February 07, 2006

But I'm bisexual, dammit!

So, I was talking to the Estimat over brunch today about the need to proclaim one's identity - in my case, apparently, to proclaim it at great length and with great frequency.

At this point, it's pretty unlikely that there's anyone who really knows me who doesn't know that I'm bi (with the exception of my grandmother). So it's not an issue of vehemently asserting my queerness - hell, I'm a professional queer, and in fact people are more likely to assume I'm a lesbian than that I'm straight, even though I'm about the femmiest creature on the planet. (Those of you who have seen pictures of me in The Red Satin Dress know what I'm talking about here.)

But as the Estimat pointed out, if I'm not sexually or romantically available, does it matter whom people think I'm attracted to? When you imagine a subtext like (for example), "I am really attracted to high femmes, and I am madly in love with the one I'm dating, but I also have the rampant hots for transmasculine butches and flaming gay boys," it does almost sound disrespectful to one's partner to consistently emphasize the other types of people you're attracted to. That is, of course, not the way I see it - nor is that what I mean when I insist that I'm bi, dammit - but I'm still not sure why it is so important to me if it's not a way of signaling availability.

Potential ideas/reasons:

- I'm less than a year out of the closet. (Hmmm, reminds me, I feel like I should have a party in March to celebrate...) So I still have some of the old "zeal of the convert" and I have to share the Good News (in the personal and evangelical sense) with everyone. Plus, I haven't had to do it long enough that I'd be burnt-out yet. Perhaps as the years wear on, it will either be less important to me to constantly re-assert my bisexuality; or perhaps I'll just be sick of it.

- I'm a big flirt. It was super-annoying last summer, when I was working at Renaissance Faire-type event and dating a female castmate, to be flirting right up there with the best of 'em (in the incredibly bawdy environment that Faire creates) and all of a sudden to be told by the male friend I was flirting with, "Oh, wait, I'm sorry, I forgot you're not into guys." Um, yes I am. So even if I'm not actually available, I don't like my flirting opportunities curtailed by other people's assumptions about my sexuality.

- Bisexuals are too easy to forget about, and I feel obligated to combat the invisibility that comes with being in a monogamous relationship. It's a tribal loyalty thing.

- I'm not in a lesbian relationship, so it's especially irksome to be read as a lesbian based on my choice of partner. Every time people think of me as a lesbian, it's a potential insult to the Estimat, who's not the uncomplicated-girl-type-person people think I'm dating. And if there's anything I won't stand for, it's an affront to the identity of someone I love. So re-asserting my own identity allows room for the expression of someone else's. (Interestingly enough, I'm less worried about correcting people who read me as straight, unless they're creepily hitting on me.)

- Flirting aside, in general I dislike people making decisions about my opinions or likely reactions to things based on their assumptions about my identity. It's funny, I wear a Hebrew necklace (with a line from the Song of Songs - yay Bible porn!), and I've had people look at it and assume I'm pro-Israel. This is generally a good time to note that I'm half-Palestinian, with family in Ramallah and a grandfather who died while under Israeli house arrest. Whatever I think of people who are Jewish (like my beloved, who gave me the necklace, or the Palestinian-Jewish side of my family) may not generalize to a government which I feel has done some pretty unpleasant things to people I know, care about, and belong to. That part of my identity definitely influences my opinions, and it's best to get it out there as soon as possible. Similarly, when I'm in a heavily-dyke crowd and people start making "men-are-icky" comments or saying things that imply that we're all lesbians and should all feel some particularly lesbian way, that's often a good time to remind people that in fact we're not all lesbians, and that I actually like boys.

I know there are other bi folks here, and I'm curious whether or not you-all do this, too - and if so, why you think you do it. And those of you whose attractions are monogendered, I'm curious to hear what y'all think of this, too...


emily0 said...

< Attitude Irony="lesbianSeparatist" >

Men are icky.

Except for Wanna Take This Outside. I never know if his name is a question or a statement of fact, but either way, I'd totally hump him.

(Hi, WannaTakeThisOutside!)

< /Attitude >

shachechzea said...

I am boy and I like some boys and some girls. I guess its natural.

wannatakethisoutside said...

