So each March the Bisexual Resource Centre (US) launches Bisexual+ Health Awareness Month and encourages people to tweet, facebook, blog, and write articles about bisexual health, whether it be their own lived experience or discussing research which covers the health of the bisexual+ community.
This month, and last year around bi-visibility week (the week before or after depending on your fancy Celebrate Bisexuality Day), I’ve been thinking about the numbers. The numbers are not good (and I’ll detail some of the not good later), and as a community bisexual people struggle to access services, be believed, manage biphobia, and constantly deal with bi-erasure.
A note about terminology. I use bisexual a lot because that is how I identify and it is listed as part of the rainbow acronym (LGBTIQA+). The information and data I’m sharing below is often drawn together from people who identify as bisexual, pansexual and queer. The term that is easiest to use (and I’ll fail a lot at this because habits die hard) is multi-gender attracted (MGA). That is a useful and descriptive term that is a decent umbrella. It captures attraction (sexual and/or romantic and/or any other type) and just states that some people are attracted to more than one gender – even though they may use other labels to identify themselves.
Bisexuals may be same-sex attracted, but that’s not our only attraction. Pansexuals are same-sex attracted but that’s not their only attraction. Multi-gender attracted is a useful descriptor.
Let’s start first with poverty because poverty really limits your ability to access health services, social services, keep a roof over your head, exit from abusive relationships, etc. The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) data was examined in relation to LGB and straight financials. Sadly the authors of the paper I’m about to list were biphobic and really didn’t talk in detail about the bisexual community, but I managed to find some relevant numbers. (Sabia, JJ & Wooden M 2015, ‘Sexual Identity, Earnings, and Labour Market Dynamics: New Evidence from Longitudinal Data in Australia’,Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series Working Paper No. 8/15, University of Melbourne)
The HILDA data found that bisexual women are less likely to be employed, bisexual men have a larger earning penalty than gay men and that bisexual people have slower wage growth.
This is backed up by a Canadian study by Ross, LE & O’Gorman, L & MacLeod, MA & Bauer, GR, MacKay, J & Robinson M 2016, ‘Bisexuality, poverty and mental health: A mixed methods analysis’, Social Science & Medicine, Volume 156, May 2016, Pages 64-72, ScienceDirect, which found that bisexuality impacts employment experiences and/or earning potential, which in turn impacts mental health and a substantial number of bisexuals live in poverty.
Bisexuals are less likely to be out – and that’s a whole ‘nother post about why it’s not always safe to be out. The table below is from Private Lives 2 ( Leonard W, Pitts M, Mitchell A, Lyons A, Smith A, Patel S, Couch M, Barrett A 2012, Private Lives 2: The second national survey of the health and wellbeing GLBT Australians, GLHV), a study undertaken of the LGBTI community in Australia. Private Lives 3 is being planned I understand. This table shows that bisexual men and women (thanks the binary) are much more likely to hide their sexuality or gender identity than lesbian and gay people.
Studies in the US also have found that bisexuals are less likely to be out. This means that it is difficult to find community, to find services that can treat the whole person, and for services and communities to actually understand what multi gender attracted people need.
This next bit talks about sexual and other forms of violence experienced by bisexual people.
the LGBTQ community, transgender people and bisexual women face the most
alarming rates of sexual violence. Among both of these populations, sexual
violence begins early, often during childhood.
And really I didn’t want to write all this down (or borrow it from presentations that I’ve done) just to say “Look numbers!”, because there is so much more to this.
How does it feel when you see yourself and your experience in those numbers? How does it feel when you see those numbers and can relate them back to friends and family? Having co-facilitated Bisexual Alliance Victoria‘s bisexual discussion group since the mid 2000s, I have heard these stories, I have witnessed this pain. At no point are these numbers ever abstract for me. They are real people that I have met.
I’d personally love to do more activism, to stand up and shout louder. However, I have my own trauma to manage, I provide mental health care and support to people I love fiercely, I have a job, and I just don’t have time to do more (despite so many organisations constantly asking me, both LGBTI and other).
I feel like I’m not always a visible activist, despite being the President of a Bisexual advocacy and support group, because I am not always on these issues. And I can’t be, because to get the stuff done that I need to get done, I have to prioritise my time.
So I’ll be here, with the people who have experienced the shit that society dumps on bisexual people, standing fast against the storm and moving ahead, one step at a time.
The main stream media (MSM) is not very good at discussing bisexuality. They tend towards the old myth of “straight, gay or lying”, which means that for the most part people who don’t identify as straight, gay or lesbian, tend to end up with one of those labels anyway, because bisexuality isn’t an option, despite it being right there in the middle of the acronym for the community of non-straight and/or non-gender conforming people – LGBTI.
Let’s take the first moment of epic fail in this article, by the author Camilla Smith:
My husband Peter was away for work when I found the postcard of Manly Beach, in Australia. Sent from an unfamiliar friend, there was a comment about watching men sunbathing, and how Peter would enjoy the view.
After 10 years together, seven of marriage, it was instantly clear that Peter was gay.
“Instantly clear” that despite what I assume were 10 years of mostly happy relationship, one where they were together for such a long time, that Peter is gay. Not bisexual. In fact, in this entire article, Smith is of the opinion that bisexual men do not exist. She goes to great lengths to pain Peter a philandering gay man using her as a “beard”.
So Smith continues:
I had a cup of tea, walked the dog, and when Peter came home, I told him what I had found.
He didn’t break down. He didn’t try to deny the friend or that he had a sexual interest in men. He didn’t, however, agree he was gay.
