Now in private practice


Howdy! I’ve just opened my own private psychotherapy practice here in Saint Cloud, MN. Details are available on Psychology Today as well as a bunch of other places online, including my website.

Here’s some information. Queer focused — bi, trans, gay, lesbian, asexual, all genders including nonbinary/genderqueer, all relationship structures (monogamous and polyamorous). I’m not an expert on kink but I know enough to not be afraid of it, or automatically assume that it is the problem.

Mission Statement: Prism Mental Health LLC strives to create a warm and accepting therapeutic space where people of all gender identities and sexual orientations have the freedom and safety to express all facets of their authentic selves and explore the challenges of existence. All people have common experiences to share, cultural differences to celebrate, and unique experiences that can be understood through these similarities and differences.

Population Served: Adults (18+). Prism Mental Health LLC does not discriminate against people based on race, color, creed, religion, national origin, neurodiversity, marital status, status with regard to public assistance, familial status, disability, sexual orientation, sex and/or gender identity, HIV status, or age. Prism Mental Health LLC focuses on providing services to members of the LGBTQ+ community and those who love them.

Patrick RichardsFink MS NCC LPC:
I am a Licensed Professional Counselor (MN 1805), and a member of the Minnesota LGBT Therapists Network. I practice existential psychotherapy, which tailors therapy to individuals and uses a variety of techniques to help people heal themselves through the therapeutic relationship. I work with individuals, traditional and mixed orientation couples, and people in other relationship structures.

Posted in Bisexuality | 3 Comments

Guest Post: How to Find a Bi Competent Therapist by Estraven Le Guin

This is a thorough and important guide to finding a bi-affirmative therapist written by a friend and mentor.

Even Aud

“One US study found that over a quarter of therapists seen by bisexual clients erroneously assumed that sexual identity was relevant to the goal of therapy when the
client didn’t agree, and around a sixth saw bisexuality as being part of an illness. Seven percent attempted conversion to heterosexuality and 4% to being lesbian or gay. Many therapists were openly uncomfortable about bisexuality.” (Page, E)  Another British study found that bisexuals were treated worse than  gays and Lesbians by their therapists. At a recent training of monsexual therapists on bisexual issues that I did, even though the therapists were middle-aged or older, most of them were quite surprised to find out that bisexuality is not just a phase, and that bisexuals can be monogamous. You might think that by going to a so-called LGBT treatment center, you would be assured of bi-competent care, but some of these organizations are known for their covert hostility to bisexuals.
So how do you find a bi-competent, or at least a bi-friendly, therapist?

View original post 1,579 more words

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All Of Me

Dan Savage tells me that I’m straight because I’m a cismale in a long term monogamous relationship with a ciswoman. It doesn’t matter to him that we met because we were interested in the same man, or that I had sexual relationships with men before I met her – that was just experimentation, confusion about my identity. It doesn’t matter that my sexual fantasies include my own gender as well as genders different from mine. As far as he’s concerned, I’m just an open-minded straight guy.

To another person, I have no reason to attend a conference for queer people. Everyone is bisexual, he says, so it’s just plain silly for me to identify myself as such. According to him, all labels for sexuality should be set aside, because we’re all human beings.

According to the local plasma company where college students augment their income, I am “MSM” – a man who has sex with men. And because I have had unprotected sex with a man at any time in my life, I am a potential disease vector, and thus ineligible to get my $35 for half a liter of claret.

According to someone else, I’m gay. Because I work with the queer community, because I identify myself as belonging to the LGBT population, I clearly have no attraction to people of genders other than mine.

According to yet another person, I’m not only gay, but maliciously so, using the woman I am married to as a free housemaid and babysitter, condemning her to a loveless marriage with either no sexual fulfillment or only that which I can bring myself to fake while I go out and spend my energies in the arms of a myriad of anonymous men.

To another unasked opinionator, since bisexuality is an exact 50/50 split of attractions, and no one is exactly 50/50, no one is bisexual, so I’m just a self-hating gay man who’s afraid of the label “gay” and need to grow up and get together with a man so I can experience real love for the first time.

To some others, I am not only a fence-sitter, but a bench-sitter, because bisexuals are not active in the queer community and have never fought for gay rights. Rather we just sit back and soak up our straight privilege.

