(I'm going to apologise right now for the over-used pun in the title of this post, but to be fair, I don't think I have ever used it on this blog before, so it's almost like doing my duty to let it appear just once).
Regulars to this blog will remember that I watch the daily vlogs of Will and RJ, who are a couple "demonstrating just how normal gay life can be". The reason I've brought it up in the past, and I bring it up again, is that RJ identifies as a bisexual man (see previous post).
Unsurprisingly, they regularly hang out with a social group that consists of gay men, and whenever they film a group situation, there often references in the footage to 'all the gays in the room' or 'that's what we gays do' or similar, you get the idea. I have mixed feelings about the fact that RJ goes along with it, and sometimes he's even the one who says it.
On the one hand...
RJ is in a MM, long-term, committed relationship and hanging out with people he cares about who are all gay men, including his fiancee. It is a gay setting, and no one is denying his bisexuality by including him in the plural noun 'gays'. No one is calling him gay specifically, nor does anyone have malicious intent of any kind by using the term (though I cannot speak for any individuals who might of a private opinion that often occurs in gay men that RJ is in fact gay and should stop calling himself bisexual. Probably none of them think that, and as a viewer I've never seen anything that explicitly indicates any of them think that, but I wanted to acknowledge that it was a possibility); it's just a cultural reference because he is involved in that culture, and it is a method in maintaining their friendship bond by emphasising their commonality.
It would be annoying and awkward to demand that everyone always acknowledge that he is not attracted to just men; off the top of my head, I don't know how that would even work, referring to 'the gays and RJ' or 'the gays and bi men' - it would be odd and difficult to say 'that's would we do' and have the 'we' meaning both gay and bi men, especially as, despite a lot they often have in common, they are actually different. I'm sure it would feel like RJ wanted attention, to seem special, which obviously it wouldn't be. And it would potentially put up a barrier by emphasising their differences.
RJ seems comfortable with it - he has chosen to support the general banner of defending same-sex love, and has never indicated he is interested in the specifics of the bisexual battle against prejudice, which is a perfectly fine choice to make, as would the choice to not do anything and just get on with life. There is no onus on bisexuals to put effort into waving the bisexual flag.
On the other hand...
It makes me uncomfortable, and I think that's because I would not like to be included in any reference to 'us lesbians' because yes, I do identify with the LGBT community as a whole, but not 'lesbian' or 'gay'. If I was to get extreme, RJ is accepting and perpetuating bi-erasure. Putting a bit of thought into it, surely an alternative such as 'all the queers in the room' or 'that's would us LGBT lot do', or similar is a lot more inclusive and not rendering invisible any orientations present. Also over-used are racial/gender comparisons, but it is true that if you had a mixed gender group, it wouldn't seem like a special allowance to refrain from talking about 'us gents', 'we women', etc, and using neutral terms like 'guys' or even 'us lot'. I feel that we need to get into that inclusive way of thinking with LGBT language as well.
As I said, I have mixed feelings, and I can see both sides. I would not suggest that RJ take some sort of stand with his group; like I said, he seems absolutely fine with the playful banter of his friends, and I have noticed that when he's vlogging alone or just with Will, he refers to 'LGBT' when he means more than just gay men, so I'm reassured that it is likely he is not victim to internal biphobia; and everything seems cool within the group.
He's established how it operates with them, and I have established how I operate in my social group, and we've simply got different styles. My friends have developed inclusive language for our group interactions to the point where it's almost second nature, and that makes me content, because I feel acknowledged as present and involved, and also reassured that they are aware of the wider LGBT community and their separate issues; and because I get the impression (and hopefully I'm right) that they have no problem with it as they think it's the right thing to do too. I would hope that if they had felt it was annoying that they would have told me, and I think our friendships (plus the fact that they know that I deal happily with directness) are such that they would feel they could bring it up with me.
Big picture, I think it's an indicator of how the 21st Century English-speaking world is struggling to deal with the great changes in sexuality and gender knowledge, awareness, and attitudes using an outdated vocabulary.
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Report of the House of Bishops Working Group on Human Sexuality. Many news agencies are trumpeting the news that it contains recommendations that "there can be circumstances where a priest, with the agreement of the relevant parochial church council, should be free to mark the formation of a permanent same-sex relationship in a public service but should be under no obligation to do so."
Exciting as this may be, it was when I was perusing the CofE's official news item on its website (http://www.churchofengland.org/media-centre/news/2013/11/pilling-report-published.aspx) that I came upon this sentence - "It warmly welcomes and affirms the presence and ministry within the church of gay and lesbian people both lay and ordained."