I think, for the age group of men like Peter and Keith Vaz, the image of a gay man is different to what you see now. If you grew up in the 70s, being gay meant Larry Grayson and John Inman, camp-as-a-row-of-tents clichés. They must have looked at these images and thought, that’s not me.
It was such a narrow view of homosexuality. Now you have rugby players, CEOs and soldiers who are out, but not then.
And yet Smith has no clue about bisexuality. For her, if a man is attracted to men, he cannot be attracted to women. Smith’s view of the spectrum of human sexuality is so incredibly narrow, that she could not even conceive that her husband, the man she’s spent 10 years in a relationship with, could be bisexual.
I don’t think he wanted to come out because I don’t think he wanted to be gay. Somehow, for him, it was preferable to be bisexual.
Probably because he’s actually bisexual. It’s this erasure that harms bisexual people so much. Not just Peter who is in the midst of being erased by his wife, but every other bisexual who reads this awful story and feels that they can’t be bisexual because we’re not real, that they have to deny who they are because the only options are straight or gay. This erasure leads to the incredibly high rate of domestic violence against bisexual people, as well as higher rates of suicide and drug abuse than gay and lesbian people.
I was happy to believe him. We had a good life, a nice home. I wanted to save our marriage. We went to counselling. We made love.
But every so often I’d have a snoop. And I’d find a ticket to a gay club, or find a receipt for a gay sex toy.
She wanted to believe him, but clearly didn’t trust him. I don’t actually quite understand what Smith believed. Clearly her husband was (and presumably still is) attracted to women as well as men. You know, the definition of bisexuality is attraction to more than one gender, so Peter is doing a great job of that.
Smith’s lack of trust is incredibly grating. She clearly isn’t interested in communicating honestly with Peter, talking to him about establishing boundaries that make her feel safe, talking about what he does. No, instead she’s “snooping” through his stuff. Finding a ticket to a gay club, which might just be where he was hanging out with his non-straight friends, or finding receipts for “gay sex toys”. I have no idea what gay sex toys actually are. I assume Smith found receipts for buttplugs or other anal play toys – and if he’s using them himself for his own pleasure, I don’t actually understand what her problem is.
I’m trying to put a time line together of this whole relationship mess, and Smith is not very helpful with that… but anyway
I do feel he stole my adult life away. He could have told me before we got married that he felt he was bisexual and wanted an open marriage. He could have told me when I found the postcard that he was gay and given me the chance to start again. He could have told me that like many men – gay or straight – he didn’t want to be monogamous.
Ok… no one steals your life. Smith gave her time and energy to this relationship and apart from the time at the end when she was an untrusting, biphobic jerk, she seemed to be happy. Probably apart from the IVF bit, no one likes that.
Maybe, and Smith doesn’t consider this, Peter didn’t know that he was bisexual when they married each other. Not everyone realises when they hit sexual maturity that they aren’t the societally expected heterosexual. People do come out late in life. Also, nowhere in this whole article does Smith say that Peter actually admitted that he cheated on her. She believes that he has, and I’m sure she would have included it if that conversation occurred and he’d put his hand up and said yes. So perhaps Peter, and since we don’t know I can’t say for certain, was entirely monogamous with Smith, and apart from hanging out with LGBTI people (not actually a crime) did everything well.
Also, stop with calling this bisexual man gay. Peter has said repeatedly that he’s not gay, and Smith’s erasure of that is so wrong.
And apart from the Telegraph actually publishing this awful bit of writing, it’s the bit at the end which adds to the harm:
Straight partners of gay, lesbian and transgender people can find confidential support…
That’s ok, bisexual people are definitely a figment of your imagination. I haven’t provided the link to the email address that appears at the bottom of the article, I am not convinced that providing it would actually be a wise move.
I want to be completely clear here that I accept that there are women who come out later in life as lesbians, and for their own completely valid reasons did not come out earlier. I also want to state that I accept that people have the right to label themselves.
The last point I just made has the following thoughts from me though. If bisexuality wasn’t so incredibly stigmatised as an identity, would more people who are attracted to more than one gender use the label? There are plenty of other labels under the bisexual umbrella (as several of us call it) that are used such as fluid, pansexual, polysexual, etc. I think that those who identify with any label that suggests that they are non-monosexual is likely to face the same stigma that bisexuals face.
Later-in-life lesbians – women who identify as lesbians or declare same-sex feelings in their 30s, often after serious relationships, marriage and children – have come more into the public consciousness in recent years, with a string of high-profile women publicly leaving heterosexual relationships for female partners.
“Or declare same-sex feelings”… so those who aren’t identifying as lesbians, and are probably bisexual. The word bisexual does not appear once in this article. Not once. It’s so thoroughly erased that this article pretty much states that if a woman comes out as attracted to other women, she can only be identified as a lesbian.
This is despite the following lovely quote from Susie Orbach:
Susie Orbach, who spent more than 30 years with the writer Joseph Schwartz, and had two children with him, before marrying novelist Jeanette Winterson, writes in the Guardian on Friday: “We are finally beginning to recognise that sexuality is neither a binary nor fixed. That love, attraction, identity, attachment and sexuality are more layered and interesting than they have been allowed to be represented in the public space until now and that as their complexity is opened up to us, the crudity of realising you were always gay or always straight is for many people a nonsense.”
And instead of asking why women don’t want to be labelled despite the fact that it would appear that they are bisexual, and instead of examining how non-lesbian women in same-sex relationships find community and operate in a world where they are being mislabelled, we get:
Jan Gooding, chair of Stonewall and group brand director with insurers Aviva, said that women who shift sexuality later in life are often keen not to be labelled in any way – like Gilbert, who does not explicitly refer to herself as a lesbian in her post but rather declares that she loves another woman.