In the eyes of some, my use of the word bisexual is offensive and hateful because it indicates a deep hostility to transfolk, that it’s the equivalent of using “chairman” or “postman”, that the very word erases anyone who is not in “the gender binary”.

To others, it means I am only sexually and romantically interested in cisgender people, that I don’t love people for who they are but am only interested in a very specific and narrow range of genitalia, that all of my judgments about people are based on what genitals they were born with.

To a lot of straight men, I’m just a faggot, a pervert, a probable child molester, and someone whose urges are so uncontrollable that I will rape them at the first opportunity because either they are the most attractive men on the planet or my tastes are so indiscriminate that I don’t care about anything but my own sick pleasures.

Some people think that I obviously have a boyfriend on the side, or hang around rest stops for quickies with truckers, or that if I am monogamous, it’s because I am repressing my real self.

There are even a few who want a cookie for recognizing that I actually do exist because a researcher finally recanted his previous work saying I didn’t. Because science knows everything about everything, so if one study says I was straight or gay and lying to myself about it, that must be the case, but now I’m permitted to exist – weird and immature, or some third sex, or really a woman trapped in a man’s body, but now that Science Hath Spoken, I can be there. Over there, please. Far away. I still can’t be here where they are standing, after all, I might assault them.

To some people I’m angry.

Those last people? They may be right. But I’m not angry all the time.

What I am all the time is a person trying to get through life, trying to carve out a better world for my family and for my communities. And when I think about sex, which is not every seven seconds like some people think all men do, I find myself attracted to lots of different things. Strength. Vulnerability. Intelligence. Softness. Hardness. Things that are not necessarily restricted to any particular gender.

Gender presentation is important to me, in fact – but it doesn’t have to be cisgender, and it definitely does not have to be the elements that are considered by society to be “appropriate” for their “sex”. It doesn’t have to be exclusively masculine (I like men who are sensitive, a little soft, men who are able to be tender as well as forceful). It doesn’t have to be exclusively feminine (I like women who are strong physically and mentally, woman who can open the pickle jar when I can’t, women who don’t shave any part of their bodies). It doesn’t have to be either – I can look at someone, speak to someone, be attracted to them, and walk away with no gender label for them at all, people who use pronouns like ze and hir.

Some people think it’s trendy or hip to claim to be bisexual. As a bisexual man? There’s nothing hip or trendy about it for me. It’s not something I choose to be because it makes me more enlightened or more open. It’s not about being more attractive to gay men by being “straight-acting”.

It’s just who I am.

And it’s something I hid from almost everyone for almost three decades, and it’s something I probably would still be hiding today if I hadn’t been lucky enough to come out in a place where the queer culture embraces bisexuality as a valid identity.

I came out because I could no longer be dishonest. I could no longer walk around presenting myself to the world as a straight man, turning a blind eye to homophobia – I didn’t even know about biphobia yet – because I felt like speaking up could blow my cover. Avoiding contact with the queer community. Isolating myself. The classic long-term closet experience.

As a bi man I face the same prejudice and ignorance from the homophobes as a gay man in the straight community, as well as some specific challenges from both the straight and the lesbian/gay communities. Challenges like being erased, and then blamed for that erasure. Challenges like having a therapist ignore the stress being in the closet caused me because he didn’t understand that I could be married to a woman and still be queer. Challenges like hearing an identity development model that requires rejection of heterosexuality for full maturity quoted weekly.

And the old Kinsey Scale Blues. I am so, oh so tired of the Kinsey Scale being shoved in my face. “So, what percentage straight are you? Oh, you don’t look at it that way? Well, I need a number. Let’s see, you haven’t had sex with a man in two decades and change, so I’m going to say 80%. That means you’re only 20% gay.” “Bisexuality is Kinsey 3, half-gay and half-straight. Oh, you’re not ‘half-gay’, you’re a whole person? You’re gay all the time and straight all the time? That just doesn’t make sense according to this authoritative model that’s been around for 60 years and all this research is based on it so it must be the only valid way to look at it.”

I’m not half anything. I’m bisexual, through and through, and I have been, in spite of the research, in spite of the attitudes, in spite of whatever myths are current. As long as I have been aware of my sexuality, it has been directed at a few people across a wide range of gender identities – less people than a lot of straight people I know.

I’m an integrated person, and coming out was a stage of that integration, a way to bring my public face into congruence with my inner self.

