Gut Feeling

Today I was working at an event to benefit the local transgender community – a community that intersects with all the other letters of the awkward initialism by which we identify ourselves.  We had received a substantial in-kind donation from a person whose transgender child had passed on.

When I heard the news, I felt it in my gut.  The person who told me this saw my face, and clarified that it was natural causes.

“Wow,” I responded.  “That’s unusual.”  And then it struck me.  It is unusual, in our communities, for natural causes to be the stated reason for our deaths.  This is not the case in the cisgender heterosexual mainstream world.

So I told another person, also Queer, about the donation and the circumstances.  They got That Look, you know the one.  So I gave them the rest of the story, and they said. “Huh.”

Huh.  Wow.  That’s different.

This cannot be allowed to continue.  It can not be acceptable for any part of our community – a part that intersects all other parts so intimately – to have natural causes of death not even be on the radar as a first or second possibility.

People ask what it is we want.  What’s the point of Pride, or of being out of the closet, they ask.  And there are a million answers to those kinds of questions.

But the right to have the ends of our lives be easily and naturally assumed to be something other than a word ending in –cide, it seems to me, is a pretty basic and important right.

Posted in Trans*gender | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

More Thoughts On Labels, or, Sisyphus Unchained

Wow, what a start to the year. I’ve got a few things on my mind, and some of this may be familiar to people who follow me on FaceBook (in other words, I worked out a lot of this in public or semi-public).

1) Tom Daley. After the whole “No labels, I’m with a guy but I still love the ladies” kerfuffle, the GGGG media has fallen all over themselves to turn TWO SYLLABLES into an absolute repudiation of bisexuality, complete with “I Told You Soes” and crowing from the rooftops that Bi Yesterday is Gay Today. Check this out for a better look at the whole story. Pay particularly close attention to the way people were waiting to jump on this one.

As far as Jessie J goes? She said it was a phase. You know what? That is possible. It’s an unfortunate turn of phrase for the bi community, but if she honestly feels that she had a phase of attraction to women that is now over? I am not going to tell her that she can’t. Here’s what she said: “For me, it was a phase,” she says. “But I’m not saying bisexuality is a phase for everybody.” And as long as she is willing to say that it’s not a phase for everyone, I am not willing to say that it can’t possibly be a phase for her.

2) Redefining Bisexuality, Again. There are a lot of different words people use to label themselves. I’ve written extensively on this, but it is the nature of life that it is going to keep coming up in slightly different language, so it’s worth revisiting with, er, slightly different language. The way to sort out the good definitions from the bad ones: if you have to define someone else’s identity to define yours, you’re doing it wrong. So the definition of pansexuality that entails bisexuality as “cisgender only need apply” is a bad definition.

You will note that definitions of bisexuality (or of any sexual orientation for that matter) that work do not need to reference or compare their definitions to that of any other sexual orientation identity label.

Here’s a definition of pansexuality that I developed based in no small part on Shiri Eisner’s and Julia Serano’s writings on the subject —

“Pansexual is a personal identity label for attractions to multiple genders that is also intended to convey a specific attitude toward gender identity politics.”

It’s a neutral definition that makes it clear that pansexual does not stand in opposition to bisexual, that it is one of a multitude of personal labels that are found in the bisexual community.

I hope this makes it clear that I am not slamming people for their personal identification labels, only pointing out that it is an issue when people redefine the community (which all these different non-monosexual identiy labels are a part of) in order to split the community.

Bisexual and pansexual makes sense, bisexual or pansexual doesn’t. The inclusive definition of bisexual isn’t the update, it’s old-school — the exclusionary definition is the one being forced on the community by people who are outside the community and/or people who think they can avoid biphobia via self-erasure.

And I’m in my 40s and was bisexual (and not trans-exclusionary) a decade before the good and useful word “cisgender” was coined, and two decades before the NYT called us all liars on the front page — which seems to coincide with the beginning of the historical push to redefine bisexuals into something we’re not. Now, correlation != causation, but the more I think about it, the more I feel they have to be connected in some way, even if that connection is nothing more than two expressions of one zeitgeist.

I’ve never argued against personal identity labels, only against slicing and dicing and mincing the entire Bisexual community into smaller and smaller bits by repudiating the community label, the B in LGBT, on fallacious pretenses. It becomes especially troubling to me when I see people who are not part of the community — straight allies, and people who identify as Gay — telling me that there need to be not only additional personal labels, but additional community labels, as if there is a pressing need for a Pansexual community and a Multisexual community and an Anthrosexual community and a Trisexual community that are separate and significantly different in attitudes and needs from the Bisexual community.