Gooding speaks from experience: she had been married for 16 years “to a very wonderful man” and had two sons when she fell in love with another woman, but said she feels very protective of her husband and children and previous relationship. “People find it difficult to believe that I could fall in love with a woman out of the blue,” she said. “But it does happen, people haven’t necessarily been holding out until middle age. This idea that everybody knows deep down does a great disservice to individual journeys.”
I would love for more people to seize the identity bisexual, to be like Peter and stay firm, insisting that they are bisexual, not gay, not straight. To state that there is nothing wrong with being bisexual, and that bisexuality is just another sexual orientation along the spectrum that is human sexuality. This is why I am out. This is why I am visible. I want people to know that they can be bisexual and happy, that they can be in relationships with bisexual people and be happy, and that finding community and belonging are important and healthy things to do.
One day the MSM will get it right, and I’ll keep ranting until they do.
I forget how much of a difference being out makes to other people. I’ve been an out bisexual since at least 2006, and I forget what difference that makes to other non straight, non gay and non lesbian people.
A couple of weeks ago, I appeared in The Age (nice photo and everything) talking about bisexuality, to support a friend and fellow activist’s book on bisexuality. The interview was easy, apart from it being at 9:30am on a Sunday, and the photographer who came around to take photos of me and James was also lovely, the whole thing was great.
My colleagues, who I had told I was being photographed, were very supportive of the story, messaging me as soon as they saw it, congratulating me on being in the paper. Old colleagues from a previous job, who I am also out to, got in contact to tell me that they had found the article and loved it. In all of this, I forgot that this story makes a difference to people.
Being an out bisexual is so a part of my life, I forget that it helps other people. Two people, one a friend of a friend, and one a business associate, have commented positively on the article, one talked to me about bisexuality and the invisibility she feels because she is married to a man, as well as how she feels unwelcome in LGBTI spaces because she is bisexual and married to a man. The other thanked me for the work I do (outside my paid work), saying that this was so important, and made such a big difference to people.
When I agreed to be interviewed I thought about the impact this probably wouldn’t have on my life – given I’m very out. I didn’t think about the impact that it would have on other bisexual people, or those who fit under the bisexual umbrella. I’m glad it’s made a difference, and I recognise I need to spend more time thinking on how to use my power (of being an out bisexual) for good to bring community to those who don’t know where to find it.
If you are in Victoria, Australia there is a Bisexual community. You can be a part of called Bi-Alliance Victoria. If you are in other parts of Australia, please feel free to follow us on Twitter, join our email lists or like our Facebook page. (I’m not on Facebook, I have no idea what you’re supposed to do in FB land) If you’re visiting Melbourne, and you’re here when we have a discussion group, come along. Always great to meet people and build community.
I was bullied at school, specifically I was bullied at high school in Bendigo, the schools I attended in Alice Springs (also private Catholic schools had better programs than Bendigo at reducing bullying). I mean, I was briefly bullied at primary school in Alice Springs, but it was really brief (a few months in year one or two) and then it stopped.
I wasn’t bullied because I’m not straight (I’m bisexual by the way), I was bullied because I was different, a smart kid in a school filled with average kids. A kid who wasn’t born in Bendigo (at my school that mattered) and was arriving part-way through the school year.
Safe Schools didn’t exist way back in the late 1980s, and given the conservatism of Bendigo Catholic College, I am not convinced that they would even implement the program in the school (they haven’t to date). Safe Schools would have made my school life more bearable at school as it is a program that encourages the acceptance of difference and builds empathy. Both of these things are important.
The government will seek to address these findings and reasonable concerns via a number of immediate actions.
1. Fix the content of the programme resources by:
a. Having the lesson plans for Lessons 2, 6 and 7 of the All of Us resource amended to remove those activities identified by the review as potentially unsuitable for some students.
b. Having the content of Lesson 5 of the All of Us resource redesigned to ensure that the content aligns with the curriculum content for biology appropriate for the target age group.
c. Requiring that the amended resources and any further resources be peer reviewed and approved by a panel of qualified educators appointed by the Department of Education and Training.
Ok, the first bit is not terrible, the second bit sounds reasonable, but the third… the people who provide the resources for Safe Schools are qualified people.
I am not yet convinced that a panel of “qualified educators” would be better qualified than the creators of the Safe School Coalition resources. Sally Richardson is a former lecturer at La Trobe, Roz Ward has a MA in Gender Studies, and Joel Radcliff has a Grad Dip in Education. I assume they also have lived experience, and work with Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria, who are a “health and wellbeing policy and resource unit. GLHV is funded by the Victorian Government and sits within the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS), La Trobe University.” (source)
I know that several garbage humans think that there is some kind of Marxist, cultural revisionist agenda here to convert children into being gay, or to confuse them into being transgender, but that argument is so illogical that I’m surprised that anyone let it see the light of day. The majority of the Resource material for Safe Schools is already peer reviewed and is effectively published by a University. Surely that should be enough.
To make another hurdle for material, effectively to be passed by Government, means that the panel of “qualified educators” can be hand-picked by the Minister, and can be set up with an agenda to disallow any further change to the material.
Given there was an additional announcement today that the Federal Safe Schools roll-out would not be funded after 2017 (source), it really does seem that the Government wants to ensure that no changes to the current program (beyond removing resources) happens at all.
2. Address concerns about third party links, advocacy and materials in resources by:
a. Having all third party organisation branding removed from all official resources.
b. Having reference to any third parties limited to organisations funded by state, territory or Commonwealth governments for the provision of mental health or counselling services.
c. Requiring that national and local programme managers not bring the programme into disrepute, or engage in political advocacy in a way that represents their views as being endorsed by the programme.
d. Requiring that the resources for the programme not be used for political advocacy.
