ColumnBisexuality has long been mocked as a layover on the way to the “Full Gay” (for men) or its sister stereotype – the “lesbian until graduation.” But it is indeed a real sexual orientation.
It’s not a joke: it’s people’s lives, their loves, and their sex. It’s no longer okay to deride gay men and lesbians for their sexuality (unless you’re on Duck Dynasty) so why is it still okay to make fun of bisexuals, or to ignore them altogether? We’re well acquainted with the ugliness and systemic bias of homophobia. Many good people are working to eradicate it from the planet forever – and making some good progress. But biphobia – is that a word you’ve heard or used lately?
Thanks to Tom Daley’s new relationship with a man, bisexuality is having a moment, and it’s a teachable one. Other famous bisexuals have recently made news: the new first lady of New York City was an out lesbian before she met and married Bill De Blasio. Maria Bello recently wrote a Modern Love column for the New York Times in which she talked about her relationships with men and women. Cynthia Nixon (star of “Sex and the City” and political activist) was married and had a child with a man, but currently lives with her partner – a woman.
So what’s the big deal? These are just people falling in love, feeling lust, or finding companionship (or some combination of the three). Yet their choices are considered suspect – not just to the privileged hetero-normative culture we live in, but also by the gay and lesbian community. Dan Savage once questioned the authenticity of bisexuality, and then apologized for doing so. I’ve had conversations with gay friends, both men and women, in which they said bisexuals are just greedy or living a lie.
Here is bi activist Shiri Eisner’s take on the myth of bisexual greed:
Greed… is Western society’s fear of sexuality. Of anything not heterosexual-cisgender-coupled-monogamous-vanilla-missionary-position-intercourse-in-bed. Bisexuality is hypersexualized under the presumption that sex is bad, that wanting too much of it is bad, that wanting any of it is bad, that wanting people of more than one gender is bad. That wanting more than one person is bad. Bisexuality means sexual revolution. It means sexual independence for women. It means exploring and enjoying our bodies, our sexualities, our various genders and our sexual interactions, no matter who we are, no matter who our partners. In a society based on sexual fear and a culture of rape, taking our sexualities into our own hands is a revolutionary act.
Anecdotally — I’ve been told by straight women friends that my openness to dating a bisexual guy is weird and gross – yes, really. And male friends (and boyfriends) have had similar responses. Although Generation Y is starting to put these old stereotypes to bed, straight men can be pretty freaked out and threatened by bisexuality – unless they believe that it’s a performance for their pleasure. As long as they feel in control rather than sidelined (assuming the women are subjects to their objectification, as in porn) most dudes are cool with that.
Just as straight people don’t choose to be straight, and gay people don’t choose to be gay, bisexuals don’t choose their orientation. Scientists have begun to establish the fluidity of women’s sexuality, so we’re perhaps more comfortable with the idea of bi women. We’re also titillated by them – which is a huge part of the problem. Apparently Miley Cyrus has been experimenting with same sex liaisons – and it’s big news. Remember when Lindsay Lohan dated Samantha Ronson? The press religiously freaked out about that one. Oh, and also this week, Michelle Rodriguez made out with model Cara Delevingne and OMG OMG OMG. Calm down, people.
Also this week, transgender model Carmen Carerra and “Orange is the New Black” star Laverne Cox were interviewed by Katie Couric, and what happened is illustrative of the general hetero-normative response to anything that isn’t non-threatening vanilla sex (see a few paragraphs above). Couric kept going back to a line of questioning that was essentially, “Wait, but, you have different GENITALS??? How does that WORK?” Cox beautifully schooled Couric about the invasive nature of her questions, and let her know she was entirely missing the point: transgendered people at great risk of violence, and when the press keeps weirdly obsessing about their private parts, we miss the opportunity to talk about the real issues.
The bottom line? As the wise saying goes — love is LOVE.
Got a question for Stefanie? Email stefanie at ecosalon dot com and she’ll answer it in the next Sexual Healing column.
Keep in touch with Stefanie on Twitter: @ecosexuality
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