There were two things that happened this week that, while not causally linked, illustrate several of the problems biphobia presents not only for us bi folks, but for the entire LGBT community.
The first was the reprinting of a Savage Love column from 2006, including Dan’s biphobic comments. The other was a statement made on the floor of the MN legislature where marriage equality is being debated. You may recall last year the forces of the far right, taking a page from my congresscritter Michele Bachmann (yes, I live in her district, and no, we’re not idiots, we’re gerrymandered so that only an anti-choice candidate can ever win here), tried to ram through a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Well, we beat that, and miracle of miracles the state Democrats actually have followed through by trying to strike down the state law doing the same that the amendment would have made unchallengable.
Savage’s column featured a letter from a bisexual woman in a marriage with boundaries a bit looser than some. The issue was that her husband was having some issues with her having sex with a man, even though he had no issues with her female lovers.
Dan’s response was a triumph of biphobia. He claimed that he was not being biphobic (and where have we heard that before? Oh yeah, all those remarks where people say “I’m not racist/sexist/homophobic but…”). He also made some snide remarks about angry bisexuals with keyboards. That got my attention fast, as I’m sort of a card-carrying member of that particular group. His specific biphobic remarks were that his position on bisexuality has eveloved, that we’re not all lying cheaters in his eyes.
No, he’s come to the conclusion that the problem with bisexuals is that we are “mostly straight.”
Oh, gee, thanks Dan. Your problem is that I’m just not queer enough for you. Glad we got that settled. One of the issues that gets debated in some bisexual activist circles is that a lot of us tend to write and speak a lot about intraqueer oppression, about the way we get treated by the gay and lesbian segments of the community – like the recent Tumblr celebrating biphobia as a good thing, or Dan Savage, or the constant erasure in places like the Advocate and frankly anywhere that a story about bisexuals or bisexuality is printed. The biggest problem we face isn’t biphobia, but the homophobia that pushes down on all of us, and we should be talking more about that.
And it’s true, that it’s the anti-queer sentiments and institutional oppression of anyone who isn’t straight that is the source of the problem. If the dominant culture let us be, if there was no homophobia, then there would be no biphobia (I hope). But it’s the biphobic actions and remarks within the gay and lesbian community that send the message to even those who want to be our allies that it’s still OK to denigrate and discriminate against bisexuals.
Savage, you allowed an article from 2006 to be reprinted, including your comments. You might tell me that your views have modified further since then – and going from “cheating liars” to “mostly straight” isn’t much of a modification, dude, you’re still reinforcing the old “straight, gay, or lying” thing that Clive Davis ran up against when he came out as bi. But the column was reprinted, under your name, you got paid for it, so we have to assume that you fully endorse it. One of the commentors responded by saying “Bi women are mostly straight, bi men are mostly gay”. That wasn’t a comment from 2006. That was a comment from 2013. That was people seizing on Savage’s biphobia to justify their own.
And what does a column from 2006 have to do with the price of muslin in Mandalay, with the debate on the floor of the Minnesota legislature?
An old-school bigot and state Representative took the opportunity to make his stand against marriage equality by introducing a friend of his, someone who, in his words, “was active in the gay lifestyle for about ten years, and then he left it, got married and he now has three children.”
Now listen closely at that dog-whistle. The “gay lifestyle” is classic hater code, and the kind of thing used by people doing reparative therapy (and people who are skirting the edges of reparative therapy by claiming they’re just helping people change their behaviors). People who can’t tell the difference between behavior and orientation. So what’s his argument against marriage equality? His buddy isn’t gay anymore, and he’s married now.
Now, I haven’t met this friend. But I wonder if he doesn’t identify, not straight, but bi. Of course, he wouldn’t say that to the Distinguished Not-a-Gentleman from Glencoe, becasue that would indicate he’s, er, not straight.
See, Dan, here’s the thing. In a state where your greatest hope, that you can get married to your dude, is being argued about, the detractors are using biphobia to argue against marriage equality. Biphobia that you yourself encourage. Let me say it again, in more general terms, and with the full awareness that I am not the first person to point this out.
Biphobia in the queer community legitimizes homophobia in the dominant culture. Kicking out the bisexuals doesn’t help you, it hurts you. Telling half of the LGBT population that they don’t belong just shrinks our numbers and takes power away from all of us. Biphobia by leaders in the gay and lesbian communities allows straight haters to use biphobia as a wedge to divide us – and these people are experts at using wedges.
That’s how it all ties together. But there’s a further point I need to make about this construction, this idea that “bisexuals are mostly straight”.
That is an idea that only has meaning if the person having the idea is part of the lesbian/gay community.
I spent decades in the closet, and in the culture where I did so, there’s no place for “mostly straight”. No, you have to be straighter than straight. See, as far as the homophobes are concerned, any indication that you’re not purely and exactly attracted only to the socially acceptable “opposite sex” means you’re quite simply a f****t – intolerable, subhuman, deserving of whatever maltreatment they wish to put upon you.
In the world inhabited by people like the Neanderthal From Glencoe and Congressperson Bachmann (and her husband Marcus, making his living praying away the gay), any trace of teh queer is sufficient evidence to make you utterly unacceptable. But for more subtle bigots like Dan Savage, if you aren’t what he considers “sufficiently gay”, well, you don’t belong over here either.
With friends like that? It’s no wonder many of us appear to spend more time dealing with biphobia inside the LGBT community than the homophobic dominant culture. It’s because we recognize that we cannot win if we are not united. So biphobes?
It’s your own emancipation, your own equality, your own acceptance that you’re harming by denigrating and discriminating against bisexuals. You’re shooting yourselves in the foot.
And the Angry Bisexuals With Keyboards? We’re on your side. We’re not allies, we are members of the community. We face the same homophobia that you do. But as long as you keep trying to push us out, all you’re doing is making people like Michele Bachmann and her husband’s jobs easier.
Think about it.