This rant’s from yours truly – on excuses I’m truly sick of, and the fight for your life and mine. – Cha-Cha
A couple of articles ago, I linked to a report out of the UK on bisexuality. I particularly liked the following quote in the beginning, explaining some issues with methodology:
“It is extremely difficult to determine the number of bisexual people due to both a lack of research and different definitions of bisexuality. If the term is defined narrowly, for example as the number of people who self-identify as ‘bisexual’ on a national UK survey, then the proportions tend to be small. If the term is defined as broadly as all people who have ever had an attraction to more than one gender then it may include a significant minority, or even a majority, of the population. However, how many bisexual people there are has no bearing on the necessity of ensuring that bisexual people enjoy equality and freedom from discrimination, as these rights apply to all regardless of sexual identity or attraction.“
That last sentence cannot be emphasized enough.
I am so tired of hearing how bisexuality and research pertaining to bisexual people isn’t important because we are few and far between and there “just aren’t that many bi’s.” I am tired of this coming from straight people who have the privilege of being blind to the existence of everyone else, and I am tired of hearing it from gay people to whom we are non-monosexuals are all vaguely suspect, or else are imaginary or, alternately, are in need of “saving.” I have heard pretty much the same sentence, starting with “there just aren’t that many….” applied to people who are transgender, and doubly so when it comes to transgender people of color. And pansexuals, fluid-sexuals, and people more of these ilks and identities hardly merit a mention, or are treated as just politically correct, semantic oddities, as are people who are genderqueer though in different ways. And as for intersex people, I mostly hear “why bother? I mean, how many of them ARE there really?” Or comments even less kind, even from queers who really ought to know better.
And for the record, the fact is there are a ton of us. Statistically, everyone has been in the same room with a person who is transgender. Everyone’s at least passed a bi, pan, fluid person on the street. You’ve met somebody who’s intersex. You’ve seen somebody who’s genderqueer. These things really aren’t uncommon – they’ve just been repressed and persecuted for an incredibly long time. Appropriation and miscategorization notwithstanding, there are plenty of historical examples as well, all over the world and in many histories, for those who search. This information is available on the internet, mostly through advocacy and visibility organizations, and is sadly absent from widely available media and education.
But I keep hearing this “why bother?” crap from lesbian and gay people, as well as straight people. It’s so fucking depressing. And the consequences are real and direct.
And, it’s had an impact on activists from various communities that get dismissed, all the time, as not really mattering because “there just aren’t that many of you.” Bisexual, transgender, and intersex people all come from communities that have had to bend over fucking backwards to prove that they exist, and in “sizeable numbers,” whatever the hell that means. Pan, fluid, and otherwise differently labeled / hard to label / not labeled folks are beginning to assert ourselves and our existence. Genderqueer folks are speaking up more and more.
If there is even f*cking one of us, we deserve recognition and human rights, in other words the means to live to our full potential, as do all people.
How many times, how many ways can I yell it from the rooftops: Erasure is not a PC thing – it’s a deadly thing, it’s a REAL thing. IT exists, and I wish it didn’t.
What does it mean? It means, in different ways depending on our particular circumstances, that our mental and physical health needs don’t get addressed. Our safety isn’t a concern. Our feelings don’t matter. The reasons we commit suicide, or even the number of suicides of bi, pan, and fluid people SEPARATELY from other categories of “not-straight” people, are not researched and reflected upon, and therefore the efforts to stop it are limited and rarely if ever funded. The ways in which we are criminalized, violated, incarcerated, are not examined or helped. When we voice what is hurting us and ask for it to stop, we are not heard, over and over, until we are not-heard into silence and sometimes into suicide. We are not allowed to be fully human, or fully expressive of our own humanity. Etcetera. And a lot else.
Do you ever wonder what else we could be doing with our energy if we didn’t have to prove, over and over again, to people generally and people with research grants specifically, that we exist and are alive and are deserving of concern and that there should be studies of our quality of life and how to improve it? For crying out loud?
Do you ever think about what life would be like, for example, if health studies had already been performed so that sexual, mental, and physical healthcare pertinent to people who are not straight or gay even existed? If we learned about ourselves early on in our education, learned our histories and heros, and never had to wonder whether or not we were just freaks? Do you ever think about what life would be like if our potential weren’t so often sucked alive by illness, depression, self doubt, fear of ourselves, internalized bi/pan phobia, the endless wondering if we would ever fit, the lies, the closets, the half-truths, the bending over backwards to fit, if we never had to do that, if we could just be, or at least get the proper help recovering from a dominant society that seeks, over and over again, to erase us and our existence?
I think about it all the time, and it burns me up some nights.
It also jumps me up a lot of mornings. I want to create that world NOW.
Back to the article, which was about bisexuality, specifically. And I am not trying to lump all bi, pan, and fluid people together, and I am CERTAINLY not trying to say that a sexual orientation is the same as being genderqueer, transgender, or intersex. But I am trying to recognize that it is more than just bisexual people who are being erased by lack of research, lack of care, lack of specificity, and by being lumped in with the lesbian and gay amalgam, the demand being that we be citizens of some Queer Community ™ that doesn’t really recognize or care for us.* We must be sensitive to our specific and different needs, and we should take the opportunity to be in solidarity with one another.
I am glad to see this report. I hope to hear about others like it – leave some comments. I look forward to that day when bisexuality becomes accepted as a Thing That Really Happens, and when we can move past it, to not lump everyone who is bisexual or could plausibly fit into the bisexual box together. I look forward to a report that looks at the needs of bisexual people of different genders more closely and specifically. I look forward to reports that will look not just at the needs and experiences of “bisexual People of Color” but that look at specific racial, ethnic, and indigenous groups, and recognize that “People of Color” do not all have the same freakin’ experience of life (and sexuality and gender). I look forward to future reports, from many sectors, that recognize that transgender people have sexual orientations, and some transgender people are bisexual. That intersex people have sex, and have sexual orientations. That genderqueer people are people in fact, not just in theory, that “genderqueer” is a REAL THING, not a semantic thing, for crying out freakin’ loud. That “bisexual” is not the same, always, as “pansexual” or “fluid,” or about a million other labels that are not just some freaky, random “thing” that people take on to be unique, but that are taken on because they fit and reflect a certain specific set of needs.
And I look forward to the implementation of the findings of such studies. To education that includes us. To basic rights and the possibility of self actualization. To being able to fully be ourselves.
And until that happen, and our needs are met, I’m going to keep screaming it out: We Exist, in all our multiplicity, and we matter, and we can not afford to be ignored.
*I don’t know, but I imagine it could be doubly weird and dissonant for transgender, intersex, and genderqueer people who are heterosexual oriented.