Tag Archives: bisexuality

Welcome to the 101st Down Under Feminists’ Carnival

Welcome to the 101st Down Under Feminists’ Carnival.  My apologies for it being late, I was trapped behind two epic assignments that I had to complete for uni.  They are now done, and I am free for the remainder of the year.  Woohoo!

Below is a collection of feminist writing from Australia and New Zealand, written in September.  If you want to host a Down Under Feminist Carnival, you can go here and let Chally know.  It’s not a lot of work, many people will send you blog posts to include, and it’s lots of fun.

On with the show!

Feminism

Liz wrote at No Award, “The invisible women“:

It’s one of those frustrating reads because Liz went in wanting to agree with everything it said, and wound up picking it all apart. Three over-long Facebook comments later, Liz remembered we have a blog.

Anna at Hoyden About Town wrote, “BFTP Friday Hoyden: Emma Goldman“:

At a time when the Australian government is doing its best to behave like a blend of Dickensian villains and French aristocrats, without the compensatory good taste in cravats of either [ed to note: this observation does not require updating], we are more than due for a genuine revolutionary for a Friday Hoyden. Emma Goldman was a Russian (or technically Russian Empire, from an area now in Lithuania) Jewish immigrant to the USA, who spent her life being persecuted for her work campaigning for the rights of workers and marginalised groups of all kinds.

Cesca at myflatpacklife wrote, “Stuck in the middle“:

I have turned into Mummy Pig.

Dammit.

Mummy Pig just wants wholesome family fun. She just wants some fruit. And five minutes to pick berries without having to stop and admire a four year old’s basically empty bucket, or be yelled at. She just wants jam and maybe a crumble or two. Why does she have to be judged for her food choices? Why does she have to have her dignity stripped away by a blackberry bush – let’s all come laugh at the fat pig stuck in the prickly thorns! Why does she have to involve the whole family and share when all she wants is a fucking dessert? It’s not all about you Peppa!

Celeste at Rantings of an Aboriginal Feminist writes, “The Politics of Miscarriage“:

Which brings me back to miscarriage. As stated, in the moment, I felt relief. I didn’t tell work at the time because I was on leave, but as the rest of my saga became apparent, I was left with no choice but to tell them. I required post-operative sick leave after all. Perhaps I felt relief due to my circumstances, but considering that these circumstances were in the confines of a heterosexual relationship, and considering that this relationship had gone the way whereby I ended up a victim of violence, how is this narrative not valid in the discussion of miscarriage?

Daisy Dumas and Anna Maxted at Essential Baby write, “Why working women keep quiet about miscarriage“:

“Nobody understands it unless they have had one. It is impossible to compute unless you have been through it, just like any grief,” she says.

She is one of a low estimate of about 150,000 Australian women who miscarry each year – the vast majority of whom keep their anguish to themselves and, if working, continue as usual through the ordeal.

Olive Brown wrote at The Wireless, “Please, call me wahine“:

I remember learning about Suffrage Day at school, but I don’t remember ever seeing or hearing about wāhine Māori in the narratives and representations I was taught. Wāhine Māori were very much part of the suffrage movement.  In May 1893, Meri Te Tai Mangakāhia, addressed the lower house of the Te Kotahitanga Parliament (Māori Parliament) – being the first recorded woman to do so – she not only requested wāhine Māori be given the vote, but went further than the contemporary aim of the European suffrage movement, and asked they also be able to sit in the Māori parliament. She was one of other influential wāhine also part of the suffrage movement.

Jessica Tuhua guest posts at Sacraparental, “Nine-year-old Jessica tells us about feminism“:

I wrote about feminism because not many people at my school know anything about it, and I wanted to use the opportunity to speak about something important. It was very difficult to write about, so I re-wrote my speech six times! 

Cristy Clark wrote at Overland, “Dissenting feminisms: reflections on the Feminist Writers Festival“:

In the lead up to the event, we were accused of programming predominantly white women rather than women from a diverse range of backgrounds. In fact, over 40 per cent of our speakers were women of colour, and of the remaining women, a majority were able to speak from a diverse range of perspectives, such as identifying as LGBTQI women, or as women with a disability – but we could still have done better in this regard.

Andie Fox at ABC Radio National (audio segment) with, “In Defence of Sexting“.