And onto the next bit – removing branding from official resources may mean that any IP owned by that organisation (that’s intellectual property for those playing at home) may also have to be removed. There is the potential for less resources to be available to children.
Additionally, this means that schools may find it difficult to refer children to other organisations where they can spend time with people like them. It will make it difficult for parents to find organisations to support them and their children.
And onto the next one. This one amuses me. Everyone says that it means that Minus18 (for example) will not be able to be referred in the Safe Schools material. Minus18 is partly funded by the Victorian State Government as part of the HEY (Healthy Equal Youth) projects. See here for more info also. So Minus18, by the Minister’s own rules, can still be referred to in the Safe Schools material.
The final two of this point are weird at first glance. When you think about the garbage humans who have been involved in calling for this review, and about the statements made by Sally Richardson as the review was called (just google Sally Richardson and Safe Schools and you can see how many media outlets went to her for comment).
What the Government actually wants is to gag Safe Schools on talking about how homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in the media impacts on children. They don’t want Safe Schools to talk about how harmful a marriage-equality plebicite will be for LGBTIQ+ children in Australia. They want to reduce bullying in schools, but they don’t care about the bullying perpetrated by Government, religious groups, and other anti-LGBTIQ+ arsehats.
3. Limit the distribution of certain materials by:
a. Requiring local programme managers to ensure the distribution and promotion of Safe Schools Coalition Australia programme materials is restricted to secondary school settings only.
b. Restricting the use and distribution of the OMG I’m Queer, OMG My Friend’s Queer and Stand Out resources, which were not developed as classroom resources, to one-on-one discussions between students and key qualified staff.
Restricting Safe Schools materials to secondary schools only means that queerphobia and transphobia in Primary Schools is a-ok with this Government. There are children who transition in primary school, what are they (the parents, the student, the school) supposed to do to support everyone through this process if they cannot access Safe Schools material? I’ve read accounts of young people (primary school age) who have wanted to self-harm because their body was did not match their gender. This government has just shown they don’t care about young trans children.
Restricting use and distribution (and I hope all the schools involved in Safe Schools actively disobey this one) of the OMG I’m Queer, OMG My Friend’s Queer and Stand Out resources to students at schools, and stating that they can only be used on one-on-one discussions means that most students who need these resources won’t access them. The Government couldn’t justify banning these resources, because the review didn’t find that they should be, so they’ve just made them impossible to access, particularly because all resources are to be moved off the Safe Schools website. I’d recommend downloading those documents now and sharing them widely.
4. Align the location of resources with other inclusion, support, tolerance and anti-bullying measures by housing official resources only on the official Australian Government Safe Schools Hub website, which contains other inclusion and anti-bullying resources for schools, teachers, parents and students in areas such as racism, domestic violence and disabilities. The Safe Schools Coalition Australia website will not have any resources, advice or links and will limit operations to programme coordination and direct users to the Safe Schools Hub for access to official programme resources only.
See my comment above about the moving resources off the Safe Schools website. Limiting the availability of some information will make it harder for LGBTIQ+ students.
Given the Victorian Government has said they will support, continue to fund, and allow the program to operate as it currently does in Victoria, I don’t know what this means for the Safe Schools Coalition website. There used to be a Victorian site before the Federal Government rolled out the program nationally, so I suppose that could be recreated. It will be an interesting one to watch.
Whatever happens with the Liberals' secret review, we'll make sure Safe Schools stays in Victoria. End of story. https://t.co/ztPHyOc4e4
5. Ensure parents are appropriately empowered and engaged by:
a. Requiring agreement of relevant parent bodies for schools to participate in the Safe Schools Coalition Australia programme, including the extent of participation and any associated changes to school policies.
b. Requiring parental consent for student participation in programme lessons or activities, while maintaining the rights of all students to seek counselling services.
c. Having an official fact sheet for the Safe Schools Coalition Australia programme for parents about the programme developed so they have access to full and consistent information of its content and the resources that may be used in schools.
d. Having an official resource for parents of students dealing with questions of sexual identity developed, and distributed only by key qualified staff.
So the PTA needs to approve the Safe Schools program. I freely admit I know NOTHING about school parental body politics. I don’t know if they are more or less conservative than the school at large. I don’t know if this means that schools are more or less likely to introduce Safe Schools. I’m guessing less, because otherwise it would be less likely to be a thing.
Requiring parental consent for student participation means that non-supportive parents of the entire LGBTIQ+ population (students and non-students) will be able to keep their children “safe” from hearing that LGBTIQ+ people are just like them. The ability to opt out of a bullying reduction program means that the bullying does not go away. This is to reduce the effectiveness of the program.
The third item is sensible, but the last one is not. Once again we have the “key qualified staff”, and I don’t know what that means. I’m guessing that the Safe School program comes with a qualified resource to assist the school in running/setting up the program, and this is the “key qualified staff” that the press release refers to. I believe an official resource for parents is a good idea. I hope it is developed in order to ease the mind of parents who are concerned that their child will be miserable because they are not straight. (Why be happy when you can be normal? – Jeanette Winterson) I hope it is freely available, so that parents don’t have to feel anxious or ashamed to ask for it. I’m pretty sure many parents in Australia will google “Is my child LGBTIQ+” before having to ask someone at school.
Finally I want to leave this with two articles that give a little bit of hope. Before I provide those links, I want to share the words of Christopher Pyne, who was not a garbage human today (I know, I was also shocked).
