This year my birthday falls on a Friday. I'm currently having the traditional "argh" about what to do.
This Livejournal is effectively dormant, by the way. Please don't expect any updates. I don't want to delete it though because there's some good stuff on here that I wouldn't want to become inaccessible.
One of the things about being an activist within an erased minority is that I've spent a lot of time thinking about visibility and labelling. I've designed logos, slogans for t-shirts and symbols to let other people know how a person identifies, or just to let others who share the label spot each other.
Furthermore, because of the way I interact with the world, I always see myself as being in some costume or other. I dress with part of my mind occupied by what messages I'm giving off. What does this belt tell people? How will they interpret these shoes? Am I dressed as me? After all the theatre adage is "Wear the right costume and the part plays itself" and sometimes it can be useful to have some momentum.
Yes, it sounds like a personality disorder, doesn't it? I think it might well be, but in a way it's a very useful one when thinking about visibility, signifiers and signs.( I go on for a bit about badges but then take a sharp turn...Collapse )
One of the problems with explaining bisexuality to people who aren't bisexual is that to a bisexual person their sexuality most likely seems simple and uncomplicated, and the reasons why it is confusing to others don't seem to make sense. I'd started to think that maybe bisexuality isn't about who you're attracted to, so much as heterosexuality and homosexuality are about who you are not attracted to.
I divided the page of the flipchart into two columns, one topped with a tick and one with a cross. What things, I asked, turned people on or off about others? Not you personally, of course - that'd be awfully intrusive, but what things in general, or what things your friends have told you that they (and of course not you) find positive and negative about others.
I started the chart off with a few suggestions, like "good teeth" and "snoring" and as the columns filled some things went in both columns, like "arrogance" and "sense of humour". When we got to the bottom of the sheet I turned to the room, and asked if they could tell me what was missing?
What, I said with a grin, given the subject of this session and the undoubtedly ulterior motives I have for asking the question of what goes in which column, might be missing?
I could see a couple of people's eyes widen and heads tilt, but no-one would say it aloud. So I wrote "gender" on the sheet, at the bottom.
In the "negatives" column.
Isn't it interesting, I said slowly, that in a room of mostly gay and straight people, no-one has said that a person's gender is a reason they wouldn't fancy them?
Someone protested. I was being unfair, after all I'd asked for qualities or attributes about people that others might find attractive or not attractive and gender wasn't one of those it was um, er, ah, oh....
I thanked them and said, yes exactly! Gender, to people who are only attracted to one, is such a big turn off that it's hard to spot. It's too close to the observer and so it's like it's out of focus. By the time you find out that Lee is into football and tickling and martinis it's too late - the fact that within seconds of meeting Lee your brain categorised them as male means they were out of the running. This is why society finds androgyny a threat - some people don't want to start fancying the lead singer of Hansen and then only later find out he's not female. Slipping past the big exclusion startles people.
A straight guy, or a lesbian woman wouldn't find all women attractive. A gay guy or a straight woman wouldn't find all men attractive. Of course not - they'll all have some things that turn them on and other things they don't care about. But having a gender turn-off is perhaps what makes them not bisexual. Bisexuality isn't about what we find attractive, because that's going to be different with every bisexual person (and sometimes will be based on preferences around anatomy or gender presentation, sure) but perhaps it is about not having a blanket turn-off based on the big two genders.
Bisexuals don't find everyone attractive. Have you met everyone? They're just not that attractive! But although you see Chloe leaving her girlfriend for a man, she sees herself as going from one person who shares her interests to another, possibly another who isn't cheating on her.
Heads were nodding and clues were being taken in, and the rest of the session went very well, especially when they realised that I really did mean it about answering absolutely any questions. I got to recount my coming-out-to-my-parents story (recently reprised for the recording of a show on Radio 4) and other useful anecdotes. It's handy not to need to preface with "some people have said that when they..." because a lot of it has happened to me personally.
Sheffield was a lot of train travel for only a short workshop in terms of time, but I think we all learned a valuable lesson. They got clued up about bisexuality and I found another way to rearrange the explanation to help people get it, and came home feeling very rewarded by the smiles, thank yous and eurekas.
Even if we wanted to (and I don't personally), I think it's too late to rename our sexuality. But I'm definitely going to re-use this exercise, and I heartily recommend it if you find yourself struggling to explain just how amazingly simple bisexuality really is.
I recognised most of the games mentioned, apart from Mao and Arimaa. So I looked those up. Mao is the sort of game you need your social circle to grow up with, I think, as it's a secret rules game that relies on everyone apart from their victim being in on the joke (like Mornington Crescent if played maliciously). Arimaa though sounded like fun. ( Read more...Collapse )
I'm enjoying playing it a lot. I'm going to have a go at teaching it to Holly next.
I explained that I was trying to come up with an analogy for bisexual invisibility. Some people assume everyone they see is straight, unless they look gay. Others would look around the carriage and think "Straight, gay, straight straight, gay, gay, god knows". But few people look at a stranger and when they think "Straight" or "Gay" actually mentally add "or bisexual", especially not to both cases.
It's like Coke and Pepsi, I said. The big two are so well marketed that everyone assumes there isn't a third.
She pulled a face then. "Don't use that as an analogy for bisexuality! Other colas are disgusting - no-one likes them! You thinking of supermarket colas, right? Weird stuff."
I laughed and suggested Tab. Coke and Pepsi are so popular that people forget there are other brand names, that have followings, have fans, thousands and thousands of them.
But this is the thing - people forget to list them. Worse, it doesn't occur to them that it's a list, or that the list can be longer than two. If it's not Coke, it's Pepsi, and if it's not Pepsi it's Coke. It's the same with sexuality - people aren't forgetting the third (and fourth and so on) from the list because they've been brought up to not think of it as a list. It's a pair. It's one or the other.
Brokeback Mountain Dew?Female partners are ignored if a man has a male lover. If a prominent politician is suspected of having a same-sex affair, the question "Is he gay" is deflected with "He and his wife have always seemed a perfectly happy couple." It's not that people are deliberately not asking "Is he bisexual?" - the question doesn't occur to them at all. You'd rather have Dr. Pepper?
Media tropes feed into this - 'the gay man who gets married in order to hide his sexuality'. It's like changing the label on the cola - it's still one of the two.
Much later, still wondering if it'd make a good analogy, I looked up online the cola wars. Turns out the big two are actually now Coke and Diet Coke. Pepsi is the third cola.
But I think I'd shy away from suggesting the big two sexualities were Straight and Diet-Straight, or even Gay and Diet-Gay.
So maybe I won't make a soda analogy, I'll just post about how I'm not going to.
So far sounds like my kind of thing, doesn't it? But I've run into a problem. There's a meeting about bisexuality with an arm of the UK Government that would also like my attendance that afternoon. Due to the scheduling problems of getting civil servants and bisexual activists in the same room at the same time, the only time/date everyone else can make is 3pm on that same day.
I can't do both. Cambridge want A Bisexual Speaker, whereas the gov. meeting wants Marcus Morgan.
So - can anyone step in for the talk in Cambridge? (I'm not prepared to cancel on them unless someone can go in my stead)
ETA: Volunteer found, thank you all!