Whose Pride?

Part One: Pride

It happens at every Pride. There’s always an Identity Shout-Out. Sometimes it’s part of a comedy routine, sometimes it’s an affirming introduction, sometimes it’s just there because it has to be.

“All the straight people, raise your hands! Oh my, what good Allies you are!” And the straight people who are at Pride, having a good time, walk away feeling validated. And hey, straight people are welcome at Pride, I would be the last to say they aren’t – but I would appreciate it if their float wasn’t the first one in the parade, you know what I’m saying?

“OK, que son las lesbianas?! Say it loud, say it Proud, put your paws in the air!” Sometimes there is some remark that reinforces a stereotype, like “Oh, there you are, over by the U-Hauls!” And that sort of thing is not really all that funny. And I think it would be right for the lesbians in the audience to make up their own minds, if it’s gentle joshing from one of their own or if they should be upset – that’s not my call, but I honestly think that a Pride celebration is not a place for anyone to be throwing any stereotypes in other people’s faces.

“Gay! It’s OK to be Gay! Show them who you are!” If the MC is a gay man, there generally isn’t much joking here, although there may be a bit of body-image dynamic (“Hotties, my dressing room’s that-a-way”).

Sometimes you might get a tip o’ the hat for trans*folk in the audience. Not nearly often enough, but when it’s there it usually doesn’t go wrong. (When it does it’s generally people other than the MC.) I will stand up and fight for Trans* inclusion because that’s part of being a Trans*Ally.

And that’s it, right? That’s all the identities that are out there. We got straight Allies, we got L, we got G, and sometimes T.

So imagine if, during the Identity Shout-Out, one of the Big Three were not mentioned at all. Would straight people flip their wig if they were not mentioned, feel sad that their contributions were not being recognized? Would the lesbian community take over the stage in a spontaneous demonstration if lesbian were left out of the list of people present? Can you imagine, if at an event advertised as “Gay Pride” the only place where “Gay” appeared in print or speech was on the flyers and the sign?

So why is it considered not an issue when the biggest single Identity is either left out altogether, or referenced always and only in negative ways? If the only times you were mentioned were in the phrase “lesbian, gay, transgender, or just weird”? Or if your inclusion in the shout-out, when it happens at all, was summed up in the line “Oh, you’ll go home with anybody.” And the crowd laughed.

Wouldn’t you feel like in the one place you were supposedly guaranteed to feel like you belong, that you had just been slapped in the face?

The thing is, it’s such an easy problem to solve. Just have someone tell the MC to include bisexuality without being negative about it – to say bisexual without directly saying or implying that we’re confused, immature sluts without any standards (and I’m not even going into the whole problem with slut-shaming, with saying that those among us who don’t follow a monogamous track are without good judgment or are inferior or lack any kind of criteria for partners). Just tell whoever you’ve hired, for good money, to remember that a significant segment of the people enjoying themselves at the one yearly event set aside for all of us are bisexual and should be treated with the same respect as the rest of the audience.

And the bisexual people who are being belittled or utterly left out at Pride? Are the heirs and spiritual descendants of the people who started Pride in the first place. So the people who are ignoring us, who are saying we are either not queer enough or too queer, are both ignorant of the history of the movement and shooting themselves in the metaphorical foot.

Let’s change this. Let’s everyone, LGBT or Ally, make a point of letting it be known that inclusive language is easy and a failure to be inclusive at a Pride event does no good and much harm. For the quick titter of laughter when someone says “And the rest of you who haven’t decided yet, pick a side, come on over to Gay, we have cookies and they’re FAAAB-u-lous!” is not really worth alienating a large part of the audience, driving people further into a monosexual closet, withholding validation from people who need it just as much as you do.

I’m not talking about being offended. I am not offended. I am invalidated. I am not being welcomed at a celebration that is supposed to be for me too.

One more point. MCs, attendez-vous.

When you erase bisexuality at Pride, you are doing to us exactly what the straight world did to you before the Pride movement came along.

When you say nasty things about bisexuality? You are saying exactly the same things that the homophobic patriarchal institutions that we are fighting (and in some cases have successfully fought, like the DSM) say or said about all of us. How soon we forget that same-sex/gender desire was seen for a century as a pathology of immaturity – according to Freud and his followers, being gay just meant that you were in an arrested state of development, or that you had the brain of the “wrong sex”. Even today people are putting out fMRI studies that pathologize gay by claiming that gay men have “women’s brains” – and how far is that from the old anatomical studies that “proved” that non-Whites were “primitive”? (Funny thing, that study had to erase bisexuality to even state the hypothesis…)

Even today, there are people who fear and hate who are saying that gay people spread disease, have indiscriminate sex (which they extend to criminal behavior), are immature, are unreliable, are sex-obsessed (when in reality the haters are the ones who are obsessed with sex, you know they spend much more time and energy thinking about other people’s sex than most people spend on their own)…

Pretty much every biphobic utterance from within the GGGG community is something the homophobes are saying about all of us.

Why are we expected to tolerate it from our own?

Listen: when hate and fear comes from outside the community, it sucks. It’s horrible and I am not attempting to minimize it. When it comes from inside the community, though, when you’ve let your guard down because you assume that you’ll be accepted here if nowhere else, it stings.

It’s not about winning the Oppression Olympics. No one is saying that any group has it worse off than any other group (and if in fact I was going to say such a thing, I would say that most of the time it’s the Trans*folk who get shanked the worst). It’s not a competition.

All I am trying to say is

Let’s stand together

Let’s help each other

Let’s share what we have in common

Let’s quit excluding each other

It’s not my Pride. It’s not your Pride.

It’s OUR Pride.