Remember, these arseholes want to wear us down. They want us to not exist and they don’t care if we die. The best revenge is a life well lived, and stepping away from this shit-fight in order to protect your own sanity and health is vital if you need it.
It’s 2016, bisexuals in some form or another have been marching at pride since at least 2006 (that’s when I was first aware of them marching, I wasn’t able to attend). With the exception of 2 marches in that period, we’ve had abuse yelled at us from the crowd. Sure it’s only a couple of people, but seriously…
IT IS TIME TO STOP DOING THIS
If you think that bisexuals are confused, not choosing to be fully out, making the gay and lesbian communities look bad (though you’re doing a good one of that yourself), or something else – DON’T TALK TO US.
If you think that yelling abuse at any group at Pride is acceptable – DO NOT COME TO PRIDE.
I was having a really great walk down Fitzroy Street with bisexual people and the Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (yes, I know), being distracted by ManHunt behind us, smiling thanks to the cheers, waves and the general positive mood… until you decided that we needed to be told to choose a side.
Listen, the only people who need to choose a fucking side are those that think that biphobia is bad and didn’t actually say something to those arseholes.
This is my request. If you cannot restrain yourself from being biphobic in public, don’t come to Pride or any other LGBTIQ+ community event. Stay home, stay amongst your friends who tolerate your biphobia (though why I don’t understand), limit your exposure to bisexuals (and/or the other groups that upset you), just keep your toxicity to yourself
Every time you are biphobic you add to the poorer mental health that bisexuals have versus gay and lesbian people. You add to the higher rates of violence against us, and to the higher rates of suicide versus gay, lesbian and straight people. STOP being an awful person. (source)
We really don’t care why you do or do not like bisexual people. We care about the effects that your toxic behaviour has on us, and we want you to stop. If you can keep your mouth shut and say nothing, then we’ll all be much happier.
Without bisexuals, you wouldn’t have Pride marches anyway.
Brenda Howard is known as the “Mother of Pride”, for her work in coordinating the march. Howard also originated the idea for a week-long series of events around Pride Day which became the genesis of the annual LGBT Pride celebrations that are now held around the world every June. Additionally, Howard along with fellow LGBT Activists Robert A. Martin (aka Donny the Punk) and L. Craigt Schoonmaker are credited with popularizing the word “Pride” to describe these festivities. As LGBT rights activist Tom Limoncelli put it, “The next time someone asks you why LGBT Pride marches exist or why [LGBT] Pride Month is June tell them ‘A bisexual woman named Brenda Howard thought it should be.'” (Wikipedia)
I don’t think that speech which harms minoritised groups should be protected. I don’t think that giving another platform to someone who has engaged in hate speech regarding a minoritised group is necessary or that it will add to any ongoing debate. I don’t think that providing a platform to someone who has engaged in hate speech will in any way help them realise that they are harming a group of people, nor will it educate those who are on the fence regarding an issue. In my opinion all it does is reaffirm their existing position, it does not give them an opportunity to learn about how they have harmed others, nor an opportunity for others who do not understand that harm, to understand it better. I am really not a fan of people (who usually have multiple other platforms) being given another platform to other or dehumanise groups of vulnerable people.
Before I go any further I want to state I am not a trans person, I am cis-gendered. I do my best to be a good ally to the trans community, but I will (and do) fuck up from time to time. I will do my best to learn from my mistakes.
So last night the Liberal Party and the National Party held a meeting for over 5 hours to discuss whether or not the party would allow a free conscience vote (which still would have not gotten the required numbers over the line) or whether they’d all vote as a block and therefore and vote No. The block voting won (in case you didn’t know).
Not enough has been said about this debate taking over 5 hours in my opinion. Over 5 hours.
I hate meetings at the best of times, finding them an incredible waste of time when I could be doing the stuff that is discussed, but this meeting went FOR OVER 5 HOURS. That’s 5 hours of impassioned debate about an issue that is important (not the most important, but still). An issue that is capturing the world’s attention. An issue that reduces the active amount of discrimination in the world. A few years ago, we would have been lucky if that party room discussion went for an hour.
Just this year Ireland, the United States of America and Mexico have allowed same-sex marriage, adding to a long list of countries in which it is already legal. The referendum in Ireland with the majority of voters voting yes, and the Supreme Court decision in the USA have been big drivers to get marriage equality back into Parliamentary debate here in Australia, and it’s not going anywhere soon
I’m grateful that some LNP politicians have my back on at least one issue that can affect me. I’m not generally the type to support the LNP (queer, left leaning woman who is big on social justice), but it’s good to see that some of the party has actively thought about what is good for Australia and Australians and decided that if over 70% of Australians support marriage equality, then perhaps that’s something that should be recognised.
Now I’m going to take a small detour here and talk about some bigoted arsehats who have weighed in on this debate in one for or another recently. This is where the post is going to be long, but will hopefully still make sense. Ok, I’m ranting, leave me my ranting space.
New South Wales Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells (Liberal)
…she believed opinion polls showing majority support for legalising same-sex marriage did not reflect the views of a “silent majority” of Australian voters.
She said changing the marriage laws – or being seen to condone change – would cost the Coalition seats at the next election.
The senator referred to an analysis she had undertaken which identified marginal seats with high percentages of religious voters.
A copy of the analysis, dated July 3, lists 14 seats across New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania with relatively high proportions of Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Muslim or Buddhist voters or overseas-born voters from ethnic communities likely to oppose same-sex marriage.
In a written foreword to her analysis, Senator Fierravanti-Wells, the parliamentary secretary for social services, also responsible for multicultural affairs, says she believes there is strong opposition among culturally and religiously diverse communities to changing the marriage laws.
