Tag Archives: biphobia

Not by Halves

New Orleans Pride is this weekend. I’m attending. I’m volunteering, for part of it. Event updates and memos are coming at me through facebook and e-mail and text, and with every one I remember, a little more, that Pride is not for me.

“New Orleans Pride creates not only an atmosphere where everyone can be proud of their sexual orientation and gender identity, but unity within the heterosexual and homosexual communities.”

I’m told we’re “fighting homophobia and transphobia [but not biphobia] through visibility and education.” Stonewall is referred to as “lesbian and gay men [why mention queer trans women of color?] who decided spontaneously and for the very first time to fight police harassment.”

“The Gay community” is referred to over and over, and “Gay Pride” is used as a stand-in for LGBT, LGBTQ+, or queer.

The flyers say “Gay Pride Weekend,” across the top, in case the LBTQ+ parts of the our community were still under the mistaken impression that this weekend included us.

I correct, when I can. “Not, ‘gay,’ ‘LGBT.'” I’m told I’m splitting hairs. Bi and trans people are welcome, ‘gay’ is just an umbrella term. Lighten up. (There is, this year, an event specifically focused on the trans community. Good. As there should be.)

There is no mention of bisexuality in local pride events outside of the LGBT acronym.

And yes, it matters. It matters because we’re reminded that the gay community doesn’t see us as whole people. If bi folk exist (and many of them don’t think we do), we’re half gay, half straight. Pride is for our gay half. The other side? The one the gay community codes as straight? Well, just for Pride, can’t it stay in the closet?

I know the arguments. We confuse things. We confound the assertion that being gay or straight is a simple on/off either/or state. And besides, when we’re with a different-gender partner, aren’t we really just allies in a straight relationship?

Except we’re not straight. I’m not straight. I’m a bi woman whether my partner is a woman or a man or a nonbinary person. I’m a bi woman during the straightest-looking sex with the strictest Kinsey-zero straight man alive, and because I’m queer it’s still (for me at least) queer sex. That needs to be visible at Pride, too: that sometimes queer people in relationships don’t look it, that you can’t tell by looking at us even in a sexual context, and that even a cis woman and a cis man in a relationship may not fit heteronormative assumptions.

Pride is supposed to be about LGBT authenticity, not for half of our selves or half of our experiences but for all. It’s no place to be in the closet. We’re not here to be convenient any more than anyone else. We’re there because we have a right to be. It’s tiring to see, again and again, that event organizers and promoters don’t see us.

 

 

Semantics

A woman dumps a man after three dates. She’s afraid he might have given her an STI. They never had sex. But she feels at risk, dirty, lied to, because he told her that he’s bisexual. She was the second person he’d ever come out to.

A man tells me his ex is “bi.” He uses air quotes. I frown. “No, he says he’s bi, but come on. It’s a passing thing. He’s gay really.”

An emcee shouts at the audience: “who here is straight?” There are cheers. “Who here is gay?” Another cheer. “And who’s too drunk to care?” I shout “fuck you” but it’s lost under the laughter of the crowd.

A man who identifies as “mostly heterosexual” describes his first sexual encounter with another man. It is introduced with “some men test out a gay side.”

So I, and others, call it erasive. But no, we’re told that we’re mistaken. It’s not erasure. Gay can be used to encompass bi experience. Not erasure, just semantics.

There is a difference between derailing a conversation that is not about language by nitpicking word usage and having a conversation which is about language, meaning, and its effects. Because the former is a common technique for avoidance of issues, “it’s just semantics” is seen by many as a justified shut-down.

When a discussion is about the language people use and the effects that language has, the issue at hand is one of semantics.

Pointing out that a discussion about words and their meanings is a semantic discussion is not a valid dismissal. It is a tautology.

Bisexual erasure is real. Language is the simplest and most pervasive tool of that erasure. How do you think it’s done? We don’t exist: gay is close enough, gay pretty much covers it. We don’t exist: our identity gets air quotes. We don’t exist: we’re not addressed in the literature except as a subset of gay people. We don’t exist: research in bisexuality is still asking us to prove we do before it will deign to investigate or address the health disparities that affect us.

It is semantics. It is absolutely semantics. It is a pattern of excluding bisexuality from language. It is denying the accuracy and utility of the word we use to differentiate ourselves from the gay and lesbian communities that all too often exclude us, telling us instead that we should use their words.

Fuck that.

The words are worth fighting for. Words inform research, policy, public opinion, funding. There is no way in hell I’m going to stand quiet while we’re continually left out of all of it. I’m not going to back down, because semantics are not petty.