Everyone Falls for the Person, Not the Gender

In a recent article The Advocate published “Nine Celebs Who Fell For The Person, Not The Gender”.
This was really disappointing given how well they had been doing in regards to bisexual isdues. But it’s also a learning opportunity.
“I love people not genders/hearts not parts! ” is a thing I have commented on before. For a refresher go here

Every. Single. Human. On. The. Planet.  Falls for a person. This is not limited to straight people, queer people, bisexuals, pansexuals or any other group. You simply can not fall in love with a gender in the same way you can’t fall in love with any other abstract catagory.
I’m tired of this being used to erase people. Or create holier then thou hierarchy.
This needs to end. Full stop.
This concept is like poison candy.  On the outside it looks and might taste sweet,  but that inner taste isn’t almonds it’s arsenic. 

2 Comments

Filed under Bisexuality, LGBT Writing

Guest Post: How to Find a Bi Competent Therapist by Estraven Le Guin

“One US study found that over a quarter of therapists seen by bisexual clients erroneously assumed that sexual identity was relevant to the goal of therapy when the
client didn’t agree, and around a sixth saw bisexuality as being part of an illness. Seven percent attempted conversion to heterosexuality and 4% to being lesbian or gay. Many therapists were openly uncomfortable about bisexuality.” (Page, E)  Another British study found that bisexuals were treated worse than  gays and Lesbians by their therapists. At a recent training of monsexual therapists on bisexual issues that I did, even though the therapists were middle-aged or older, most of them were quite surprised to find out that bisexuality is not just a phase, and that bisexuals can be monogamous. You might think that by going to a so-called LGBT treatment center, you would be assured of bi-competent care, but some of these organizations are known for their covert hostility to bisexuals.
 
So how do you find a bi-competent, or at least a bi-friendly, therapist?
 
The first place to look is at the Bisexuality-Aware Professionals’ Directory:
 
http://www.bizone.org/bap/baplist.php?category=Therapists
 
Therapists on this list have had to meet at least 3 of the following criteria for bisexuality-awareness:
*Believes that bisexuality is a valid lifestyle and is welcoming towards bisexual people  
 *Knows of several ways in which bisexuals’ concerns differ from gays’ and lesbians’ concerns  
 *Has worked professionally with several bisexual clientele in the past 
* Has organized bisexually oriented support or social groups or workshops 
*Is an active participant in bisexual community events or forums
*Has read 3 or more professional books or journal articles on bisexuality
*Has attended a professional workshop on the concerns of bisexual people 
 *Has given lectures on bisexuality
*Has written articles or books on bisexuality
Until very recently, due to biphobia, even post-graduate training programs considered training in gay and Lesbian issues to be sufficient for clinicians to work with bisexuals, since bisexuals were considered to be half gay. Therefore, most clinicians will not have had specific training, since it did not exist, but will have had to educate themselves . 
 
If there is no one near you on the Bisexuality-Aware Professionals’ Directory, but you do have a LGBT Center nearby, call their help line. All kinds of people put up their cards at the Center, but the staff are likely to know which therapists are bisexual or, at least, who works well with bisexuals. If you are in college, the same is true of your college Counseling Center (assuming your college is reasonably LGBT-friendly). If you have a local bi group, go to a few meetings and ask who people are seeing, and who they had good experiences with and who they did not. Don’t be shy; people talk about everything at bi group. To locate a bi group, look here:
 
http://www.binetusa.org/bi-groups-in-the-us
 
or ask for one on the BiNET USA Facebook page:
 
https://www.facebook.com/groups/binetusa/
 
If none of that works, if you have bi friends, ask them who they are seeing.  If there is an LGBT  Treatment Center near you, you can ask at the bi group or ask your bi friends if it truly welcomes bisexuals, or is one of the covertly hostile places. 
 
If none of that has worked for you, it gets more complicated. If you have insurance, go on the back of your card and look for the Web site. The Web site should have some sort of “Find a doctor” feature. This will allow you to search under Behavioral Health for “Psychologists” and “Licensed Clinical Social Workers.” Then, under these, there will be a listing of their specialty areas. Some plans list the speciality areas Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual together, and then Transgender separately.  Some plans list Lesbian/Gay together, Transgender separately, and erase Bisexual. My own insurance company lists Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual together. I just looked at these listings  for my area, and I was a bit dismayed. I saw people on that list that have come to my Counseling Bisexuals trainings, and who are not, in my opinion, gay, Lesbian, or bi competent, while I know that others on the list are at least gay and Lesbian competent. Once you have found names on the list, if there are a lot, start googling the ones who are near to you. See if they have any connection to the bisexual community, or even the queer community. Some therapists can afford Web sites, some are on LinkedIn:
 
 https://www.linkedin.com/
 
Some may be bi activists, give talks, etc., and their knowlege about bi issues and being part of the bi community is clear once you google them. If you are lucky, and can find a therapist who has clear ties to the bisexual community and is on your insurance plan, your work is done. Call and ask to schedule an appointment.
 