Ok, let’s just start with a majority says X, so a “silent majority” says Y. I’m not convinced that Fierravanti-Wells does maths. Also, I’m not convinced that Fierravanti-Wells has actually spoken to anyone of these people she’s using to support her argument against marriage equality. She claims that:
She notes that faith leaders from across Australia had written to the Government in June, objecting to any change.
Her analysis includes the western Sydney seat of Barton, the Liberals’ most marginal seat, held by Liberal Nickolas Varvaris on 50.31 per cent.
She says Barton has nearly eight times the proportion of eastern Orthodox constituents than the national average, four times the proportion of Muslims, a higher-than-average Greek population and fewer who said they had “no religion”.
Other western Sydney marginal seats included are Reid, Werriwa, Banks and Parramatta.
The analysis says Parramatta, held by Labor’s Julie Owens on 50.57 per cent, is 25 per cent Catholic, has 10 times the national average of voters identifying as Hindu, four times the rate identifying as Islamic and higher-than-average percentages of those born in India and Lebanon.
The first issue here is that Faith Leaders don’t represent the believes and feelings of their flocks. I know they claim they do, but you get the Catholic and some Anglican faith leaders in Australia being bigoted arsehats, and most Catholics and Anglicans actually supporting marriage equality. Not knowing a large number of Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims or Orthodox people, I cannot claim to know what they do and do not support, however I do note that the majority of Australians support marriage equality, and that is something that really should be taken into account.
I know I’ve said that majority of Australians more than once tonight, so let’s get that data for you. From a report in The Age in July 2015:
Support among Australians for same-sex marriage and for a conscience vote in the Coalition has reached an all-time high, according to a survey by the Liberal Party’s own pollster.
A Crosby Textor poll, commissioned by Australian Marriage Equality, has found that 72 per cent of Australians want same-sex marriage legalised, while 77 per cent think Coalition MPs should be granted a conscience vote.
The survey by the Liberal Party’s national pollster finds support for marriage equality is increasing among Australians, up from 65 per cent in a Nielsen poll last August.
It shows opposition to same-sex marriage has collapsed, with just one in five Australians or 21 per cent opposed, marking Parliament as increasingly out of step with the views of the majority of Australians.
According to the poll, support for same-sex marriage is now higher in Australia than it was in any other country, including New Zealand and Great Britain, when overseas parliaments have passed marriage equality laws.
Marriage equality advocates have welcomed a new poll showing almost 60% of Australians believe marriage equality is a medium to high priority.
The poll, conducted for anti-marriage equality group, the Marriage Alliance, found that marriage equality is, on average, the 13th most important issue for Australians, about the same level of priority given to agriculture, taxation and asylum seekers.
59% of poll respondents said marriage equality is a priority, made up of 24% who said marriage equality it is a high priority and 35% said it is a medium priority. Only 39% said it is low a priority.
So even when organisations against marriage equality are attempting to poll against marriage equality, they can’t do it.
Charitably I could believe that Fierravanti-Wells really did care about the numbers and how the LNP will poll in the next election, but didn’t actually consider what she was saying – which effectively is that all religious and culturally diverse people are happy to discriminate against same-sex attracted people when it comes to marriage (or in short-hand that they are bigots). I’m positive that this is not the case.
"Suggesting that "ethnics" or "the religious" are different on SSM just because of those things is divisive, offensive & plain, stupid wrong
This is especially the case as many of the arguments in favour of same-sex marriage are flawed. Those wanting change argue that defining marriage as involving a man and a woman discriminates against lesbians and homosexuals.
Ignored is that there are many examples where society and the law allow discrimination to occur. Women-only gyms and clubs are allowed to exclude men and those under 18 are not allowed to view X-rated films and videos.
Yes, defining marriage as only involving a man and a woman discriminates against gay men, lesbian women, bisexual people and trans people. It’s ok Donnelly, I’m glad you forgot some of us. The less you think about us the better off we’ll all be.
Ignored is the fact that Donnelly doesn’t understand that not all discrimination is harmful, and that children are to be protected against things that harm them. Let’s work on the first one. Women only gyms. Women are far more likely to be sexually assaulted by men than the other way around. Therefore in the interest of safety, women only gyms exist, where men are discriminated against to protect women. When men stop assaulting women at the current rates, then it is possible the need for women only gyms will go away.
Marriage equality harms no one, and the discrimination against same-sex coupled people who’d like to marry harms them.
Children and pornography. I don’t even with this one Donnelly. We have lots of laws to protect children, we have laws about who they can have sex with, we have laws about them having to go to school, we have laws about the mandatory reporting of abuse, we have laws that can result in them being removed from their homes. It is believed that pornography will harm children, therefore children cannot see pornography. I note that Donnelly isn’t complaining about any other laws relating to children, so I wonder why that is.
Many on the cultural left, often the strongest supporters of same-sex marriage, also argue in favour of positive discrimination where they believe some people should be treated differently to others.
Because Donnelly doesn’t understand the difference between equality and justice/equity, I give you the following image:
This is why we suggest that some people should be treated more positively – because they are coming from further behind that others. Many people are coming from further behind than Kevin Donnelly, as we’re not all straight, white men with a platform to be vilely racist and homophobic.
Also ignored, for all intents and purposes, is that gays and lesbians already have the same rights as de-facto heterosexual couples.
Also ignored by Donnelly is that not all same-sex attracted people want to marry, but denying those who do is harmful. Sure we can live in defacto relationships, and we do right now, but that isn’t the same as marriage. If it was, then we wouldn’t be having this debate.
A second strategy employed by same-sex marriage advocates is to argue that anyone who disagrees is bigoted and homophobic. Wrong. The reality is that many of those opposed to redefining marriage do so for sound and carefully thought through reasons.
