Saturday, February 13, 2010

Lesbians are not bisexual, unless they are.

There is an amazing book by S. Bear Bergman called Butch is a Noun. In it, there is an essay talking about what a butch is and what a butch is not. And I wish I had it in front of me because I would love to quote it. But you should find the book and read the essay. It is along the lines of, "A butch is X... unless ze is not."
"A butch is not X... unless ze is."
I keep thinking of this chapter when I'm reading tweets from @thelesbianmafia talking about how lesbians are not bisexuals.

I am about to give some of y'all head-explodey. Here it is: Did you know that there are lesbian-identified bisexuals? They exist. You might be thinking, "How can someone be bisexual and lesbian at the same time? That doesn't really make sense." Well, I'm not a bisexual lesbian, but in the interest of defending other members of my community, I want to say a few things about this issue.

First of all: There are essays in Bi Any Other Name and Getting Bi from lesbian-identified bisexuals/bisexual-identified lesbians (Protip: GO READ A BOOK. EDUCATE YOURSELF). Labels like lesbian and bisexual are, of course, related to orientation, but they are also related to political and community identity. @bivisibility said it well: "You can't be homosexual and bisexual by orientation. You can be lesbian by identity and bisexual by orientation." Some people feel more comfortable in lesbian communities. Some people develop a lesbian identity and then come out as bisexual, but don't want to give up their lesbian identity. Et cetera. I also know a pansexual lesbian who works at one of my alma maters. She is from the Bay Area and feels that those words best describe who she is - someone with a lesbian identity, but who is open to being involved with all genders. At first I dismissed her as ridiculous. Then I thought about it, and read other stories of women like her, and decided that it can make sense, and furthermore, it's not my place to judge what anyone wants to call themselves.

Those of us who are speaking in defense of bisexual lesbians are not trying to say that all lesbians are bisexuals. Apparently this needs clarifying, so let me say it again: We are not trying to say that all lesbians are bisexuals. Neither are we trying to attack lesbians, or trying to flog you with the P.C. whip (man, I hate the term P.C.). We are trying to tell you to pay attention, and to educate you a little. Here is where the Bergman chapter reference comes in. What we ARE saying is, lesbians are not bisexuals... unless they are.

Someone made the argument that this would never be said about gay men, but not only do I have a uterus, I'm a big ole feminazi, and I am going to call you on your b.s. Oh, and by the way, there are gay-identified bisexual men.

Suddenly I find myself defending my own personal labels. Like I should have to justify my argument with, I myself am not a bi-lesbian-whatever, but they exist. And that's exactly the problem with this argument. Why do you care so much what someone else calls themselves? Why do you have such a chip on your shoulder about what a lesbian is or is not? Do you really not understand the difference between lesbian as an orientation and lesbian as an identity? And who put you in charge of handing out the queer membership cards? The women who I have heard of who are bisexual-identified lesbians, etc. - do you have any clue who they are? I am sure that there must be such women from all walks of life, but truthfully, all the ones that I personally know of are older women who were there when this whole thing started going down in the 60s and 70s. They have fought in the feminist, lesbian, gay, bi, queer and trans rights movements for decades and decades so that they, YOU, we ALL, can be out and proud. Who do you think you are to question them? Respect your elders. You should not be mocking them, you should be thanking them and showing them your respect. A little history lesson for you.

I would also like to point out that (fact) human sexuality can be fluid, and (fact) behavior doesn't always match identity. There's a lot of obsession in the lesbian community with gold star lesbians, and (sadly) there is still a lot of biphobia in the lesbian community, and I have to wonder how much of this whole thing is related to those issues.

A better point is, why do you care so much what people call themselves? Choose whatever label you feel works for you (or don't label yourself at all) and go with it. Change it if you feel it's necessary. At the same time, let other people live how they want to live. Why bother wasting your time trying to tell people what they are or are not?


Larry-bob said...

Great, thoughtful post. I had realized that gender identity and sexuality were not necessarily congruent in the ways people think they are, but hadn't really thought before about identity and orientation not necessarily being the same.

Lucia said...

A number of years ago I saw on TV part of an Off-off Broadway one-woman show - oh how I wish I could remember her name! - in which the author/performer called herself a "bi-dyke." I've used that expression ever since. Thanks for getting into the cultural/political/philosophical aspects as well as the sexual!

Mary said...

I'll probably come back to this later, as it's late now, and I'm tired, but did want to share my basic family experience:

My mom had six kids, five are still alive.

