Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Being Gay in a Straight World

In the last few days I've read and watched some interesting "feelings," not opinions, about being gay in a straight world by some lesbians.

I admit that when Kirsten and I started this blog, I personally was more interested in discussing f/f romance in stories as entertainment, like I read m/f. And I'll be honest in saying that I wasn't so concerned nor did I want to make this a political blog or a blog that discusses social injustices in general. Not that I personally don't think about these things on my own and have strong feelings about them. But I wanted to keep this blog on the lighter side.

However, lately, as I follow blogs like AfterEllen and LesbianPro, I see the constant issues that come up with being a gay person in a straight world. And a lot of these posts have started to affect me pretty deeply.

How can I keep getting my rocks off on reading two chicks together, like "oh look, two women together, how cute" and enjoy all the fun part of it when I myself don't have to deal with the constant issues faced by such women? I can't.

Last week there was a picture posted on LesbianPro with a link to another post, which talked about a book done by a photographer Jeff Sheng. He's created a book called Don't Ask, Don't Tell through photos of actual military people. They are stunning and photos of real people who risked a lot by being part of this project.




Photo by Jeff Sheng- you can buy or donate toward the book
here

I was actually haunted and touched by this photo because it's so real. We are constantly bombarded with young, cute, celebrities who kiss chicks or who are bi and it's made out as something fun and le chique to do. But this photo is of real women who are living the daily reality of it.

Then yesterday, on AfterEllen, my two new favorite vloggers posted their video discussion about being gay in a straight world. They bring up some interesting points about the stickiness and weirdness that can happen when interacting or being friends with a straight woman. One of them points out that the assumption of a lot of straight women that if a lesbian friends you, they automatically want you, which is an interesting point. Anyway, I'll link from After Ellen because the comments are very interesting.

I like these two because they stay rather light and humorous about serious topics, which I think helps people in general to be more open to them and what they have to say.


LL 121 Being Gay in a Straight World from lacey stone on Vimeo.




Then there was this post today from mfred, a person who has commented here on LVLM in the past and whom I follow because she has interesting reviews and things to say- She rants but in a very poignant and honest way, her frustrations about being gay in a straight world. Her post was the one that finally got me to do this post. It's not a political post or rant about social injustice, it's a post from her heart about her bottom line reality and it hit me pretty deeply.

29 comments:

M. A. said...

Well, since I am not GBLT myself, I'm not going to comment about the GBLT experience versus the straight experience.

I'm uncertain many of the alleged "hardships" GBLT individuals and/or couples experience are different from "hardships" non-GBLT individuals face.

GBLT people can find themselves exploited or fetishized due to their sexuality. So can straight people. There's straight pornography, straight erotica, etc.

GBLT people can find themselves "misunderstood" by their non-GBLT friends. So can straight people (i.e., a male and a female are friends, and one assumes the other is romantically attracted to him/her.)

Very real and urgent issues concerning GBLT inequality in matters of law exist, and I view that as a more legitimate matter than these social issues which, really, are common to everyone. I am not saying the social issues are unimportant, only that they aren't exclusive to the GBLT community.

My two cents, for what it's worth.

kirsten saell said...

I don't know, Mia. I think there are some things GLBT people have to deal with that straights simply don't.

The default setting in our world is straight. No one who is straight has to "come out" (other than Bill on King of the Hill, when he was working at that trendy hair salon, heh). No straight person has to deal much with people who think it's just fine to declare heterosexual sex "gross" or "disgusting" or "ew ew ew!" right to their faces, and I've dealt with that even from people who are (or were) friends. No straight person has to face any organized religion declaring their kind of sex a sin--within marriage or without--or having to choose between the god they were raised with and self-acceptance of their identity.

I hid the female-loving part of myself my whole life--even from the time I was a preteen I understood that those feelings would worry, if not horrify, my parents. And even after my sister asked my mom (I think I was 19 or 20) whether I might be gay, I didn't feel comfortable sharing that part of myself with my family, let alone the general public.

It was hard finally coming out--at the ripe old age of 38--to my parents and kids and friends. Part of me was afraid that even if my parents were accepting (which they are), being open about it might get me uninvited from a lot of family gatherings. I didn't come out to my kids until I was sure their highschool was a place kids didn't get the shit beat out of them for being queer (or for their parents being queer, for that matter).

The straight world is prepared to accept les-pretend--Madonna and Britney kissing on TV, or two women in bikinis rubbing up against each other in a beer commercial, because the truth of those scenarios is they're still all about straight sexuality. They're not about women loving women, they're about straight men enjoying watching women together. And the straight guy who gobbles up lesbo porn is often the same guy who hollers epithets at two dykes holding hands on the street, or votes against same sex marriage.

contd. below:

kirsten saell said...

Straight porn is about straight people. A lot of gay/lesbian/bi porn is also essentially about straight people--those who consume it, not those it depicts (however realistically or unrealistically). It isn't about GLBT rights or real life. It's still all about the straight guy watching it.

And I think this, at its heart, is the reason behind a lot of authors of lesfic hating the f/f tag, and aiming for a lesbian-only readership. It's self-protection.

And the social problems lesbians face are going to be entirely different from those bi-women face. No man has ever told me the right dick would "cure me", because hey, I like dick. But since I've come out publicly as bi--because I don't want to limit my dating opportunities to one gender or the other--the number of men who've offered to "set me up" with someone they know (never mind what she's like, so long as she has a vagina, because you know us bis will screw anything, right?) so "then I can watch!" is kind of disheartening.

The social issues gay men face used to be less complicated, because hate is uncomplicated. But now we have the whole m/m fangirl thing. Gay porn used to mostly be about gay men--both in the orientation of its content and the orientation of its consumers. Now it's becoming something different--something more like lesbo-porn. It's become as much about the straight women who read/watch it as it is about gay men.

Straight people, well, they don't really have to deal with any of those things. If straight porn is exploitative, the exploitation itself is essentially by and for straight people. The few gays who consume it aren't numerous enough to be of concern, and don't have a history of gobbling up straight porn while simultaneously trampling on straight rights, either.

No one can claim that straights don't face social problems--but those problems are going to be very different in nature from those GLBT people face, and they aren't going to be reinforced by legal/civil rights issues the way GLBT social issues so often are.

M. A. said...

No straight person has to deal much with people who think it's just fine to declare heterosexual sex "gross" or "disgusting" or "ew ew ew!" right to their faces, and I've dealt with that even from people who are (or were) friends.

I can't really agree with this. One of my oldest closest friends came out very late in life and...her whole attitude towards the straight community and men in particular is really f*(ked up. She and her significant other frequently make comments about "how disgusting men are" and how much they dislike men, and how "even gay men get on their nerves sometimes."

My friend does not allow her daughter to date boys because my friend doesn't like them. Daughter has spent the past year dating the most boyish girl she could find. Now my friend is heartbroken because her daughter and only child has decided to attend an out of state university.

My friend's girlfriend has a young son, and I wonder how his relationship with his mom is impacted if she does the "I just can't stand men, ick!" spiel in his hearing.

I also have a gay male friend. He has an arsenal of jokes and wisecracks demonstrating gay repulsion for female sexuality (comments focussing upon noises women make, typical "girl cooties" comments concerning female genitalia, sexual secretions, and whatnot.)

Trust me, narrow-mindedness, prejudice, and just plain ol'-fashioned thoughtlessness doesn't discriminate according to gender preference. All sin, all fall short of the glory of righteousness, and all that jazz.

Now, I'm not going to pretend the experiences I've described are the "norm" for everybody. And, to be honest, I don't require the GBLT community to validate my own sexual preferences. But even I sometimes find these behaviors and comments to be a bit much on the irksome side.

No straight person has to face any organized religion declaring their kind of sex a sin--within marriage or without--or having to choose between the god they were raised with and self-acceptance of their identity.


I agree this is a devestating situation for GBLT who intensely value their spiritual lives and church communities. To my knowledge, however, some religious communities are making efforts to open their arms to GBLT members. I try to refrain from judgment in this matter because, honestly, I respect the right of the people to religious freedom. If a church interprets scripture implying non-vanilla, het sex is sinful in nature, it's not my place to call them wrong.


Straight people, well, they don't really have to deal with any of those things. If straight porn is exploitative, the exploitation itself is essentially by and for straight people. The few gays who consume it aren't numerous enough to be of concern, and don't have a history of gobbling up straight porn while simultaneously trampling on straight rights, either.


Well, I don't wish to appear insensitive or uncaring of the GBLT experience, but, in all honesty, I'm not going to eschew purchasing,reading, and writing (hopefully) good stories featuring GBLT romance because members of the GBLT community view the situation as abusive or exploitative. I appreciate voices of the GBLT community indicating why they might feel "encroached upon," but if the book's good, I want to buy it and read it. These things are never simple for anyone.

M. A. said...

How can I keep getting my rocks off on reading two chicks together, like "oh look, two women together, how cute" and enjoy all the fun part of it when I myself don't have to deal with the constant issues faced by such women? I can't.

The romance/erotic romance industry is an equal opportunity offender when it comes to objectifying people into unrealistic ideals. The genre's entire course and scope are based upon fantasy/escapism and disregarding reality.

kirsten saell said...

I do hear you on your two friends, Mia. And honestly, what a horrible way to parent--both the son and the daughter.

Political lesbians (those who may not even be entirely gay, but reject men for political reasons) drive me batty sometimes, because they're often some of the least accepting people out there. Many of them hate bi-women the same way they hate men--a kind of you're with us or you're with them thing.

Then again, considering some of my experiences with straight men since coming out, I can see where those feelings come from. I don't condone them, but I do understand them.

And your gay friend? He likely feels exactly that way about women--kind of an innate revulsion that is mirrored by homophobia in straight men. Men are much more uncomplicated in their sexuality than women, and less fluid by nature, I think. That doesn't mean he has to share his feelings on the subject, and if he talked that way in front of me, I'd call him out for being an asshole, for sure.

But your typical straight person can go their whole life without ever encountering anything of that nature. Because GLBT people (at least those who are open about it) are far outnumbered by straights, and because straights (or any majority, really) often feel okay passing judgment--good or bad--on anyone even a little bit bent, as if any person should have any business even having an opinion about who someone else chooses to sleep with.

So yeah, these are issues, and it's unfortunate that you've had to deal with them. But I haven't, and no straight person I know personally has had to deal with anything of that nature (at least, not to the point where it offended them or affected the way they felt about themselves).

But ask a thousand GLBT people if they've ever dealt with homophobia, exploitative, judgmental or condescending comments regarding their sexuality, rejection by friends or family based on their sexuality, violence, or intolerance of their orientation from total strangers. I think you'd have a hard time finding even one who would say no.

That's the difference right there.

And I personally have no issues with anyone reading anything they like. Anyone should be able to rub one off to whatever kind of material works for them, frankly.

I advocate for bi-female ER because it's who I am and what I want to see more of. I don't particularly care who gets their rocks off reading it. And yes, ER is an equal opportunity offender when it comes to objectification. Appropriation is another matter.

And I'm not even saying appropriation is wrong, per se (because sometimes the line between being interested in exploring other cultures, etc, and exploiting them is really fine), but it isn't something that m/f deals with in quite the same way that GLBT does, or poly does, or BDSM does, or any other minority.

And people within those minorities are free to disapprove all they want--and I think their disapproval is a valuable thing, because like any system of checks/balances, that disapproval can make readers ask themselves WHY they read the material they do, and how their consumption of that material may impact others.

But those who disapprove don't get to censor material based on their personal feelings, or prevent others from reading whatever the hell they want.

M. A. said...

Well, Kirsten, I sometimes think there are really three groups involved in GBLT controversey: first and foremost, the GBLT community itself; next, non-GBLT ("staight" or "mainstream" community); and finally, the FFSGBLT (Friends, Family, and Supporters of the GBLT community -- that's my "group" if I must be "grouped.")

You're right. The average straight person doesn't have to put up with GBLT anti-straight comments/behavior....especially if they refuse to have anything to do with the GBLT community at all.

The opposite of love is not hate; it's apathy.

As a friend (several long-term friendships dating back to childhood,) family member (immediate and more distant relatives are GBLT,) and supporter (my home town hosts several events supporting GBLT pride) of the GBLT...I guess it's put me very much "in the middle of things" and I see the GBLT community more as living individuals than an nameless, faceless group.

The GBLT has its Archie Bunker equivalents, its haters, its perverts, its militants...and -- luckily -- these are not the NORM, any more than those deviant qualities are the norm in non-GBLT society. Some GBLT people are outstanding, remarkable, fascinating people. Most of the GBLT people with whom I'm personally acquainted are good, decent, NORMAL people. When I say "normal" I mean just that. They've jobs, families, personal triumphs, personal tragedies, they fall in love, fall out of love, make mistakes, catch lucky breaks...Everything ordinary "straight" people do.

I think many GBLT people do experience anxiety/fear of rejection from their non-GBLT neighbors. This creates the kind of stress that contributes to a toxic environment. Straight people suffer homophobia and GBLT people suffer fear of homophobe-phobia.

So...Where does that leave the rest us? "Us" is the remainder of all communities who are clued into the reality that not all straight people are homophobes and GBLT does not mean "sexual degenerates," "deviants," or whatever the latest catchphrase hate language is being used.

*cue up folksy rock music* "Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right..."

I guess my "problem" is I have difficulty thinking in some of these destructive patterns or understanding them, because to me GBLT is pretty much "normalized." I don't think of GBLT people as "other" or "different." So when people keep telling me GBLT is "different," I don't really believe it.

I'm sure my personal viewpoints are responsible for my cognitive disonance in relating to many GBLT challenges in society, but another thing is I understand it's very hard to change the hearts and minds of bigoted people, and I think my particular talents and abilities are better directed toward things I can change (enacted legislation securing proper rights that do not exclude or discount the GBLT community.)

I guess I'm picking my battles subject to what I think is valuable and what I think I can win. I can't make the guy drooling like Pavlov's dog over two girls doing it in an X-rated film stop expressing hatred toward his lesbian neighbors (although hate speech can be subject to legal prosecution depending on the circumstances.)

Regarding the "harmlessness of a minority," I guess that depends on the nature of the harm. I was once sexually harassed (improper touching) by a female coworker when I was a teenager. Since men are more likely to sexually harass females in the workplace, and women are less likely to do it, is my experience invalid or less valid than a straight male sexually harassing a lesbian or bisexual female? Because, honestly, once someone puts their hands on you in a way you don't like or welcome, the person's gender sort of flies out the window.

LVLM said...

I'm uncertain many of the alleged "hardships" GBLT individuals and/or couples experience are different from "hardships" non-GBLT individuals face.

I think everyone has their own personal hardships. But I do believe that GLBT have hardships that are definitely different than the straight person.

I've gone through life with nary a moment of having to hide my sexuality. There's an automatic assumption that I will be straight. And I'm not talking about even sex, I'm talking about if I mention my partner, everyone will automatically assume it's a guy. I don't have go any further to explain, or hide or lie about it. It's the default.

That's not to say that straight people, or white people or rich people or men don't have to deal with being treated with prejudice and difficulties at any point.

Very real and urgent issues concerning GBLT inequality in matters of law exist, and I view that as a more legitimate matter than these social issues which, really, are common to everyone.

Well, yeah, laws dealing with inequality and such are there, but those are laws. The GLBT person or other minority person who's getting beaten up or spit on or treated with disdain just for existing is not going to be standing there saying, "oh that's against the law so please stop." Laws don't stop people from acting like turds on the actual social level.

There are laws giving women equal rights as well be we are still treated with prejudice on jobs and by sales people, etc. on a regular basis.

There's nothing wrong with people expressing their reality or truth.

I really didn't do this post to be the champion for social issues that GLBT deal with. I did this post because I feel affected by the personal experiences of those people I posted about.

This is their reality. In none of those links I posted did any one of those people say they should get special treatment or have compensation for being gay. They were just stating their reality and that affected me.

I don't feel equipped to discuss the social issues and all the why's and wherefores and who should get what kind of treatment. I felt these people on a simple human level and wanted to express my personal feeling about it.

The romance/erotic romance industry is an equal opportunity offender when it comes to objectifying people into unrealistic ideals.

I agree with this. And I don't say that I'm going to stop reading erotica that features f/f or lesbian romance or anything that features women loving women. I enjoy it and feel OK about getting off on it.

However, I do feel compelled to not just get off on it without trying to understand what the reality is in it for those who don't have a choice.

kirsten saell said...

Oh, I'm well aware of what it's like to suffer sexual harassment, and it's an awful thing to go through no matter the gender of the perpetrator.

But consider this:

I was "straight" for 38 years. Not once during those years did a male acquaintance ever intimate that he could set me up with a man he knew so he could watch us have sex. It's happened several times in the just over a year since I came out as bi.

Never once in 38 years did any friend of mine ask me to not talk in a public place about who I was interested in dating. But I had a friend (who heads the gay/straight alliance at the local highschool, no less) come to me a few months after I came out, saying, "OMG, you have to stop talking about this whole bi thing! One of my students came to me asking if she needed to worry about you because she overheard you talking to someone at your work!"

The conversation in question consisted of another friend asking me, "So, have you found the girl of your dreams yet?" to which I'd replied, "Alas, no," or something like that.

Now my friend could have embraced the overheard conversation as a teaching opportunity: "No, Ms. Saell is not looking to get into your pants any more than any of the male substitute teachers or school volunteers are. Sheesh! Ms. Saell is bisexual, not a pervert or a pedophile."

Instead, she harangued me for more than two months trying to convince me to crawl back into the closet, until I finally told her that if it was that much of an issue that an occasional substitute teacher/parent volunteer wasn't ramrod straight, well, I was plenty busy already and didn't need the money that badly, and she could take my name off both the sub and volunteer lists.

I quit one job because I was harassed by a male superior. But I've never had to quit a job because I was harassed by a friend over something as ridiculous as an innocuous conversation overheard by a student in a public place. Not until I came out of the closet, anyway, heh.

M. A. said...

I was "straight" for 38 years. Not once during those years did a male acquaintance ever intimate that he could set me up with a man he knew so he could watch us have sex. It's happened several times in the just over a year since I came out as bi.

I admit, I cannot for life of me understand why someone would say this to you seriously -- or even as a joke -- and expect it to be amusing.

The only thing I can say is the world is full of clueless, insensitive people.

I can empathize with your negative feelings on this matter. I live in an area that has a reputation as a big party town and there is a historical and present idea that the female locals are "easy." I was employed several years in the tourism industry and it was not unusual for male guests I spoke with to make suggestive remarks, indecent proposals, etc... and the infurating thing was they thought they were being funny/cute!


Never once in 38 years did any friend of mine ask me to not talk in a public place about who I was interested in dating. But I had a friend (who heads the gay/straight alliance at the local highschool, no less) come to me a few months after I came out, saying, "OMG, you have to stop talking about this whole bi thing! One of my students came to me asking if she needed to worry about you because she overheard you talking to someone at your work!"


*scratches head* I've no clue why the student thought she needed to worry about you because of your orientation. I think this is an example of the hypersensitivity common in society.

As part of that "stuck in the middle group," I can identify to an extent with your friend's concern (though not with her actions.) There's often bizarre expectations attached to the "position." To hypersensitive, homophobic "straight," people, there's almost an aspect of guilt by association -- if I freely accept and associate with the GBLT community or if I support the community's causes -- then I must be "closeted" myself.

And...to some extent, I have discovered similar expectation from some individuals in the GBLT community, the idea that if I'm supportive, I must be "open" to the lifestyle myself.

No one is hasseling me about any of this in the workplace, thank goodness, but I admit I do feel pressured by it at times. Maybe your friend felt pressured or threatened in some way by the student's complaint and addressed it incorrectly. I don't know.

I wish there were easy answers to these kinds of social issues, and there actually there is one very easy solution, it's called minding one's own business, but that's a tad hard for some people to manage.

I admit, there are times the entire issue makes me laugh -- I mean all of it, the whole "You're gay, I'm not. I'm normal, you're not." I just laugh and laugh because it reminds me of something out of a Dr. Seuss book. Whoever my neighbor is dating will not impact my life. I don't know why it's so important.

kirsten saell said...

Well, the only reason we're still friends is that I know she was coming at it from a protective place. Substitute teachers have targets painted on their foreheads to begin with. She was concerned that the students knowing my orientation would give them something specific to torture me with.

But I'm not scared of those little fuckers, lol. I look at all this stuff as opportunities to help kids understand that people are all different.

And honestly, I came out to my kids because they told me there were students in their school as young as 12 or 13 who were out. Figured if some girl in grade 8 was brave enough to out herself as genderqueer to a school full of potential bullies, or a boy in grade 9 to out himself as gay, well, I could grow a pair myself.

The kids told me there were "more gay and bi kids in their school than in the general population"--to which I replied, "probably not. It's just that one kid comes out and doesn't get the shit kicked out of him, and then everyone else comes out too. Older generations are a little less open about this stuff--especially in a small town. I mean, look at me."

They were a little shocked, but not horrified or anything, and now it's just "normal" to them.

I don't think my friend's reaction was a guilt by association thing. It can be uncomfortable sometimes when a straight person is left explaining things like that to a kid, for sure. And considering some of the stereotypes about gays--and especially about bis (ie: that we're completely indiscriminate about our partners)--I can almost see why that girl would have been worried.

But uncomfortable questions and uncomfortable discussion are not always bad. They're opportunities to set people straight on the truth about not being straight, you know?

M. A. said...

It can be uncomfortable sometimes when a straight person is left explaining things like that to a kid, for sure.

I suppose it depends upon the adult, the kid, and the circumstances. I've often found young people are much more open to possibilities in discussion to which adults may be less flexible or more uncomfortable.

And considering some of the stereotypes about gays--and especially about bis (ie: that we're completely indiscriminate about our partners)--I can almost see why that girl would have been worried.

This is another example of the stereotyping which you state exists, but that I personally have never noted (I'm not saying it's nonexistent, just that I never noted it.)

I had a close friend in high school, few years older than me, who became involved in a bisexual relationship with one of her girlfriends. They lived together several years and seemed very happy. I lost touch with her over time and when we caught up some time later she was married to a man and had children.

It never occured to me to label this woman as "promiscuous" or "perverted." In fact, those are the last words I'd ever use to describe her conduct. "Dee" was very particular about who she dated, and those were the only two serious relationships I'd ever known her to have.

Later in life, however, I became involved in what I consider a toxic friendship with a married woman identifying herself as bisexual. The woman claimed to have few female friends or lasting friendships with female friends because "her female friends always misunderstood her" or "her female friends -- even her straight female friends -- were always falling for her."

TBC...

kirsten saell said...

This is another example of the stereotyping which you state exists, but that I personally have never noted (I'm not saying it's nonexistent, just that I never noted it.)

This isn't just a stereotype that exists in the straight community--it's a common misconception even among gays/lesbians.

One rationale behind it is that bis can't even decide what gender they want to be with, so how are we supposed to settle down with one person? If we're "indecisive" about what gender we like, then it follows that we must be indecisive all around, right?

There's this fear that if a lesbian dates a bi woman, is that woman just going to decide one day she'd rather be with a man? And if a man dates a bi woman, is she going to leave him for a woman? Is she "transitioning to her true orientation as a lesbian"?

And the carry-over logic--we're attracted to anything, so maybe we'll sleep with anything, too.

People also tend to define a person's orientation according to their current relationship--Susan on Seinfeld being straight one day and then "turning" into a lesbian, for example, when in reality she was bi and monogamous.

Most people are not only oriented toward monogamy (life-long or serial), they also see sexual identity/orientation as "monosexual". That is, either/or. For them, orientation is about who you're with, not who you're attracted to--and if you define orientation by who a person is with, the only way to "be" bisexual is to either be poly or to sleep around.

Considering the general lack of understanding of polyamory (the way people confuse it with swinging, when it's not about sex so much as about relationships), and that monosexual mindset, I can see why subconsciously in many people's minds bisexual = slut.

And frankly, most people don't know any bis (or they don't know they know any), because someone in a same-sex relationship is going to be assumed to be gay, and one in a m/f relationship is going to be assumed to be straight.

And not all bis are that open about their orientation, because if you're not going to act on those attractions--same-sex or opposite-sex--it's just easier to keep your mouth shut sometimes and let people make what assumptions they will, lol.

M. A. said...

And the carry-over logic--we're attracted to anything, so maybe we'll sleep with anything, too.

Yes, except this isn't logical.

It could easily be argued that straight men and women who are "noncommittal," "indecisive," and so forth will sleep with anything of the opposite gender.

A straight man with a dozen girlfriends is "playing the field" and "doesn't want to be tied down." A straight woman with a dozen boyfriends is a "slut."

Bisexual individuals seem to get thrown into a completely new category altogether where sexual deviance and social deviance meet a new "low." Even if the bisexual individual is a well-adjusted person, happily contented in a monogamous relationship, bisexuality is less respected and is treated with marked suspicion.

This isn't logical reasoning. In fact, it makes no sense at all.

kirsten saell said...

This isn't logical reasoning. In fact, it makes no sense at all.

It doesn't seem logical to you or me, and it doesn't make sense to you or me, but that's the way a lot of people think.

Monosexuality is still the mindset of so much of the population--heck, my sister's new boyfriend asked me about my orientation recently, because he'd always had the impression people were either/or.

And he's an intelligent, logical, educated guy, but the pervasive philosophy is that bisexuals are either kidding themselves, still half-way in the closet, "in transition", or just trying to impress our boyfriends/pretend to be half-straight. We had a nice discussion, but I'm still not sure he's totally convinced his former way of thinking was inaccurate.

And when you consider that--that bisexuality is viewed with skepticism and suspicion (often by both straights and gays), well, the impression is that there's something wrong with or deceitful about people who claim to be bi.

And if there's something "wrong" with us, or something deceitful about us, well, we can't be trusted, can we? We're not "normal", we're even more "the other" than gays/lesbians.

M. A. said...

And when you consider that--that bisexuality is viewed with skepticism and suspicion (often by both straights and gays), well, the impression is that there's something wrong with or deceitful about people who claim to be bi.

I think these ambivalent attitudes are sparked by a number of concerns and fears.

I think you nailed the "either/or" need many humans have to categorize and classify themselves and their neighbors.

But I think there's more to it and it's mostly related to fear. If bisexuality can be minimized as a "phase" or a "period of indecision or confusion" it is easier to classify the person ("Well, s/he's really straight, just a tad confused.")

To tell you the truth, I am unclear on what is "scary" about bisexuality for some people. I chatted once with a bisexual-identified man and he explained his view on his orientation as being able "to fall in love with the person more than the person's parts."

While I detect at least some idealistic exagerration to the statement, I can't help perceiving and admiring a degree of freedom and expanded vision to that ability, being able to recognize a potential partner/helpmeet within either gender. It certainly broadens a person's options.

But I can see how some people would feel very threatened by this prospect, too. Particularly women, who often perceive one another as competition for a good mate.

kirsten saell said...

I chatted once with a bisexual-identified man and he explained his view on his orientation as being able "to fall in love with the person more than the person's parts."

While I detect at least some idealistic exagerration to the statement, I can't help perceiving and admiring a degree of freedom and expanded vision to that ability, being able to recognize a potential partner/helpmeet within either gender. It certainly broadens a person's options.


Well, this isn't my particular experience with my own bisexuality--in fact, I'd say that's pansexuality. Pansexuality really is just about the person, regardless of the parts. A pansexual person might find the exact same traits attractive in a woman as in a man.

My own attractions are based on bisexuality complicated by a bit of gender-queerness--and they're all about the parts.

I'm very attracted to intense masculinity, but only in men--butch women don't attract me at all. And I'm very attracted to softness and femininity in women--but androgynous or "girlie" men don't turn me on at all.

And the role I want to play in a relationship depends on who I'm with, as well. If I'm with a man, I definitely want to be "the woman"--in fact, he'd better be some kinda man if he's going to out-man me and keep me feeling like a woman. And if I'm with a woman, I really do want to be the alpha, the leader--at least in sexual matters.

I kind of wish I was pansexual--there are a couple of women in town I'd date if I were, and a few men as well. But I'm not. LOL

M. A. said...

I'm very attracted to intense masculinity, but only in men--butch women don't attract me at all. And I'm very attracted to softness and femininity in women--but androgynous or "girlie" men don't turn me on at all.

And the role I want to play in a relationship depends on who I'm with, as well. If I'm with a man, I definitely want to be "the woman"--in fact, he'd better be some kinda man if he's going to out-man me and keep me feeling like a woman. And if I'm with a woman, I really do want to be the alpha, the leader--at least in sexual matters.


*nods* In my dysfunctional friendship I mentionned earlier...my friend always seemed to take a lot of satisfaction in my being "beautiful" and "girlie." She commented upon it often, and she liked that I favored very romantic, feminine clothes.

Again, it was one of those things that struck me as "odd," just not odd enough to worry about. People have commented favorably upon my "pretty" or "exotic" (multiracial) looks since I was very young.

But in retrospect, I do think it was odd that my appearance was so important to her. Not that women don't notice other women's looks or comment on other women's looks, but she mentionned it a lot. It was clearly important to her. Almost like a person selecting a doll or a pet instead of a friend.

Toward the end of the friendship she remarked that I "really wasn't beautiful," I was "kind of pretty."

*giggles* At the risk of sounding catty, if I picked my friends based on looks, I never would've had a thing to do with this woman.

In terms of our roles, she definitely liked being in charge, but I'm not sure she understood the diff between my deferring to her for convenience's sake (after all, someone's got to be in charge) and genuine submission. It would really peeve her if I did not agree with her on an issue.

I attributed a lot of her behavior to "big sister syndrome" since she was the oldest child in her family. I was the "baby" in my family so, for the most part, our roles didn't clash. But I wasn't prepared to give her her way in everything and that clearly bothered her -- especially toward the end -- in a dramatic tantrum-throwing sort of way.

kirsten saell said...

But in retrospect, I do think it was odd that my appearance was so important to her. Not that women don't notice other women's looks or comment on other women's looks, but she mentionned it a lot. It was clearly important to her. Almost like a person selecting a doll or a pet instead of a friend

I wouldn't necessarily say that appearance is important to me. Just...a person's manner.

I've been with men who were shorter than I am, and not overtly masculine in looks, but really exuded leadership and dominance, and I like that. I've met women who are almost boyish in looks--though not butch in the lumberjack shirt sense--to whom I found myself almost irresistibly attracted.

I don't have a "type" as far as looks go, with either gender. It's really all a matter of attitude, where a person is coming from. A woman needs to be kind of 100% female, and a man needs to be 100% male, or there's something missing.

But my experience and preferences may be entirely different from the next bi-woman's experience and preferences.

M. A. said...

I wouldn't necessarily say that appearance is important to me. Just...a person's manner...my experience and preferences may be entirely different from the next bi-woman's experience and preferences.

Apologies, I did not wish to sound like I was comparing your interests/preferences to someone else's. That isn't what I meant.

What I mean was I've often thought this person's real interest was in feminimity and I related that to your comments in experiencing attraction to it.

Jill Sorenson said...

Wow! This post has generated a long discussion. I was just reading about Anna Paquin coming out as bisexual--lots of comments about how she's confused, shouldn't be engaged until she figures out what she wants, etc. It made me sad, all of the ignorance and judging.

Also remember this bit of dialogue on Sex and the City: Carrie says "I don't know if I believe in bisexuality. Maybe it's just a pitstop on the way to gaytown" (or something like that). I totally laughed and thought it was a funny remark at the time. Now it strikes me as just another way we discount differences. Even on a gay-friendly show, bisexuality is looked askance at.

A few years ago, I'd never really thought about how pervasive this prejudice is. Reading comments here (especially Kirsten's) have opened my eyes to GLBT issues in a major way. Thanks for that!

Also interesting yesterday, Bill O'Reilly of Fox News (gag) was angry with these picketers who waved "God Hates Gays" signs at a young man's funeral. Hate speech, at a FUNERAL. Disgusting. Anyway, Bill and I agreed for first time.

Yes, there are hardships--absolutely. That's an understatement.

LVLM said...

Jill, I read that about Anna Paquin and thought, cool.

I just don't get all the issues around bisexuality from those who aren't. I've never thought of bisexuals as "confused" about their sexuality.

But I did notice on those comments on AfterEllen for those vids done by Stacy and Jessica that many women who are confirmed gay now, were confused when they were younger about same sex attractions while dating boys.

I think a lot of people who are gay probably go through a period of confusion while they try to sort out what they are really feeling only because we are so programed by society that straight is the norm and if you're not, then something's "wrong" with you.

But I think an older experienced bisexual would not be confused.

As a straight person I'm not confused about my sexuality even though I'm very attracted to the idea of being with a woman romantically/sexually. Also as a straight person, just because I like men, I'm not going to hump every guy out there because they are a guy and therefore I'm automatically attracted.

So I don't get this who issue around it.

Yesterday at school, I said something to a girl in my class and I can't even remember what I said. But she joked, I don't swing that way, sorry and started laughing.

For the first time ever, I felt uncomfortable because I couldn't honestly say that myself. And I almost felt that my silence was a glaring red flag to those sitting there that I might be one of those who "swing that way." But I just left it at my silence.

And I also got a bit offended because her saying that put an automatic negative judgment on a person who "does swing that way"

I've said that many times myself over the years and not thought too much about it.

But now, I see that those who don't "swing that way" really feel a need to point that out to make sure people don't think something of them.

I've even done it on twitter with a woman I know is bisexual. I've told her she's beautiful and I really think so. And because I'm kind of known a bit for lurving the f/f, I said "but in a non gay way." She said she didn't care if it was in a gay or non gay way.

But it's just weird in a way how we all have to define things to make sure no one gets the wrong idea.

M. A. said...

I was just reading about Anna Paquin coming out as bisexual--lots of comments about how she's confused, shouldn't be engaged until she figures out what she wants, etc.

Anna Paquin has obviously figured out what she wants. She wants to be married to her fiance.

...these picketers who waved "God Hates Gays" signs at a young man's funeral.

I sometimes wonder what happens to people like this when they actually discover God. Boy are they in for some surprises.

M. A. said...

But now, I see that those who don't "swing that way" really feel a need to point that out to make sure people don't think something of them.
But it's just weird in a way how we all have to define things to make sure no one gets the wrong idea.


I've seen this go both ways, though. I've known GBLT individuals who chronically identify themselves as GBLT, even to very casual acquaintances.

I often find myself uncomfortable with this kind of communication, because I always find myself questionning the purpose of the "message."

I think straight people do entertain fear/worry of being mistaken for non-straight. I'm not sure why. I know when I was younger I harbored that concern that my peers might judge me related to my friendships with GBLT individuals.

Then I got over it. Life is too short and has enough real complications in it without worrying someone thinks I'm something or not something in particular.

LVLM said...

I think straight people do entertain fear/worry of being mistaken for non-straight. I'm not sure why.

I think it's kind of normal because say I touch a woman who is an acquaintance, or I tell her she's beautiful or fawn over her, if it's clear we are both straight, then the the perception is that those actions are just friendly as opposed to something sexual.

If either one of us is gay, then those simple acts could be taken in a sexual way even if not the case.

Then there cases in which maybe someone who is gay is attracted to a straight person, but doesn't want to make that person uncomfortable so they keep their mouth shut about who they are or go out of their way to not touch or do things that would be normal between two straight people.

On a personal level, I wouldn't care.

But there are a lot of "straight" people who are uncomfortable around gays. I don't know why, but it's the way it is. So from both sides, gays and straights, it seems when you start getting into territory that could be construed as sexual the boundaries want to get marked.

I think a lot of gays might announce they are gay straight off because it will automatically be assumed they are straight and be treated as such. Then it's kind of like they are hiding or being sneaky if they don't come out and say that.

I think it all depends on people's experiences and such. Most of the gay people I know, don't go around announcing it, but wait to see what the score is with people. If they will be treated negatively or not.

I was thinking about that little incident at school and wonder what would have happened if I would have said, well, "I do swing that way sometimes." I wonder what the reaction would be and how I would be treated after that. Because in class, we have to touch each other since we are learning some medical procedures.

I wonder if even if they wouldn't say anything, if there would be an unspoken uncomfortableness on everyone's part.

In my case, if there were a lesbian in the group or a bisexual, I wouldn't care and would partner with them, not feeling one ounce of fear that they would take me the wrong way if I was friendly. But I think it's not the normal reaction of many.

You could also take all of this the same way if you are a straight women with men. There are many ways in which we make it clear to men that we are interested or not. Maybe I don't have to announce to a guy friend my sexual orientation as a way to define myself in that situation. I might say right off the bat that I'm married if I feel that a guy is thinking something other than friendship. Or I might say that I'm not ready to date or whatever to make sure that he gets that we are friends only. It's the same thing, only with gays and straights sexual orientation becomes the definition.

M. A. said...

I think it's kind of normal because say I touch a woman who is an acquaintance, or I tell her she's beautiful or fawn over her, if it's clear we are both straight, then the the perception is that those actions are just friendly as opposed to something sexual.

If either one of us is gay, then those simple acts could be taken in a sexual way even if not the case.


I think this is a very elastic subject, mainly because, sometimes ... We don't always understand our attraction to others or their attraction to us.

You brought to mind an incident from my high school days. I was dating a guy, "Bill," and we went out somewhere with a group of my friends including "Joel," a gay boy with whom I was very close.

After the outing, Bill phoned me to complain that Joel was gay and that Joel had "come on" to him.

I was really put off with Bill for this because, since I'd personally been there, I didn't notice Joel saying or doing anything I'd interpret as indicating attraction for Bill. I assumed Bill was homophobic and I stopped seeing him. I figured if he was this paranoid about my having a gay friend, he'd probably lose it once he discovered I had a bisexual parent.

Anyway, some time later, Joel and I were talking and I told Joel I'd stopped seeing Bill and I mentionned his "ridiculous" allegations that Joel was "into" him.

Joel was very surprised. He told me that he was indeed attracted to Bill. He hadn't attempted to approach him since Bill was my straight boyfriend, but he did find him attractive.

So...Was Bill actually a hypersensitive homophobic jerk? Or was he "clued in" to and uncomfortable with Joel's attraction to him despite Joel's attempts to downplay his attraction?

I would not assume a lesbian or bisexual woman befriended me due to romantic interest. But, in my experience, when something "feels wrong," it feels wrong for a reason. Individuals should not discount those feelings.

Mfred said...

I'm late to this blog post and apologize. First, thank you very much for linking to my post! Ricky Martin sparks so much deep thinking these days :)

Other than a few of Ms. Saell's books, I don't read slash. I'm one of those gays that is uncomfortable with straight writers and gay romance. I'm uncomfortable with "gay-for-you" and even "bi-curious" too. I will even cop to making jokes about bisexuals on the train to gaytown. There are personal reasons, and there are political reasons, some of them are narrow-minded and some aren't.

What I think about, often, when I poke at these uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, is that until I personally came out of the (admittedly half-assed) closet and began living as a out person, I had no idea what it is like to be a minority in America. Being out has opened my eyes to so much of the injustice around me, injustice that I thought I understood and really, truly had no concept of until I experienced it.

And I also think a lot of people make the mistake of assuming the gay community is heterogenous. That because we are all gay, we are all accepting, loving, tolerant people. We aren't. There is a lot of hate, prejudice, and misunderstanding, just as much as there is in any group. And a lot of people who refuse to change it, because they have Very Strong Opinions about what it means to be Gay.

This is why some poeple insist on "queer" and not gay, some people insist on LGBTQ and GLBT, etc. etc. Ricky Martin was my line in the sand the other day. A few weeks ago, I came across a gay joke in a Gena Showalter book and had to have a Serious Moment with myself.

But back to my main reason for commenting-- thank YOU, LVLM, very much for being willing to have this conversation, with yourself, your reading habits, and us. I appreciate the openess.

kirsten saell said...

Hi, mfred! First, let me say I'm kind of floored by the fact that you don't read slash yet you've read some of my books. It puts your review of Crossing Swords in a different light for me, because you were stepping out of your comfort zone in reading it at all, and I know stepping out of one's comfort zone does not always yield pleasant results. :)

And I'm pretty sure I wouldn't upbraid you for any "on the train to Gaytown" jokes. I mean, I laughed along with everyone else at Phoebe's "Bisexual Song" on Friends.

The jokes themselves are mostly harmless (if you have a sense of humor about yourself, anyway), but the underlying issues can be really sticky. I stumbled across this article while researching a post I did a while ago, and it really opened my eyes about society's (both straight and gay) strong leanings toward monosexuality.

But you're right--the gay community (or the LGBTQ community) is far from united on a lot of issues. I've even seen some resistance within the community to same-sex marriage; some see it as kowtowing to a "straight, monogamous" mindset, a "see, we're just like you straights" kind of cop-out when some within the LGBTQ community are proud of the ways they're different.

I think it's kind of hard to blame "straight" society for not being accepting of the LGBTQ community when the LGBTQ community itself is so conflicted about what they themselves are prepared to accept within their ranks, or what aspects of their community they wish to have accepted by society in general. You even look at the differences in very strong opinion among gay men regarding some of the more recent controversies over m/m romance.

I'm kind of one of those, "If I'm not hurting anyone, no one really has any business poking their nose into my sleeping arrangements" people. But it sure doesn't stop some people from expressing their disapproval of my orientation (or their overly smarmy, lecherous approval of it, lol).

But I am very much in favor of readers reflecting on why they read what they read, as well as why they DON'T read what they don't read. And I think for writers, that kind of self-questioning is sometimes even more important.

LVLM said...

mfred, thanks for stopping by and giving some input.

I think that's why these discussions are so good and interesting. I learn a lot. It also reinforces the fact that we are all complex, often with contradictory feelings about things based on our own experiences and ideas.

I like the feeling that I can enjoy or express that I love reading chicks with chicks even if my personal experience says that I'm straight. I like guys and my only sexual experiences with women didn't really turn me on. But I can see my feelings changing over time and maybe being open to being with a woman. But being able to express my love of reading it has opened my eyes a lot more my own sexuality and what it's like for gays.

My sister is a lesbian and although I've been very open, have had a few lesbian friends, know what she goes through on some level, it's not until I started to feel open to women in a more romantic/sexual way that I'm starting to get what lesbians and bi people deal with. It's becoming more real for me even if I don't actually live it, which I think is a good thing.

I love that you stopped by and did say something even if you are uncomfortable with curious and gay for you. I like to have an open space for anyone to say what they feel without getting slammed.

As far as making joke, heh, I think it's good when we all have a good sense of humor about ourselves.

I was actually going to post a Mad TV clip about lesbian hair cuts that lesbianpro.com posted. They took it in good humor and I think laughing at ourselves is a good way to open the doors for understanding. I still might post it.