I love this comment, it is a comment I see all the time. “I’m not bigoted and homophobic, I’ve thought about some really good reasons why I oppose granting rights to same-sex attracted people that would do me no harm whatsoever.” I am also yet to meet a good argument against same-sex marriage that doesn’t in the end reduce down to either “my religion is homophobic, not me”, or “because gay sex is icky” which are both homophobic.
As Andrew P Street wrote, “And if you are, in fact, a bigot, then it shouldn’t bother you that people are accurately assessing your shortcomings as a human being on the basis of the things you believe, based on the stuff you say.” Donnelly continues:
When arguing that the definition of marriage must be changed to include same-sex couples, advocates often argue that the love between a man and a man and a woman and a woman is the same as that experienced by heterosexuals.
From a biological point of view, such is clearly not the case. Such is the physiology involved in procreation, and not withstanding the availability of surrogacy and in vitro fertilisation, that it requires a man and a woman. The optimum environment in which to raise a child also involves a mother and a father.
Oh yeah, I forgot the third way, the reproductive argument. If two people of the same gender can’t have children, their relationship is worth less than those that can, because apparently all we’re about is having children. Let’s not look at the treatment of those children by heterosexual people. Let’s especially not look at the really positive outcomes for children raised by same-sex parents. Let’s leave Donnelly to his little bigoted world where LGBTI people are worse people than heterosexual people. He’s wrong of course, we’re pretty fucking awesome.
This piece is from May and I’ve been putting off on blogging about it because it’s so full of complete and utter rubbish that it isn’t really worth mentioning – except that it’s another white, Christian man telling us that he isn’t really a bigot for not supporting marriage equality, “I oppose same-sex marriage (and no, I’m not a bigot)“:
How could anyone stand opposed? The terms in which the pro-marriage redefinition case are stated make it sound as inevitable as the dawn, and as unstoppable as the tide. And these same terms make opposing a redefinition of marriage sound primitive and even barbaric. There are those in favour of change, we are told, and then there are the bigots.
I do wonder how anyone can stand opposed without actually being a bigot.
It is not even the case that “all the surveys say Australians want it” is a sufficient argument. The surveys say that Australians want capital punishment. Wisely, our politicians don’t listen to surveys on that issue (and I agree with them). They should exercise leadership, not follow opinion.
I’ve seen this argument before and it’s an interesting one. It’s particularly fascinating that the death penalty is brought into an argument, to contrast something where no one gets hurt. On one side you have the violent end of someone’s life, on the other side you have two consenting adults committing to their relationship in front of family and friends, and having the Government, and other bodies that need to, recognising that relationship legally. It’s not like they are even remotely in the same class of things.
Should the Australian Government listen to the people in all things? Should the Australian Government take the lead on some things so that the better interest is served? Wouldn’t it be best if the Australian Government was abolitionist on the death penalty and in support of marriage equality? The Australian Government should be about the best human rights that we can grant to each other. That includes being abolitionist on the death penalty and in support of marriage equality. There we go, I solved that one for you.
In fact, it may be the case that offering supposedly “equal” treatment is incoherent, as it is in this case. It is crucial to notice that the proposed revision of marriage laws involves exactly that: a revision of marriage. In order to offer the status of marriage to couples of the same sex, the very meaning of marriage has to be changed. In which case, what same-sex couples will have will not be the same as what differently sexed couples now have.
Except that marriage has changed multiple times over millennia and the world didn’t end. Men used to marry their property, which then begat more property which they’d consent to have married off to other men, unless some of that property were male, in which case they’d become human whenever the age of adulthood was at that time. Men now marry women, and both people have to consent to the marriage. Men used to also marry lots of property, they’d have multiple property all over the place, sometimes it mattered if the property consented to more property being married, sometimes it didn’t. It used to be that you couldn’t marry without your parents’ consent, and most marriages were arranged.
If marriage can change to be what it is now, then it can change to include same-sex couples who want to marry.
This is where Bill Shorten again misunderstands what marriage is. As we now understand it, marriage is not merely the expression of a love people have for each other. It is, or is intended as, a life-long union between two people who exemplify the biological duality of the human race, with the openness to welcoming children into the world. Even when children do not arrive, the differentiated twoness of marriage indicates its inherent structure.
Blah, blah, blah – see argument about children above. Also, to erase other gendered people from the conversation is an arse move Mr Jensen.
Look I really don’t understand why so many people are frightened of marriage equality. If it creates something new, something that currently discriminated people can engage in, what is the problem with that? Do so many of these bigots believe that the moment marriage equality is granted those who would have otherwise married someone of the opposite sex will suddenly rush out and go and marry someone of the same sex? Do they think that being queer is contagious and it’s only the shame of being queer, and the inability to marry that keeps opposite sex marriage going? Do they think that suddenly everyone will stop having children, or start ignoring children, and suddenly there won’t be a human race any more?
There are FAR more important issues facing the earth today than marriage equality. Granting marriage equality makes the lives of many of my queer siblings better. It does not save the environment, it does not refreeze the glaciers, it does not bring endangered creatures back from the brink of extinction. It certainly doesn’t help asylum seekers or bring peace to nations at war. It does make a difference though, and that difference is one that has been made in many other places already and it helps.
Granting marriage equality helps, and granting it means that people like me can marry if they want. Families can recognise the relationships of their children and parents. Relationships that until relatively recently were looked at as deviant and different can instead be shown to be as valued as the opposite sex relationships they are surrounded by. It means that children who are growing up queer know that if they wish to get married and be like their friends in opposite sex relationships, they can. Think of the children, think of those who you’re denying the ability to be normal.