Reviews of things

Liz at No Award wrote, “Liz reads: 4 Australian novels“:

How amazing is fiction? People just MAKE UP STORIES, which I then buy and read and insert these ideas from other people’s heads into my brain!

Body political

Fat Heffalump wrote, “Melbourne Fashion Week Plus – The Political“:

I had a lot of really intense feelings about being invited as a special guest to MFW+, mostly for two pivotal reasons.  Firstly because I’m not a fashion blogger in any stretch of the imagination – I love clothes, and expressing myself through the way I dress.  I love colour and texture and shape and I love the way putting an outfit on can make me feel.  But my focus as a fat activist is changing the way that fat people are both perceived and treated.  Don’t get me wrong, I believe clothing and fashion are important in fat politics – after all, access to suitable clothing is important to be part of society and because fashion and clothing can be really empowering, especially to those of us who have been denied access.  But to be invited and supported by MWF+ as an activist to be part of the event, knowing that they wanted my very political, feminist, fat active perspective to be included in the event means a lot to me.

Tangerina writes, “Bodies, food and fitness in the workplace“:

When you have an open conversation about being worried you’ll put on weight if you have another piece of that brownie, you probably don’t stop to think how that affects the people in the office who weigh more than you. That the subtext of what you’re saying is I’m afraid my body will look more like yours. And that although most of you would be horrified to think you’re hurting people by making idle small-talk, you are making your workplace less safe for fat people, people with (or recovering from) eating disorders and people with different abilities and health needs than you. And that’s not okay.

LGBTIQ+

Chrys at Gladly the Crossed Eyed Bear wrote, “The Race to Irrelevancy – Shelton’s Australian Christian Lobby“:

Despite the millions of dollars the Australian Christian Lobby has ploughed into demonising the LGBTIQ community, it has decisively lost the battle for Australian hearts and minds. As the debate has progressed, the Australian public has moved inexorably towards treating their fellow citizens as equal human beings. The fear-mongering fanaticism of Lyle Shelton’s fundamentalist lobby group (which wants the government to spend $200 million to amplify its message of homophobic hatred) has failed to gain traction.

Rebecca Shaw writes at SBS, “For f*ck’s sake, stop treating the LGBTQI community like a political football“:

Wow, what a roller coaster we’ve all been on in the past little while. A roller coaster where you have to be ‘this LGBTQI’ to ride. A roller coaster called The Marriage Equality Debate that is mostly unpleasant and throws you around and makes you wonder if you will even survive. Even if you don’t want to be riding the roller coaster, even if you couldn’t give a shit about it, you are pretty much forced to ride it just by virtue of living your life in this country.

Rebecca Shaw continues with her ranty pants at SBS, “Straight people need to stop telling us how to feel about the plebiscite“:

Lots of things have made me angry about this whole plebiscite situation. There’s the homophobic arguments we have to hear, the fact our government won’t simply legalise equal marriage even though the mechanism is available and it is what a majority of the country wants, the fact that it is even an option that the rights of a minority might be literally put to a vote, and of course the fact that McFlurrys at McDonalds are no longer flurried, only stirred.

I wrote, “Being out makes a difference“:

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.

I also wrote, “A weekend of erasure”:

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.

Families

Emily writes at Mama Said, “Four“:

“Even if the boy is four does he keep his mama?”

“Yes”

“Even if the boy is..” he struggled to free his fingers to hold up six or maybe eight – finally ten. “…this many?”

“Yes. Go to sleep”

Emily writes at Mama Said, “Goodbye, old friend“:

When I felt lost and hopeless trying to find my place in the world he was my companion. I felt as if I always had this funny little friend who would accept me.

At Tea and Oranges, “Transitioning to parenthood“:

And parents too, we’re all experiencing a lot of the same stuff! Snapping at our partners about little things, etc. Feeling torn between wanting to connect with the kids and wanting space away from them. I thought it would be handy to have one of those guides for us. Based on zero research because when would I get time to do that, just my reckons, so please add in the comments if you’ve got thoughts. These are all things that I’ve experienced at one stage or another, and all things that I feel much much more strongly when I’m at home fulltime.

Race, racism, representation

Nadia at Mixed Nuts writes, “Border Dwellers and Forked Tongues“:

Anzaldúa speaks of how being multilingual in a monolingual, monocultural, straight white world means that those of us who are aware of our multiplicity – the minoritised, the disenfranchised, the exoticised – are required to perform daily acts of mutilation on ourselves to simply exist. She talks of the silences that this forces upon us. She talks of the toll that twisting and silencing herself has taken on her spirit, on her humanity. And she resists.