Of those six, five are (were) girls.

Of those, one identified as straight. The rest have identified as some variety of queer.

Of those queer ones, one identified as lesbian her entire adult life, and came to me once to say she'd fallen in love with a man, but couldn't actually allow herself to let him know, or *experience* it, because she was a lesbian. She was an old-school seventies lesbian who hung out mostly with people who believed that non-queer sex was a tool of capitalism and patriarchy. She was decidedly and deeply lesbian, though obviously had something for one man. Was she bisexual of orientation? Who knows. Maybe. She was lesbian of identity.

One was an old-school lesbian who just gave it all up and married a man, one day. I have no idea how she identifies now or what her orientation is (she's divorced), I haven't asked.

One is me: Kinsey 3ish (I say e to π depending on the day), bi of orientation, bi and queer of identity.

One other is probably about Kinsey 5, lesbian for years and years of identity, lifestyle (monogamously married to a woman), but she's told me there are definitely some men she'd go for were she not currently monogamous. She's the one with whom I hashed out the "identity can be separate from orientation" idea. But she's so totally a lesbian. She's not homosexual - but she's gay, she's lesbian. Her identity is who she is. It's hers to choose, to keep, and no one gets to take it away.

You steal content from The Lesbian Mafia said...

What you did was steal what you learned from The Lesbian Mafia's page and made a blog out of it. You even copied what they said about head explosions LMAO! Wow you are so lame.

Listen just do everyone a favor you psycho bullies go and give each other STDs and leave everyone alone go and lie to each other and no one will be "biphobic".

What a joke.

But as the saying goes when they stop talking about you is when you have a problem. The fact is The Lesbian Mafia has a huge fan base that loves them because they speak the truth and you catty little bitches can't deal with the truth of your behavior so you bully just like your brothers - hets.

bkr said...

Interesting post, though I'm not sure what the hell that last comment meant.

As a bi male, I've never understood the animosity between the various groups of the queer community. How difficult is it to be capable of letting others be happy with what makes them happy? The biggest problem the queer community has is itself, in many respects. If we could all commit to accepting ourselves, we might make some progress getting the rest of the world to accept us.

MsLorelei said...

Well said.

As for gay-identified bisexual men, how about W. H. Auden? In the midst of a long, happily gay life, he loved (and made love to) a woman for several years. I'm not talking about his wife, the lesbian Erika Mann (daughter of the novelist Thomas Mann), whom he married so she could take political asylum in the US. His romance was with a woman named Rhoda Jaffe.

Human hearts, human relationships, cab be so much more complex than simple identification with a single group. We all belong to dozens of overlapping and non-related and occasionally antithetical categories at once.

Everybody gets to decide for themselves who they are.

JanetN said...

If you keep Cyber Bullying someone is going to call the State Cyber Crimes Unit on your pathetic ass.

LMAO this blog is pathetic. You don't have one comment on any of your blogs except this one bc TLM send traffic your way AAAAAHHAHAH

Hey did you know plagiarizing peoples tweets is against the law?

You plagiarized TLMs tweets about Lesbian Identified Bisexuals. You stole that. Also the Head Explosion. You are an awful bland writer this was barely readable and the only reason anyone commented is because they are low life liar trash like you are.

I am in full agreement with TLM


When Bi's stop lying maybe they will get taken seriously. Look how much you hate being bisexual that you don't even want to name yourself a bisexual you want to drag "Lesbian Identified" so you don't sound like what you are.

Well guess what, you will always be what you are a bi and a bully.

Most bi's are miserable narcissistic bullies and everyone knows that.

So farewell because this is the most traffic that shitty blog has every seen, hope you enjoyed your 3 minutes of fame you lame ass. Go back to your cave now. People who don't have any mental thought process do not make good bloggers, that is why you don't elicit any response from anyone..... because you suck. You only got responses because of TLM. How sad an pathetic you are.

The Bi Avenger said...

Thanks to all of you for reading, for your comments, and your compliments. I'm glad that most of you get it. :)

@MsLorelei W.H. Auden is a great example, thanks!

To my detractors:
Go ahead and report me to the Internet Police if you think you can get me on a plagiarism charge. Ooh, I'm quivering in my disease-filled, miserable, low-life lyin' boots! Apparently you ignored my tip about reading a book. You might want to hunt down this one called "the dictionary."

I've used the phrase "head explodey" before many times, even on Twitter:

I don't see how I am "stealing content" regarding lesbian-identified bisexuals - this was a discussion happening between a bunch of people on my friends list. I didn't even quote anything verbatim from @thelesbianmafia.

