True Hero: Jeff Doesn’t Have a Problem With People Being Gay or Whatever

As pride month parades and parties roll around, it is only fitting that we take time to focus on the true heroes working to make it possible to freely celebrate LGBTQ identities. Meet Jeff, the straight guy who doesn’t have a problem with people being gay or whatever.

A proud and vocal straight ally, Jeff is almost as eager to talk about his approach to allyship as he is to talk about the fact that he is straight. “I mean I’m not gay or anything,” he clarified, “but I don’t have an issue with letting other people be like that.” This bold statement came as a relief to the many individuals anxiously awaiting Jeff’s personal approval of their sexual orientation.

Jeff’s support for the LGBTQ community is not just pollitical, but personal as well. Jeff has a self-reported “lots of gay friends,” though the only one who could be referenced by name was Patrick From College. Speaking on Jeff’s memorable place in his educational journey, Patrick recalled, “Yeah, I remember him. We lived on the same floor sophomore year I think.”

Asked to speak about the personal impact of Jeff’s allyship, Patrick explained, “Having come from an environment people were openly hostile towards my existence, I guess it was nice to be around people like that who were pretty indifferent to it.”
“Yeah, that must be nice,” murmured Cara From Work, Patrick’s token trans friend.

Nearly unlimited in compassion, Jeff’s message of acceptance spreads to all except those who are making a big deal about it and shoving it in his face. “I mean you can be gay or whatever, but some people get all weird and make their whole personality about that,” Jeff explained before noting for the fifth time today that he is a heterosexual.

The community is lucky to have Jeff as role model to show what it means to be so open and proud of one’s sexuality. Nonetheless, as he is always willing to see beyond the labels and categories that divide us, Jeff doesn’t even let his heterosexuality stop him from making appearances at a local local lesbian bar.

For his modest-but-not-unnoticed efforts, Jeff can certainly expect to be a top ally award candidate with major advocacy organizations, as soon as his music career takes off.


Note: since the initial release of this article, Jeff has contacted the publication asking us to clarify that he is heterosexual.

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Bisexual Visibility Tips

Are you a chronically invisible bisexual struggling to have your sexuality acknowledged by mere mortals? In honor of Bisexual Visibility Day, here are some never-before-used bi visibility tips to try:

Disclaimer: these strategies have not been tested on humans, animals, plants, fungi, or unicorns, and I take no responsibility for any consequences

  • During any attendance call, stand up and shout “I’m queer and I’m here!”
  • Preface every statement you make with “In my bisexual opinion . . . “
  • As you lean in to kiss someone of the same gender boo, say “no homo.”
  • As you lean in to kiss someone of a different gender boo, say “no hetero.”
  • Generally interject “no hetero” into conversations at random intervals.
  • Stop the drive-through at McDonalds to critique the employees’ use of the phrase “choose a side.”
  • If you hear someone throwing around the phrase “That’s so gay,” call them out by saying “Actually, it might be so bisexual. Don’t assume.”
  • Talk to the guy on the corner with the “Gays are Destroying America” sign and ask that he also acknowledge the role of bisexuals in destroying America.
  • When someone tells you “good-bi” smile and say “I know I am.”

It’s entirely possible that after using these strategies, you’ll still be received with the same old “But you’re not like actually bi, right?” At this point, it might be time to give up and accept your invisibility. On the plus side, invisibility is a great addition to your LinkedIn “skills” section when applying to corporate spying jobs (I’m guessing that’s what “analyst” actually means, right?).

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Pro-tip for observers: bifocals are the only glasses with guaranteed bi visibility. Put them on and you’ll be seeing bisexuals everywhere.


Note: This is a joke, I think, but bi visibility isn’t, so I recommend checking out this for real information and suggestions on for fighting erasure.

 

Dancing in the Face of Violence

Some of my semi-coherent thoughts and feelings in of the recent shooting at Pulse. Love to the families of the victims, the LGBTQ and Latinx communities of Orlando, and anyone else who’s been having trouble making sense of world lately:

In an otherwise meh performance I saw on Saturday, there was one image that stuck with me all night: a cloud of smoke meant to resemble a bomb with people dancing tirelessly through it. The coexisting images of dancing and bombs, as if there were nothing contradictory about them, seemed as strangely affirming as it did absurd.

When I read the news on Sunday, the only thing that made sense to do was nothing. The next morning, the only other thing I could do was dance. It’s a pretty useless thing to be doing, but maybe that’s what made sense about it.

Some people have expressed shock that people could be shot in a place where they came to feel safe, have fun, and dance. But the truth is that queer clubs have always been sites of dancing in the face of danger. Maybe some of us are in a time, place, or social position that lets us forget it, but queer clubs around the world have grown up in the face of violence, whether from criminal attackers or law enforcement.

In this space, with this history, there’s no need to check the shooter’s race or religion or background to recognize a shooting as an act of terror—especially for queer people of color, it’s all too clear that targeted violence meant to invoke fear isn’t only something that comes from Muslims or brown people or immigrants.

And yet the very existence of clubs like Pulse—filled with dancing—is testament to everyone who has refused to let their body be paralyzed by that fear.

In the face of violence, dancing is a pretty useless thing to be doing. But maybe that’s kind of the point. Even when they’re after your life, you refuse to let them reduce your body and your movement to the bare functionalism of fight or flight.

Refusing to let them tell you what not to do with your body. Refusing to make it quieter and smaller as a plea for tolerance or safety. Asserting your will not just to survive, but to live. Demanding that your community be defined not just by oppression and death stories, but also by dancing and life stories.

Dancing through guns, through bombs, through tears, through fears. Keep dancing y’all.

 

The Early Days: Will You Be My Valentine?

Valentines Day 2001, at the Lego station in Ms. Cornelius’ Kindergarten class:

Me: Will you be my Valentine?

(Also on my list of “Valentines” that day: my mom, my neighbor, the class guinea pig.)

Hannah: No. If you’re a girl your Valentine has to be a boy and if you’re a boy it has to be a girl.

Me: Oh. Why?

Hannah: I don’t know, it’s just the rule. That’s what my dad told me.

Me: Oh. Okay.

(Mentally) That’s a weird and confusing rule. Who came up with this stuff? When do we get chocolate?

Coincidentally, I still have those three thoughts pretty frequently now.

good-bye-candy

 

“STRAIGHT WOMEN DON’T EXIST!!!” and Other Terrible Science Reporting

Recently, the internet erupted a bit over the scientific “discovery” that women are “bisexual or gay, but never straight.” The statement is based on a study at the University of Essex which measured pupil dilation and genital arousal of women looking at porn. (Yeah, sometimes academics take ideas like “sexual experimentation” very literally.)

Straight women protested. Straight men got a little too excited. Queer women wondered why they were still single. Bisexual men found it mildly refreshing that heterosexuality was being questioned for a change.

But did anyone actually read the study?

Some people have rightly expressed skepticism about the conflation of arousal patterns and sexual orientation. Obviously, there is a lot more to sexuality than pupils and genitals. Arousal non-concordance–a discrepancy between genital response and the subjective state of arousal–is known to be particularly common in women. Besides, many people would attest that what you like to look at is not necessarily what you like to do.

But, beyond that, the actual study never even suggested that physical arousal in response to men and women indicates bisexuality. In fact, the hypothesis of the study wasn’t about that at all.

Let’s take a look:

The study merely mentioned that arousal in response men and women had been previously established as the “female-typical” pattern (yup, this is old news), and the new results fit this trend. The main hypothesis was that arousal patterns are related to measures of masculinity/femininity–which, by the way, was not supported by the results at all.

But I guess “STRAIGHT WOMEN DON’T EXIST!!!” makes for a flashier headline than “Researchers Fail to Relate Gender Expression and Arousal.”

Sure, there is plenty reason to be skeptical of the research itself (after all, these are some of the same people who published that much-publicized–and discredited--study denying male bisexuality).

  • I question the assumption that porn viewing somehow reveals the fundamental essence of human sexual nature.
  • I wonder the whether the people who sign up for sexual arousal studies are representative of the general population.
  • I look with suspicion toward a line of research which too-often assumes that people–especially women–“don’t know what they really want” sexually.
  • I take issue with the values of a field which invests more resources in questions like “Why does [X orientation] exist?” than “Why do [people of X orientation] suffer disproportionately from mental health problems?”
  • I reject the recurring mindset which places the existence of fluid sexualities in opposition to the existence of other orientations.