Oh here we go, I thought. Where are the bisexuals please?
So I am going to search the report (PDF: http://www.churchofengland.org/media/1891063/pilling_report_gs_1929_web.pdf) for the word 'bisexual' and write notes here as I go (I haven't the time to read through the whole thing, thought I wish I could).
1. First mention is in the classic LGBT list in paragraph 32 on page 6. Not a good start.
2. Same again in par. 41
3. Ooh, quoting stats now. 2012 British survey by Office of National statistics - 0.4% identified as bisexual. Unsurprising that, seeing as it is misunderstood, marginalised, and discriminated against by straight, gay and lesbian people!
4. OMG they've raised their game, I'm impressed! The next paragraph is actually quite rational and reassuring: These data give a combined total of 1.5% of the adult population that self identifies as homosexual or bisexual...only gives a snapshot of those who self-identified in this way when the survey was taken. It does not take into account those with a degree of same sex attraction who chose not to identify as homosexual or bisexual, those who would have identified as homosexual or bisexual in the the past but who no longer chose to do so, or those who did not identify as homosexual or bisexual at the times of the survey, but might go on to do so in the future.
5. Par. 199 acknowledges that sexual fluidity is probably a thing! Again, surprised and pleased at the level of knowledge show.
6. FOLLOWED BY THIS AMAZING PARAGRAPH: Rather than thinking about the human population in terms of a fixed binary division between two sets of people, those who are straight and those who are gay, it seems that we need to accept that while there is a large majority of people who only ever experience heterosexual attraction and a smaller number who only experience homosexual attraction, there is also a significant minority of people who either experience some form of bisexual attraction or who move between heterosexual and homosexual attraction at some point or points in their life.
7. And back to being part of the LGB/T list.
8. Interesting phrase "bisexual and same sex attractions" in par. 418. What are bisexual attractions?? I think they've gone too far with trying to use inclusive language. But good on them for trying!
9. OOH Par. 419 points out that we're well beyond just dealing with homosexuality and homophobia! Yay.
10. "What...would the Church of England say to someone...who says they identify as gay or lesbian or (increasingly likely) as bisexual..." Interesting.
11. Oh, mention of those bisexual attractions again, quite a few times.
12. And finishing back in the LGBT list.
Wow, okay, that is encouraging. Amazing that the investigation really stuck into the nature of sexuality, an understanding of which is, I believe, crucial. I think it is that education, above all, that has enlightened the writers and led to their recommendations of progress and improvement. Small steps, but my Church might just be on the right track after all!!
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
I was very lucky on a recent project to meet a member of the stage management team of a well-known theatre company whose latest show is currently running in London, and through that contact secured 6 weeks with the show. I'm just coming to the mid-way point as I type, and I've mostly been with stage management, but I've also been with the production management, design, and lighting teams.
I have yet to use the word 'bisexual'. And I feel bad about it. The question is whether I should feel bad, whether there was an onus to on me to come out early on, make it clear and obvious (but not in a way that shoves it down people's throats. We wouldn't want that) to which I have somehow not lived up. Because I have no idea if any of the people that I have met, got to know, and worked with over the last three weeks have any idea that I'm bisexual, and I suppose I want them to know.
[Oh no, I can already see this post getting self-psychoanalytical... Bear with me, I'm sure there'll be a point somewhere along the line.]
I can tell you that I've tried, attempted to spread the word. Just today in fact, I was talking about my hair, how it refuses to be anything but straight, "which is ironic, because I'm not straight" I said. Seems quite a neat trick to getting it out there, or at least, that's what I thought. I was irritated that none of the three assistant stage managers with me within the small, dark box room hidden on set questioned this statement. Similarly, at another time, I mentioned the project I just finished, and upon being asked to explain further, I told of the LGBT nature of the research. And again, no comment was made to clarify my own orientation.
I can tell you. I'm disturbed that my reaction of disappointment shows an unconscious desire for drama and intrigue about my orientation - I'm pretty sure this stems from my pride being hurt, which I do not like to realise about myself; compared to how I feel consciously and objectively, which is that I want interest, as opposed to intrigue, and no drama.
I haven't talked about much else that's personal with them, we haven't reached that stage in our working relationships; plus I am here on a temporary basis, and establishing deeper friendships is unlikely to occur in this situation. So it does seem like communicating that I'm bisexual is unnecessary, the same as my love of Disney, and how I schedule my meals.
