By Brittany Brown
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
The idea of bisexuality can be a touchy subject for some. Even as the popular Katy Perry song “I Kissed a Girl” is played repeatedly on the radio and girl-on-girl action is glamorized in movies and on TV, the thought of legitimate bisexuality — sexual attraction to both sexes — can make many uncomfortable.
However, Ohio State students are working to support and raise awareness about the university’s bisexual community.
Local campus group comBIne is made up of students who are bisexual and proud of it. Tyler Benson, a fifth-year in video production and video art, said a group like comBIne is necessary to get the truth out about bisexuality.
“The media does not help with all its Girls-Gone-Wild and sensationalizing people like Tila Tequila, Megan Fox and Katy Perry ... as well as ‘party-bi’ stereotypes,” she said. “But that’s why we have comBIne, to let people know that we’re real people too and we’re not all these ridiculous things people see on TV that sell shows and movies and beers.”
Benson said the group has been raising awareness on campus and throughout Columbus. Although comBIne is still a relatively small group, it is active with regular meetings, panel discussions and guest speakers.
“We’ve marched in the Columbus Pride Parade the past two years and it’s very exciting to be perhaps the only group specific for bi persons waving bi flags and showing bi colors — magenta, purple, and blue — at the parade,” Benson said. “It really increases visibility and there have been people on the parade route who have screamed or jumped up and down or cheered as we went by because they were so glad to see bisexuality represented. With so much pressure to take sides and a lot of bi-phobia still out there in the world, visibility and community are important.”
Andrew Stock, a fourth-year in computer science and engineering, is the current vice president and webmaster for the group. Stock joined comBIne in January after seeing its booth at the Winter Involvement Fair.
“I joined because I feel the bisexual community at Ohio State needs greater presence and visibility,” Stock said.
Stock said he would like to increase the group’s numbers and “enhance the visibility of the bisexual populace at Ohio State and combat misconceptions and prejudices regarding bisexuality.”
“The discrimination I’ve felt has been more on the basis of omission or neglect rather than deliberate malice,” he said. “For example, once I was attempting to correspond with some people on leadership-related matters, and e-mails were getting silently blocked by OIT because ‘sex’ was in the subject and ‘bisexual’ was not considered an exception to the rule.”
Ben Sostrom, a sixth-year in astronomy and theater, is the president of the group. He said he feels his involvement has been eye-opening.
Being involved “has taught me that there are a lot of people out there who support us, our rights and GLBT rights in general, but also that there is so much misinformation out there, often perpetuated by the media. Like, that bisexuals can’t function in monogamous relationships, [and] that only women can be bisexual,” Sostrom said. “That colors people’s perceptions and opinions in ways they may not even recognize.”
Sostrom said OSU is “remarkably progressive” and extremely accepting of the GLBT community. He said he has rarely experienced any problems with OSU students or faculty.
“I’ve definitely experienced prejudice at times in my life, occasionally on campus and at times in the larger Columbus community, or even from within the GLBT community itself, which is why a group like this is so necessary,” he said. “The key to stopping hate is most crucially spreading awareness and fostering understanding, and this group has definitely worked to do both.”
Stock said he generally does not receive personal attacks around campus, but stereotypes can be a problem.
“It really bothers me when I hear things like ‘bisexuality is a choice,’ ‘I would have a hard time dating a bisexual person,’ or ‘bisexuality is generally for people who aren’t ready to admit that they’re gay,’” Stock said. “Biphobia is a very real phenomenon, even within the gay and lesbian community. Within comBIne, I’ve tried to try and combat some of these misconceptions.”
Benson said she is grateful for the opportunity to get involved with comBIne because of how it has helped her.
The group “has helped not only on a personal level for me because I was really desperate when I joined to find a friendly bi, pan, queer and allied community for those attracted to more than one gender, and it also has forced me in a good way to continue being visible and fighting biphobia verbally and constructively when I find it,” she said.
She said she feels like “an active and appreciated part of the queer community here at OSU. The group has really helped me find confidence, not to mention a lot of friendships with like-minded individuals and a lot of great memories from parties, panels and events.”
I got asked to interview for this article, but I didn't e-mail the author back in time for her deadline. Whoops. Oh well. Luckily Ben, Andrew, and Tyler all had great things to say. Go comBIne! Also, kudos to Brittany for writing that's above and beyond what most usually expect from "the Latrine." Actually, has anyone else noticed that the quality of the Lantern seems to have increased this year?