Yassmin Abdel-Magied at Medium writes, “I walked out of the Brisbane Writers Festival Keynote Address. This is why.“:

There is a fascinating philosophical argument here. Instead, however, that core question was used as a straw man. Shriver’s real targets were cultural appropriation, identity politics and political correctness. It was a monologue about the right to exploit the stories of “others”, simply because it is useful for one’s story.

Yen-Rong at Inexorablist wrote, “Dangerous Ideas”:

She took aim at those criticising a white, British writer for penning a novel from the perspective of a young Nigerian girl. She poked fun at those who ask that others not speak or write on their behalf. She defended the right for writers to offend. She blatantly rejected the notion of identity. And she did so under the guise of expressing dangerous ideas.

Karen Wyld writes, “Media Decolonised“:

Similar to other colonised nations, Australian media is white. And, let’s not mince words, it shamelessly displays ignorance, cultural bias and racism. I don’t see this changing anytime soon. Not when there’s support for such outdated views – and a profit to be made.

Dr Sophie Loy-Wilson writes at the ABC, “Search for Daisy Kwok uncovers Shanghai’s lost history of Chinese-Australians“:

If the White Australia Policy has an afterlife, I came face-to-face with it in 1996. Flicking through Tess Johnston’s book, A Last Look: Western Architecture in Old Shanghai, I saw an image of Daisy Kwok outside her family’s now decrepit mansion in the Jingnan district of Shanghai.

Trinity at Fruit From The Vine writes, “10 things I wish my friends knew about being Māori“:

Please pause on this one. Ngai Māori, like a lot of indigenous cultures, have had our land, language and culture all stripped ruthlessly close to the bone. You may say, ‘Yeah yeah, stop playing the victim card, I know all this’, but the truth is, you don’t. If you’re not Māori, you may know the words, but you haven’t walked every step of your existence with this reality hanging over your identity. More likely to be words forming a sentence of a past-time with no personal connection to you, this is for Māori, our life, our pain, and the culmination of all our suffering summed up within a sentence.

Omar Sakr writes at The Vocal, “We Need To Talk About Lionel Shriver“:

The question is not, for example, can a white person write an indigenous person’s story? The question is, should a white person publish a story from an indigenous person’s perspective in a country that is still invested in killing and displacing indigenous people, in a country still overwhelmingly producing white stories in film, literature, and TV? Is it ethical for a white person to use their access, to profit from a story using experiences not their own, but which the market is hungry for because homogeneity is mind-numbingly boring but not boring enough to disrupt the inherent biases built into our society?

Language

Stephanie at No Award writes, “steph speaks singlish“:

Steph is in Singapore and using Singlish like a pro! (It’s easy, cos it’s like Manglish only a bit more different) Because most of our readers are Aussies, and if there’s one thing Aussies love it’s slang, she’s compiled a list of important words she knows/has been learning to use in Singapore.

Nadia at Mixed Nuts writes, “Diverse Women Writers“:

Some of this was discussed during the open forum, when the audience was asked to comment on the day’s proceedings and make suggestions for improvements. Overall there seemed to be a feeling that events like this one were useful because of how isolating it often is to be the only non-white, nonbinary, non-male, non-straight person in the room. To be with a cohort with whom we could share multiple intersecting parts of our identities was a relief. There was a discussion of the use of the word ‘women’ when what was meant was more broadly ‘not men’, and the possibility of using ‘women and nonbinary’ as an identifier was floated, which several of the people I spoke to seemed to think would work.

Monica Dux at The Age wrote, “Families that stay together sometimes shouldn’t“:

Writing about the term “community”, the celebrated sociologist Zygmunt Bauman observed that, while most words have meaning, some also have a “feel”. According to Bauman, “community” is such a word. It gives us a warm, fuzzy feeling. And the word “family” is very similar.

Politics

Jane Caro at The Big Smoke wrote, “John Howard’s comments: lack of foresight, lack of understanding“:

A few days ago at the National Press Club, ex-Australian PM, John Howard, claimed that it was just the “truth” that women would never achieve 50% representation in our parliaments (or anywhere else, I imagine) because of their caring roles. Well, Mr Howard, there is one area where women are rapidly approaching 50% representation and that is among the ranks of the homeless. It is estimated by those who work in the sector that 44% of the homeless are women. The fastest growing group without a roof over their head, in fact, are women over 55.

Chally wrote at Zero At The Bone, “Telling truth, but not the reality“:

Telling half the story has inevitably led to confusion and a split response. Responses to this comment seem to be split between “good on him for telling the truth” and “he’s had his day”. There are of course also the people who seem to think that Mr Howard was saying that women belong in the home and agree with him that that’s a good thing – which he probably meant on some level, given how concerned he was about people thinking he said a terrible thing, but didn’t say.

Jane Gilmore writes at The Feed, SBS, “Comment: Hanson’s policies on family law equally dangerous“:

Phil Coorey reported in July this year that the Nationals are considering giving support to some of the One Nation policies in an attempt to prevent rural votes leaking down to Hanson. He quoted one Nationals MP as saying family law was something the Nationals need to “treat seriously”.

If you believe the Nationals think treating family law seriously means added protection for abused children and women, please get in touch so I can tell you about this wonderful bridge I have for sale.

Violence in all its forms (Trigger warnings for most of these posts)

Clementine Ford wrote at Daily Life, “Rape culture is caring more about protecting an offender’s future than his victim’s“.

Sam Conner at Gimpled writes, “We’re Not Funded To Do That“.

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A weekend of erasure

Trigger warning for biphobia and bi erasure

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.

So it started with a garbage fire of an article published by The Telegraph.  It’s a UK paper, I really don’t know how it rates generally, but this article was awful.  The article was titled: ‘I felt like I was falling’: the moment I found out my husband was leading a double life. He was gay 

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.

Ok, so that was the first of my rants.  The second article which I noticed pretty much erased bisexuals and called bisexual women lesbians was published by The Guardian, “‘Love is always complicated’: Elizabeth Gilbert and the rise of later-in-life lesbians”.

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.

Related Posts:

Being out makes a difference

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.

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Why we need safe schools for LGBTI kids and LGBTI people

*TRIGGER WARNING* There is queerphobia and general garbage humans

Continue reading Why we need safe schools for LGBTI kids and LGBTI people

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To those who think that biphobic abuse at Pride is ok… (again)

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)

 

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Mariella Frostrup should just stop talking about or to bisexuals

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.

This weeks’ column was titled, “Should I tell my fiancée that I’m bisexual and had sex with her dad?“.

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.

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Let’s talk about biphobia in the gay and lesbian communities

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:

Just thought I would expand on this mornings hurried post which made several jumps of thinking from the original article that maybe I did not explain clearly enough.

Oppression and discrimination are not simply name calling or insulting people. Having an opinion and or an objection to something is everyones right of which then stops being ok when people begin to exercise power over other groups ability to act or think differently. Pride is not just because people call us names. Pride goes deeper in that we have been subjected to systematic and authoritative abuse and denial of rights and this still causes us problems.

I will stop here and emphasise that both the original article and the comments directly related to mine only use the terms oppression and discrimination to describe people who have opinions.

So making the first jump of thinking that oppression and discrimination actually both run deeper than a person democratically expressing their opinion and that we are now taking about abusive assertion of a privileged position lets make a few more points in relation to this topic:

– In my opinion gay people have no position of power, authority, privilege.

– In my opinion gay people – even in the context of Pride – do not have power, authority, privilege over bisexuals.

My conclusion: “biphobia” in the context of a homosexual who actively oppresses a bisexual does not exist.

I think the writer of this article has reacted in the worst possible way to criticise someone else who is obviously also a victim. When I try to objectively position both parties I recognise the person who is hurling the insult and the insult as a result of their experience and reaction to homophobia. The key here is recognising that this person is effected by homophobia and saying that homophobia is the issue which you are both effected by. Insisting that someone whose core issue is being a victim of homophobia has an issue that needs to be solved outside of the homophobia I find problematic.

So let me break this down a bit and point out where I feel Marc is wrong.

Oppression and discrimination are not simply name calling or insulting people. Having an opinion and or an objection to something is everyones right of which then stops being ok when people begin to exercise power over other groups ability to act or think differently.

Yes, you are entitled to hold an opinion, even if it is a vile opinion.  However, if you are a member of a more privileged group, shouting insults and name calling at a less privileged group can be a continuation of existing oppression and discrimination faced by said less privileged group.  The individual doing the name calling and insulting may be unaware of the existing oppression and discrimination faced by the less privileged group, as Marc certainly appears to be, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.