When a person who identifies as Straight starts telling me that Bisexual does not represent the community because some college LGBT resource center’s website says “LGBTQQIAP” and therefore Pansexual is so different that it needs its own letter? When a person who identifies as Gay tells me that identifying as Bisexual means that I am not supporting non-binary identities? I see red. Fire shoots out my eyes. And I start asking, “What is your motivation for this? How do you gain by splitting my community, and by driving a wedge between the B and the T?” All this kind of thing does is erase us further, ignore the problems that we face both as part of the LGBTQ+ community and the problems we face specifically as the B in that continually flexing initialism. (I also am starting to see pushback against the initialism itself, whether in the laughing-at-us forms like “lgbtqqiaapwtfbbq” or the attempt to remove all of our differences with GSM. Another day, I suppose, after I finish the research paper about doing therapy with bisexuals.)

3) The Word Is Not The Problem. The other terms that are referenced in the initialism LGBTQ are seen as inclusive umbrellas that don’t require either conformity to a specific platonic ideal of “what is L or G or T or Q” or changing the umbrella label to become a perfect complete one-word representation of precise attraction. As long as people insist that the problem is the word itself, that “bi means 2 therefore cis only…” or “the syllable ‘sex’ is why the stereotypes…”, we’re going to have ongoing ontological crises.

As long as people try to split the community into warring factions because the broad, general, ill-fitting umbrella doesn’t precisely parse and describe the full complexity of an individual’s sexuality, personality, and intersectional identity, we’re going to have ongoing ontological crises.

As long as people keep redefining the word bisexual to mean whatever negative they want to avoid, they are (with well-meaning, with good intentions, without malice, inadvertently) supporting, endorsing, and reifying those very negatives.

Divisions in the community, imposed from the outside — imposed by heterosexism and heteronormativity, imposed by heterosexual people in a heterocentric society, enabled by monosexual gay people and non-monosexual people who reject the community label because of what the heteronormative and monosexual people falsely claim it means — is a problem on an institutional and a personal level, as it disrupts the community and people who find themselves without a strong and stable community to come out into.

The word is not the problem.

The word is not the problem.

The word is not the problem.

The people who have invested their time, energy, and money into a schema that discredits and erases bisexuality in order to make themselves seem more acceptable to a culture that would shrug them off in an instant are the part of the problem that lets the haters keep on hating.

The Overculture that assimilates by trivializing differences and celebrating conformity is the problem.

Posted in Bisexuality, Identity Politics (non-monosexual) | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Enough is Enough: Trans Standards.

fliponymous:

Blake rocks, and here’s another reason why.

Originally posted on Some Assembly Required:

I follow a page for ftm’s on instagram.  They said hey there is a new trans page and you should go look at them.  I usually do.  It was for trans couples.  Then I went and liked one of their pictures.  It had said that this was for the trans community because a lot of pages seem to be LGBT but mostly LG and sometimes B.  There’s a post right now going around about whether or not trans people belong in the queer community.  I want to scream, do you not remember Stonewall?  That was a lot of pissed off drag queens and trans women and bisexuals (people the modern movement have repeatedly thrown under the bus) with nothing left to lose.  Stonewall is seen as the starting of the queer movement.  Then it said this is for ftm’s and mtf’s only.  So my friend and I asked about non-binary…

View original 889 more words

Posted in Bisexuality, Recommended blog post, Trans*gender | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Happy New Year! or, Spare Me The “No Labels” Biphobia

So just before the Arctic deep-freeze ate the country, the New York Times (generally about as nastily biphobic as the straight media gets) published this piece in the Fashion And Style pages. Because, seriously, that’s where teh Queer stuff belongs, fashion and style. I mean, sure, we’re fashionable and stylish, so any coverage of us has to be in the optional pages. Because obviously it can’t be news, right?

This article actually seemed at first to be not half bad.

But that’s because the bar is so damned low that something from the New York Times that even admits we exist at all is a giant leap forward. Of course, they had to dredge up Bailey 2005 again, and the shocking news that in 2011 the verdict of non-existence was reversed – no mention of the idea that in the 21st Century the very idea that a significant segment of the population requires scientific validation in the form of pressure cuffs on our penii monitoring our reaction to specific kinds of pornography before we can be deemed to exist is offensive and ontologically violent.

Yeah, the bar is low. Low enough that an article featuring a couple sound bites from illustrious members of the community who I am certain had much more to say than they were given time for which are vastly outweighed by people who not only don’t use the label bisexual but in a couple cases repudiate it altogether, and some paragraphs rehashing the Northwestern studies and apologizing for Dan Savage, and quoting people who continue to think we don’t exist seems like a fair and balanced article, comparatively.

An article about bisexuality that basically tells the community that not using a label is a virtue.

