Friday, June 24, 2011

It Gets Better, Unless You're Bi

Dear Dan Savage,

To use your own theme: Equality! You're doing it wrong. Cheers!

Also, a thanks is in order for the motivation your consistency brings me. Because of your recent column, I have finally decided to do something about this whole mess with you and not being nice.

I'd like to start with your very last statement in that column. I only speak for myself, but I don't want to kick you out of the community. Maybe you were exaggerating, but it's not really funny, and I for one am tired of this whole us/them dichotomy that you and other bullies keep trying to perpetuate. I do define you as a bully. In the past you have abused your bully pulpit to put down bisexual people, trans people, survivors of domestic violence, people of color, fat people... I stopped reading your column years ago for these sorts of reasons, so forgive me if I missed some. Anyway, allow me to introduce as bully evidence (pun intended) the tiresome writing technique of quoting Webster's dictionary. A bully is "a blustering browbeating person; especially : one habitually cruel to others who are weaker." Given your personal position, and the societal position of the groups mentioned above, I'd say the case that Dan Savage is a bully is good and growing. But I digress.

For a while, I've been wishing to simply nip the problem in the bud and start a campaign to get your column discontinued. To make myself laugh instead of being sad or angry, I thought I'd call it "FTMFA." You know, as in, "Fire the motherf***** already." I had too many real world things on my plate, however, to pursue it. No longer. Now I have four things that you ought to fear: an abundance of free time, idle hands, a growing network of powerful and smart people, and a serious bone to pick.

So, Dan, here's the answer to your challenge: I think I might try to get your column pulled. I'm going to start with getting it pulled from our local paper. I'm going to send them this letter, and I'm also going to spread the word around Columbus. If that campaign goes well, I'll do whatever I can to help others get it pulled in their cities, too.

We're done messing around. It's clear from your column that whatever your true feelings are, you don't take us seriously, and you don't respect us. It's time to change that.

The thing is, you've made the argument so much easier. It's simple to say something like, "This man started the 'It Gets Better' campaign, but look at the hateful words that he has written. Did you know the Canadian Community Health Survey showed nearly half of bisexual women and more than a third of bisexual men have seriously considered (or attempted) suicide? That number's at LEAST 10% higher than ALL their monosexual peers and across genders... Do you think there might be a connection between the mental health outcomes of bisexuals and the bullying of bisexuals in things like this nationally syndicated advice column?"

Maybe I'll tell people a little bit of my story, too. I first came out to someone as bisexual when I was 15. The person to whom I came out was also bisexual and had recently come out to the general community. Upon my disclosure, she asked me, "Are you sure you're bisexual? Because you had better be sure before you come out, you know. You just need to be absolutely sure," and more along those lines. I think she also mentioned fake bisexuals. The details of what she told me are vague in my memory, but the overall message was clear: If you're not 100% sure, get back in the closet.

What I perceived as her doubt in my disclosure - combined with the confusion I felt about being attracted to more than one gender, and the cultural beliefs I had internalized about being bisexual - when I perceived her doubt, it was another year before I seriously considered a bisexual identity again. It took two more years for me to come out to myself and my friends. Even after I came out to everyone as an adult, it was another four years until I felt comfortable with a bi identity. The only thing I trusted at that point was experience, specifically sexual experience.

I wish I'd trusted myself more. When I was 15, all it took was one person grilling me for me to retreat within myself. All it took was one person for me to stop growing and give up on what has turned out to be one of the best parts of myself. Thank goodness that with the help of others I was able to give myself another chance.

Dan, saying you are not biphobic doesn't work as a magical shield against further accusations when you have indeed berated bi teens and bi individuals and the bi community right here in this column. You don't get a free pass to hate because you say you're not hating. Your words are speaking for themselves.

It is especially despicable for you to attack bisexual youth by saying they can't be sure. Whether their orientation changes is irrelevant and it's none of your business anyways. I'd like to know how "resent[ing] be[ing] asked" to respect youth at their word is compatible with running the It Gets Better project. Furthermore, by your own logic, any teen coming out as gay or lesbian deserves to be questioned and doubted just as much as any one that says they're bi. For every teen that said she was bisexual and then turned out to be gay, I'll find you a teen who said he was gay and turned out to be bisexual. I know lots of all genders.

Which community do we want to build? A community that questions the very validity of our youth? Do we want to foster a community that at its most generous only begrudgingly tolerates those attracted to more than one gender (as you seem to)? Or do we want to be a community that supports and uplifts each other? I'd like to see more of the second, which is why I'll be forwarding this letter to Outlook Monthly.

In short: Here's to an early retirement!


Facilitator, Columbus Bi Network
Co-Advisor, comBIne @ OSU
Participant, Pride Leadership Cycle 4, United Way of Central Ohio


Morgan said...

i love love love this article. thank you thank you, you are amazing.

D.A.K. said...

Fantastic article!

Sarah said...

This is a great, and necessary, article. It's not just Dan Savage that is biphobic, he is just a bellwether for a larger culture where its considered "not OK" to be bi, even in the "big tent" of LBTQ culture. I'm so happy I found this blog!