Hi Em0.
Jumping your bones sounds like fun.

Anyhow, I am a boy and I mostly just like boys but I guess I just think that talking about lesbian communities as man-hating is not an experience I have. I spend a lot of time with lesbians and am not one but my experience is mostly that when people make negative comments about men, they are talking about men who do bad things, or men who are jerks to queer women all the time.

Obviously, it's silly to hate men. I mean, dude, I like men A LOT. But I understand that we are often jerks. But being oppressed by men sucks, too.

I guess my experience is just different from yours. (I do experience people assuming that I don't like men as sex partners, but that's way different from hatred of men.)

gromphus said...

your reason #3 is, I think, much of why I define myself as bisexual on occasion (pansexual, really, I guess. Or omnisexual... or multisexual...??).

Some reasons why I might like it for people to know that I'm pansexual (how do you abbreviate that? pan? panny?) are as follows. First, fairness: I'd like people to realize that their genders don't exclude them from being sexually interesting to me on whatever level. Following from that, and most importantly, I'd like people to realize that their non-gender-decided potential sexual interestingness shouldn't (I hope to be able to honestly say doesn't) create a barrier between us, and shouldn't force any particular kind of protective interaction.
Basically, I'd like people to not let sexuality get in the way of respect and friendship, and it seems to me that presenting myself as pansexal, or whichever term is understandable at the instant, can nudge people a little towards those conclusions. Maybe? Maybe. Eh.

xhooufy: cooking method using a six foot long flame applied in .025 second bursts every 15 seconds.

aurora said...

First, a quick plug: Harvard's bisexuality weeks are coming up soon. Check out the schedule of events and come if you're in the area! The discussions should be hot. Well, everything should be hot. But the discussions are most relevant to this thread.

ME -
I totally see where you're coming from, and as a bisexual in a relationship, I identify with a lot of it.

Here are some of my thoughts/additions:
- When I'm in a heterosexual relationship, I feel like it's important to maintain my bi identity because people are fairly quick to assume I'm straight. Even if they know I've dated women in the past, I sometimes get the feeling that people (my parents, for example) are thinking "Oh, she's dating/hooking up with guys now. It must have been a phase." Asserting my bisexuality is maintaining my position in the queer community. It would piss me off if people ever started thinking of me as just an ally.

- On the flip side, I'm completely with you on your last comment. When I'm in a homosexual relationship and hanging out with lesbians, I hate it when people forget that I find guys attractive. Sexuality is about more than who I date - it's who I like to look at and who I like to flirt with, too. While it may (while I'm dating a girl) be irrelevant that I date guys, the fact remains that I see them as sexual objects. (In a completely non-objectifying way. Of course :p)

Anonymous said...

most people think i'm "straight" because i never really talk about my sexuality (nobody's fucking business, in general), but when people assume i only care about men, i feel...um closeted i suppose. it's actually quite annoying to be in the position now where i feel that i need to speak up about the part of me that likes women because i would prefer in fact to keep my personal life personal. but it does bug me that by keeping silent about my sexuality, my preferences are automatically labelled. fuck that shit. i sometimes wish i could find myself clearly defined on one side or another of the human sexual spectrum; it sounds vaguely easier. or not. who knows. i am what i am what i am what i am. and besides, it's nice to have a bit of variety in life. so there.

this is marie btw anonymously posting.

wannatakethisoutside said...

Hi Marie!

It's so great that there are so many new people posting today!

We love you all!

JSmithua said...

Heh... I thought I should plug the bi weeks discussion I'm cofacilitating on "I don't like the word 'bisexual'" because it describes me in a lot of ways, especially recently. I am attracted to a lot of people, especially those who identify as male, but I will always leave myself open to anyone of any gender... I think that's just how I am... Like, I recently had my first 'girl' crush in 5 years... anyways... I just thought I would use quench to tell everyone: "hey! I'm not necessarily just gay!" So... there! Hehe...

maudite entendante said...

Hey, WTTO (and Em0) - I didn't meant to portray the entire lesbian community as man-hating ... it was mostly just the first example that came to mind of a situation in which I would feel compelled to mention the attractiveness of boys.

