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.

 

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Gym Dialogues

Girl: *loading weights*
Guy: You know, men are turned off by muscles.
Girl: Oh, don’t worry about that! Your muscles really aren’t that big at all!
Guy: I meant—
Girl: Maybe it’s something about your personality that’s turning them off…
Guy: Never mind I—
Girl: But don’t give up! I’m sure there’s somebody out there for everyone—even you!

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.

 

Choice

Nothing evokes my decision-making anxiety quite like the paper towel aisle of Target. Not over the importance of the decision, obviously, but just the sheer quantity–of options, factors, and unsolicited contradictory advice on every label.

1-Ply? 2-Ply? Quilted? Do I want maximum absorption or fastest absorption? Or the best wet-strength? Who’s doing this “scientific testing” anyway? I could get the extra-soft ones, but they’re not made from recycled material. Should I just pick the cheapest ones–by square-footage? By volume? By absorption capacity?

The more options, the more inevitable disappointment. It’s referred to as the paradox of choice: the fact that an overabundance of choice has actually increased anxiety and unhappiness in postindustrial society.  No matter what you pick, the list of what you didn’t get will always stack higher than what you did.

Sometimes it makes me want to buy nothing at all.

So what do you do to avoid standing there forever, paralyzed by the consumer’s dilemma? The recommended strategy is satisficing–just picking something good enough so you can get on with life. And it works. As long as no one questions your paper towel choices. And as long as you don’t find yourself in a mess that really has you wishing for 3-Ply.

Just satisfice and get on with it. After all, it’s just a stupid stupid paper towel roll.

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Unless it’s not.

In a choice-saturated culture, it’s no wonder that the language of choice is at the center of our politics.

“My body, my choice!”

Take Liberal feminism, with it’s spotlight on autonomy as the key women’s right. Putting aside the daunting task of assessing the social causes and implications of each choice–along with the insufferable personal scrutiny involved in doing so–choice feminism instead celebrates the act of choosing itself as inherently empowering.

Bikinis, hijabs, lipstick, nose jobs, leg hair, sex, abortion, careers, babies, marriage, divorce. They can all be celebrated as feminist choices–but especially if  you can profess with unwavering confidence how you made the absolute best decision with your completely independent will.

The main point is spot on: personal choices surrounding one’s body and life path should be made available and respected. But assumption often implicit in the tone–that such choices automatically carry superwoman-type sense of “empowerment”–is another issue.

What if choice doesn’t always feel so powerful, free, and…super? Maybe it’s because no matter which way you turn, you’re still surrounded by flashy signs and crowds cheering for the paths you didn’t choose and against the one you did. Or maybe because you have no “right” decision that you can make proudly and loudly, only a closet full of varying shades of wrong-ish.

Can there be space in the language of empowered choice to talk about uncertainty, doubt, regret? And loss: choice always means loss, big or small, of what might have been.

Almost makes you want to opt out of the whole choice thing all together.

“It’s not a choice!”

It’s also no wonder that not choosing  has become a political mantra and legal defense for the modern gay rights movement.

Denying choice is the quickest and safest way out when when you’re accused of making all the wrong choices. “I couldn’t” needs less explanation than “I didn’t,” and “I had to” carries less moral baggage than “I decided to.” With choice out of the equation, you don’t have to directly handle and detangle those claims of wrongness and rightness thrown at you.

And of course it’s not incorrect. As long as you’re talking about attraction, and not identity or behavior, its basically involuntary by definition. There’s a reason we call it “falling in love” and not “jumping in love” (or lust or whatever).

But we jump into other things–relationships, sex, visibility, politics, communities, futures.  Making “not a choice” the central message of a movement is a decision to treat inevitability of falling as more defining than the courage of jumping.

But what if we need to deal with both? Can we deal with the fact that we all can jump, but not without falling back to earth? Jumping not into the infinite sky like superwoman, but back onto our human legs. Jumping as high as we can, but with the risk of broken bones in the landing.

Jumping without knowing if we’ll be caught. Jumping over the obstacles in front of us, but only when our power exceeds the size. Jumping over dirty puddles, or landing right in them, making messes too messy for even 3-ply to fix. Leaping forward down the best path we can see to get where we can get from where we are.

Choosing to jump, because the only thing scarier is standing still.

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.

Why This “Girl in Tights” is Over the “No Homo” Defense of Ballet Boys

Being a boy in ballet can be rough. Like a lot boys with interests counter to expected gender roles, they can get targeted for being “girly” or “gay” (whether or not these things are true).

But let’s also pay attention to how we’re responding to this type of bullying.

The Real Man thing again? Eh, I know plenty of men who lift nothing and are still pretty real.

One of my least favorite defenses of boys in ballet is the “no homo” defense (with a side of misogyny). Growing up, I heard a lot adults tell boys who do ballet to respond to “that’s gay” comments by replying that they spend their days surrounded by hot girls in tights that they get to touch.

Now I can hardly blame a kid for saying what he has to say to get through middle school–though the adults encouraging it might be a different story–and I get that it sucks to have people make assumptions about your sexual orientation, but it always bothered me that:

  1. People care more about disassociating ballet from “gay” than disassociating “gay” from “bad.” (And what if that kid is gay?)
  2. As one of the “girls in tights,” these statements always made me feel uncomfortable and objectified.
  3. I also like girls, but I certainly never came to ballet class to check people out. I would be pretty offended if someone suggested otherwise—so why should it be different for boys, who are also probably coming to class for the purpose of actually learning ballet?

Because let’s be real, ballet is hard, and regardless of your gender or sexual orientation, you’re not gonna stick around long or get very far if you’re only there for the purpose of staring at butts.

What does it say about our cultural values that staring at butts (as long as it’s hetero) is considered a more acceptable motivation for boys in ballet than practicing a challenging art form?

Look, I want to erase the stigma associated with boys in ballet at least as much as anyone else–but we can’t do that simply by erasing gay boys in ballet and waving around flag of aggressive heterosexual masculinity. That only trivializes the commitment of male dancers, demeans female dancers, and devalues ballet itself.

If really we want to end a stigma based in homophobia and gender-policing, we’re gonna have to actually fight homophobia and and gender-policing. 

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Credit to Asher for inspiring this post!