However, if no one shows up as a result of your google search, I have heard stories over and over of people being actually harmed in therapy by therapists who thought they knew better than their bisexual client about bisexuality, and were wrong. This means you will need to do some more work at this point. Therapists actually expect to have a little discussion on the phone when first contacted. It amazes me how often people call me and say “hi, I’d like to make an appointment.” No name, no information, no reassurance that you are not a serial killer coming to my isolated office with terrible plans… I want to know why you are coming for treatment, and a little bit about you. You want to know if I can help you . So it is reasonable for you to say,” Hi, my name is Susie, I am struggling with internalized biphobia (or whatever your issue is), and I am looking for a bi-competent therapist with a great deal of expertise on bisexuality to help me with this. Do you think this is an area you could help me with?” If they say no, it’s not an area of specialization of theirs, ask if they know someone in the area who does specialize in that. If they say yes, say “I understand that it is hard to get training in counseling bisexuals, but how have you trained yourself?” You might have the criteria above printed out for comparison, and check them off. If they only have the weaker ones (the top three), say “Thank you, I will keep you in mind, but I was looking for someone with more training.” And keep going. But keep their information in case they are the best in your area.
 
Psychology Today has a “Find a Therapist” site:
 
http://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/prof_search.php
 
And under this you can search for therapists who treat bisexuals. However, again looking at this for my area. let me just say that I would want to ask them the questions above. Anyone can claim that they treat people for a magazine, but true bi-competance is rarer.
 
Once you have narrowed it down to three or four names, it is time to schedule some consultation sessions. Therapy can be a serious investment of time and money on your part. It is reasonable for you to schedule an initial consultation session with a possible therapist to see if the two of you are a good fit.  A person can be a wonderful therapist, but for whatever reason your personalities just don’t go well together. Therapists are trained to not take things personally. During that session, briefly discuss the bi issue you would be working with them on, and ask them how they would handle it. You can also ask more detailed questions about their sexual orientation and training in counseling bisexuals during this session. If they do not seem knowlegable, or make biphobic remarks, I would politely indicate that they don’t seem to be a good fit, pay them, and go on to the next person you have a consultation session scheduled with. One hopes that after these consultation sessions you have found someone you can work with.
 
If you do not have insurance, but have Medicare, you can follow the same process. If you have Medicaid, you will most likely have to be treated in a mental health clinic. Medicaid varies from state to state. In the more LGBT-accepting states, if you make it clear during your intake that your bisexuality is a big part of your issues, again, the staff usually know who is good at treating bi issues, and, depending on how totally overwhelmed they are, will try to assign you to that staff. In LGBT-unfriendly states, you may not want being queer as part of your medical record. Some therapists work on a sliding scale, but have to make a living, so tend not to advertise that fact. It will take persistance, but if a bi-friendly therapist who works on a sliding scale exists where you are, you may be able to track them down.
 
Finally, the way the insurance companies handle the specialization area “Bisexual” is problematic. It is problematic when they do not list it as a specialty area, and only list Gay/Lesbian and Transgender. I emailed the company I work for about the mental health needs of bisexuals, and pointed out how important it is that bisexuals be able to find therapists who specialize in treating them. I encourage all of you whose insurance companies erase us to do the same. You can use the Bisexual Invisibility Report as a reference for bisexual mental health needs:
 
http://www.sf-hrc.org/modules/showdocument.aspx?documentid=989
 
However, lumping us in with gays and Lesbians, as the company I get health insurance from does, is equally problematic. If a therapist is competent to treat gays and Lesbians, and knows they are not competent to treat bisexuals, they are forced to lie in order to capture the fact that they treat gays and Lesbians. Treating bisexuals is a whole different set of competencies, and should not be lumped in with gays and Lesbians. Please write your insurance company if they treat it that way, and ask that Gay/Lesbian and Bisexual be listed separately.
 
Hope this helps, and that you find a wonderful, bi-competent therapist.  If you do, please ask them to list themselves on the Bisexuality-Aware Professionals’ Directory  by emailing  geriweitzman@gmail.com
 
 
References
 
 Evans, Margaret and Barker, Meg (2010). How do you see me? Coming out in counselling. British
Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 38(4), pp. 375–391.
 
Page, E. (2007). Bisexual women’s and men’s experiences of psychotherapy. In B. A.
Firestein (Ed.) Becoming visible: Counseling bisexuals across the lifespan (pp.52-71). New
York, NY: Columbia University Press
 

2 Comments

Filed under Bisexuality, LGBT Writing

Children and Transgender People Part 2:

I received some great responses from part 1(you can read that here) and some really fantastic questions to answer in this section. As always you can ask questions here in the comments, on facebook or tweet me @aud_gabriel.

First I’m going to start of with the questions I received from a friend via tumblr. V.L writes;

“One thing that has been hard for me and maybe you can address more eloquently? is that I’m getting the more difficult questions from my almost tween.  She wants to know why trans folk are discriminated against.  Like she doesn’t quite grasp how evil the world can be.  How do you talk to a kid about that?  It’s so hard for me to explain why people are being shitty to one another because it doesn’t even make sense to  me.”

These kinds of situations are where a “no labels”/”we are all human” only rhetoric and understanding falls apart and inhibits your child’s ability to be a successful ally to trans people. Because even if you teach your kids “labels are for soup cans!” not everyone else does, and kids will bully and take notice of how others treat transgender people. A no labels approach is noble, but it isn’t an effective ally strategy. Humans do notice difference, and some people act very hostile and even violent towards that difference.

You can explain that the world is a very complex place, and that people often react with fear, anger and even violence to these complexities. In the case of trans people our existence challenges some very,very deeply held beliefs. The idea that there are, and only should be two mutually exclusive genders that your gender is immutable after birth and no changing can happen, is literally one of the foundations of western society.Transgender people shake that belief. It causes a very fundamental fear  in people. “if they are transgender, if their gender changes..what about me? Could that happen to me?” For many cisgender people this is a terrifying prospect. Gender is something that we base a lot of ourselves around. Transgender and especially genderqueer/non binary /gender non conforming people shake that base. When that is shaken some people would rather react with oppression, violence, bullying instead of taking a look inside themselves and examine their gender and answer tough questions.

“Another topic I’ve come across is the inevitable interest in parts and the different genitals people have and what that all means.  Believe me kids that age, if they are brought up to not be ashamed of their bodies like mine were, do not hesitate to ask for the details.  So maybe just a way to explain how genitals =/= gender in kid terms even though they’ve been immersed in a society that tells them the two are one and the same.”

It is great that kids are open and comfortable with their bodies. While telling kids that questions about genitals are rude and should only be asked by doctors is a good route it doesn’t always stand up to persistent kid curiosity.

Genitals are body parts. Just like our hands our. We all interact and use our hands in different ways. Some people havebig, strong hands and use them for working, other people have small delicate hands and might play piano. Some have fat chubby baby sausuage fingers and use them to type up blog posts. Each person has hands, but interact with them and have very different relationships with their hands. You can’t tell a person’s gender from just their naked, unadorned hands. Lots of women have big,tough hands, men might have tiny, delicate fingers and keep their nails in perfect condition. Some have short stubby hands that look like a childs even though they are 28. So if we went around and looked at everyones hands and assigned them labels, and lives based on what we thought their hands meant, for example making a woman with big hands do construction work, even though she loves to paint, and someone with small hands play picolo even though they hate music, would be wrong and make everyone miserable.

Genitals are just another body part that each human relates to in a different way. Like hands we all have them, they all look different, but they don’t define us and our relationship to the world or gender.

For parents with younger kids you can get around this question by emphasizing  that genitals are VALUE NEUTRAL.

Instead of “boys have penis’s and girls have vagina’s’ teach them that “some people have penis’s, others vagina’s and other people a mix of the two and that is normal”

“Another thing as kids get older is they tend to want to hear the history of trans activism and why it’s important.  And the reason they want to know more details is that they don’t hear about that sort of thing in school or anywhere ever.  So a kid’s history of trans activism would be super helpful.  It puts everything in context for them.”

This is an incredible question. I’m actually going to branch it off into its own desperate post about trans activist history for kids.