For another example, take a scene from the primarily-lesbian ball I went to on Saturday night. At one point, I was talking with a woman who pointed over to a corner where two very attractive people were talking - one ostensibly a guy, one presumably a girl. The woman I was talking to said, "Hey, check out that cutie." When I asked "Um, which one?" she gave me an are-you-feeling-okay look and said, "Ummm, the dyke in the purple?" (Personally, I thought the guy was actually the more attractive of the two.)

A similar occasion, from the same ball: a lot of people were wearing stickers with numbers to facilitate cruising. You'd take note of the number your object of interest was wearing, then leave a note addressed to that number on the bulletin board in the lobby. There was one ***hot*** guy whom both the Estimat and I were drooling over all night; finally, he stuck on a number towards midnight and became fair game for anonymous flirting. I asked a woman on the dance floor to do me a favor and find out the number of "the cutie over there in the black suit." She looked where I was pointing - the guy in question was sitting near a couple of women, all in dresses or non-black suits. She looked back at me, confused - "Where?" I said, "The guy over there," and she repeated, "the guy?" I nodded, and she trotted over, a little puzzled but quite helpful, and got me his number. (#299, wherever you are, mrrrrow.)

So, yeah - there are situations where assuming I'm a lesbian doesn't lead to assumptions of man-hating, but it definitely tends to preclude man-loving (or -lusting).

Also, I'd totally hump WTTO, too.

wannatakethisoutside said...

Wow, all these people offerring me sex. This doesn't happen much. Thanks, everyone. I love you all, too.

Anyhow, thanks ME for explaining.

tea cozy said...

"just an ally," volant?


Hi M.E.! I know you've nver met me, but I'm tea cozy, and I'm apparently "just an ally."

just kidding, volant, I'm not super-offended, but I do sometimes wish I could assert my sexuality without feeling like an asshole. But I don't think I can do that. So I don't. And lots of people think I'm secretly gay, which I don't mind so long as they don't bring it up, since it allows me to be more accepted as part of the "queer community," which, like it or not, I'm a part of lately. So, when speaking about gender and attraction, I actually find my monogamous, heterosexual relationship very useful, since it allows people to assume that I'm bi (and therefore feel, maybe, a little more comfortable around me), even though I'm not.

So, like Marie, people make assumptions about me because it's not so much their business what my sexuality is, but that's ok, I guess... as long as I don't have to constantly be reminded that to some of my best friends, I'll always be "just an ally."

ligaMOW!: the sound of my straightness suddenly exploding in flashes of light and sound.

Anonymous said...

I would just like to say that I am the lucky guy who gets to hump WTTO for the rest of my life, and I want you to know that it is all kinds of fantastic and that I'm looking forward to many years of hot sex.

wannatakethisoutside said...

tea cozy,

Thanks for bringing this up. I think it's a huge deal and something that needs to be worked on by a lot of communities. Incorporating supporters and the whole point is that everyoen should be able to be who they are and still involved equally.

Also, I feel like we're really similar in certain ways and we should hang out sometime.


maudite entendante said...

*shakes fist at the sky* Damn you, Anonymous-Dor! And also congratulations! You and the Estimat should form a League of Quenchy Significant Others, since apparently WTTO and about the only Quenchfolk dating outside the fold. ;-)

aurora said...

Clarification: I didn't at all mean to belittle allies or imply that they aren't incredibly important. I just meant that when talking about queer issues and bi issues specifically, people seem to give more weight to what I say when they know that I'm bi. Not that this is the way it should be, but this has been my experience.

Also, I totallly want to hump both WTTO and tea cozy.

aurora said...

Further elaboration (because I couldn't think of a good example before): A little while ago, I was talking with an acquaintance, and the topic of homosexuality came up. I hadn't come out to her, and I didn't really intend on coming out to her. She said something along the lines of "I don't think that gays are bad people. In fact, I have some gay friends. But they're that way because they were abused when they were little. It's a sad thing, really." I tried explaining to her that I had queer friends who had not been abused as children, but the idea didn't seem to stick. I had to switch my argument to something more along the lines of: "I had a great childhood, but I'm a dyke!" in order for her to take me seriously. Sad, but true.

hcxlb: The sound my brain makes when it realizes that it's 4am