Part Two: The Difference Between Whining And Ranting

Warning: A lot of what I have written lately has been pretty mild-mannered. But I’m a little pissed off at this point, so adjust your expectations here. Thanks.

I’ve caught some flack (directly and indirectly) from some people in the GGGG community who seem to think that my pointing out that there are some problems going on is whining “woe is me.” I can say it isn’t, that they simply are reading what they want to read into it, but they would not listen – seriously, if they have already decided that I’m just some whinger, why would they listen when I defend my words?

But I want to make a couple things clear.

The GGGG community, the gay and lesbian people who are perpetrating horizontal, intraqueer oppression, are not the real enemy. They are giving aid and comfort to the enemy, they are foolishly harming themselves because they don’t seem to understand that when they throw the B and T over the side they are actually inviting straight people to do the same to them should they step one little foot out of line.

No, a gay person isn’t going to pull out a gun and shoot me because I’m bi.

But if some whacked-out asshole wants to go kill a f****t, does anybody really, honestly think that they’re going to pass me by because I’m bisexual? That those that hate really care about the fine divisions between L and G and B and T? Or are they just going to go rough up someone they have determined to not be straight enough for their taste? Anybody think that I’d get help if I lived in Anoka-Hennepin because I identify under the B instead of under the G?

Because, y’all, it’s not like you have to cross a wide gap to become their target. Nope. You just have to be even a little distance from straight to be all the way Queer.

And to the commentors on Huffington Post who think that it would be just peachy to be crammed into the closet, that “it must be wonderful to be able to pass for straight so easily”, who can’t comprehend the difference between straight privilege and passing privilege? If you think the closet is so gorram great, you’re welcome to it.

But don’t you DARE blame ME for YOUR own self-loathing. For your desire to be something other than who you are. My bisexuality is not seen by the straight world as “straight enough to welcome.” No, it’s seen as not even really existing, thanks to the gay people who have decided to use my identity as a way station.

The closet is a damned prison, not some mystical refuge, and the assumption that I put on and take off queerness in order to get the best of both worlds is the statement of someone who not only has not experienced it, but who refuses to listen to all the people who have been trying to tell them how it is.

I burst out of the closet at the tender age of 41. And I should have done it 25 years sooner. And I take it very personally when someone tries to shove me back into it because they think I’d rather pass for straight – because they themselves would rather pass. Been there, did that, and everyone who has known me through both times has made it pretty clear that I was not nearly as good at it as I thought I was. Possibly because I kept kissing guys? I’m not sure.

So, gay and lesbian people who want to keep telling me that because they think my identity is “closer to straight” because they can’t get over the idea that Kinsey is the last word in sexual orientation?

Queer is what is not straight. If you are not aligned with and indistinguishable from the heteronormative, then the dominant culture only wants you for a target.

Don’t do to me what the dominant culture does to you. It will not make you more acceptable to them. It will just make it easier for them to keep doing it to you.

We are both under the same boot. Pushing down on me won’t raise you up.

About fliponymous

Bisexual activist, thinker, writer, husband, father, Licensed Professional Counselor.
This entry was posted in Bisexuality, Identity Politics (non-monosexual) and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Whose Pride?

  1. Holly says:

    Thank you for posting this. I totally agree with you and have often made some of the same observations myself.

  2. byandbi says:

    Reblogged this on By And Bi and commented:
    I sometimes feel this way around Pride time…

  3. Mckenzie says:

    It was actually really great at the pride festival I went to, the last two years, there was a regular performer who did the shoutout and she always called out to the bisexuals as well. I really appreciated it. It made me feel accepted. But yes, it is a huge problem that even among the LGBT community, those who identify as bi can get ostracized or completely ignored. It’s tough being “in between”

    • fliponymous says:

      That is fantastic to hear! Glad to know that there are some places where it’s improving!

      If this keeps up maybe I won’t be so angry 😉

      • M says:

        The thing I find disheartening is that when bi is included I appreciate it soooooo much….because it is so rare, and even then I’m waiting to see if there is going to be a joke :(. It totally sucks to feel the need to so appreciate being treated “okay”.

        To add another positive story:
        Where I go to pride, several years ago the organizers made a set of stickers that were given to everyone. I think there were 4 or 6, and one of them said “bisexual flower”. I loved this and I loved that they gave it to everyone, and that it was one of a small set of stickers, as though being bisexual is common! I’m also really into flowers so I found it sweet as a play on bisexual power. This just happened one year, but I remember it…. I wonder who came up with it and how the discussion went. I have no idea what the other stickers said, I didn’t use them. I almost wish I would have gotten an extra set of stickers to save, to prove this really happened. I was very surprised (in a good way).

        • fliponymous says:

          M, I sooo dig that. To be so disregarded in our own community that we feel genuine gratitude when we don’t get kicked… I keep trying to find ways to make the relationship between LG and BT less dysfunctional (sometimes by addressing the dysfunctions in our own community head-on). But there comes a point where the other party needs to own their part in it and change themselves.

  4. Tamsyn says:

    I am so glad I wandered down the rabbit hole of blogs and found you. Thanks for writing. All very fair stuff, and a great link for me to point people to when they don’t get it. I’m an L in the LGBTI and it makes me sad to see this kind of discrimination within my community. I’ll be reading through some more for suggestions on my own behaviour. Instead of using ‘gay’ as a catch all term I’ve started to say ‘same sex attracted’ if I feel the need to mention it or ask in the hope that it feels more accepting / less judgmental? What do you think?

    • fliponymous says:

      I think that’s great, Tamsyn, and thanks! The more people like you in the LG part of the LGBT community, the more we can all focus on building it — creating that community of mutual support in which we can all live lives of congruence and integrity.

  5. Briar Wilkes says:

    As usual, your words speak my mind and heart. Thank you.

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