whatever, I'm a 1 rather than a 0 on the Kinsey Scale. But the point is, it's a super well-established fact that you get people who are at all points on that continuum, and denying that is weird to me, like denying climate change or evolution. It's the elevation of some fucked-up oppressive ideology over established reality.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:58 PM on June 24 [3 favorites]


And like… how obtuse does someone have to be to tell a person that they can't possibly be bi based on the gender of their partner? What do people expect bisexual monogamy to look like? You have one partner, and generally speaking your partner is only going to have one gender, so…? What? What's not to understand there?
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 8:03 PM on June 24 [3 favorites]


I'm non-binary, and I've always used bi rather than pan. I know a lot of other non-binary people in the same situation. For me, I think part of it was that at the time and in the communities where I was doing my queer identity formation, there was a pretty strong current of people using pan not with the idea of including non-binary people, but rather to include binary trans people, which was pretty chaser-y and missing the point by a wide margin.

Labeling for the community of people who fall under bisexual, pansexual, and other related terms has always been a pretty fractious thing, I think. Even before pansexual took off, there was always a large number of people in that community who'd pick "prefer not to label" or "queer" on surveys of identity. I don't expect it to settle down anytime soon.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 8:43 PM on June 24 [3 favorites]


I love the word queer - both as a word (that lovely "eear" sound) and as an umbrella term: completely inclusive without being alphabet soup.

I am aware of the issue that, for many people, it still hurts, because of how it has been used against them.

It's also an umbrella term: if I used only "queer", that does nothing for visibility for bi+ people. Already, too many people in the queer community seem to think we're a small number - when we're a LOT of people (active in the queer community, and not active in).

It's really important for me to be seen as "not straight but also not gay" - so that other people (younger, older, whatever) will recognise that and see me as being like them, knowing that I understand (some of) their experiences. It's important for people who aren't bi+ to see me and recognise me as bi+, especially when active in the queer community - so that they realise how many people who are volunteering and working to better things for LGBT+ people are coming from that B (and/or P) - so that they remember that the "Mother of Pride" was non-monosexual, that we've always been here, in the trenches of the movement.
posted by jb at 9:24 PM on June 24 [3 favorites]


also, terrific link. I'll be sharing on Bi+ Twitter (because of course that's totally a thing :)
posted by jb at 9:25 PM on June 24


I’m slowly wrapping my head around my non-binary self, and I’m having a hard time with those who hold so tightly to the term bisexual over pansexual. As they talk about feeling erased, they brush aside and “well actually” away my feeling about being erased by the term bisexual.

Are these conversations with people saying "here's how I identify" or with people saying "here's how people should identify"? While I dislike and will vigorously argue against a normative "here's how everyone needs to be talking about this", if somebody is talking about the terms that feel appropriate for them as self-description, it's not erasing your identity if they use terms other than you do.

For context, I'm speaking as someone who has been and continues to contemplate whether I consider myself nonbinary, genderqueer, or demigender, bisexual or pansexual, or… terms that haven't been invented yet but which may describe my experience better than any of the ones I'm aware of. I mean, when I was growing up I don't think the concept of being nonbinary had crossed my radar, and it blew my mind in an "oh, yes, this is me" way once I learned about it.

Terminology is in flux. Different people feel okay with different words. I think it's valuable to try to stay open to how things change, while standing up to any attempts from anyone else to dictate how one describes oneself and one's experience.
posted by Lexica at 9:27 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


Bi and/or Queer-identified here. I'm half a century old and could give a fuck what straight society thinks of my orientation identification. Bi because I came of age and came out in the '80s before I had heard of Pan (my stepkid identifies as Pan and is a great kiddo and can identify as whatever she thinks is right for her.) Queer because I'm not, like, half-straight or whatever. I'm 100% queer.

I'm in a +10 years het marriage, and my orientation could easily be a non-issue if I wanted to "pass."

But fuck passing.

I was listening to public radio, and a person who identifies as bisexual and is a stand-up comedian was talking about their life, and it was the first time in years that I had heard a person talking about being bisexual on a a mainstream outlet. I started crying in the CVS parking lot.

"Gettin Bi" from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is great, and all, but the Bi National Anthem is Don't Stop Me Now by Queen. It's also the Cocaine National Anthem, but what can ya do?
posted by Cookiebastard at 9:57 PM on June 24 [9 favorites]


What frustrates me about this discussion is that "bisexual" is not my choice. It's never been my choice any more than it's my choice to be constructed as a white person, as (mostly) male-passing, as American, or as a resident of my city. I never had that self-realization on my own terms. My first lover in early adulthood (possibly more accurate to say late adolescence) confronted me with the recognition that I was staring too long at a mutual acquaintance with, "oh shit, you're bisexual." Later that year, she'd get emotionally, physically, and sexual abusive because I was gender-nonconforming and a "natural born cheater." She both demanded and hated non-monogamy, so I had to negotiate a health care system that had just, in the previous decade, demonized bi men in order to criminalize transmission of HIV.

Prior to that, I had been constructed as "gay" because I was a "sissy" in spite of my denials. After, coming out, I was quite aware of the fact that I was accused of being "performatively" feminine when the only thing that consciously changed was the willingness to say I'm bi." While inversion theory may be unfashionable to speak out loud, American culture runs on the ideology that gay/lesbian = gender-nonconforming = in need of a beating, or at least pity. "Bisexual" was directly translated from a German text that used "hermaphrodite" that espoused this theory. A large chunk of that abuse in my first relationship came about because I was starting to question my gender as well, later, I'd have another problem with a partner who fetishized my sexuality and gender as a project.

A few years ago, I took a hard look at my life and realized that the closets I constructed again were threatening to kill me, again. Failing to get affirmative care for all of that trauma from my adolescence was like a pack-a-day habit. Failing to deal with the gender-identity issues was another pack-a-day habit. So again, I deal with cultural systems where I'm constructed as bisexual. I need health care informed by the facts that straight people abuse bisexual people in horrific numbers and that minority stress increases diabetes and heart disease risks for bisexual people. I would prefer a better term without the pseudo-scientific "-sexual" suffix or a history tainted by Victorian or Freudian psychology. But I have to work with the tools I have today for describing violence and discrimination against people attracted to more than one gender.

Meanwhile, trans and nonbinary people have and are always been a part of gay, lesbian, and bisexual culture. So I do work on the other end to ensure that trans-inclusive definitions are used anywhere I participate in that culture, and that trans people are explicitly included and acknowledged when I do work building those groups. All things being equal, I'm not entirely happy with "bisexual" but I refuse to rewrite living history around an etymological fallacy.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 4:23 AM on June 25 [5 favorites]


As a bi college student who hangs out mostly in queer (very G/L dominated) circles, I'm happy to report that people seem to get my and others' bi-ness now, at least in this one forward-thinking place and location.

The people who now seem to get the "but are you really part of the community", "are you really sure you just haven't decided", "but YOU guys weren't at stonewall" treatment around my university, at least, are the ace folks. It makes me sick to hear all the same dumb arguments people used as an excuse for biphobia again.
posted by sidek at 4:30 AM on June 25 [1 favorite]


..."but YOU guys weren't at stonewall"...

BI'S WERE AT STONEWALL

Just, you know, in case anyone makes that argument with you again.
posted by Cookiebastard at 6:24 AM on June 25 [6 favorites]


and we were there a month after Stonewall, at the first Pride March.
posted by jb at 7:02 AM on June 25 [1 favorite]


in 2016, I was involved in a mini-memorial quilting project - Remember My Name - on the theme of "We've Always Been Here" - to highlight that lesbians, bisexual women and non-binary people, trans people and other (non-cis-male) queer folk have always been there - at Stonewall, before Stonewall, after Stonewall. Brenda Howard (first panel, lower left) was just one of several bi people we featured.

Also, I'll add a plug for the Bi Arts Festival which had its inaugural year in 2017, and is planning another festival for Sept 23, 2018. If you're in the Toronto area - or are willing to travel to the Toronto area - it's really worth checking out.
posted by jb at 7:12 AM on June 25 [4 favorites]


This hits really close to home for me. I'm in my late thirties and just finally accepting that I'm bi (as opposed to straight) and wow is it exciting but also kind of overwhelming! I'm not out to anyone in my life yet but I also don't think most people who know me will be super surprised either when I do eventually tell them. But that's going to be frustrating too - my relationships with men have either been nonexistent or a bit of disaster, so I think a lot of people are just going to assume I'm bi as a pit stop to gay. But that's not really something I can control.

I will say, the uptick in bi representation has helped a lot. Given my age, I really liked Darryl's story on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and I love that they chose to make him bi and not simply gay, given that he'd been married for years to a woman. Interestingly, I saw the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend live show and Rachel Bloom came out to the crowd as bi, so it's definitely coming from a personal place there.

One thing I've seen a bunch of bi friends on social media talking about lately is how pre-teen/teen girls often get messages like "it's normal to have confusing thoughts/feelings about your female friends, it doesn't mean you're gay" and how if you're bisexual (or even gay), it can further confuse things. I spent so many years writing feelings off as "girl crushes" when, like, if you want to make out with someone, that's a lot more than "oh I really like that girl's style and I want to be friends with her."
posted by the sockening at 9:07 AM on June 25 [9 favorites]


That message was the only line about LGBT life I remember from my k-12 education.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 10:30 AM on June 25


“it's normal to have confusing thoughts/feelings about your female friends, it doesn't mean you're gay"

And how misogyny reinforces that boys are terrible and horrific people for having these feelings.

The stacking of misogyny on top of homophobia that keeps gay boys in the closet and trans girls repressed and unable to experience safe and validating explorations of love and relationships is a thing that has harmed me so greatly that I’m not sure I’ll ever stop being white hot rage angry about it.
posted by nikaspark at 11:29 AM on June 25 [5 favorites]


"The Captain of the Orville (Seth MacFarlane) had a gay relationship in one episode, with no surprise or judgement even from the ex-wife character, this being the future.
It was cool to see that in a Trek-like setting, and a comedy too."

Aside from the weird twist of the attraction coming from an alien pheromone or whatever, I did like how casual they pulled the whole thing off. I don't recall a moment where the idea of two men together was itself played for laughs or shock, like, the focus was on the abrupt shift on interest from his ex to this person he until recently resented greatly.
posted by GoblinHoney at 3:20 PM on June 25




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