Apart from a UK TV personality and possibly an actor (see I’m not researching this piece much) really I don’t know who Mariella Frostrup is. Oh ok, I’ll go and look her up.
So Mariella Frostrup, journalist and TV personality, apparently with one of the sexiest voices in the UK, wrote another “Dear Mariella” for The Observer/Guardian (according to the Guardian this appeared in both), and again tried to answer someone’s question about bisexuality.
It was an unmitigated disaster – again. I don’t know what qualifications Mariella has for providing relationship advice, but she should steer clear of the bisexual community because I don’t think she even comes close to understanding bisexuality or being able to respond to someone’s questions without indulging in gross biphobia.
And right off the bat, that’s a really difficult question. We haven’t even gone into the letter from the reader, who I’m going to call Neil for ease of reference. That question does however sum up neatly Neil’s question, and my answer would be, “Only if you feel safe to do so, and only if you’re sure your fiancée already knows that her dad is bisexual/not straight, because you really don’t want to out him without his permission either.
Biphobia is a very real thing, I write about it a lot, and it is perpetuated as much by straight people as much as it is perpetuated by gay and lesbian people. Biphobia doesn’t even have to be intentional, just like you can be unintentionally homophobic, racist, ablest, or sexist, you can be unintentionally biphobic, but when an entire community points this out to you, perhaps you should a) apologise and b) get educated. As far as I am aware, Mariella has done neither of these things – so she’s rapidly approaching knowing that she’s biphobic.
Let’s look at some of the incredibly problematic responses from Mariella. Her first paragraph is:
Are you for real? If so, life truly is stranger than fiction. The odds on such a coincidence occurring must be staggeringly high. Yet no matter how cataclysmic it now seems, this is really for the best. Entering into a marriage without a degree of honesty about who you are dooms the relationship to disaster from the outset. This isn’t just some little drunken overnight diversion, but a decade-long bisexual predilection that no doubt still exists. Surely your fiancée deserves to know the details of your sexual tastes?
First she starts up by doubting Neil’s experience. Neil met his fiancée’s father at a cruising location. There are not that many of them, queer people make up around 10% of the population, it’d be more surprising if Neil cruised and didn’t know his fiancée’s father if he also cruised. Particularly if they live outside main cities.
Mariella suggests bisexuality might be a “drunken overnight diversion” instead of a genuine sexual orientation.
Then she uses “decade-long bisexual predilection”. Predilection as in preference or special liking. Mariella claims that Neil has a preference to be bisexual, not that he is bisexual, that he just has a preference for it. You can have a preference for types of people, types of food, holiday destinations, political parties, music, etc, you don’t have a preference for who you are.
Also, to me predilection has negative connotations, it’s often used when referring to men with unacceptable (socially or legally) sexual preferences. Bisexual just is, it is not a preference, it is a person’s sexual identity.
Bisexuality also is not a “sexual taste”, it’s a sexual orientation. We know that Neil has been actively bisexual for 10 years, that most of his partners have been women versus men (which is not surprising as there are more straight than queer people), but does his fiancée “deserve” to know? That’s a really hard question to answer, and really it depends a lot on how safe Neil feels in his relationship. Yes he’s engaged, but there are many reasons why he may have become engaged and he may not feel safe about telling his fiancée everything about him. Honesty is good, but not necessarily at the risk of Neil’s safety.
You are who you are, and embracing a new lifestyle doesn’t render your past inconsequential. Are you so confident that you have been reinvented and that this chapter isn’t just on pause? There’s no reason for you to discount your bisexuality if you choose a partner who’s equally fluid about their sexual predilections or comfortable with yours.
At no point is Neil embracing a new lifestyle. Neil is bisexual, marrying someone does not make you a different sexual orientation. Only when someone says that their sexuality has changed does it change. Neil is not reinventing himself, he is committing to monogamy with his fiancée, that’s what people tend to do, regardless of their sexual orientation. People commit to relationships because it makes them happy.
If you really do care for this woman, she deserves to know the man she is marrying and to be allowed to make her decision about her future based on full disclosure. That doesn’t mean you need to focus on the details (such as the dalliances with her father), but you should fill her in her as delicately as you can on your previous sexual history. We live in far more tolerant times and there are plenty of people out there who wouldn’t see bisexuality as any barrier to a committed union. I can’t promise it won’t change her feelings toward you but that, too, may be a relief in the long term.
I think we can all agree, given that Neil is engaged to this woman and has referred to her as “the woman of his dreams” that he cares for her. Pulling the “if you really do care…” bullshit goes back to the stereotype of bisexuals being unable to commit, and unable to be honest – where the problem often is that honesty can lead to harm.
Despite Mariella’s claim that we live in “more tolerate times” and that “there are plenty of people out there who wouldn’t see bisexuality as any barrier to a committed union” it is fairly evident that she herself doesn’t see herself in that place. And to be honest, biphobia is a huge problem, I have heard too many stories of people being honest with partners and potential partners, and then that person being horrified and wanting to have nothing to do with them.
Mariella doesn’t offer Neil any comfort or practical solutions. She throws biphobic stereotype after bisexual stereotype at him and expects that that is all she has to do. She doesn’t suggest that Neil find the nearest bisexual community and talk to them about their experiences, and seek their support. She leaves him high and dry, suggesting that there is a moral high ground here that he should attempt to obtain regardless of his own safety.
So on my recent post about biphobia at Pride, a commenter by the name of Marc stopped by to tell me that gay people have no power or privilege and therefore they can’t discriminate or oppress bisexual people, and that biphobia from the gay community does not exist. Here is his comment in full: