Pandemonium was founded in October, 2016 as a group that discusses issues related to members of the Bi+ community. The group also tries to build a sense of identity and community among the members. Once a month since its founding, Pandemonium has met for “Bi with Pie.” Bi with Pie is a monthly discussion group which tackles issues related to bi+ identities as well as other LGBTQ topics. This is an overview of some of the discussions the group has hosted over the last year as well as some suggested goals for 2018.
January Discussion: Bisexuality and homophobia
In January, we discussed some of the ways in which bisexuals can avoid homophobia and transphobia, but also the realities of biphobia and bi-erasure. For instance, bisexuals should not assert that everyone is actual bi or bi is the natural state of human sexuality, since this negates and erases the experiences of other sexual identities.
February Discussion: Bi Identities-
This discussion provided a brief overview of some of the different identities which fall within the bi+ community. Because we have some new members since this initial discussion, it might be useful to have this discussion again.
March Discussion: Trans in Prison/Letters to Prisoners
In March, Lucas lead a discussion about the oppression of trans individuals in the prison system. Problems faced by trans prisoners include misgendering, dead naming, placement with male prisoners if female or female prisoners if male, lack of access to hormones, lack of access or expensive access to hygiene or beauty products, etc. This discussion was followed by an opportunity to write letters to LGBTQ prisoners.
April Discussion: Bi Poetry
At the April meeting, Lucas shared some of his own poetry as well as the poetry of several famous bisexual poets. The poems were discussed for themes related to bisexuality.
May Discussion: Frida Kahlo and Bisexuality
In May, I did a presentation on Frida Kahlo’s bisexuality, as well as her political beliefs. I discussed the theme of bi-erasure in some media depictions of her.
July Discussion: Intersectionality and LGBT Organizing
There was no Bi with Pie meeting during the month of June. However, we met again in July and had a discussion on the topic of intersectionality. The discussion introduced the topic of intersectionality the way in which LGBT activists have both succeeded and failed to be intersectional.
August: Planning Meeting
In August, we met to plan Bi Visibility Day in September.
September: Poster Making Event:
We did not have a discussion topic in September. Instead, we gathered together to make posters for Bi Visibility Day.
We had a very small and unprofessional table at Pride. While our table had a very “do-it-yourself” look, we promoted Bi with Pie, Bi Visibility Day, and sent letters to LGBT prisoners as a solidarity greeting from Pride. At least two dozen people signed the cards to these prisoners.
Bi Visibility Day:
Pandemonium sponsored a very modest Bi Visibility Day picket. The goal of the event was to draw attention to the existence of bisexuals or the bi+ community i.e. increase our visibility. This was the first time we have organized an event like this and it should definitely be on our agenda for 2018. Bi-visibility day is September 23 rd.
October: Domestic Violence and the LGBTQ Community
Jenny led a great discussion on how intimate partner violence/domestic violence impacts the LGBTQ community. She showed us an LGBTQ power and control wheel and discussed gaps in services and research. Since October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month it was a timely talk.
December: Bisexuality and Vampires
Our final discussion of 2017 was on the topic of vampires and bisexuality. The discussion was lively and I only made it through half of the research that I had prepared. We discussed various representations of bisexuality in vampire media.
Moving Forward-2018 Goals:
Looking back at 2017, I think that Pandemonium hosted some really great discussions on a wide variety of topics. I also think it was great that we attended Pride and organized a Bi Visibility Day Event. We attracted some new members, such as G, C, and D, though the group remains fairly small. Our best attended discussions were the topics of Frida, vampires, and bisexual poetry. I am sure the group could be larger and more active, but I will admit that as an organizer, I put this group on the back burner. I do not invest as much of my energy into this group as I do other activist projects that I am involved in. I am comfortable with the amount of time I devote to it, as I think it is okay to have a small and low key group. To avoid burning out, I would like to scale the meetings back a bit, or perhaps mix up discussion based meetings with social activities as we enter the new year. Also, because I often go to Pizza Luce for other events, I would like to explore alternative meeting venues and meeting ideas. Here are some suggestions for 2018.
-Have less frequent meetings- perhaps bi-monthly. -Continue to have meetings with an educational discussion focus combined with some social events -Rethink Bi with Pie. Could we do Bi with Bites- and meet elsewhere for appetizers? Or Bi with Baklava and meet at Coney Island for Baklava. Maybe Bi and Beaners? I would like to move away from buying a pizza for the group for my own budgeting… -Try to promote Prism’s Events and better collaborate with Prism -Do a meet and greet with CSS Queer-Straight Alliance to promote our group. -Try to do something for Pansexual Awareness Day on December 8th! -Consider if we wish to do any LGBT prisoner work this year. If we do, we must re-visit if Lucas is welcome to participate in the group since he is the main contact and organizer with local criminal justice work. He has not participated in the group due to concerns about his criminal history -Consider other avenues of bi+ activism -Promote the BECAUSE conference in October -February- no regular meeting, but encourage members to attend feminism beyond the binary -March: Host a discussion on bisexuality and women’s history/feminism for March/Women’s History Month OR revisit last year’s presentation on various bi-sexual identities. -April: Host a discussion or panel on bisexuality and autism for our April meeting- Autism Awareness Day -May: Topic TBA -June: Perhaps a fun social event- like a bi bonfire on Wisconsin Point? -July: Host a birthday party or birthday celebration for Frida Kahlo. We can revisit the presentation I did last year on Frida’s sexuality or invite someone else to present. -August: Topic TBA -September: Organize Bisexual Awareness Day/ Consider a Pride Table (though I will be out of town)
-October: Host a panel or discussion on domestic violence and the LGBTQ community again. Perhaps work with Prism to co-sponsor this event. We could reach out to the Education Coordinator at Safe Haven to see if she would be willing to present this or facilitate the discussion. This is a great way to plug into Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
-November: Topic TBD
-December: Consider not having a meeting due to the busy holiday season.
Once a month, Pandemonium meets for “Bi with Pie.” “Bi with Pie” is a discussion group wherein members discuss issues related to bisexuality and bi+ identities. In the past, we have discussed our experiences as well as topics such as bisexuality and domestic violence, bi phobia, and the importance of bisexual organizing. Usually, I try to facilitate the discussion by bringing an essay or article to share. This month, I wanted to explore various bi+ identities. Originally, I wanted to compare bisexuality and pan-sexuality, but this expanded to include other bi+ identities. I am not an expert on sexuality, but it is an area of interest. Certainly, there may be some errors in my definitions and analysis. But, the point of our group is to grow and connect as a community. Part of my own growth as an activist is my own growth through learning and sharing information. With that said, hopefully this essay provides an overview of some of the identities within the Bi+ community. It is far from comprehensive, but I think it helps to clarify some differences between identities while revealing a trend in LGBTQ identities.
Bisexuality was first coined in 1892 by Charles Gilbert Chaddock in his translation of Kraft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis. It is in the late 1800s and early 1900s that psychologists sought to classify sexuality. As such, our modern sexual concepts emerge during this time period. However, these understandings were medical understandings meant to delineate health from deviance. For instance, Freud believed that humans were innately bisexual, but that normal individuals would become heterosexual unless exposed to trauma. Unfortunately, many people still seem to believe that being gay, lesbian, bi, or anything but a cisgender heterosexuality stems from poor parenting or some kind of trauma. Despite the relative newness of labels such as homosexual, heterosexual, and bisexual, there has certainly been a wide array of sexual behavior across cultures and time periods. Men in Ancient Greece entered relationships with older men as youth, but also married women. In Ancient Japan, young men formed sexual relationships with older men in the context of Buddhist temples and among samurai warrior culture. While these cultures aren’t precisely bisexual in the modern sense, and even then, this sexual expression was limited to men, it should at least demonstrate that attraction to more than one gender has deep historical roots.
Although the word has been around since the late 1800s, there are many misconceptions of what it means to be bisexual. For instance, the Merriam Webster Dictionary defines bisexuality as a sexual or romantic attraction to both sexes. It also defines it as something which possesses male and female reproductive structures. This definition is confusing, since it implies that there are only two sexes and does not mention gender at all. It is also confusing, since it defines bisexual as synonymous with hermaphrodite. This use of the word might be appropriate in strictly scientific contexts, but it is potentially confusing and offensive in other contexts. Finally, the definition implies that bisexuals are not attracted to trans or non-binary individuals.
Because of these limitations and misunderstandings in mainstream definitions of bisexuality, bisexual organizations have sought to create their own definitions. For instance, BiNet defines bisexual as, “A person whose enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction is to other people of various sexes and/or gender identities. Individuals may experience this attraction in differing ways and degrees over their lifetime.” This definition is notably inclusive of various sexes and gender identities. Likewise, the American Institute of Bisexuality defines bisexual as, “A bi person has the capacity for romantic and/or sexual attraction to more than one gender.” Once again, bisexuality is not limited to attraction to both men or women, but more than one gender, which could include many gender identities. The Human Rights Campaign defines bisexuality as, “A person emotionally, romantically, sexually and relationally attracted to more than one sex and/or gender, though not necessarily simultaneously, in the same way or to the same degree.” This definition acknowledges that bisexuality does not mean an even proportion of attraction to various gender. It is clear by these definitions that bisexuals do not define themselves as simply being attracted to men or women, but simply more than one gender. In fact, there have even been petitions to define bisexuality more accurately on online dictionaries.
While many people believe that the bi in bisexual means attraction to “two” and the two being male and female, according to the American Institute of Bisexuality, it is a scientific word that describes someone who is both heterosexual and homosexual. Despite the efforts of bisexual activists to define themselves in a way that does not reinforce binary gender identities, the misconception persists that bisexuals are attracted to men and women. Many bisexual individuals choose to identify as bisexual because it is the most commonly used word for someone who is attracted to more than one gender. Some use bisexual in combination with other sexual identities. Some use it because they are indeed only attracted to men or women or their sexuality is not inclusive of all gender identities. Bisexuality is also used as a generic umbrella term for a variety of sexualities that involve attraction to more than one gender. Personally, I choose to identify myself as bisexual since it is the most commonly understood word for attraction to more than one gender, it is a word that is associated with social movement organizations and history, and because I believe it is a word that should be reclaimed to be inclusive of all genders.
Although bisexuals have been part of the modern LGBT movement since the 1960s, it is still in many ways very new as a movement. The bisexual pride flag was not invented until 1998. BiNET USA, the first nationwide organization for bisexuals, was not founded until 1990. The first Celebrate Bisexuality Day was on September, 23 1999. The first books that specifically focused on bisexuality were written in the 1990s. Thus, bisexuality as a distinct movement and community is only a few decades old. Although it is new, there are many identities which have arisen since the 1990s. This can make some bisexuals feel threatened or may raise the question of if bisexuality has become obsolete. Hopefully, bisexuality is not obsolete as this would cut short its development as an identity and community and undermine its potential in the struggle against heterosexism. It is my hope that bisexuality will remain relevant by collaborating with and making space for emergent identities.
The 1990s saw a flourishing of bisexual identity with the emergence of national organizations, books, a flag, etc. It was during this time period that Queer Theory emerged. In a larger social and historical context, this period also marked the end of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War. The apparent victory of capitalism, complete with its insidious institutions of globalization and finance, led to a crisis of faith in Marxist or even modernist understandings of society. This has played a large role in sexuality is presently understood and the emphasis on identities. Of course, identity politics is important to building movements as it helps individuals develop a sense of self, a sense of unity, and an understanding of their own oppression. Yet, I think that this also explains the plethora of new sexual identities that have emerged since the 1990s. We live in a society where politics are very identity driven and individualized. This is not to discredit anyone’s identity. It is simply to put these identities into a material and social context.
With that said, while pansexuality may seem like the new kid on the bi+ block, the term has been around since the early 1900s and was coined by Sigmund Freud. At the time, it was a term that described how sexuality was the basis of all human interactions. According to an analysis of google data, pansexual began to appear online in about 2007. The concept arose or at least became more popular with the emergence of genderqueer and non-binary activism. The word pansexual was invented to specifically include non-binary individuals. The word pan means “all,” so someone who is pan-sexual could potentially be attracted to all genders or sexes. There is a slight difference between bisexuality and pansexuality, as bisexuality is often defined as “more than one” and pansexuality as “all.” Thus, pansexuality does come across as more broad and potentially gender blind. Adopting this label is an attempt to make clear that an individual is attracted to all genders. Some bisexuals may feel upset with this term, since pansexuality may seem like it is trying to correct a failure of bisexuality to include trans and non-binary genders. Some bisexuals may feel that this term is not necessary since bisexuality is inclusive or that the label may somehow shame, denigrate, or marginalize bisexuality. I would hope that pansexuals are not seeking to differentiate themselves in such a manner. At the same time, everyone should have the autonomy to define themselves how they like. Pansexuality should be viewed as legitimate and important.
Since bisexuality is misunderstood and pansexuality is not a well-known sexual identity, one benefit of adopting this identity is that it may require an explanation and definition. This is a way to specifically spotlight the gender component of bisexuality/pansexuality. Unfortunately, it has added to the misconception that bisexuality is about binary gender and sexes. Both bisexuals and pansexuals can be attracted to a variety of genders and sexes and both can be allies to these groups. And, while bisexuals struggle with the rootword “bi” which by default sounds like binary, pansexuals must wrestle with the rootword “all” which to some people implies animals, inanimate objects, children, etc. Thus, both identities struggle with defining themselves on their own terms. At the same time, bisexuals have various organizations to advocate for their interests and development as a community. Pansexuals do not have independent social movement organizations (or at least national or well-known organizations). As such, they may be dismissed as an internet identity with no presence in the real world. Pansexuals are lumped together with bisexual organizations. Because the identity is fairly new, perhaps with time it will grow and separate from the bisexual movement. For now, both are conjoined.
I am not certain what percentage of the Bi+ community identities as pansexual. However, in a 2014 Needs Assessment Survey of the Bisexual, Fluid, and Pansexual Community of L.A., 26% of the respondents identified as pansexual. 61.8% identified as bisexual and 36% identified as queer. Thus, pansexual was the third most prominent identity in the survey, consisting of over a quarter of respondents. Despite the lack of pansexual specific publications and institutions, some celebrities have come out as pansexual such as the feminist sex educator, Laci Green, rapper Angel Haze, and Miley Cyrus. The pansexual flag was invented in 2010. The pink represents women, the blue stripe represents men, and the yellow stripe represents non-binary gender. In conclusion, pansexuality as a distinct identity is much younger than bisexuality, but is quickly becoming a popular segment of the Bi+ community. While pansexuality is similar to bisexuality, it emphasizes gender over sexuality. It remains to be seen if pansexuality will separate from bisexuality and form an autonomous movement with its own organizations. I suppose this depends upon how well both groups collaborate and identify common needs and demands. Interestingly, the Bi+ group that I am a part of is called Pandemonium, which puts more emphasis on “pan” than “bi” identity. An effective Bi+ organization should ensure that pansexuals feel like an equal partner in the struggle against heterosexism.
Another identity that may fit in the Bi+ umbrella is fluid. Of course, since fluid is fluid, it may not fit from time to time. I suppose how it fits in would be up to the individual and how that person wants to relate to the Bi+ umbrella. A fluid individual is someone who may be attracted to multiple genders or may be attracted to one gender. Someone who is fluid may reject labels. Their sexuality may involve attraction to multiple genders at once, or a single gender at one time. 24% of the respondents to the 2014 Needs Assessment Survey of the Bisexual, Fluid, and Pansexual Community of L.A. identified as fluid, which made it the fourth most common response. To those who identify as fluid, they may feel as though bisexuality or other labels do not adequately describe the variability in their sexuality. Another word for fluid sexuality is abrosexuality. Though, abrosexuality may mean rapidly changing, so I am not certain that it is perfectly synonymous with simply being fluid. Most bisexuals and pansexuals likely recognize that sexuality is to some degree fluid. It would be rare to find a bisexual person who is always exactly 33.3% attracted to men, 33.3% attracted to women, and 33.3% attracted to non-binary individuals without change or deviation. However, identifying as fluid makes it very clear that sexuality is always changing and evolving.
Queer is often used as catchall term for anyone who is not cisgender or heterosexual, so it is a term that is applied both to sexuality and gender. Thus, it is commonly used to describe any sexual and gender minority or denotes any identity that is not heterosexual. Importantly, it should not be applied to people who don’t self-identity as queer, as the word has historically been used negatively against sexual or gender minorities. The word is multifaceted, so some individuals adopt the word to express their identity as someone who is attracted to men, women, trans, or non-binary individuals. The word is also employed to express that an individual is against the status quo or is a radical or revolutionary sexual or gender minority who is looking to challenge oppressive social norms and systems.
Although queer was once a derogatory word used against sexual or gender minorities, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, activists sought to reclaim the word queer. An early example of the popularization of the word queer is Queer Nation, an organization that was founded in 1990, which used direct action, marches, education campaigns, and protest to challenge homophobia, violence, and promote LGBTQ visibility. Queer Nation came out of ACT-UP, an group which used similar tactics to draw attention to the AIDS crisis during the 1980s. The militancy of ACT-UP was in response to government inaction in response to AIDS and the deaths of thousands of people from the disease. By 2000, almost 450,000 people in the United States had died of AIDS, though the rates of infection and death had decreased since the mid-1990s. Because of this history, the word queer has been associated with LGBTQ militancy, though today, many mainstream organizations have adopted this word.
There are many other sexuality within the bi+ umbrella. Another identity is polysexual. Poly means many. Thus, a person who identifies as polysexual may be attracted to many genders but not all genders. This definition implies that there are some genders which a polysexual is not attracted to or potentially attracted to. A challenge that polysexuals might face is that “poly” may sound like polyamorous. Thus, they might be mistaken for polyamorous, or non-monogamous. As you can see, each identity has some challenges on account of the root word. Finally, polysexual is much more obscure than pansexual and bisexual, so it may require more explanation or confusion. I am uncertain of the history of exact history of polysexuality, but judging by the historical trend of other identities, I imagine it was first articulated in the late 2000s. There are few online resources related to this identity, but it seemed worth mentioning as it relates closely to pansexuality.
In a similar vein to polysexual, there are some people who are only attracted to non-binary identified individuals. These are skoliosexuals. Skoliosexuality is not very well known. I wasn’t even 100% sure which flag represented this sexual identity or if this identity had its own flag. The prefix “skolio” may refer to the Greek word for bent, such as scoliosis, a curve of the spine. The challenge of this sexuality is that it is not well known, it sounds like a spinal deformity, and individuals may be accused of fetishizing gender non-conforming people. The history of this sexuality is unknown, though it may have appeared on the internet after 2010.
Omnisexual, Ambisexual, and Trisexual are other varieties of bi+ identities which I found online. Of these, omnisexual is the most commonly referenced online. Omnisexual seems to be used as a synonym for pansexual. Ambisexual and Trisexual appear to be rather obscure labels at this moment of time. While there may be individuals who identify as these labels, there are few resources regarding what the identity entails. There are more common labels such as heteroflexible, homoflexible, and bi-curious, but it is beyond the scope of this particular essay to explore all of these labels. As such, this essay provides an overview of some but not all Bi+ identities. The big idea is that there are many ways to describe and experience attraction to more than one or multiple genders.
Why So Many Labels?
A big question that a person may have after reading this essay is why are there so many labels? This essay doesn’t even offer a comprehensive list of possible identities within the bi+ community! I think that there are several reasons why there are so many labels. First of all, there are some “old school” labels. These came about in the late 1800s by scientists and medical professionals. Labels like homosexual, heterosexual, and bisexual were coined in the late 1800s. There are many reasons for this. Firstly, the mid 1800s saw the emergence of powerful medical institutions which replaced folk understandings of human bodies and health. This time period also saw the emergence of new disciplines of understanding and organizing knowledge, such as psychology, sociology, and anthropology. The esteemed position of scientific knowledge over religious or folk knowledge was not new, but it was accelerated by the industrial revolution, the subsequent growth of urban centers, and the global expansion of capitalism. This trifecta of conditions called for new ways of studying human beings and articulating deviance/difference for better control of colonies and workers. For instance, scientific racism emerged in this time period as a way to classify some humans as lesser. This justified colonization projects and the exploitation of these people. The veneer of science was used to define deviant from “normal” sexuality for the purpose of controlling the reproduction of workers, pitting some workers against others, and controlling workers themselves by ensuring the unequal position of some groups within the labor force and household. Therefore, these original labels for sexuality were meant to control and divide people. I don’t think it is a coincidence that scientific racism and sexual labels emerged during the same time time period. There was a fear of demographic crisis. Population is a resource within capitalism. Anything that potentially threatens reproduction is automatically suspect.
While different words and labels were adopted and rejected over history, there seems to be a real flourishing of identities since the 1990s. These labels are not coming from scientific institutions, but individuals and activists who want to define themselves. The biggest boon in this process seems to have been reclaiming the word queer in the early 1990s. This came out of militant LGBTQ organizing during the 1980s, which itself stood on the shoulders of the LGBT movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Queer was adopted by activists themselves, but entered academia through queer theory. Of course, the academia of the 1990s was somewhat demoralized by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the perceived failure Marxism. Thus, it seems to me that LGBT theory and analysis has been very centered upon the use of language and the development of identity, as academia has been influenced by post-modernism and post-structuralism. I find nothing wrong with exploring language, identity, or thought. I also find nothing wrong with deconstructing gender and sexuality. These things should be deconstructed. The status quo should be challenged and social movements must promote new understandings. But, I also think that larger economic forces should ground this analysis.
With that said, new identities have developed because identity is a focal point of understanding LGBTQ issues. Identity is important to organizing, but it is a double edged sword because it can be atomizing, dividing, and self-focused. The emergence of so many new identities since the mid to late 2000s can be attributed to social media and the increased ability of individuals to develop a sense of self through the internet. It can also be attributed to American hyper individualism. This is not to say that the emergence of new identities is wrong or bad. It is simply to argue that we live in a society which values individuality (inasmuch as it can be subverted for consumer interests or as a distraction from class consciousness). At the same time, these identities are subversive, since they do challenge heterosexism. This may sound contradictory, but I am simply arguing that a society that allows us to define ourselves through thousands of styles of shoes, clothes, music, and food choices also creates the space for us to define ourselves through thousands of labels for sexuality. And, to add to this, there truly ARE thousands of ways to express sexuality and gender. Finally, there are more labels because there is increased social space to explore gender and sexuality. Victories in the realm of marriage equality and trans bathroom access and trans acceptance (despite recent setbacks) create more space for individuals to think about and express gender and sexual identity. It is my prediction that many more sexual identities will emerge. That there will be many more new flags. I think that this is because people are seeking to define themselves and social media provides a platform for connection and identity creation. There is nothing wrong with this. The question isn’t a matter of right or wrong or what identities should exist or should not exist. It is a matter of organizing to fight heterosexism. To that end, I believe that uniting towards common goals, articulating common interests, identifying economic and structural forces, mobilizing in real time and physical spaces, and building a collective movement that consists of affirmed individuals will further the cause of bi+ individuals as we move towards the future.
A Critique of “2017 Resolutions for Bi Girls, or How Not to be a Homophobe”
By H. Bradford
An unsettling list appeared on my Facebook feed recently. It was entitled 2017 “Resolutions for Bi Girls, or How Not to be a Homophobe.” I poured over it, not sure what to make of it. The advice was how bisexual girls can avoid being homophobic. Of course, everyone should aspire to fight against homophobia. Thus, if there are some nuggets of useful advice in this top ten list, these should be embraced. At the same time, there was something abrasive and offensive to the list. I will examine this list, what could be learned from it, and what strikes me as unfair to bisexuals.
The Title: 2017 Resolutions for Bi Girls, or How Not to be a Homophobe.
To me, the title seemed sexist and degrading. For one, it was directed at bisexual girls. The use of the word “girl” seems disrespectful. Rather than addressing the piece to bisexual women, which sounds more respectful, the more dismissive and patronizing word “girl” was selected. I am not sure who wrote it, but if anyone were to say, “hey girl, listen to this…” I would feel as though I am being talked down to. Granted, there are informal situations where being called “girl” is not offensive, but I can’t think of too many examples wherein it is acceptable for stranger seeking to explain something would use “girl” when addressing women. Further, I wondered why the advice was directed at “girls” instead of all bisexuals. This might imply that bisexual girls are more homophobic than bisexual men or bisexual trans people. Couldn’t these resolutions be addressed to bisexual PEOPLE?!
1. Stop using the word queer.
I find this advice off-putting at the very least, since it is a command to avoid the use of commonly used language in the LGBTQ movement. Of course, it is important to note that not everyone is comfortable with the word queer, especially someone who experienced that word through bullying. Queer is taken for granted and has become fairly mainstream. Even the Women’s March on Washington uses the word queer when raising demands for LGBT individuals. Heck, even the USA Today ran an article about the use of the word queer. I may be mistaken, but I don’t think that the USA Today is at the forefront of queer liberation. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2015/06/01/lgbtq-questioning-queer-meaning/26925563/
Queer is meant to be inclusive. It is meant to be a way to avoid the alphabet soup of LGBTQUIAH…identities and include people who may not neatly fit into gender or sexuality labels. It is also a word that was meant to break down barriers between identities within the LGBTQ community to have a shared identity instead. For some people, it is empowering to reclaim the word. I will admit, I like the word. It seems radical and cool. The word itself means eccentric and unusual, which I would embrace over conventional and normal. But, it has over a century of history of being a slur against LGBTQ individuals. This history isn’t easily forgotten nor should it be flippantly dismissed. Also, not everyone wants to be lumped into a queer community. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, etc. identities have meaning and this meaning might get lost in the wanton lumping individuals into a generic queer community. I think it is prudent to use caution when employing the word queer, to recognize that it can be just as radical to reject the word, and to use different language in different contexts. However, the command to stop using it entirely is counter productive, especially when many social movement organizations/non-profits specifically use the word queer and have adopted “q” as an official part of the LGBTQ acronym, such as Planned Parenthood, OutFront MN, and GLAAD. At the very least, bisexuals would be unusual for abstaining from the use of the word queer.
2. Don’t claim bi-erasure when you won’t call yourself bi. What is wrong with the word bisexual?
I label myself bisexual, when I am more accurately pansexual. I do this because I feel that there is nothing wrong with the label bisexual, it is historically trans inclusive, it is recognizable, and bi seems more accurate than “pan” which generically means everything or all inclusive. At the same time, there is nothing to be gained by label policing pansexuals and bisexuals. Pansexuals may accused bisexuals of not being inclusive of transgender individuals. This piece of advice seems to blame pansexuals on bi-erasure. This kind of bickering and blaming is not conducive to building a united movement.
Pansexuals (or for that matter any other bi+ identity) have nothing to do with bi-erasure. The average person can identify dozens of sports teams by their colors and mascot. The average person can probably identify at least a dozen breeds of dogs. The average person can identify dozens of varieties of fruit. No one mistakes a strawberry for a banana or a bulldog for Afghan Hound. Humans have an amazing ability to categorize vast amounts of information. Therefore, I fully believe that almost everyone could easily differentiate and identify a least a dozen sexualities. This ability is stifled by lack of quality sex education and a conservative education system that teaches next to nothing about gays and lesbians in history, much less bisexuals, asexuals, or any other sexual minority. It is taboo to teach these things in most public schools. These identities are absent from textbooks. And while sex may be commonplace in the media, it is a very narrow sexuality which mostly consists of an oppressive and objectifying version of heterosexuality. With that said, the average American should easily be able to differentiate between pansexual and bisexual. The average American should easily be able to differentiate between bisexual and gay. In part, the invisibility of bisexuality likely stems from the overall sexual ignorance of most Americans. This ignorance of sexuality is a way to render sexual minorities invisible and deny them a place in society and history.
At deeper level, bisexuality itself is uncomfortable. To some, it is a challenge to monogamy and the notion of fixed sexuality rooted in biology. Monogamy has been the cornerstone of private property for thousands of years. Anything that remotely sniffs of a challenge to this, is a challenge to the basis of private property and the entitlement one person to the sexuality of another. Bisexuality does not have to challenge these things. But, I think many bisexuals feel like outsiders to the dominant narratives of sexuality. This makes it dangerous. At the same time, many bisexuals pass as heterosexuals. This makes us seem less visible and less oppressed. As a whole, fears and prejudices, combined with an uncertain position within the LGBTQ community also lends itself to invisibility. Thus, the issue of bi-erasure is not because bisexuals are not embracing the label “bisexual,” but because of larger social forces.
3. Don’t call lesbians women loving women or queer.
Actually, there is nothing wrong with this advice. I feel that people should respect the labels and identities that others choose for themselves. To do otherwise imposes a worldview upon them and undermines their autonomy to define themselves.
4. Stop pretending that our attraction to men is in any way marginalized.
I don’t know that I have heard anyone complain that they are marginalized by their relationship with someone of the opposite sex. The bisexuals whom I have spoken with have expressed that their sexuality seems invisible or that they wish we lived in a different society where there was more room for sexual freedom and exploration. So, there is a certain degree of invisibility and defeat in these relationships, but there is also commitment, love, and compromise.
5. Recognize that biphobia is not a unique axis of oppression. It exists for bi women as the intersection of homophobia and misogyny, if it exists at all. There is no systematic biphobia. The oppression we face is homophobia.
I struggled with this piece of advice the most. To untangle this, I had to first consider the nature of oppression. There are many kinds of oppression in society. For instance, women are presently oppressed by capitalist patriarchy, which devalues women, defines their roles, and historically treated them like property for the purpose of harnessing their unpaid labor and reproductive power in the interest of capitalism. Racial minorities experience racism, which in the context of capitalism, divides the working class, deflates wages, and refocuses social attention. Of course, various racial minorities experience racism differently. For Native Americans, racism comes in the form of violation of treaty rights, denial of cultural practices, genocide and stealing of their land, and marginalization and exclusion from society. For some Latinx Americans, racism might come in the form of English only language instruction in schools, anti-immigration sentiments, or the real threat of deportation. Somali Americans might experience racism in the form of government surveillance, police coercion, Islamophobia, and harassment in the name of anti-terrorism. While various racial/ethnic groups may experience racism uniquely, this does not mean that one group is more oppressed than the other or that the experience of one group should be discounted. It would be absurd and offensive to tell an Asian person that they don’t experience racism or that they should be excluded from anti-racism activism because they are not oppressed enough. In the same way, all sexual minorities experience heterosexism. It is true that some groups experience it much more profoundly. For instance, a low income, bisexual, transwoman of color is probably extremely oppressed by compounding oppressions she faces. But, there is no oppression meter which can be pointed at bisexuals, lesbians, gays, asexuals, etc. to determine who is the most oppressed. Even if there was, what purpose would it serve? All of these people are in some way oppressed by a system that privileges heterosexuality over other sexualities. Each of these groups is seen as abnormal to varying degrees. While gays and lesbians might be more likely to experience homophobic violence, bisexuals are more likely to experience relationship violence. Why keep score? People are being hurt..or killed! It is more productive to fight oppression than fight one another. Heterosexism serves to preserve traditional gender roles and relationships. The role of heterosexism in capitalism is that it preserves a family structure that conveniently creates more children at zero cost to capitalists. The family offers free maintenance of workers through unpaid care work. Is it any surprise that homophobes/transphobes often retreat to arguments about family, child safety, and child rearing? Or, that for gays and lesbians to obtain any modicum of acceptance in society, they must present themselves as non-threatening, white, middle class, and traditionally family oriented?
While I don’t know that the oppression faced by bisexuals is something separate from the general heterosexism faced by all sexual minorities, I will argue that there are experiences that are unique to bisexuals. Terms like biphobia and bi-erasure are used to describe these unique facets of heterosexism. For any oppressed group, there is a need to both work together but also autonomously organize. This is why I wanted to start up a group for bisexuals. I wanted us to have our own group so that we could discuss ideas, educate one another, develop our identity, brainstorm demands, and engage in activism. Ideally, by organizing as our own group, we would be better able to avail ourselves in the larger struggle against heterosexism. I think that all groups should do the same. There should be lesbian groups or gay groups. There should be groups that unite to include everyone impacted by heterosexism. There is nothing to lose by developing groups of people who are committed to dismantling oppression. There is nothing to gain by excluding groups because they are not oppressed enough or do not have the same experiences of oppression. No one experiences oppression exactly the same way. Oppressions intersect. A working class, bi woman with mental illness may very well be more oppressed than a middle class gay man without mental illness. Again, why keep score? Why further divide people who have a shared interest in ending heterosexism?