But bad journalism takes questionable science and bumps it up to dangerously exaggerated pop-pseudoscience. This is particularly true in cases in which the terrible media representation of science overlaps with terrible media representations of gender and sexuality. (All it takes is a serious-looking fMRI image to convince people that men are “hard-wired” to cheat.)

This time, the “bisexual or gay” line first appeared in a press release from the university itself, then circulated (and inflated–“rarely” straight became “almost never” and “never”) through sources ranging from the Daily Mail to respected science blogs.

In this case, I don’t think that the social acceptance of female heterosexuality is in serious danger. But it is evident that a reporter’s words can have a much bigger impact than a researcher’s words, regardless of how much expertise or truth is behind them. And I believe that this great power needs to come with some greater responsibility, particularly when making claims about people’s identities and desires.

Checking the Left Column: Queerness, Normalcy, and Having “Problems”

Five years ago, I was sitting at the doctor’s office, waiting for my physical as I filled in a standard teen mental health checklist.

I’ve noticed that it’s generally not a good sign when a question requires me to check one of two boxes (seriously, I don’t even like true/false questions on tests). But this survey went a step further and ordered the “yes” and “no” options for each question so that they formed two obvious columns: the “normal” column–which included a “yes” to having friends and a “no” to drugs and suicidal thoughts–and a “problem” column with exactly the opposite.

And then I hit a kicker: a yes to “I have had sexual or romantic feelings toward a person of the same gender” would mean a big fat check in the problem column.

It was too clearly organized to believe that there were truly “no wrong answers.” It was made so that a normal person could make their marks straight down the right column, picking the right answers, barely stopping to read the questions if they so wished.

Because to stray into the left column would be a loud, clear, intentional statement that you have problems. That you need help. And as someone who could get along just fine, who could get everything done and answer “good” to “how are you? (and many times mean it), I had no reason to open up that box.

Besides, just because something was in my head, didn’t mean it had to be real.

I am fine, therefore I check the right column. And that was it.

———-

At this point in my life, I had mostly dismissed any concerns about sexuality being evil or sinful, as most of the people around me had too. But just as scary was the prospect of being troubled.

I could be queer, I guess, I had recently admitted. I could be that normal, happy, casually out queer with a girlfriend and snappy responses to people’s probing questions. I could be bi, I guess, as long as I wasn’t one of the slutty, cheating, attention-seeking ones who go through phases. But heaven forbid, I could never be questioning, confused, or struggling. I couldn’t have uncertainties or fears. I had to be queer perfectly or not at all.

The former option seemed impossible when I saw that my sexuality would automatically place me in the same column as depressed people and drug addicts–so I would have to pick the latter.

People around me, people like me didn’t have problems. They didn’t need help. At least that’s what I thought.

———

Clearly there was something wrong with this situation. What was, however, is less clear than it might seem. Was it just the fact that non-heterosexuality was placed in the “problem” column, the fact that there was a “normal” column and a “problem” column in the first place, or the fact that checking the “problem” column is made out to be such a huge, scary deal?

I’ve been thinking about this lately with the SCOTUS ruling on same-sex marriage and the celebration surrounding it. In many ways, the marriage equality movement has showcased the epitome of queer normalcy: ads showing gay white picket fences and couples with 2.5 children; legal arguments centered around thoroughly non-pathological families, squeaky clean personal narratives, and “just like you” rhetoric.

And now the ruling has left a rainbow on every other profile picture and cell phone ad, in a display of mainstream (at least in some places) visibility and support that I could have never imagined as a kid. And that’s a beautiful, affirming thing in many ways. But what if people are only willing to see the rainbows and not the rain?

Where is this normalcy we’re aiming for, anyway? Even within the general population, more of us fall into that “problem” column than we like to assume. About half of Americans meet criteria for a psychological disorder within their lifetime. As you might expect, the numbers are higher within the queer population, particularly for bisexuals, trans people, and people of color. This stuff is harder to talk about than weddings and parades, and is fueled by numerous structural and social factors, with no one easy legal fix.

But if these numbers can remind us of anything good, it is that none of us is the lone “problem person” in a sea of normalcy, as we might believe. And if we started acknowledging that it’s okay to need help–including but certainly not limited to limited to the clinical sense–we might be better equipped for a world which is not all rainbows and sunshine.

Say it with me: I am a problem person. And that’s okay.