(Ready for the annoying verbal tic that signals that my cup o’ rage is about to spilleth over?)

Here’s the thing. If you are straight and say “Labels don’t matter”, well, that’s because your label is no-label, “Normal”. If you are gay and say “I don’t believe in labels” then I’m sorry, but you are so far in the closet that you can see Sally Ride and Narnia from there, or you’ve adopted the assimilative mononormative ideal that erases everyone who doesn’t fit into one of the two neatly circumscribed categories that, surprise surprise, are either Straight or Gay with no (dare I say) deviance permitted.

But as soon as someone says “Bisexual” it’s a label-free free-for-all. Because it’s only when bisexuality is on the table that people come from all corners to push the idea that It Is The Label That Is The Problem. That people wouldn’t hate bisexuals so much if they’d just… quit calling attention to themselves.

Smell that? Yeah, me too. It’s exactly the same line that the homophobe standing on the sidewalk last time I was involved in a Pride-style march tried to hand me. “Why don’t you freaks keep it in the bedroom?”

Now, I looked at everyone who was in the march with me, and you know what? Not one single person was doing anything that would be better kept to a bedroom. No one was having sex in the street. No, we were walking along waving a rainbow flag and signs that said “Love Is Love” and maybe at most a couple of people holding hands. Well, there was that one person dancing around with a vial of glitter and sprinkling it in our path. Personally that’s one I prefer to keep out of the bedroom as glitter chafes something awful.

No, it’s only bisexuals who are expected to not use a label. The people quoted in the NYT article include the new First Lady of New York City. She was a proud (and proudly labeled) Lesbian with a capital L, but now that she’s married to Hizzonner teh Mayor, she says “Labels put people in boxes, and those boxes are shaped like coffins.” Because labeling as gay or lesbian means solidarity and community and support and change and justice, but labeling as bisexual means… what?

It means, as Nixon notes, “Everybody likes to dump on the bisexuals.”

But I don’t know how I can be more gorram clear here.

IT’S NOT THE LABEL THAT PEOPLE HATE YOU FOR.

So what is the problem, if it’s not the label?

It’s not fitting into the boxes. Not fulfilling your assigned role. Being too queer. Refusing to toe the proverbial line. That’s what they hate. And it doesn’t matter what word you use, or no words at all, because they are still going to hate you just the same…

Unless they can make you disappear. Unless they can erase you and deny you the support of the community of fellow Queer people (in general) and fellow Bisexuals (in particular). Because if they can get you to manage the trick of self-erasure, by telling you that “Labels are coffins unless of course the label is Gay or Lesbian” or by convincing you that “Bisexual reinforces the gender binary and therefore people who use it are Bad People” or by simply saying that “You should wait until you’re sure before you label”, then the bastards win.

They win by killing the community, and when they kill the community they are literally killing bisexuals. Bisexual youth who have no place to turn where they will be believed when they say “I dig Dave, but I also think that Joanna is hot.” Bisexual adults who find themselves being told that the needs of Straight Allies are more important than the needs of actual Queer people, as long as those people are Bisexual, because of course *wink wink* those people can just stay in the closet where they belong, and aren’t really Queer or they’d just follow the Cass Model of Gay Development and put all that fake heterosexual business behind them and come out as All The Way Gay instead of perching on that fence.

A community cannot exist without a word to call itself. That’s just the pure and simple truth. Show me any community that has no name. You can’t do it.

No Label is No Community. To quote Estraven, a friend of mine who nailed it perfectly,

If you are unlabeled, how do you defend yourself? Whose rights are you fighting for? Why should you fight for the rights of a ________, when _________ are not oppressed?

If these tactics had been as successful with the Lesbian and Gay communities as they have been in recent years with the Bisexual community, there would not now be an LGBT Rights movement. A movement that owes its very existence to the transgressive, the nonconforming, the people who would not allow themselves to be quietly papered over and dismissed as inconsequential.

Here’s a line from the article, near the end: “People who have grown up in a more assimilated world may not see the value in labels like “gay” or “bisexual,” when the communities they describe are no longer as marginalized.”

Well butter my butt and call me a biscuit, I had no idea that we were no longer marginalized to the point that we no longer needed to be able to identify our community. That we were fully accepted by society at large as well as by the GGGG community. That it was time to relax and rest on our laurels, because our work here is done. It’s not like the piece quotes a high-profile Gay blogger who says that of course bisexuality isn’t real because he posed as one too, to “ease the transition”.

Oh, wait, it does. Because no mainstream article about bisexuality is complete unless it spends most of the column inches on people who either don’t believe we exist at all or who think it would be nice if we would just quietly go away. On gay people who think it’s OK to tell bisexuals the same tired old hateful things that they get told by people like that duck dude.