6. Recognize that straight passing privilege is real.
I agree and disagree with this. I agree because passing as straight is a privilege. It provides safety from anti-gay violence. In some parts of the world, it can help a person avoid arrest and imprisonment. So, of course it is a privilege. At the extreme, it can be a survival tactic. But, is it truly a privilege when NOT passing is met with the threat of violence? It is the privilege to successfully deceive and become invisible. And to be fair, there are gays and lesbians who pass as straight or are believed to be straight until they correct the error. Heterosexuality is viewed as normal and therefore assumed. Nevertheless, anyone who is believed to be heterosexual and cisgender, can benefit from the privileges bestowed upon these groups at the expense of their authenticity and autonomy. This doesn’t seem very privileged. This advice seems to blame bisexuals for passing as straight rather than attacking a society wherein sexual identities are driven underground, ignored, hated, and misunderstood. I don’t think anyone gains in a world where people “pass” or have to pass.
7. Recognize that if you are dating a boy, you are in a straight relationship.
A major theme in the discussions at Pandemonium, a bi+ group that I started a few months ago, is the theme of invisibility. Many of the members are in relationships with heterosexual partners. While they cherish these relationships, it can make their sexuality seem invisible. Commanding bisexuals to identify themselves as in “straight relationships” would only add to this sense of invisibility and marginalization. I can understand how the author may feel upset with bisexual women who are dating men. This might seem inauthentic. It might seem like, “Woe is me, I am so oppressed!” But, in my experience, there is a sense of longing for more. I think many of us wish for a different society, where sexuality can be expressed more freely or with less social consequence. It would be nice if the concept of “cheating” evaporated. However, because most people have an expectation of monogamy, bisexuals are always forced to chose between what appears like a straight relationship or a gay relationship. The exception might be a polyamorous relationship, but there are many barriers to obtaining this. Namely, that the vast majority of people are not polyamorous. Statistically speaking, it is far more likely that a bisexual will meet an individual partner who has an expectation of monogamy. (Of course, many bisexuals are monogamous and desire this as well). Bisexuals should have the ability to classify their relationship as they like. Some might call it a straight relationship. They might classify it as a bisexual in a relationship with a straight person. Maybe their straight partner doesn’t even calls the relationship straight. Maybe the have questions about their sexuality or are open to other options, but at the moment, consider themself straight. They may be in an abusive relationship and FORCED to call themselves and their relationship straight. Why does it matter what the relationship is called? Why can’t bisexuals be trusted to identify their relationship in terms that they find empowering and affirming? I believe that everyone benefits from anything that challenges heterosexism, even if it is just a name or a label. Labels convey meaning. New meanings can challenge dominant understandings about what is real, true, or good in the world.
8. Stop implying that gay is wrong got not being attracted to both sexes. Cut it out with the “hearts not parts”
I never interpreted “hearts not parts” as a command to everyone in the universe that bisexuality is the only correct sexuality. I assumed that those who used that slogan were using it as a personal motto to convey their interest in someone’s emotions over their body parts. Or, it is what is on the inside that matters. I think if it is used as a personal motto to assert one’s opinion or preference, it should not matter. If it is indeed a command or used to shame other sexualities, then of course it should be avoided.
9. Stop implying that everyone is bisexual by insisting that sexuality is fluid.
This one is one of my pet peeves and a mistake I have made in the past. From a sociological perspective, all of our modern sexualities are socially constructed and fairly new. Concepts related to sexuality differ across times and cultures. In this sense, there is no such thing as gay, lesbian, heterosexual, bisexual, etc. as they are all modern concepts developed in the industrialized Western world by psychologists and doctors. There is a wide array of how humans can express their gender and sexuality. In a world that did not privilege heterosexuality, where all genders/sexualities were equal, and there was no negative social sanction for gender and sexual expression, I am sure that people would express their sexuality in all sorts of novel ways. Thus, to some degree, I believe that sexuality is fluid because of the ways that it is shaped by society.
On the other hand, sexuality is real to those who experience it. Just as race is a social construct, it is pretty real to those who are incarcerated or beaten by police because of the color of their skin. So, there are two kinds of reality. There is the reality that these categories are socially constructed and the reality that it doesn’t really matter because they have very real consequences in our society. When a person says, “everyone is bi” or “sexuality is fluid” this may speak to the abstract notion that it is possible that sexuality is a lot more flexible than we think. However, it denies the lived reality of gays, lesbians, or heterosexuals who do not experience bisexuality or fluid sexuality. Just as when a white person says, “We are all Africans” yes, this is technically correct. All humans evolved in Africa. But, we are not all dying of preventable diseases, colonized, or enslaved. Thus, I do think it is a good idea to be very clear in what one means. It is sloppy to say that all people are bisexual. It is sloppy and offensive, because there are plenty of people who are not. This is their lived reality. Calling them bi makes their sexuality invisible and less legitimate. I certainly want to be visible and legitimate. And, while in an abstract perfect society, sexuality may be much more fluid, there may be people who have a strong preference for the same sex, opposite sex, or no one. I would expect this to be true. Though, since we have yet to create a perfect society, it is hard to know. We can only speculate based upon how sexuality has changed over time and varies across cultures.
10. Know when our voice is necessary in a discussion. Are there people more qualified to speak?
I would hope that anyone exercises prudence when they speak. I am not sure what the future holds for Pandemonium (the bi+ group). My own hope is that I grow in my knowledge of bisexuality and can become a part of the LGBT movement. I hope that I can be a voice that speaks on matters related to bisexuality and sexuality in general. I would like to educate others as I educate myself. I feel that bisexuals should be a part of the discussion on LGBTQ issues. Of course, we should not be the only voice or the dominant voice. But, I don’t see any reason why we can’t be an equal among many voices. As for qualifications, I don’t know how one becomes qualified to speak on a topic. I hope that through our discussion group, through activism, and through connecting with the larger community, we all become more qualified to speak. But the concept of “qualified” should not be used to silence anyone. I have often felt like I wasn’t qualified to speak about women’s issues, socialism, anti-war, foreign policy, education, or any number of things out of fear that I would make a mistake or that I was wrong. I still feel that way! Perhaps I am not even qualified to identify “how not to be a homophobe.” However, I think that if I am willing to wrestle with ideas and thoughtfully express my opinion based off of what I know and have experienced, I am qualified enough!
