Disappearingpoetofalways: My comments are in bold and italic. What follows is an absolutely disgusting article by Dan Savage, defending his biphobia.
June 21, 2011
THE QUEER ISSUE: YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG
You Need to Come Out to Your Friends, Family, Coworkers, and Spouses—Now
by DAN SAVAGE
The Queer Issue: You’re Doing It Wrong
I’m not bi-phobic—in fact, I love bisexual people so much, I wish there were more of them.
There are more of them. But you honestly expect them to come out to a gay columnist who has been known to question male bisexuality, especially in teenagers, and in the documentary, Bi the Way, said, “I meet someone who’s 19-years-old who tells me he’s bisexual and I’m like, ‘Yeah, right, I doubt it. I tell them come back when you’re like 29 and we’ll see.’” If you shut someone down often enough, they’ll stop coming out to you.
I do find some bisexuals scary, particularly the ones who are always accusing me of being bi-phobic. But I find some gay people scary too, and no one has ever accused me of being homophobic. (Well, no one recently.)
Way to derail, Savage. Oh yes, bi people calling you out on your bullshit are scary. You know what’s scary to me? Reading the responses written by you, a syndicated out columnist, that describe me and people like me as liars who cannot remain/do not wish to remain in a monogamous, same-sex relationship terrifies me. Why? Because people listen to you, people in my Pride group, people who I’d like to consider my friends. These people who will use your columns as justifications for their questioning of my orientation, including an individual who once introduced me by saying, “She’s bi…for now”, justifications for dumping me (because I will inevitably cheat on them, according to you), or just justifications for not dating me in the first place. Your generalizations are not backed up by scientific studies, only personal experience (there are few queer studies in the first place, and coincidentally, most of them focus on gay men…almost never on bisexual men or women).
But let’s unpack—for Pride Week!—why I’m constantly being accused of bi-phobia, particularly by bisexual men. And it’s basically this: I’m unwilling to pretend that what is, isn’t.
Here’s one thing that is: Many adult gays and lesbians identified as bi for a few shining moments during our adolescences and coming-out processes. (We wanted to let our friends down easy; we didn’t want our families to think we’d gone over the dark side entirely.) This can lead adult gays and lesbians—myself included—to doubt the professed sexual identities of bisexual teenagers.
You’re speaking from a selective, personal experience. Just because you and others identified as “bi” to let your parents down easy doesn’t allow you to tar the rest of us with the same brush. And doubting the professed sexual identities of [bisexual teenagers]? Leave out bisexual, and that sounds an awful lot like what religious bigots who claim sexual orientation is a choice and teenagers are too young to understand it say to gay and lesbian teenagers. You know, the ones for whom you designed your “It Gets Better” Campaign.
When I meet a bisexual teenage boy, for instance, I sometimes think to myself, “Yeah, I was too at your age.” That doesn’t mean the kid standing in front of me couldn’t possibly be bisexual (I wasn’t, he might be!), or that I don’t believe bisexuality exists (bisexuals exist, and most of them seem to have my e-mail address), only that my life experience makes it difficult for me to accept a bisexual teenage boy’s professed sexual identity at face value. (And to those who insist that my inability to accept someone’s professed sexual identity without question makes me a bigot: Ted Haggard, George Rekers, and Larry Craig all identify as straight. You believe them? Or are you a bigot?)
The difference is, you are a well-known, somewhat-respected gay columnist. So though you claim to be speaking from your life experience, when you openly question the professed orientation of bi people, people take it away the message that bi individuals are liars or confused—and in part, that’s due to the way you present the topic. Rarely, if ever, do you acknowledge the validity of a bi person’s self-professed identity. Also, linking bisexual teenagers with the likes of Ted Haggard and Larry Craig? Thanks, Dan.
I don’t berate bi-identified teenage boys, I don’t tell them they’re not really bi, and I don’t cruise around bi neighborhoods looking for young bi guys to beat up. But I do know that a bi-identified 36-year-old is likelier to be bisexual than a bi-identified 16-year-old, and I resent being asked to pretend not to know it.
No one has accused you of physical violence, Dan. But you, as an openly gay man, should know that words can do as much damage as punches to an LGBTQ person’s psyche. It’s not enough for you, is it, that I’ve had friends describe bisexuals as “confused” “not knowing what they want”, or my personal favorite, “greedy.” No, you, a semi-respected, well-known out columnist have to chime in your two cents too about how I’m probably lying my sexual orientation to let my parents down easily, or that I’m just another experimenting straight girl. You, someone who belongs to the same LGBTQ community, someone who is supposed to be ON MY SIDE, have to invalidate my sexual identity too. Privilege check: I realize that I’m fortunate enough to identify as female, which means I don’t get half the shit that people, including Dan Savage, pour on bisexual men. However, I’m incensed on behalf of my male bi friends, and while it is less prevalent, the same sort of thinking still does persist toward female bisexuality, and I’ve bumped into it frequently enough.
And here’s another thing that is: Most adult bisexuals, for whatever reason, wind up in opposite-sex relationships. And most comfortably disappear into presumed heterosexuality (including all three of my biggest bisexual antagonists—what are the odds?!).
Let’s deconstruct this bullshit by examining the odds at play here. Self-disclosure: I’m a college-age woman who identifies as bisexual (have since early high school), I generally am more attracted to women than to men, and I dress in a femme way. My first (and only) relationship was with a straight male who knew about my sexual orientation, accepted it, and didn’t fetishize it. Want to know why? Because at my semi-conservative university, Pride remains dominated by white gay males, most lesbians and bisexual women having been alienated by the group. In D.C., there are no lesbian bars/clubs that allow women under the age of 21 to enter…the two gay clubs that do are dominated, again, by gay men. I have tried to meet girls, trust me, I have tried. But since I don’t fit the “butch” stereotype, most people don’t guess my orientation at first, or when they do, they snidely question it. Not to mention the biphobia within the lesbian community, which further reduces the number of women who would be willing to date me. ‘Cause all us bisexual girls are just experimenting straight girls who will break their hearts when we discover we can’t live without the cock, apparently. Finally, my Catholic high school history has made me extremely reticent about approaching girls I’m interested, since guess what? Most of them are straight! Obviously, since there are a higher number of straight men on my college campus (and in the world) than other queer women who are a) interested in me and b) accepting of my orientation, I will have more opportunities for hooking up with/dating the former, even though I am definitely more physically, mentally, and emotionally attracted to women.
Now I don’t think it’s necessarily misleading or deceitful for a bisexual guy in a long-term opposite-sex relationship to round himself down to straight, if that’s what he wants to do, so long as he’s out to his partner. But judging from the e-mails I get from bisexual men at Savage Love (from the ones after my advice, not my hide), and all the men-seeking-men ads on Craigslist posted by men who are married to women (we used to call those guys “married men”—ah, progress!), there are a lot of bisexuals out there who aren’t out to their partners. An excerpt from a sadly typical bi Savage Love letter:
I am a 30-year-old bi male recently engaged to a wonderful woman. I have never told my fiancée about my bi past, and didn’t think it was a big deal because I am more attracted to women, and was only in one male/male relationship… but now that we’re engaged, I am feeling guilty for keeping this quiet. Is it too late? Should I stay quiet?? I don’t want to lose her.
I hope that bi guy has the decency to come out to his fiancée before the wedding, because she deserves better. And so does he. The closet is awful and I wouldn’t wish its miseries on anyone. Hiding the truth about your sexuality from someone you love is painful and exhausting… which is why I stopped doing it myself when I was a teenager.
As I mentioned earlier, I was out to my first boyfriend. I was extremely fortunate because he was not only accepting, but he didn’t fetishize my orientation (i.e. I love that you’re bisexual because I think two girls are hot!). That being said, I realize that not everyone is lucky enough to find themselves in that situation. My roommate’s ex-boyfriend (a mutual friend), knowing that she was bisexual, once said to another friend that “he didn’t believe in bisexuality.” Talk about invalidating the identity of his out girlfriend! And people wonder why we don’t come out. I agree that if it’s bothering the letter-writer, he should come out to his fiancé, but I understand his concerns about losing her. But you shouldn’t paint him with the same brush as unfaithful married men—you’re implying that in order for a relationship with a bisexual person to work, their partner must know their orientation so they can hold them extra-accountable, rather than just their behavior. Yes, some bisexual men and women cheat. But so do some straight men and women, and so do some gay men and lesbians.
Not only would it be great if more bisexuals were out to their partners, it would be great if more bisexuals in opposite-sex relationships were out to their friends, families, and coworkers. More out bisexuals would mean less of that bisexual invisibility that bisexuals are always complaining about. If more bisexuals were out, more straight people would know they actually know and love sexual minorities, which would lead to less anti-LGBT bigotry generally, which would be better for everyone.