To quote Larry Finklestein (ten points to whoever can get me a YouTube clip of the scene where he says this):

I. Will. Not. Calm. Down.

Happy New Year.

{edit} Be sure to check out this comment by Jen Yockney.

Posted in Bisexuality, Identity Politics (non-monosexual) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 52 Comments

Cis is not a dirty word.

fliponymous:

Second reblog in a row, but that’s because this is amazingly perfect. Blake is right on the money, as usual.

Originally posted on Some Assembly Required:

It’s not a secret that I spend a lot of time on tumblr.  It’s a fantastic site a majority of the time.  I have met so many people on there I consider dear friends of mine.  It’s a place I can go and talk about the things I enjoy in my life.  It’s also a place where I can help a lot of transguys that are just starting out on their transition, and give them a place to vent about all the problems they have.  One of my favourite blogs is called Dear Cis People.  I have spent a lot of time on that blog, especially when I was in that thirteenth month stage of living as a man but not being on male hormones. It helped me to feel less alone, less frustrated.  Just like FTM Problems, the blog I run with one other admin, but I’m the main…

View original 1,238 more words

Posted in Bisexuality, Recommended blog post, Trans*gender | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Why Don’t The Bi People Just Come Out Already? An Open Letter To Dan Savage.

fliponymous:

This is the statement on the subject that I wish I had written. Consider The Tea Cozy has a tendency to do that.

Originally posted on :

Dear Dan Savage,

It pains me to say this. I like you. I don’t think you’re perfect, or have any obligation to be. I don’t think you have a responsibility to be an official representative of everyone with a smidge of queerness in the world. I don’t agree with everything you say- not a bit!- but overall you seem like a decent enough sort. That, and you’re clever, funny, and I think that, overall, you do a lot of good. Also, your podcast keeps me entertained long enough to get a bunch of housework done every week. Me and my laundry say thanks for that, by the way.

It pains me to say it, of course, because as someone with a tendency to run his mouth on things (something I can well identify with), when you get things wrong it can be.. shall we say spectacular? But I appreciate…

View original 3,044 more words

Posted in Bisexuality | 1 Comment

LGBTQ 101: A look at labels

I generally approach things in this space from a text-heavy, theoretical level. I shoot for advanced knowledge and understanding, because so much of what I end up doing in other spaces (including meatspace) is basic 101-level stuff. But I came up with what I think is a pretty easy and elegant visual way to understand the labels LGBTQ. If you are unable to access the inages in this page, please visit this page.

The following are Community labels. While they can and are frequently used as individual identity labels, not everyone in these communities uses these labels for personal identification. They are broad and general and not intended to describe people’s attractions in fine detail.

Straight: a person who is attracted to people of another (almost always constructed as a binary “other” or “opposite”) sex/gender.

Lesbian: a female-identified person who is attracted to other female-identified persons.

A circle with the letter 'L'

Gay: a person attracted to others of the same sex/gender. Frequently used to refer to male-identified persons, but can also be used to refer to someone of any sex/gender whose attraction is to the same sex/gender.

Image 1, with a larger added circle that intersects about 50% with the letter 'G' in the section that doesn't intersect.

Bisexual: a person of any sex/gender who is attracted to people of the same and other sexes/genders. Non-monosexual.

Image 2, with a non-intersecting circle about midway in size between the previous circles placed just below them, with the letter 'B' inside.

Trans*gender: a person whose gender assigned at birth does not match their internal sense of self-gender. This includes people who identify as a binary gender, and people whose gender identity is not defined in a binary. Trans*gender people can identify as straight, gay, lesbian, or bisexual, as sexual orientation and gender identity/presentation are not the same.

Image 3 with an added ellipse that intersects all three existing circles, but not intersecting the letters, with a letter 'T' inside.

Queer: anyone who does not identify as straight and/or cisgendered. This term was a slur that is being reclaimed as a positive since the mid-1980s.

Image 4, with a large circle surrounding all of the previous image except for about 1/5 of the 'T' ellipse, and a straight line in the lower right perpendicular, so the figure resembles the letter 'Q'

ABB, or Anything But Bisexual: This refers to the multiple regional and slang terms that some non-monosexual people use for self-identification. These are personal identification terms that are used by people who also fit the general umbrella definition of being part of the bisexual community in order to have a more specific personal identity label, or to indicate a specific attitude regarding the political implications of gender.

I release this into the wild, anyone that wants to use it with attribution either under my legal name or through referral to this blog is welcome to do so.

Posted in Bisexuality, Identity Politics (non-monosexual), Trans*gender | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments