Friday, January 07, 2011

Greetings from the Bisexual Chamber of Commerce!

I wrote the following for publication in the Bi Women Boston Newsletter, whose only weakness is that it's all-volunteer and therefore can only come out quarterly. The next issue's theme will be "People say the strangest things." I figured I knew something about that.

I hope nobody is offended by this--I don't mean to depict all monosexuals or all straight people as ignorant. I am simply attempting to describe some of the ignorance and odd responses I've encountered, and how those make me feel as a bisexual woman. This is edited very lightly from my original submission to BWBN.

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Greetings from the Bisexual Chamber of Commerce!

I've been out as bisexual, to some degree or another, since I was 17 years old. I am now 36. In the nearly 20 years I've been out, I've too often been the first "real life bisexual," as a straight female friend of mine put it, that some people have met. "That isn't true," I want to tell them. "You've met others; they're just scared to tell you, is all." I don't want to be rude, though, at least not at first. I joke about becoming "the Bisexual Chamber of Commerce" to monosexuals (mostly straight, but some gay as well). I answer lots of questions and learn that some peoples' minds are already settled, sometimes in very strange ways.

"When did you know? Were you always bisexual?" I was a little 50/50 bisexual girl in Daytona Beach, Florida during the 1980s. Despite some right-wingers' fear-mongering, one does not need queer cultural role models to experience queer feelings in one's youth. I fondly remember the Dukes of Hazzard as a vital part of my psycho-sexual development. At 6 years old, I alternately decided I wanted to marry someone like Bo, Luke, or Daisy Duke when I grew up. In my defense, there were only three network channels on TV at the time, and they really did look good in tight denim. "I'll never look at the Dukes of Hazzard the same way again," I've been told more than once. As I got older, I maintained my appetite for smart-alecky rednecks, although my tastes diversified. When I was 13, I dated a boy whose family had recently moved from Great Britain and began a longstanding crush on Irish alternative-rock singer Sinead O'Connor.

"But I thought you were lesbian!" Yes, that's another woman's picture on my desk, and another woman's ring on my finger. She's meeting me for lunch today, as a matter of fact. But that doesn't stop me from noticing how cute the UPS deliverymen who serve my company are, or any other form of male attractiveness. Yes, I like guys. No, I don't have a boyfriend on the side. Yes, I'm monogamous. No, she's not bisexual. Yes, I feel fulfilled. No, she doesn't get jealous, at least not often. And, um, if I'm gonna tell you, it's not like I'm keeping my bisexuality a secret from her!

"But you seem so normal." If I became famous, I wouldn't shame the community, and I have results from an internet humor quiz to prove it. No vials of blood, no drugs, no meat dresses. I'll probably never be famous, though. I'm a femme secretary whose idea of rebellious fashion is to wear bright colors in New York City. I love to cook. I don't love to clean house, and I'm grateful my wife is willing to dust furniture. People occasionally seem disappointed that I can count my former partners on one hand and that I live a fairly average life. The more that happens, the more important I feel it is to show what a boring bisexual life looks like. The one I happen to have handy is my own.

"So I guess you made up your mind. What happened to make you choose a woman?" What I "made up my mind" about was that I loved L'Ailee and wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. This doesn't mean that I chose to stop being attracted to men, or to women who differ from her physically. It doesn't mean that I can, either. I had boyfriends in my past. I was attracted to women when I was with them. There was no real trauma, nothing to "turn me off of men" and make me flee to the supposed safety of another woman's arms. Sometimes relationships depreciate, like fast new cars becoming old clunkers. This happened with males and, thankfully, hasn't happened with my wife. It's happened with you sometimes, right?