And also, if you don’t think that being able to name call or insult people is exercising power, or attempting to exercise power over other groups, then you need to think carefully about why that is.

Pride is not just because people call us names. Pride goes deeper in that we have been subjected to systematic and authoritative abuse and denial of rights and this still causes us problems.

That’s right, and when there is lateral violence within the LGBTIQ communities, that’s something we have to address.  The fact all LGBTIQ communities have faced and continue to face differing degrees of abuse and denial of rights from historically non-LGBTIQ friendly institutions and authorities, does not excuse lateral violence within our own communities.

I will stop here and emphasise that both the original article and the comments directly related to mine only use the terms oppression and discrimination to describe people who have opinions.

As I stated earlier, you can have an opinion, regardless of how good or bad that opinion actually is.  Marc is arguing that shouting out ‘opinions’ is just that, and it isn’t a continuation of oppression or discrimination.  I’m guessing Marc hasn’t taken his thought project to other levels – such as homophobic bigots shouting out their ‘opinions’ regarding gay men, or racist arseholes shouting out their ‘opinions’ regarding non-white people.

You see, having an opinion generally means you have thoughts about something.  You might discuss it with friends, you might write about it in a diary, but when you take you ‘opinion’ out into public, and shout it at a group of marginalised people, it may continue to be an ‘opinion’ but it’s now also potentially feeding into oppression and discrimination faced by those marginalised people.

It’s not necessarily all bad, you might think that bisexuals are the most awesome people in the world and shout out, “I LOVE BISEXUALS” at Pride, and everyone else can be happy.  When you shout positive things at people, it generally adds to the happiness in the world.  When you shout negative things at people, it generally detracts from the overall happiness in the world.  This shouldn’t be rocket science.

So making the first jump of thinking that oppression and discrimination actually both run deeper than a person democratically expressing their opinion and that we are now taking about abusive assertion of a privileged position lets make a few more points in relation to this topic:

– In my opinion gay people have no position of power, authority, privilege.

– In my opinion gay people – even in the context of Pride – do not have power, authority, privilege over bisexuals.

Democratic opinions are ones that happen at polling booths, when you vote for candiates.  As the woman yelling biphobic abuse was not calling for votes, and was not casting a vote on bisexuality, she was just shouting out her views about the validity of bisexuality.  She is free to be a bigot, because we exist in a democratic nation, and our current Attorney General (Brandis) said that people had the freedom to be bigots (what a nice guy).

So I’m going to that this as if Marc meant, “… a person freely expressing their onion as allowed in a democratic country…”, and remind him that even still, freedom of speech in Australia is an implied right, and that not all speech is protected, just look at the Bolt and fair skinned Aboriginal people case, one he rightfully lost.  Or if you don’t like that you can consider Alan Jones and his comments that led to the Cronulla Riots, and how he was convicted of inciting racial hatred.

Ok, so let’s move onto privilege and gay people.  Marc believes that gay people have no positions of power, authority or privilege – and he’s somewhat right.  Historically, even fairly recently, gay men had little power or privilege.  I’m specifically separating gay men from lesbian women here, because that gender difference plays a lot into privilege.  Today however, being a gay man is not the social death sentence that it used to be.  Yes, gay men do not have it as easy or as good as straight men, but they still have it easier than bisexual men, trans* men, and all women.  This article on male privilege will help unpack this a little.

So today in Australia, there are many prominent gay men, the Freedom Commissioner – Tim Wilson is an out gay man, Michael Kirby a former Australian High Court Judge, Anton Enus one of SBS’s news presenters, Bob Brown the founder of the Australian Greens, etc.  All of the men I’ve listed above have power and privilege, even if the journey to get there wasn’t as easy as it could have been if they were straight.

Marc’s comment that gay people have no position of power, privilege or authority is clearly wrong.

Marc then follows up his comment that gay people have no power, privilege or authority over bisexual people.  This is the only part of his comment I addressed in my response to him (before I wrote a blog post about it).  Let me find my original comment.

HI Marc, glad you could clarify and I’m sorry to say you’re wrong. Bisexuals face active biphobia from the gay and lesbian communities and the straight communities. Let me give you some links:

Bisexual Invisibility: Impacts and Recommendations was published by the San Francisco Human Rights Commission in 2011.

