Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Uncomfortable Existence of Bisexuality

Lesbians are still very uncomfortable with us bisexual women. I thought I was sitting down to read a positive article about bisexuality
“Riding a Bi-cycle” by Michele Fisher published in Curve Magazine, but despite the author’s struggle to accept bisexual women I am gagging in disgust.

The article begins with Michele writing about a co-worker confessing to her that her daughter might be a lesbian. This is immediately ruled out through the discussion and opens up to the possibility that the women’s daughter might be bisexual. Both the mother and Michele, per her description, were uncomfortable with this possibility. Further into the article, Michele invalidates the fact that bisexuality is an actual sexual orientation when she writes, “I assured her that her girl would most likely end up on one side of the fence or the other…” despite her endorsement that “there was nothing wrong with loving both genders.” Michele continues to defend bisexuals, but ends the article with the women confessing that her daughter was only trying to get back at her boyfriend where Michele writes, “Goddamned bisexuals.”

It’s difficult to applaud Michele for her efforts to open up and accept bisexuals for who we are when she immediately backstabs us by suggesting that once again the bi-way is just a stop on the way to being gay-all-the-way or just your average straight. She’s not the only one who has this problem. Both the gay and straight communities have a very difficult time with us bisexuals and it becomes even more personal when it’s someone your dating or a family member who just doesn’t understand.

For example, recently the guy I’ve been dating made a comment that if I was with a straight guy for a long time that would make me straight. Immediately, I told him that just because I’m in an exclusive long-term relationship with a man does not change my sexual orientation, I may get heterosexual privilege until I come out (which I do). Even if I was in an exclusive long-term relationship with a woman that wouldn’t necessarily give me my lesbian card and I wouldn’t want it. It doesn’t change the fact that I’m a bisexual woman who is monogamous. He recently corrected his original statement and we have moved on in our relationship.

Michele states in the article that it’s a good thing that teens feel more comfortable to explore their sexuality by experimenting, a benefit of the GLBTQ movement and the media exposure since the 90s. I agree that it’s healthy to explore sexuality, but also Michele tries to downplay how personal sexuality is, but it’s clear how she ended the article that sexuality is very personal.

Granted, the teenager in question that the discussion in this article is based around was, well, acting like a teenage girl who is upset with her boyfriend. I don’t condone this behavior, even though it is a part of adolescence, but it doesn’t make her bisexual. It is an indication that, because the girl’s friends had “tried girls,” the success of the GLBTQ movement and media attention that this younger set is more open to experiment with their sexuality, but not at the cost of hurting other people and definitely not oneself. Bisexuals are not perfect, but negative and positive ethical behavior by anyone is what should be considered, not the sexual orientation.

Michele is correct by stating that sexuality is a continuum with many varieties in between.
Alfred Kinsey discovered just how fluid and diverse human sexuality is during the 40s and 50s. Unfortunately she, like a majority of people in the gay and straight communities slips back into the polarized belief that people are either gay or straight in the end.

The fact is that love and sexuality are more expandable than people want to think or believe. The bisexual community is very diverse with people expressing the way they love and are sexual in a plethora of ways throughout their lives, just like anyone else. There are bisexuals who are in polyamourous relationships, there are bisexuals who are monogamous, there are bisexuals who are celibate, there are bisexuals who are married and have kids, there are bisexuals who date women for long periods of time and then date men for long periods of time or simply just non-monogamous and date both and are comfortable with that. This frightens and confuses a great many people because relationships in themselves can be and are experiences that often are risky and exhilarating simultaneously.

Expanding the experience of love and sex beyond one person or beyond one gender disrupts people’s ideas of what they’ve been taught about what love and sex is. It awakens our insecurity and knowledge of uncertainty, because the world is uncertain, when we strive for safety and security. As
Eve Ensler points out with her new book, Insecure At Last: Losing it in Our Security Obsessed World, striving for security insolates, closes us off, and creates more problems – it does the opposite of what we are striving for because we aren’t open to new experiences, new and fresh ways of perceiving the situations and the world we live in, or that it’s even OK to have multiple ways of doing, believing, and thinking of things. Bisexuality signals movement, which leads to uncertainty and means people can’t simply check off a box. It encompasses the vast grey area of our world, puts it out in front in the most intimate way, and forces open the doors to the expansion of ourselves. As E.M. Forster wrote in Maurice, “For he sees the flesh educating the spirit, as his has never been educated, and developing the sluggish heart and the slack mind against their will.”