Bringing Bisexuality and Domestic Violence Into Focus
Last month, Pandemonium met for the first time. Pandemonium is a modest bisexual/pansexual/ omnisexual/generally bi+ group that I am working to organize. Our first meeting was chaotic, but lively. A disturbing theme that came out of our first discussion was that many of the members had experienced violence of some kind. Since October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month and LGBT history month, I thought that this theme deserved more attention. As such, I wanted to investigate this topic further and bring my findings back to the group for our November meeting. Indeed, being bisexual increases the likelihood that a person may be the victim of intimate partner violence.
According to a 2010 report from the CDC, 61.1% of bisexual women have experienced either rape, stalking, or physical violence from an intimate partner (North, 2016). If molestation is added to this list, the rare is 75% (Davidson, 2013). In contrast to bisexuals, 35% of straight women and 43.8% of lesbian women have experienced stalking, rape, or physical violence (North, 2016). If only rape is account for, 46.1% of bisexual women report having been raped, compared to 13.1% of lesbian and 14.7% of straight women. Further, of the bisexual women who have reported domestic violence, 57.4% reported that they had experienced adverse effects such as PTSD or missed work, compared to 35.5% of lesbians and 28.2% of straight women. This means that not only are bisexual women experiencing domestic violence at higher rates, they are suffering more adverse effects from this violence. Finally, most bisexual victims of domestic violence had been abused by male partners, as men accounted for 89.5% of offenders (North, 2016). As a whole, bisexual women are the number one target of domestic violence, followed by bisexual men who experience it at a rate of 47.4%. This is followed by lesbian women, heterosexual women, gay men, and straight men (Davidson, 2013). This is very startling, as bisexual men and women are both the targets of domestic violence.
In Canada, 28% of bisexuals reported being victims of spousal abuse versus 7% of heterosexuals. According to the BC Adolescent Health Survey, Bisexual girls between ages 12 and 18 were twice as likely to report dating violence than heterosexual girls (Bielski, 2016). In the UK, one in four bisexual women and lesbian women have experienced domestic violence. Among these victims, ⅔ reported that their abuser was a woman, versus ⅓ reported a man. Four in ten bisexual and lesbian women with a disability reported domestic violence. While the UK statistics lump bisexual and lesbian women into the same grouping, the findings shows the intersectionality of abuse (Stonewall Health Briefing, 2012). In this case, disability and sexuality put the women at greater risk of abuse. The statistics from the UK, U.S., and Canada each suggest that bisexuality can be connected to increased incidences of intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and stalking. This begs the question, why is this the case?
It is easy to blame the media for social problems, but it is a useful starting point. Certainly, the media plays a role in shaping public perception by popularizing ideas, framing questions and ideas, focusing on some information over other information, and setting parameters of what is discussed and how it is discussed. Davidson (2013) observed that the media, especially pornography, sends a message that bisexual women are depraved, immoral, promiscuous, and have commitment issues. These portrayals of bisexual women actually victim blames them or justifies their abuse through negative portrayals. This portrayal of bisexuals represents or contributes to biphobia, which often goes unnoticed or unaddressed in larger discussions of homophobia. As a matter of example, consider the case of Amber Heard. Before her divorce trial, many people may not have known that she was bisexual. According to Bielski (2016), Amber Heard was painted as a gold digger in the media, even as evidence of the violence against her from her then husband Johnny Depp began to emerge. Despite these accusations, Heard actually donated her divorce settlement money to charity. She donated half of the settlement to the ACLU for the purpose of ending violence against women. Aside from gold digging, her bisexuality was also used to discredit her, as tabloids portrayed her as promiscuous and that it was Depp’s jealousy that drove him to beat her. Even in the face of grotesque evidence, such as a video of Depp kicking kitchen cupboards while shouting at her, photos of her bruised face and swollen lip, and a sexual slur scrawled on their mirror, she was blamed for making him jealous (Bielski, 2016).
Dynamics of Domestic Violence:
While the media plays a role in shaping public perception about bisexuality, it does not explain why bisexuals are victimized to begin with. Bisexuality may be used as an excuse by gay or straight abusers to exert control over their victim. To the abuser, it may represent identity, power, and the possibility of sexual attraction to others. Controlling behaviors include such things as surveillance, such as checking email or text messages and using isolation, such as not allowing bisexual victims to spend time with anyone of any gender. To abusers, bisexuality itself may be viewed as something that needs to be controlled. Farnsworth (2016) argued that bisexual people, along with people of color, disabled people, neurodivergent people are often treated as “others.” “Othering” a group of people diminishes their humanity and legitimacy. “Othered” people often have their consent ignored. Bisexuals and other oppressed groups may be told that they deserve their abuse and that no one else would want them. Many people in the LGBTQ community also face poverty, which is a barrier to leaving abusive relationships as these individuals may be financially dependent upon their partner. (Farnsworth, 2016). In fact, bisexual women are twice as likely to live in poverty than lesbian women (Kristal, 2016). Finally, in the larger society, bisexuals are demeaned, sexualized, and ignored. Until this is changes, they will be at greater risk of violence (Farnsworth, 2016).
Beyond some of the dynamics of domestic violence, shelters may also bear some of the blame. For instance, in testimonies gathered for a White House meeting on bisexuality, one woman reported that she was denied shelter at a Chicago domestic violence shelter because the shelter was for women with male abusers. When she sought a resource for the gay community, she was told that because she was bi she did not qualify for their services. Unfortunately, gender variant individuals and gay and bisexual men have few resources available to them (Hutchins, 2013). While bisexual men are the group that is second most likely to experience domestic violence, there is only one shelter in the United States that is explicitly for male victims of domestic violence. This shelter is located in Arkansas, has nine beds, and opened in 2015 (Markus, 2016). Females are by far the majority of domestic violence victims, but it is important that men also have services, as well as transgender individuals. Everyone of any sexuality and gender identity deserves to be safe from violence.