"I thought you were a married couple sharing one ID!" That amused the hell out of me when I encountered it at a hockey forum. I'm a huge fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins. I became a hockey fan because my wife, a Detroit Red Wings fanatic who's loved hockey her entire life, made me watch with her. (I'd gotten her into my beloved NASCAR, and she felt I needed to give her sport a chance.) On sports forums, I've found it's best to ease people into the idea that I'm same-sex married. The fact that I'm married to a Red Wings or Kevin Harvick fan naturally comes up. So does the fact that I find various Penguins and Tony Stewart attractive. My internet "voice" is usually read as female. It becomes surprising to some of my fellow and sister fans, then, when they learn that the spouse is also a woman. That said, many calmly accept it, and are more interested in learning how we handled it when our teams faced each other in the 2008 and 2009 Stanley Cup Finals.

"The word 'bisexual' explains a lot." I'm quoting myself this time. I've tweeted that several times, because I felt a need. It explains why I speak of a wife and an ex-boyfriend. It explains why I cuddle with my wife to watch sports, kissing her when our teams score goals or our drivers get to the front, then complain that the Penguins who I find really hot leave the roster too quickly. It explains why I don't really think of gender or sexual orientation being a bar to relationships, and have to remember that others often do. "Labels are for food," I've been told more than once, but the people who say that tend to have their own labels that they assign to others. Better to be honest and to assign yourself the correct label first, I think. Besides, what the hell else should I call myself? Some people don't get it, and some people don't actually want to get it. That's their problem, and I do my best not to let it become my problem, too.

"I guess I need to raise bail money for you this weekend, 'case you get yourself in trouble." That came from a good friend of mine, a straight man whom I'd met at work, in December 2005. I was the first openly bisexual woman he'd met, aside from a few "barsexuals" in his Southern college. New York City affords many cultural opportunities. On the same weekend, Tony Stewart was in town for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship awards festivities, and Sinead O'Connor was in town for a concert. My friend knew me well enough to tease me about my crushes, and didn't let issues of sex or gender freak him out. I was amazed, and perhaps I shouldn't have been. After all, he wasn't the first and only. Quite a few people do want to understand. For them, it's worthwhile to keep the Bisexual Chamber of Commerce open.

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Links, links:

Same-sex and mixed-sex love look exactly the same inside the human brain. I could've told those scientists that!

Egyptian Muslims offered themselves as human shields against radicals who threatened the Coptic Christian community.

Supposedly the recent rash of bird and fish kills are nothing to worry about whatsoever. There are real problems to address!

New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who was at Disney World during the Christmas week snowstorm, made fun of Newark mayor Cory Booker for being a stand-up guy. Says it *all*.

I disagree with the Four Loko ban, but I have to say it's probably better as an auto fuel than a drink.

Glenn Beck's radio show is cancelled in NYC. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy...

Sidney Crosby won't be playing with the Pittsburgh Penguins for a week, at least, due to a concussion. Now you know what that cussing was about!

Finally, the National Zoo's adorable panda couple, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, might be getting ready to make another precious cub.

5 comments:

bluzdude said...

I have a lesbian friend from Canada, who also occasionally performs a similar public service.

At a party, after everyone has gotten a few drinks into them and realize that she is, indeed, a lesbian, yet still very cool and approachable, she says there is an inevitable game of A.T.L. (Ask The Lesbian). During which, they get to ask questions of the first gay person they've ever really talked to. Helps clear up a lot of misconceptions. (When she's not messing with them, of course.)

stephanie said...

it's a little sad though, isn't it, that there is the need to explain all these things while they really should be natural...?

Raven said...

Very eloquently written. There is a lot of ignorance out there and it's too bad so many people aren't willing to look beyond their narrow view of reality and attempt to understand and accept those different from them.

MoonRaven said...

Thanks for writing this--and for being a 'Chamber of Commerce'. As a bisexual man, I've occasionally had to explain what that means--in a few cases to people who didn't seem to believe that bisexual men really existed. So I appreciate your willingness to explain and expound. Hopefully, at some point it will all be unnecessary.

BostonPobble said...

I am frequently the Pagan CoC. Bet you fill that role as well.