It’s a vicious cycle, Dan. For the most part, I’ve only come out as bi to individuals that I was 99% sure would accept me. I’ve experienced “bi invisibility” during the past six months, when I was dating my boyfriend. Sorry I wasn’t also going to shout my sexual orientation from the rooftops while I was holding his hand! And coming out to my co-workers? Puh-lease. Last summer, I worked at a conservative country club, where all my co-workers were 20-30 years older than me, and where my dad (to whom I remain closeted) was my boss. I couldn’t manage to change their outdated stereotypes of gay men, let alone bi teenage girls! Both the straight and gay communities create an environment which fosters and contributes to bi invisibility—namely, by presuming that current relationships are indicative of enduring (gay or straight) orientation and by talking about bisexuals like we’re cheating or confused sexual omnivores. I agree, I wish more bisexuals would come out, but once again, you’re falling into the same trap of your “It Gets Better” Campaign—sure, it gets better. For some. First, you’ve got to stop shaming bisexuals, and then expecting them to come out to you when you’re just going to turn around and question their identification.
But people get to make their own choices, and lots of bisexuals choose not to be out. While I’m willing to recognize that the reluctance of many bisexuals to be out may be a reaction to the hostility they face from non-bisexuals, gay and straight, bisexuals need to recognize that their being closeted is a huge contributing factor to the hostility they face.
Of course it is. But you’re still downplaying the social factors at work that prevent bi individuals from coming out. Who wants to come out if it may damage your friendships and family connections, not to mention your same-sex or opposite-sex relationship…or even the possibility of having one?
Bisexual activists like to complain that they’re the most oppressed because (1) it’s a contest, and (2) it’s a good excuse. If they can argue—and unfortunately, they can—that lots of gay people are mean to them (some gay people don’t want to date them, some gay people doubt they exist) and straight people are mean to them (some straight people don’t want to date them, some straight people doubt they exist), then bisexual people aren’t to blame for the bisexual closet. Everyone else is.
First of all, I consider myself a bi activist (not a professional one, but as far as being an out bi woman who runs the bi-support group at her university can be)…and I have never argued that my identity is the most oppressed. I acknowledge my privilege: I am white, I am middle-class, I identify as a cis-gendered female, I have straight privilege when I am in a relationship with male, I go to a top-tier American university, I am able-bodied, etc…I could go on forever. But I still can argue that my identity puts me in a difficult position, because I have found myself caught between the LGBTQ and straight communities, just as you have said. It’s not a comfortable place to be.
And they have a point—but it’s a self-serving, self-defeating point. Yes, lots of people judge and condemn and fear bisexuals. If those were good reasons to stay closeted, no gay or lesbian person would ever come out. And if bisexuals did come out in greater numbers, they could rule… well, not the world, but they could rule the parallel LGBT universe.
You sound like those people who are forever telling economically-repressed people to “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.” I.e. quit whining, it’s not making things any better for yourselves, shut up so we can ignore our own privilege and how we contribute to your oppression. You’re uncomfortable with the fact that we’re drawing attention to your hate-mongering. And sorry, but those CAN be good reasons not to come out—for anyone, gay and lesbian people included! It’s up to the person in question, or don’t you believe in that?
Earlier this year, a researcher at the Williams Institute at the University of California released the results of a study that attempted to estimate the LGBT population of the United States. Some of the numbers that “Gary J. Gates, Williams Distinguished Scholar” came up with were disputed—just 3.5 percent of the population is LGBT? There are only nine million LGBT people in the United States total?—but the most interesting finding was that there are more bisexual adults (1.8 percent of the population) than gay and lesbian adults combined (1.7 percent of the population).
I’ve heard of this study, haven’t researched it exclusively, but I’m calling a bit of bullshit. If the study is classifying orientation by behavior (as so many do), that 1.8 percent of the population simply could have engaged in same-sex activity…doesn’t mean they identify as bisexual.
I’m sorry, bisexual activists, but you’re doing it all wrong. Instead of berating me for my alleged bi-phobia—and if I’m the enemy, you’re in real trouble—berate your closeted compatriots. If they all came out tomorrow, you could put an end to bi-phobia, take over the LGBT movement, and kick my ass out of it.
I didn’t say you were the enemy, Dan, but you are part of the problem. In this article, in which you attempt to disprove your prejudice, you only further expose yourself as a biphobic asshat, a whining gay man who does not want to acknowledge the bit of privilege he does have.
Sorry it’s so long, followers. But I needed to get that off my chest.