Another facet of domestic violence is mental health. Bisexual women are at greater risk of depression and anxiety compared to gay or straight women. This mental health risk could be because of the stigma of being bisexual (Buzzfeed). However, if 75% of bisexual women have been stalked, raped, molested, or victims of domestic violence, this increased incidence of depression and anxiety may be related to trauma. A study published by the University of Montreal found that among 1052 mothers who were studied over ten years, those who had experienced domestic violence were twice as likely to suffer from depression and had three times the risk of developing schizophrenia-like psychotic symptoms. Among the women who had been abused by their partner, they were more likely to have substance abuse, early pregnancy, childhood abuse, and poverty (University of Montreal, 2015). Factors such as mental health and substance abuse create a vicious feedback effect. Abuse creates mental health problems, financial problems, pregnancy, and substance abuse. In turn, all of these things makes a person more vulnerable to abuse. As abusers target often vulnerable people, the previous abuse and mental health issues experienced by bisexuals may may play into the abuse (Bielski, 2016). This is not meant to blame them, but to show that their previous victimization may make them more vulnerable to future abuse.
Biphobia and Bi-Erasure:
All bisexuals experience biphobia and bi-erasure to some degree. Biphobia is hatred and prejudice against bisexuals. A 2015 study in the Journal of Bisexuality found that heterosexuals and gays and lesbians had almost identical prejudices against bisexuals. According to the reported experiences of the surveyed bisexuals, both heterosexuals and homosexuals treated bisexuals as if they were more likely cheat and were sexually confused. Both group also excluded bisexuals from their social networks (Allen, 2016). While bisexuals may be viewed negatively as promiscuous, wild, immoral, and disloyal, their voices, histories, identities, and experiences are ignored. This is called bi-erasure. Biphobia and bi-erasure can make coming out harder for bisexuals. Their partners may not understand or think that a bi person is not satisfied (Farnsworth, 2016). For individuals who are not “out”, they may face challenges when leaving their abuser. For instance, in the book, Violence against Queer People: Race, Class, Gender, and the Persistence of Anti-LBGT Descrimination, a woman named Dorothy reported facing an additional barrier when she left her husband since she left him to enter her first same-sex relationship (it should be noted that in this example she identified as a lesbian). Thus, leaving the relationship made harder by the fact that this would “out” her to others. A woman named Leslie reported that her bisexuality was used to legitimize the abuse and control her. The abuse worsened after she was married. She was accused of flirting with both men and women. After she was pregnant, he accused her of wanting to sleep with their waitress when they went out to dinner together (Meyer, 2015). Once again, her bisexuality was something threatening to her partner. In a 2012 Human Rights Campaign survey, bisexual teen girls reported that they were called “whores” or forced to make out with other girls for their partner (Kristal, 2016). Again, negative stereotypes about bisexuals resulted in slut shaming and coercive sexual acts. Because bisexual women are believed to be promiscuous and sexually adventurous, consent is assumed (Bielski, 2016). Thus, it is no wonder why bisexuals are victims of sexual assault at a greater rate per their population than individuals with other sexual identities.
At some level, bisexuality challenges sexual norms. While this is not true of all bisexuals, a study that appeared in Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity found that bisexuals reported that monogamy was a sacrifice at greater rates than straights and gays. An equal amount of bisexuals found monogamy to be a sacrifice as there were bisexuals who found it rewarding. Nevertheless, gays and straights both reported monogamy as more rewarding than bisexuals. Thus, while viewing monogamy as a sacrifice does not indicate that the respondents were polyamorous and promiscuous, it does indicate that they were less likely than their straight and gay counterparts to find monogamy rewarding (Vrangalova, 2014). Many bisexuals that I have spoken with are perfectly capable of monogamy, myself included. However, to those whom I spoken with, there is often a sense of sacrifice or duty involved with this monogamy. It is often framed as a sacrifice made for the sake of companionship or a stable relationship with a particular individual. At some level, bisexuality does threaten monosexual partners. It does play into their insecurities and jealousies. This is no excuse for abuse, but this represents a flaw with our relationships. Society normalizes jealousy and insecurity. Countless films and television shows feature couples who show their love through jealous behaviors. An individual who is not jealous, is not viewed as emotional. Taken to the extreme, jealousy can be abusive. But, all monogamous relationships involve some level of control over the sexuality of another human being. So, while bisexuals are capable of monogamous relationship, they are at the same time more apt to question monogamy. This is very threatening to patriarchy and capitalism, which has treated women as the sexual property of men.
It is only recently, and with that advent of the feminist movement, that women have begun to be seen as having rights to their sexuality. Today, some states continue to treat marital rape as something different than rape outside of marriage. It was only in the 1990s that laws began to change so that rape within marriage was considered the same kind of crime, with the same punishments, as rape. Prior to this, men were viewed as having a right to sex from their wives and implicit consent as part of their marriage. Since the majority of women have traditionally married, rape is built into the tradition of marriage. Marriage itself is institutionalized monogamy. By extension, marriage was institutionalized rape. Now, certainly there are people who have loving relationships and consensual sex within the context of marriage. And, bisexuals certainly fought for and benefited from the legalization of same sex marriage. But, I cannot shake my disgust at the notion that marriage granted men the right to sex without consequence, consent, or criminality. While consent is considered a part of healthy relationships today, control will always be a part of relationships so long as people attach their self-esteem and happiness to the sexual loyalty of their partner. In the popular imagination, there is sympathy for “crimes of passion.” A man who kills his wife after she cheats on him has a legitimate defense. These circumstances can result in lesser charges or a lower sentence. A woman who cheats on her husband may be denied alimony. To some degree, even non-abusive people accept the legitimacy of violence and control for the sake of monogamy. Control and abuse are enshrined in the law.
What is to be done?
There are many reasons why bisexuals are abused at higher rates than other groups. Bisexuals are more likely to experience mental health issues, substance abuse issues, and poverty, which both puts them at risk of abuse, but also results from abuse. Bisexuals experience bi-phobia and bi-erasure. Their abuse is justified because it is considered a means to control them, out them, that they were sexually confused to begin with, and their consent is ignored. Bisexuality itself is seen as something that must be controlled. It is misunderstood. At some level, it challenges some aspects of monogamy.
Hopefully, this piece offers some insight to why bisexuals may experience greater rates of abuse. Certainly, more research on this topic should be done. For instance, I could not find research pertaining to how many bisexuals actually identify as poly-amorous or monogamous. Besides continued research, more work should be done to end bi-phobia and bi-erasure. To this end, I hope that Pandemonium can work to create a community of bi+ activists, while fostering discussion, awareness of issues, a sense of identity and history, and action. As for advocates within the field of domestic violence, I hope that more can be done to become aware of LGBT issues and become more responsive to their needs. I am a domestic violence advocate myself, and I believe that this very rudimentary research has given me some food for thought in how I approach my work and frame problems. Finally, if nothing else, this demonstrates the connections between fighting for LGBT rights and the fight for feminism, but also other fights, such as the fight to end poverty and the fight for more mental health services.