The Bisexuality Report was published by Open University (UK) and BiUK in 2012.

I have blogged, and others have blogged about biphobia in the gay and lesbian communities and how that impacts on bisexuals – you can look that up yourself.

Some direct quotes from those two papers:

From page 5 of the San Fran report:

Bisexual Exclusion
Often, the word “bisexual” shows up in an organization’s name or mission statement, but the group doesn’t offer programming that addresses the specific needs of bisexuals.

Page 8 & 9 of that report detail what biphobia is, and the report goes onto the effects that biphobia have on bisexual people’s health.

The Open University Report from the UK has on page 15:

LGB organisations and initiatives ‘dropping the B’ so that bisexuality is included in the title and/or mission statement, but the rest of their materials default to ‘lesbian and gay’ or even just ‘gay’ and refer to ‘homophobia’ rather than ‘homophobia and biphobia’

Page 19 & 20 detail biphobia. And page 21 includes the following:

Double discrimination
Another issue specific to biphobia is double discrimination: the fact that bisexual people can be discriminated against both by heterosexuals and by lesbian and gay people. Both groups can be suspicious of bisexual partners (fearing that they will be left for someone of the‘other gender’) and assume that bisexual people will be a threat to their relationships. Some lesbian and gay people may also feel threatened if they have any ‘other gender’ attraction themselves and are faced with the tough prospect of a second ‘coming out’ if they were to identify as bisexual. Also, some people can feel that the existence of bisexuality ‘muddies the water’ in a way which calls into question the basis on which they have fought for their rights.

It can be particularly difficult for bisexual people when they are excluded from, or rejected by, lesbian and gay individuals or groups where they had expected to find safety and community. Common historical examples of such exclusions include having to fight to be allowed to take part in pride marches, being relegated to the back of such marches, and having no bisexual people on the stage alongside the lesbian, gay and trans people there. Some gay clubs and services have also had gay-only door policies meaning that bisexual people have been forced to lie if they want to participate. …the legacy remains among bisexual people accessing services today, and there is still fear among UK bisexual people that they will be rejected if they attempt to engage with LGBT groups.

I completely acknowledge that those who identify as gay or lesbian (or both) have faced a struggle for acceptance, and that is hasn’t been easy road. I completely accept that the struggle for equality for gay and lesbian people is not over.

I would like you to acknowledge that biphobia is a real thing, and it exists within the gay and lesbian communities. I would also like you to acknowledge that biphobia, like homophobia and transphobia, carries real world consequences, and that fighting against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia is something we should be united in doing. And that means calling out bad behaviour in our communities when we see it.

I don’t need to expand on that, but I do want people to read those two reports and understand the impact that biphobia from the LGBTIQ communities has on bisexual people.  Sadly little research has been done in Australia on those who identify as bisexual and the effects of biphobia here.

The final part of Marc’s comment:

My conclusion: “biphobia” in the context of a homosexual who actively oppresses a bisexual does not exist.

I think the writer of this article has reacted in the worst possible way to criticise someone else who is obviously also a victim. When I try to objectively position both parties I recognise the person who is hurling the insult and the insult as a result of their experience and reaction to homophobia. The key here is recognising that this person is effected by homophobia and saying that homophobia is the issue which you are both effected by. Insisting that someone whose core issue is being a victim of homophobia has an issue that needs to be solved outside of the homophobia I find problematic.

It’s all well and good for Marc, who never came back to respond to my comment incidentally, to declare that biphobia does not exist from the gay and lesbian communities.  The evidence, both my own lived evidence, and the evidence from research shows otherwise.

I don’t understand Marc’s comment regarding the woman who was yelling abuse.  I have no idea who she was, and I don’t know what her sexual orientation was.  Was she a lesbian who hates bisexuals?  Was she a bigot who was there to hate everyone?  I don’t know.  If she was a lesbian, she was punching down, perpetuating lateral violence, and enforcing a status quo that has bisexuals seen as lesser than gays and lesbians.  If she was a bigot, then I assume she was yelling at everyone, and she shouldn’t’ve been there.

Marc doesn’t recognise biphobia in the gay and lesbian communities, which is biphobic in itself.  In failing to recognise biphobia, and saying that the woman yelling at us was hurting as much as we were from her abuse, he continues to erase the real harm that biphobia causes the bisexual community.

Biphobia is real, it’s as real as homophobia and transphobia.  It causes real harm to real people.

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