I have become a therapist – an out, bisexual therapist – who is trying to build a practice working primarily (but not exclusively) with people who are bisexual. So they don’t have to spend time they should be working on themselves trying to explain to me that, yes they really are bi, no they don’t need me to help them get off the fence and pick a side, yes they are feeling rejected by both the worlds they walk in, no they aren’t promiscuous and greedy by definition (but that if they have those traits, it’s because they do as individuals, just like straight and gay people can have those traits). So they don’t have to educate me before they can start helping themselves. So they don’t have to explain what a mixed orientation marriage is and risk being told they need to divorce so they can be who they “really” are.

I am all of me.

Posted in Bisexuality | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Gay, Lesbian, ________ and Transgender

This will be brief.

People need to belong.

Abraham Maslow’s heirarchy of needs describes how people are able to get their needs met. First is survival. If you don’t have food and water, or other things you require to keep drawing breath, there is little else you can strive for. People stranded in lifeboats rarely write political manifestos. Once this need is met, you can attend to other matters of safety. Once you are safe, then you begin to look past the next breath and look towards belonging.


People need to belong. We are gregarious beings – not truly social like honeybees or naked mole rats or the coalescent hives of Stephen Baxter’s later Xeelee novels, nor pack animals, but like the bonobos we are close cousins to we assemble ourselves into troops and tribes – and communities. We define these tribes in many ways, from genetic and/or household familes all the way up to nations and races. In this early 21st Century milieu, one of the ways we define communities is by sexual orientation, something that some dismiss as “Identity Politics”. We are political creatures, though, and identity is important in a thousand ways.

There are a lot of models of identity development, some of which I have written about in this space, some of which I will explore more in future posts. The fundamental fact, though, is that the presence of a welcoming community of people who share important characteristics is a must. There is a reason that the header of this blog contains the phrase “To live a life of integrity in a community of mutual support”.

This is one of the many reasons bisexual erasure is a problem. It prevents people from recognizing themselves in others, because it prevents people from seeing others like themselves. A community of invisible people is not a community that can empower its members – a community of invisible people is not a community at all, but a Cantor dust of scattered atoms, occasionally randomly connected, with only the power that each individual is able to bring to bear.

If we cannot find each other, then, we cannot satisfy our need to belong, which means that on some level we are unable to build self-esteem, and without that ability, self-actualization is forever out of reach.

So how do they keep us from finding each other? Lots of ways, including the incessant redefinitions of bisexuality to justify Anythng But Bisexual labels. But the one that is catching my eye (and ear) recently? While it’s not exactly brand-new (it’s been going on for a bit), the newish way to erase bisexuality is gaining traction. Senator Al Franken has done it. Articles about LGBT issues have done it. And Entertainment Weekly recently did it. Now, I don’t think of EW as anything of real lasting value – those of you who have spent time with me in these pages know that academic journals and science fiction novels are more my cup of tea. But I recognize that things like EW and People and supermarket tabloids have a much wider readership than The Journal Of LGBT Issues In Counseling.

Which is why it’s a big deal that Entertainment Weekly devoted an entire issue to “gay, lesbian, and transgender entertainment”.

It’s just the most recent in this growing trend. I’ve been to functions in queer spaces where LGBT was unpacked as “gay, lesbian, and transgender”. It is undeniable erasure.

Part of the problem is that for quite some time the initialism LGBT have been being used in bothersome ways. For example, frequently articles about queer people in the news will say “gay” or “lesbian” if the person identifies as such (or, of course, is bi but has at any time in their life has even hinted otherwise for any reason, or if the author simply decided to gaywash them), but if someone clearly identifies as bisexual (or any of the other words that people use to stand in for bisexual) the media will refer to them as LGBT. Which is ludicrous on the face of it.

What that does is erase bisexuals, because let’s face it – you and I both know that 99% of the time, LGBT is pronounced “gay”. And no one is L, G, B, and T all at the same time.

So for some time now, there’s been this sort of half-assed inclusion where people will write LGBT, and then unpack it as “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender”. Which seems better than nothing, right? Except if you look closely, the only place the Big Bad B Word is mentioned is in the unpacking. It’s a phenomenon I call “Ctrl-R Inclusionism”.

Only now, they are even omitting that tiny nod. Which shows just how much they never meant it in the first place. “Lesbian, gay, and transgender” may leave out half of the community they are talking about, but in a way it’s more honest (and easier to fight) because they’ve really been leaving us out all along.

We’ve simply been so used to settling for crumbs and will-o-the-wisps that we’ve let it happen.

Posted in Bisexuality, Identity Politics (non-monosexual) | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why I’m Afraid of My Coffee Cup

I’m afraid of my coffee cup.

For 30 years, beginning at the age of 15, I smoked approximately 30 cigarettes a day. In that time I made two serious attempts to quit. The first time I lasted 8 months. The second twelve. Between those times I did things like: get gas money from my teenage child because I had spent my cash on cigarettes – and spent his on them too, sold off a set of comic books I had been collecting for several years for about 10 percent of face value, pawned the antique sword my wife bought me for Father’s Day some years back and failed to redeem it.

Can you imagine that. That sword was a gift of love that meant a lot more to me than I can easily describe, and I sold it for cigarettes. Yes, I claimed I needed the money for gasoline or for paying the power bill or whatever, but the truth is, I sold one of my most prized possessions, something I genuinely loved, for cigarettes. That wasn’t the first time.

When I was about 20, I had a hardcover copy of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. Paid $25 for it, the most I had ever paid for a book. Sold it to a bookstore for literally the price of two packs of cigarettes at the time, which would be about ¼ the price of one pack today. When I first started smoking, I could buy a pack at the local chain convenience store for $0.76. I would say things like, “If they hit $2.50 a pack, I’m done.” But, of course, like the fabled frog in the stewpot, I just grumbled and paid the price.

When I was a teen, I used to pay what was at the time exorbitant rates for specialty cigarettes. I remember paying $35 for a carton of Sobranie Black Russians. They were beautiful, black paper with a gold foil tip, triple filter (with charcoal in the middle filter), made with imported Balkan tobacco. They were sophisticated and oh-so-grown-up. I went on one of the few actual dates of my life with someone who thought I was at least 30 years old instead of 17, solely because of what I smoked and how I smoked them – casually, with just the right combination of insouciance and sophistication, lighting them with a plain steel battered Zippo that I struck by flicking against my leg, and closed the same way. I also was served alcohol in the bar that night, without being carded or questioned.

I loved to smoke. That’s the dark secret, I think. I didn’t like paying for them, and I didn’t like having to stand outside in -20 weather to have one, but in the end I really, really enjoyed smoking. If I could take the habit up again right now without consequence, I would do it right now. This minute.

But this isn’t actually about cigarettes. This is about coffee. And why I am afraid of my coffee cup.

In November of 2014, about two weeks after I took up smoking again (after a year without) I continued to ignore the pain in my chest that had been there at varying degrees of intensity for what in retrospect has to have been at least six weeks, but growing steadily worse for the preceding three. But after going upstairs for a cigarette, the pain got too intense for me to play off, and I ended up in the hospital. Three days later I was released with a stent in my heart, a stern admonition that 45 was much too young to be having heart attacks, several new prescriptions, and prohibitions on salt, tobacco… and caffeine.

Now, my love affair with caffeine is longer than my sometimes tumultuous relationship with tobacco. I literally drank coffee at my grandmother’s knee. Spent large portions of my young adulthood staying up all night in 24-hour casual family dining restaurants. I mean, the night I met my wife, after the party we went to Denny’s (with her date) where I wooed her with a Flintstones coloring book, while we drank coffee. Over the last two decades it’s been rare that we didn’t have coffee. When I worked in telemarketing, I once literally bit a coworker because my supervisor didn’t bring me coffee fast enough. Once I got my own office, I had my own coffeemaker – and that was besides the 2-4 energy drinks that I had every day.

I was drinking Mountain Dew by the case as well. When my diabetes was diagnosed, I simply shifted to sugar-free – and continued to mock people who drank decaf. My coworkers down the years have always joked about how much coffee I drank: strong, black, creamy, cappuchino, mocha, latte, iced, flavored, plain, sweet, bitter. It didn’t matter as long as there was lots of it. Weekends at home were pot after pot of coffee. Back when alcohol was an option for me, my favored drink was, you guessed it, Irish Coffee. Or, at least, coffee with some brand of Irish cream liqueur in it. (That night where I got served at the bar at 17? What I was served without question was Kaluha in coffee.)

The night after I was admitted to the hospital, I had classic caffeine withdrawal symptoms. I was offered morphine for the headache, but declined because it seemed a bit out of proportion to the symptoms – I had just had morphine for the first time the day before, and felt like it was something better saved for more extreme pain. I mean, caffeine headache? Not a big deal, I had those all the time.

I had those all the time. I went without coffee/Mountain Dew/energy drinks for a day, and I got that thumping pound behind the eyes. I knew what it meant. I knew the cure – just get me a cup of coffee. Hello, nurse? Can I get a cup of coffee over here? No, not a cup of decaf. A cup of coffee.

Please. Give me a cup of coffee. Please.

Jump ahead three months and a bit. I’ve avoided caffeine, on doctor’s orders. A few people have told me that I seem calmer, but I don’t feel any less anxious and tense. I’m drinking cup after cup of decaffeinated tea – and complaining about it. “I’m going to ask my doctor for a variance,” I tell anyone who will listen. “I haven’t had coffee for three months, so I’m not quite awake yet.” So I go to my appointment, and I tell the doctor that the lack of caffeine is having a negative effect on me. He thinks, for a moment, then twinkles at me. “You can have one” holds up a finger, pointed at the acoustic ceiling tiles “one cup of low caffeine, green tea or something like that. One.”

I smile and point skyward myself, a symbol of great victory. “One”, I repeat, grinning. I feel like I’ve been released from an odious burden.

And I went to work, and did not stop on the way to get a cup of half-caff. And drank decaf tea all night. And made a pot of decaf to have this weekend.

I’m afraid of my coffee cup.

I do not think that I will be capable of controlling myself in any terms other than strict and severe abstinence. When I started smoking again, after a year of not, I went from 0 to a pack in less than a week. The last time I quit smoking, it took about three days to be fully entrenched again.

I don’t have any idea what caffeine will do to me if I start using it again. Clearly there is some physical risk, because if there wasn’t, my doctor would have said “Drink all you want.” I’ve had days in the past where my heart pounds like a pigeon trying to escape the dark cavity of my chest, because of too much caffeine (it was in high school, and involved taking my caffeine in tablet form rather than in a beverage). How much is too much, now that I have a piece of titanium shaped like the spring from a ballpoint pen residing in my frontal cardiac artery? Can I drink just one cup of low-caffeine beverage?

I don’t think I can. I’ve given up other things without significant difficulty, because I didn’t have a problem with them that reached anywhere near the level of addiction. I eventually quit smoking cigarettes, because I was presented with the Addict’s Choice: Keep using and die, or quit using and just maybe live. That was what it took to get me to quit smoking. $7.80 a pack when I had no income didn’t stop me, having to go outside to smoke in brutal Minnesota winter didn’t stop me, my kid’s teachers wrinkling their noses because his coat reeked of tobacco didn’t stop me. Almost dying, lying in a hospital bed for 3 days with no certainty that I would ever get out of it again? That was what it took. And they told me no salt, no caffeine, no cigarettes.

I cut down on my salt. It’s hard, but I can do it. I’m still taking in a lot more salt than They would like, but three months ago They told me I couldn’t have butter either, and that’s good for me now. I have not had a cigarette since The Last One. It was a Marlboro Black, strongly flavored, and I finished it in spite of the pain in my chest and down my left arm. And I’ve stayed away from caffeine.

But if I start drinking it again, I am afraid that I will do the same damned thing I have done all my life: I’ll build a tolerance in a short time. And I’ll start drinking all I want, because hey, it’s not affecting me, and it takes two cups for the headache to go away, and my heart’s just pounding because of the blood thinners. And then I’ll tell myself that I can handle it, shows what They know, like butter and eggs.

And then I’ll light up. And that would be the death of me. Because of a lousy stinking cup of coffee.

I’m afraid of my coffee cup. And, like any other addict covering up the tracks he’s leaving on the banks of that river fabled in story and song, I lied. I said “this isn’t about cigarettes, it’s about coffee.” But it’s not.

I am afraid of my coffee cup because it sits next to the ashtray. And it always has.