What I will say for now is that this is another time where “no labels/people are people” rhetoric is incredibly harmful to children, cis and trans. The reason kids don’t learn about trans people in history in school right now is tied in with the previous question, and sociatal cissexism and transphobia. Refusing to talk about people who are/were trans because “it isn’t important” erases them from history and a larger cultural context. For trans kids this means they suffer in silence, not knowing that their are others like them who have come before, that they have peers now. They loose out on the ability to find their culture, and yes transgender people do have a culture and a history. This is erasure and cissexism hiding under a blanket of psuedo progressive rhetoric. With out knowledge of trans history trans kids don’t know their rights, what they can do in the face of transphobia that has helped others. Cisgender kids have cissexism reinforced, after all if trans people had a history and really mattered, why don’t adults talk about them? By refusing to address trans issues with your kids, no matter their gender and no matter the reason you reinforce societal cissexist notions. Then when your child does encounter a trans person they may respond in a negative way, because they are having their implicit assumptions about the world shaken and have no previous positive frame of reference.

“Along with that comes the discussion of what to do if they see someone being bullied for being trans.”

This is where discussing trans issue with kids in order to make them successful allies becomes very important. If they know transgender people exist, that we are often hurt and bullied then dealing with this when they see it is much easier. A strong foundation of allyship needs to be laid. If the child is old enough you can explain that as a cisgender person they are incredibly lucky that they don’t have to deal with that (in social justice terms this is “privilege”) and they can use that luck to help. Because of transphobia and often unconscious cissexism trans/gender varient children are often victim blamed by others. “If they just dressed “normal” or “didn’t make a big deal out of it”(often this “big deal” is what would be considered a normal desire for acknowledgement and respect) they would not be bullied. Even otherwise perfectly kind teachers, administrators and parents might believe these things and not intervene or take the trans child seriously. Here is where your child can be an ally. They cann stand up for the trans child/person and confirm the happenings. They can get other children in on it as well. When 5 cisgender kids all back up Sally about being bullied by Bob, Sally is much more likely to be believed then if she mentioned it on her own.

If the bullying is violent they need to immediately either find an adult or if they are out of school or feel that they are unsafe as well dial 911/999 for help from police or to get the harmed person medical attention.

If the violence is more subtle or verbal teaching them to stand up for trans people by saying “stop that!” or “don’t use those words!” to bullies is one way. And trans people and kids will be so incredibly thankful for it.

Wow this was very long!

I still have a few more questions from other people to answer so it looks like this will be a 3-parter!

1 Comment

Filed under LGBT Writing, Trans, Trans*

Your Kids and Your Trans friends Part 1

This is the start of a series on what cis parents can do to help raise good trans ally children, or at the very least not screw it all up when their trans friends and relatives come around. A lot of these are reader/friend submitted. If you have a question or concept you want to have addressed you can post it in the comments here or on my facebook page (if you have it).

Round one of submitted questions come from my friend A.C:

“… I don’t know is what to say if she sees a trans person and tells me that that boy is dressed as a girl, or girl dressed as a boy”

Kids say all kinds of things. At this point in their lives (under 10) most kids say stuff like that and don’t mean to make a transphobic statement. It still is a transphobic and cissexist statement though. Now before you get upset at me, yourself, your kid remember something; Cissexism (the belief that being cis is the normal, default and good state or the only state) is heavily ingrained into our culture. The world is divided into cissexist catagories and rewards people for staying within those catagories and not challenging them. It is everywhere and no matter how hard you try, you and your child both have internalized this to some degree. You have to work on this much more as an adult, but luckily your kid doesn’t have as much to work through to undo the damage.

You can first say ” Clothes are for people, not any one gender. That person is wearing clothes that are their’s and that make them happy. Clothes are made of cloth and don’t have a gender of boy, girl or another.” you can elaborate and go deeper into things if the situation and child’s age are appropriate (this won’t work on 2 year olds for example).

Explain that there are many, many more genders other then “boy” or “girl” and that some people are both, or neither and that you can’t tell what gender a person is just by looking at them or what they are wearing. Explain that gender is how a person feels inside and that feeling is what really matters.

A.C goes on to write: ” especially since I have male friends who identify as male who do drag shows. How can I help see the difference between transgender and drag, as well as people in general who identify as their sex, but dress the opposite, such as a woman who identifies as a woman, but who wears masculine clothing and hair?”

First let’s tackle drag. Drag is a performance. A person who does drag is performing a character they made up. That character is not them 24/7. You can explain to your child that drag shows are like a play or movie. The people in them are acting and performing characters. Just the same as how Michael Crawford is the Phantom of the Opera only when he is on stage but not when he is at home with his family, drag performers are their drag persona on stage and at events, but are everyday people who also have everyday lives.

It is important to point out that while drag performers can “change out” of their gender, transgender and transsexual people can not. They are always, and have always been their identified gender. Also some members of the trans community find drag hurtful and degrading. If you have a trans friend it is best to ask them (away from the kids) how they feel about this, and follow their lead on the subject.

Now onto the next part of A.C’s question;

as well as people in general who identify as their sex, but dress the opposite, such as a woman who identifies as a woman, but who wears masculine clothing and hair?”

First  banish the term “opposite” in regards to gender from your lexicon. Once you do that, things will be much much easier. Since there are inumberable genders there really can’t be opposites. Also viewing gender (any gender) in terms of “opposite” sets the ground work for “us vs them” or “this vs that” thinking that is one of the groundings of cissexism in our society. Men are not “the opposite” of Women or non-binary people, they are “different” Try saying “different” where you would normally say “opposite”. Now that you have done that you as the adult can start clearly seeing how, in light of that, how easy things are.

Part of this is very similar to the first question about how clothes are for people. Most kids might not give a second thought to someone using she/her pronouns and identifying as a woman who dresses in what would be considered a “masculine way” but if they do notice there are things you can do.

Tell the child that like a huge box of crayon’s (the 90+ opening binder kind) with many shades of colors, there are just as many ways to dress and act to feel comfortable in your gender. (Shout out to Bryan for this analogy!) Some people feel comfortable some ways, and others in a different way.

Reinforce that there is no one right way or wrong way to express yourself through clothing, play, make up or what you like being called.

If your child says “those are boy’s clothes that Sue is wearing/ Sue is dressed as a boy” correct them gently and say something like “No, those clothes are Sue’s clothes and Sue is a girl so they are her clothes/girls clothes/ Sue is dressed in a way that makes her feel happy, she is dressed like Sue!” (swap names and pronouns around as needed)

Most children accept this easily and might even go on to correct other kids or adults!

Now for some non-reader submitted things.

Pronouns:

Always, ALWAYS use the correct pronouns for your trans friends and family. Yes, even when they are not around. Even when your child is not around. Even if you think their pronouns are “weird”. Because it is the right thing to do, and because your child will inevitably rat you out in a terribly embarassing situation along the lines of “but mommy and daddy don’t call you him/her/the/sie/etc why do I have to” then you will most likely be out a friend or family member and thanksgiving just became even more unbearable.

If you slip up and use the wrong pronouns simply correct yourself. ” So when he said..oops I mean when ey said” you don’t need to make a big deal out of it, simply treat it as you would any other time you misspeak while talking. Doing this keeps conversation flowing, is good practice and doesn’t make the trans person uncomfortable. A 3 minute apology everytime you mess up a pronoun is both unnecessary and uncomfortable. We know you didn’t mean it. You corrected yourself and that is what matters. In terms of being with children it normalizes things. If you feel extremly bad you can apologize off to the side in private later.

You can introduce pronouns to your child by saying things like “my name is Andy and I use he/him” or ” My name is Sherri and I use they/them” you could invent a game where each toy has a different pronoun set and you and your child take turns practicing introducing yourselves and the toys to each other.

Another fun game might be something like “pronoun warrior/superhero” where you or the trans person tell the kid their pronouns and it is the “pronoun hero’s” job to make sure everyone use the right ones. They are allowed to step in and say something like “BAM! Use -insert pronoun- instead!” kids love super hero’s and correcting adults. Also I could see this getting a bit annoying after a bit so it will definetly act as reinforcement for adults to use the right pronouns. At the end of the visit you or your friend/family member can reward the child in some way for being a good pronoun hero.

Only do this game if the trans person is comfortable with it and they feel safe.Kid’s are likely to also correct waitstaff,clercs and other people which might put the trans person in danger.

That is it for part 1!

Ask questions you want addressed in the comments below

2 Comments

Filed under LGBT Writing, Trans*

The Bar Has Been Raised: Now YOU jump

Over this past weekend I had the amazing privilege of going to the BECAUSE conference in Minnesota. 3 days of nothing but Bi activism, Bi workshops, performance and food( we had a Bi colored cake and if you thought far too hard my sand which was kinda Bi colors too)
I have been in my fair share of LG BT spaces, I have given my time, my money, my spirit, my spoons and energy to those spaces and organizations.
And you know what?
Unless they can provide for me as a Bi Trans person the welcome and acceptance BECAUSE did?
I’m out of there.
I’ve spent hours working my ass off in LG/GGGG spaces only to when it came down to it, feel like I was barely tolerated. That I wasn’t as valuable as a cis queer nor as pandered and wanted as a cis straight ally. That I was worth less. That I had to or had “picked a side”. I’ve sat in meetings and in one on ones with others who privately confessed that they too are bisexual, but coming out would damage their credibility and they didn’t want to lose that. To end up like me and other out Bi people in the org or space, tirelessly working for them or their cause only to be ignored and shuffled off later.
No more.
I am done jumping through hoops.
At first the bar was so low, as long as I wasn’t being physically assaulted I was OK and I jumped it.
But it was always me and other bi’s jumping. Over and through hoops just for the mere chance, the possibility that we might be tolerated. Not welcome. Not valued. Tolerated.
I have seen online and in person what bisexual community can do, can create.
Welcome, acceptance, friendship, support. All the things were are supposed to be getting out of LG/GGGG spaces. That we so often don’t.
For me BECAUSE raised the bar. I won’t be giving time,money, spoons or spirit to places, orgs and people that can’t jump that bar.
This is me saying
The bar has been raised. NO YOU jump it this time.

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Let’s Talk About t.A.T.u and their place in queer history and monosexism,biphobia and misogyny

If you were alive in the early 2000’s and near a radio or TV you probably heard of the band t.A.T.u, a russian girl duo consisting of Lena Katina and Julia Volkova. They burst onto the international music scene if their mega huge hit “All The Things She Said”. While a great pop song on it’s own right (all these years later and it still tops polls on billboard polls) it featured something that was considered very shocking at the time. A same sex kiss between the singers and the content of the song was definitely queer. At the time of the recording of the original Russian version (the much more techno Ya Soshla S Uma/ I have lost my mind) both singers were only around 15 years old. By the time the song was translated into english and re-worked it they were around 16, with their English album’s debut,17. What is important to remember is not only were these two minors, they both spoke very little or no English (Lena speaking some but Julia speaking very,very little at all and learning English lyrics and interview answers by route/phonetically). They kissed and danced provocatively on stage and in videos and answered interview questions in the most lewd,scandalous and provocative ways possible.Often asserting that they were together as a couple or having sex.This was all a creation of their very creepy manager Ivan Shapavolov. He told them what to say, what to wear, how to dance and the two had no control or recourse.

It was speculated that they weren’t really a couple from the moment they arrived on scene.And later on in 2004-ish it was confirmed in their reality show that they were never really a couple nor lesbians as the media claimed they were. The group eventually broke from their manager and went on to record a very good second album, including several tracks that outright deal with bisexuality. Because by that time Julia had confidently come out in Russian media as a bisexual woman.

What coverage the album did recieve always hinged on the whole “not really lesbian/not really queer” and used the queer themed songs as a way to rag on the group, to accuse them of “continuing the faux lesbian schtick” when out of the two one was in fact queer and for all we the listeners knew was singing from experience. While the songs on the second and subsequeint albums are not perfect representations of queerness or with out their problems they were non the less, there, being sung by a queer person.

But due to our societies monosexism this was ignored.While the media and music consumers could easily handle Lena being a monosexual straight woman, the idea that Julia was bi was quickly forgotten or ignored. t.A.T.u and by extension Julia and Lena became the mid 2000’s poster children for the age old biphobic “doing it for attention” and “don’t trust teen/young girls about their sexuality” bits of terrible “wisdom”. Never mind the misogyny there, or the intense biphobia.

So as far as the west was concerned t.A.T.u fell off the planet, only to be mentioned again when the old biphobic “faking it” horse needed a good flogging into a greasy smear and then forgotten about.

So instead of looking back on their long career (something like 12 albums if you count the russian and english versions separate, around 6 if you don’t) and celebrating it as a moment where a queer woman broke through into mainstream pop,with a song about being queer as an important moment in history, we are instead left with mocking headlines like “faux lesbians to perform at olympics” from sites geared towards queer women! This sends one very clear message; bisexuals do not count. You can see other examples of this type of treatment in mainstream pop such as with Lady GaGa. GaGa has come out multiple times as bisexual and as of her most recent release has around 6 songs that directly deal with bisexuality or bisexual themes. Yet like t.A.T.u’s songs of the same nature, “Americano” and “So Happy I Could Die” are thrown in the sapphobic rubbish bin right next to “Loves Me Not” and Julia’s solo career singles, nearly all of which are bisexual in theme.

This erasure of bi women is endemic to the music industry,the music reviewing industry and as places like AutoStraddle and AfterEllen proved with their coverage of t.A.T.u’s brief reunion for the Sochi Olympics, it is endemic in our own community spaces.

So instead of praising a brave, bisexual muslim woman for being out and proud in a country that is actively trying to harm all queer people, all I see, especially since Eurovision and Conchita Wurst’s win is derision of the group for reasons from totally valid (lip synching) to out right biphobic.

Julia Volkova was a bisexual woman when she recorded for t.A.T.u . She was a bisexual woman at Eurovision (both times t.A.T.u went) at the Olympics and right now.

I know for many people my age t.A.T.u was an integral part of coming to terms with our identity. I’ll never forget the pain I felt when I learned that they “weren’t really queer”. The damage done to my grieving heart when the derision and “all girls do that for attention,just like that band”.What made it worse was when interviews were translated and Julia came out as bi, nobody listened. It didn’t matter. She wasn’t the right kind of queer, monosexual. She was played off by so many hurtful tropes, liar, doing it for attention, bisexuals aren’t really queer.

was t.A.T.u problematic in many ways? YES. Undoubtedly so. Is Julia and her solo efforts problematic? YES.

But that doesn’t mean we should let the prevalent misogyny, monosexism and biphobia in our communities,industries and memories over shadow what was a triumph of a queer musician. A pop group, a kiss in the rain that led to Madonna Kissing Britney, Katy Perry,Rihanna,Lady GaGa, Niki Minaj. If a bisexual hadn’t kissed her bandmate in the rain so many of these pop stars wouldn’t be where they are today. For god or ill. t.A.T.u and Julia Volkova helped shape the music and entertainment world we  have today.

A Bisexual did that. A Bisexual was the face of that.

It’s time we all overcame this biphobia,misogyny and monosexism and realize that is part of our history. And it should be known.

Also go buy “Dangerous and Moving” it was a freaking great album.

1 Comment

Filed under Bisexuality, LGBT Writing

Now Until the End: Why I am Bisexual

[trigger warning: mentions of Bi and transphobia and rape]
I remember the very first time I ever heard the word bisexual. I was maybe 6-7 years old and riding home in the backseat of our blue minivan. The Michael Jackson song “Tabloid Junkie” was playing over the radio. We coasted to a stop at the light.

Or see it on the TV screen
Don’t make it factual, actual
She’s blonde and she’s bisexual”
” Mommy? What’s bisexual?” I knew what a homosexual was. I knew God hated them. I knew my mother hated them.
” A bisexual is like a homosexual but they date people who are the opposite gender too.”
The light was green. The blue van crossed through and over the train tracks, badump dump bump. I looked over the little bridge and into the water. A fat catfish swam by.
” oh. Then I’m a bisexual” I said now turning to pick up my sisters dropped pacifier.
” No you are not!” She shot back.
” Yes I am! I would date girls and even marry one! “I snapped back handing the pacifier back to my sister.
The van was picking up speed,houses whizzed by fast. She was mad.She always drove faster when she was mad. But I was just as mad. I liked this new word. It felt right. Like a lightbulb had shone into a dark room that was always there, but I just missed it.A blind spot.

We were going really fast at this point.I was getting scared.
” Fine! I’ll only date and marry boys. That way god will love me and I can go to heaven! But I’m still bisexual.” I was clinging tight to the word and my sisters hand.
The car kept speeding up. My mother’s voice got louder and angrier.She told me about how gross bisexuals were. They carried AIDS, always cheated on people. They broke up happy families. It didn’t matter that a bisexual only dated opposite sex people. They would always cheat or try and break up good happy families.And doing those things got you sent to hell.
” OK. You’re right…I wouldn’t ever do those things. Those are just mean. I’m not mean like that so I must not be bisexual.” I lied. The car started slowing down. I let go of the breath I was holding.We got home and as I put the groceries away I felt this mix of joy and fear.
I had a word that described me. But I wasn’t a bad person. But I was with out a doubt a bisexual.

Later on in bed that night I reasoned it out in my mind. I would try and only date boys. I would also never ever be like those other bisexuals my mother mentioned. I knew that no matter what it was true.I was bisexual and just for that I was going to hell.

I prayed my last prayer for several decades. While cleaning I found what I had written in a old diary.

” Dear God,
I’m sorry but I am bisexual. I know this means that I am going to hell. I don’t know why I am bisexual but I’m sure I am. I’m really sorry to disappoint you. I’m not going to give people sick or cheat or break up families. I don’t know if only dating boys will mean I can go to heaven.Mom says no. So I’m going to hell. I guess I’ll have a long time to get used to the idea. Sorry.”

I spent the next few prepubescent years learning to accept that no matter what else I did or prayed, I was going to hell. By the time puberty had started and we had moved to the other side of the country I had given up trying to suppress and pray away my bisexual desires.I was going to hell anyway right? Why waste time and energy denying things.
At 12 I had my first real crush on a girl in my class. We kissed at a sleep over while watching “Gattaca” and talked in hushed giggles at how dreamy Ethan Hawke was and how we wanted to kiss Uma Thurman.
By 15 I had converted to Buddhism and found a religion that did not condemned me to endless suffering because I had kissed a classmate. I was still terrified that secretly God was out there and angry.
” if so I’m going to hell already for being bi. I can’t go to like extra super secret hell on top of that for being Buddhist.” I rationalized.
At 16 I fell in love with a wonderful smart,beautiful girl.She was from a hyper christian family.We would hold hands secretly at movies and talk about how we were just like the bisexual protagonists of our favorite anime series “Revolutionary Girl Utena”. Every time her screen name popped up on my AOL instant messenger I would grin and my stomach would flutter. We were both Bi and loved chatting about who we found attractive of any gender. We were both going to hell we thought. We had planned that as soon as we were both 18 we would meet in San Francisco. We were going to then move to Berkeley and go to school there. Then get married when it was legal and then live together until we died and then meet back up in hell.

Her parents found out about us and pulled her from public school to go to a special school, an Evangelical Christian boarding school where she would be ” cured”. The ” cure” killed her.
I was cleaning out some old things and I found her last note to me. It was on a small crumpled piece of paper.Passed between friends of friends until it reached me. She told me she loved me and that I should be happy and work on changing the world. Just like Utena in the anime.

At 17 I had moved again. But now wore all black. I hated everyone. I was angry and hurting.I was still bisexual. If asked about it I would tell people I was. I dated men then for the first time since 7th grade. My feelings and attractions to all genders never changed. I was still bisexual.
I went to college. I dated one guy then another all while developing feelings for my roommate.
Eventually after much self searching I came out on Facebook. I had no problem telling friends and new acquaintance that I was bisexual. I was proud standing there in my pirate shoes and flame red hair. I was Bi. I was exploring my gender for the first time with freedom.
I was raped by a friend for committing the sins of being a good friend, drunk and Bi.
After all bisexuals are always wanting sex.
Suddenly I was back in that van whizzing by mailboxes hearing those words. Echoing my mothers voice joined by my attacker, then rape counselors. Then friends.Then the world. It slammed me down for the next 3 years.
I would still tell others I was Bi.But it was in a small voice now.
I came out as trans* and bisexual again 3 1/2 years ago. I was attacked for it. Told by what I thought were life friends that I was an “attention whore” they joined the other voices.
I found the term pansexual on tumblr .It seemed just like bisexual! Only better! Or so all the graphics said. It was better. It was stigma free! It was hearts not parts! I tried it on. I searched around but there didn’t seem to be much  community or history. Most of what I saw was pansexuals talking about how much better they were then bisexuals. But on the bisexual sites I only ever say attempts at including pansexuals. It wasn’t just Bi Net is for Bi’s but for pansexuals, fluid and queer. I remembered how much it hurt to be told being Bi was awful.

I sat down and thought about it all. I remembered the catfish,the song,kissing during Gattaca” holding hands and crying. I found so much hurt and power and strength there. The strength to be OK with going to hell possibly. I had found the Bi community. Full of challenges and beauty and intelligence. Working to change the world. To make it better. Not just patting each other on the back about how much better they were. Really working hard and against have odds.

I took up the label,sewed it onto my heart and joined in the fight.

I am bisexual because I have always been so. I’ve laughed and cried with and over that word.Fought over and for it. I’ve loved, lost and bled for it.
I have learned and fought and been joyous with the Bi community now for 3 and 1/2 years. I have gone to the white house because of this word and community.Had all kinds of amazing experiences and met great people because of it.
While it might not be perfect,it might get attacked by etymology wankers and dictionary thumpers for its Latin prefix this word is mine.
Bisexual. Now until death and into the next life or into hell after all I don’t care.

I am Bisexual and that is my word and my truth.

4 Comments

Filed under LGBT Writing