My blog has a fair amount of readers. Some posts get comments. Others don't. I don't really expect posts announcing meeting times, etc. to get any comments. I import my blog posts to other social networking sites, and most of the time that's where comments go, not on the actual blog itself. Ultimately, it doesn't really matter how many comments I get or where they are left. My motivation for blogging is not collecting lots of comments and readers and praise.

As for the ad hominem attacks, can't you come up with anything better with which to invalidate my argument? Your desperation is transparent.

I love how before I made this post, you guys tried to be all like "Oh, I have a bi friend, I'm not biphobic!" In my experience with trolls, what usually follows this statement is straight-up biphobia. And it did here, and now here it is, in these comments, and the @ replies I've gotten all day. You can try to cover it up or veil it but you can't hide it for long. You are haters.

I also love how I said twice "I'm not a bisexual lesbian" and then you were like "STOP SAYING U R A BI-SEXUAL LESBEAN THEY R NOT RIL!"

Finally, you don't know anything about me personally, so stop with this whole ridiculous het privilege thing. FYI I'm queerer than some lesbians I know. And heterosexual privilege doesn't really extend to bisexuals. If it ever does, it does only in parts, and only to some. Actually, that's worth another blog post sometime. Oh noes, I CAN'T write about that... I'd be plagiarizing again! The intertubes webcops will have my head on a cyber platter!

Faith Cheltenham said...

Please tell me all about the privilege I enjoy as a Black Bisexual seriously, where is this privilege of which you speak for ANY bisexual? We constantly deal with attacks from Lesbian and Gay communities, while the Str8s just love to bring us into their relationships as BiToys. So where is the privilege?

bunnygoth said...

Just showing you some love from a fellow bisexual/'s hard to deal with bullies, which is exactly what these negative commenters are. I'm not sure why they're calling "us" bullies when we've been fighting THEIR bullying for decades now. *shrug*

I also thank goodness for all the lesbian allies we do have out there. Wuch division as LSM has exhibited can only destroy the queer movement, and I hope those allies of ours who are truly interested in freedom for all will attempt to educate their sisters.

FWIW, two of the very first bisexuals I met were lesbian-identified. While sexually attracted to women and men, they preferred relationships with women and the lesbian culture. I've also met lesbians who said they were attracted to men occasionally, but preferred to identify as lesbian, not bisexual. And BOTH ARE OKAY. We all have the freedom to identify as we choose, and kudos for raising a difficult subject.

- Lisa Jacobs.

Maria said...

hey guys, "Janet" is this woman (and I use that term very loosely):

a skinny little REPUBLICAN lesbian hater, who is also a racist!

Jack Nacht said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jazz said...

Wow, so much hate in these comments. Ironic that someone would call you a "catty bitch," isn't it? Weird that something as generally benign as this issue really should be is what sets off the collective anxiety attack.

Estraven said...

This all started just because some Bisexual and Lesbian related stuff was being promoted via Twitter; some nice Gay Pride and Bi Pride bracelets, a Web series about a woman who has always thought she was Lesbian who finds herself falling for a man, and how she herself and her friends react to it, etc. So the words "Lesbian" and "bisexual" were linked in the same tweet, which was merely promoting Valentine's Day stuff of interest to the community. Then this huge flame war started against the person who does BiNET twittering, who NEVER once said that Lesbians are bisexual.

The bi community was completely confused by this, as it came of of nowhere in reaction to nothing. In point of fact, all the bullying has come from the Lesbian Mafia, which has been making obscene personal threats against people who have stood up against their biphobia, very racist comments against members of the bi community who happen to be POC, have even done a podcast where bisexuals are said to be equivalent to people who work as porn actors, are trying to post defamatory comments on every single BiNET USA blog, etc.

Clearly every thing we are being accused of we are NOT doing, and they ARE doing. It's always been interesting to me that haters distort reality to project what THEY are onto the objects of their hate.

I tried to find the address of this so called "Cyber Crimes Unit" in the State of New York, but although I searched very hard, and I am very good with the Internet, I could not find it. Please provide me with the URL.

Still Waiting said...

Golly gee whiz, if this post is bad enough for the law to get involved, it'd better stop...

...kidding. Do people really still think some (well-deserved) criticism is going to somehow drag the cyber-bullying cops out of their hole? Especially when the "accuser" is making defamatory comments about AIDS? Really now, Janet, try to scrape SOME common sense out of that brain of yours.