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Bisexual Erasure in Academic Research 1

Last week I got my copy of the Journal of LGBT Issues in Counseling, Volume 8, Issues 1-4, 2014. For those who don’t know how these things work, this is the peer-reviewed academic journal of ALGBTIC, which is the queer-focused professional division of the American Counseling Association which governs master’s level clinicians. It’s the equivalent of Division 44 of the American Psychological Association (which oversees doctoral level psychologists). I am a student member of ALGBTIC as well as of the ACA, and when I graduate (May 9th, G-d willing and the creek don’t rise) I will be a professional member.

Every peer-reviewed article is built on a foundation of other peer-reviewed articles. Everything has to be supported and justified by reference to previously published articles, and then the author(s) add their little bit to the body of research. There are good reasons for this, primarily because what we’re doing in these kinds of articles is science.

Now, ALGBTIC has some pretty cool stuff going on – including competency guidelines for counselors working with LGB clients that specifically includes why and how the B is different, and guidelines for working with Transgender clients. But when I started reading the Journal, I ended up having to stop myself from pitching it across the room.

These are the three paragraphs that stopped me in my tracks (I have edited out a bunch of references):

“Concepts and Language

Within the sexual minority community and literature, acts of naming and identification are significant and have subsequent consequences for the interpretation, application, and generalization of research. This project uses the terms gay and lesbian to describe same-sex sexual orientations (homosexuality). Although by no means universal across all cultures and histories (9 references), gay and lesbian have proven to be useful social categories within popular culture and academic work—documenting the psychological lives of people engaged in same-sex sexual behavior and same-sex relationships, the social meanings of same-sex sexuality, histories and political movements organized around sexuality, and the nature of subcultures and communities based in part upon same-sex sexuality (8 references). Salient to the purposes here, one outcome of this work has been documentation describing the locations and forms of representation, agency, oppression, privilege, and discrimination that occur around sexual orientation, including how various sexual orientations are positioned within education (7 references) and elsewhere (6 references).

For this project, the choice to use the terms gay and lesbian was made with the full realization that other terms and concepts are also available to describe similar or parallel experiences related to sexuality and orientations (e.g., same-sex loving, men who have sex with men, women who have sex with women, queer). However, realizing the potential that newer and less widely recognized terms or constructs might be unfamiliar to many of the survey respondents, using the terms gay and lesbian for this project seemed the more prudent choice.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) identities are often grouped together, creating a single population composed of sexuality-based (gay, lesbian, bisexual) and gender-based identities (transgender). Historically, this grouping has been useful to political activism, policy development, and research. However, there is also a risk that sexual orientation and gender identity will be confounded and mistakenly assumed to be synonymous, representing identical experiences and, for purposes here, the same curricular content (6 references). In the interest of clarity for respondents, survey brevity, and the clarity of findings, this project focused only upon sexual orientation and gay/lesbian related topics.”

Seeing red yet?

As much as half of the queer kids these school counselors will be seeing are bisexual, but as far as the research that informs their training? They don’t exist. We don’t exist. The word bisexual was used twice in the very paragraph that speaks about the importance of not conflating experiences, and yet all bisexual experience is conflated, folded into and subsumed into the gay and lesbian experience. Because obviously those are the only salient experiences. Obviously only gay and lesbian faculty can serve as suitable role models for queer students.

And so another article enters the noosphere, another article that erases bisexuals and bisexuality becomes a resource for people to point to in their lit reviews and say “See, there’s just nothing there in the research, so we shouldn’t add it in and confuse people.”

After taking the time to note that naming matters, our name is removed.

This study’s erasure of bisexuality also erases the erasure of bisexuality from counselor education programs, another serious issue that I have been grappling with over the course of my education to date. This kind of meta-erasure makes it almost impossible to get any good information about bisexuality into the hands of counseling students… which means that no matter how well-intended counselors are, the odds are that unless there is a bisexual activist in their classes shouting about it all the time they are not going to be prepared to meet the unique needs of their bisexual clients.

Jennings, T. (2014) Sexual orientation curriculum in U.S. school counselor education programs. Journal of LGBT Issues in Counseling, 8(1) 43-73

Posted in Bisexuality | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

The Big One, or, How Many Times Do I Have To Say This?

This is the big one. This is the misconception about bisexuality that is used every day to harm us. For the most part I have gotten away from the kind of “mythbusting” that basically every bisexual activist starts out by doing.

But this is one of the basic issues that plague us.

So let me say it loud and clear.

Being bisexual is not being in the closet.

Now, are there gay people, especially it seems to be gay men, who for an hour day week month claim to be bisexual to others and even to themselves, claim to be bisexual because somehow they think it will make their lives easier?

Sure. In fact, these days it seems that the majority of gay men tell me that they identified as bisexual “for a while”.

But they were not bisexual for a while, if they are gay. They just claimed to be. And they came out that way. And then at a later time (and usually not that much later) they came out as gay, thus somehow “finishing”.

Here’s the part where I get angry (oh, don’t make that face, you knew that was coming, it’s written on the top right corner of the page).

Too many people think that anyone who identifies as bisexual is either really an open-minded straight person, or a gay person who just hasn’t figured things out yet. The first assumption denies us our place in the LGBTQ+ community, a place we need in a community we worked just as hard to build as the people who identify themselves as gay. The second denies us our integrity of knowing who we are.

Because I was NEVER straight. And as I’m not faking my attraction to the person who right now is sleeping not ten feet away, and who is a different sex and/or gender than I am, I’m pretty clearly not gay. So what am I?

I’ve known I was bisexual – even though I didn’t have the words for it – since I was 13. That’s 33 years. Now over those years I’ve had some girlfriends, I’ve had some boyfriends, been married a couple of times (once long-term). I also spent 28 of those years in the closet to all but a few of my closest. And when I say in the closet, I mean trying to tell everyone I was straight. I used every dodge – flat lies, misdirection, hiding (to my shame) behind my wife. But she wasn’t my beard, she was my (not always willing) co-conspirator.

So eventually I finally judged it safe to come out – or more properly, determined the corrosive effects of being in the closet had done and were continuing to do so much damage that the costs and risks of being out in the time and place I was in were less than the risks and costs of staying in. Of continuing to lie.

I’m not kidding or exaggerating when I say that the closet damned near killed me. Seriously, it was worse than grad school, which those of you who are close to me know took a good swing at it.

But when I came out, I came out bisexual. And have continued to do so pretty much every day since then, because although it’s not the complete description of my identity, it is salient. It is an integral and integrated part of who I am. It’s sort of like being 6 feet tall and having hair that’s gray and brown (where I have hair, which as I age seems to include my back, I haven’t the foggiest idea who thought that was a good idea). It’s not the only thing that defines who I am, but no description of me is complete without it.

I’m going to repeat that for all the people who say “Oh, I hate labels” or “Quit talking about your sexual orientation, it doesn’t define who you are.”

No description of me is complete without the information that I am bisexual.

And no one, straight or gay, gets to pat me on the head and tell me how I need to just get with the program and finish coming out. Jeebus, people, if I’m not all the way out of the closet yet there’s no hope for anyone! I mean, have you met me? What do you want me to do, get up on the stage and try to get one past my tonsils? I mean, not to be crude about it or anything, but I can and have – not on stage, though. But what kind of proof do you need?

Because gay men don’t have to prove it. I don’t know about lesbians, because I’m not one, so I don’t know if there’s pressure on them to prove their queerness. All I know is if a man says “Hey, you know what, I’m gay” the gay community will rally around them. No matter what their age is, no matter if they are a virgin or Casanova, no matter what the sex/gender of their last known sexual partner is.

Yup. A man who has had sex with one or more women, who declares in public they are gay, will be accepted as such. And, in fact, if they later say “You know what? I’m pretty fond of {insert euphemism for whatever in your mind constitutes Definitively Gay Sex}, but I also really enjoy {insert euphemism for the other team}”, they are likely to be disbelieved or ignored, or simply erased. At best they are expected to prove it somehow.

What’s the ultimate source of this double standard, this exiling from the community, this devaluation and invalidation? There are a lot of theories (including the one you simply must read, Kenji Yoshino’s Epistemic Contract of Bisexual Erasure). But here’s one that covers at least one part of it, especially for bi men.

The only way that gay man can justify the lies they told, is to normalize it for themselves by accusing everyone else of being liars too. Because if everyone is lying, well, that’s just like telling the truth!

Guys (and it’s guys that are the worst offenders, I think), stop doing this. Stop telling other people where the closet door is. Because for people who can be fairly described as bisexual, it’s behind us.

Posted in Bisexuality, Identity Politics (non-monosexual) | Tagged , , , , , , , | 10 Comments