But it's an integral part of who I am, especially how I interact with people - I'm a very flirtatious person, I really enjoy being flirty even with people I have no intentions on, and obviously I flirt with people of all genders, so surely giving that interaction some sort of context will improve things. I have my cross round my neck at all times to express my Christianity, which puts things like anecdotes I might tell from church into a context that negates the need to extra exposition. But I have nothing like that for my bisexuality.
And yes, it would be irritating as hell if I constantly had a bisexual flag pinned to my chest every day. Religion is one thing, something that influences all aspects of my thought process, behaviour, and decision making, but orientation involves personal relationships, and sex, and all sorts of things that don't actually have an impact on most other parts of life, especially at work.
As you can see, I'm of two minds on this one; objectively, revealing my orientation would be helpful, but it is not necessary, but emotionally, it feels like hiding, like dishonesty, and I suspect people not knowing (or at least, not knowing if people know or not) affects my behaviour and interactions. Should be letting it get to me, or should I be more laid about about it? I don't know.
It has invoked such a depressing reaction that I need to reach out for some support, guys. It was a young, Australian gay man telling his story. After going through the part about coming out to friends, mother, college, father, the gay man in the video starts using the phrase 'it gets better', and for the first time of hearing that (having heard it many times before, of course) I realised that it actually applied to me.I don't feel like I'm in a place with my sexuality to testify to the fact; one thing stands in my way - my parents. For over half my life, the only people who understood me were my parents. Apart from two exceptions, it took me until 16years old to find other people who completely got me, totally took me for who I was and loved me for it.Now I'm here; I know who I am and I love myself. It all makes sense to me and I know my place in this world as a queer, bisexual, cisgendered woman, with mostly-feminine-but tendency-towards-some-masculine self-expression. I have surrounded myself with people who I care for deeply who also know me and love me on this level.But now, my parents don't understand. And they seem to think that because their world is cisgendered heterosexual, they have no need to see me as anything but a blip in that world. And I've never been a blip in their world before! They've always shifted their world around me to include exactly who I am as a totally integrated part of that world (it's the same with my brother, I'm not being egotistical, I'm pointing out this is their way of parenting, and I've always thought them great parents) but I don't feel integrated any more.It hurts. It's upsetting. It doesn't feel right. As much as I don't think they mean it to be, it is a rejection. I suppose it is made worse that I'm not just living a bisexual life, I am engaging with my sexuality beyond romance (ie this blog, being head of the LGBT society, going to pride, etc). But that's not the part that hurts. I would get them leaving me to go about all that without them engaging with it, the same as they leave my brother to his fitness regime, diet and MMA (mixed martial arts - also known as ultimate fighting) training.It's the fact that I get the impression they think it shouldn't change how I live my life at all, that they see it as a weird thing, as if it isn't normal for who I am. That's it - I would understand bisexuality being weird to them because they don't know it, but they treat it as if it should be weird to me as well, making it a blip. Every other thing that I do, that I am, they accept as normal, whether it's unpopular, not average, unmainstream - to them, I am perfectly normal watching Disney films, going into a career in theatre, being close friends with a church community that it on average 40 years older than me, because that's who I am; but my sexuality being not-majority - that is apparently a strange thing for me to be doing, as it they expect me to stop at some point.Thinking about it, I think they would react different to me being a lesbian. Lesbian is more normal to them, it's unusual by dint of being minority, but I think they would embrace me being lesbian. Bisexual is being weird for the sake of being weird. That's the impression I get. I've gone past the line of things I do that are weird that they can accept as just being me, and now it's-I don't know. I don't want to think that they think that ultimately I'm experimenting, rebelling, trying too hard, essentially identifying as bisexual simply to be different rather than it being fact. But they behaviour and their attitude seriously worries me to the point of suspecting that they might.I don't think I'm being unreasonable in feeling rejected and betrayed. My relationship with them has been, on their side, a constant love of who I am and proactive welcoming of whatever unlike-the-majority characteristic I have shared with them. And the feeling that they just tolerate my bisexuality, that they don't understand how fundamental it is to who I am, that they don't feel like they need to understand more - you can't treat your child's sexual/romantic orientation the same as their interest in doing a sport.
And talking of my brother's MMA, it's a good way to show how my parents treat me bisexuality, because it's pretty much the same, which, now I realise it, appalls me. To my parents, my brother wanting to be a professional MMA fighter is something he does with like minded people, that makes him happy, and they accept that he sees it as something that fits him to do. They will support him in what he chooses to do now, without knowing more than a rudimentary amount about what he does.
Now, you might ask, Esme, why do you want your parents to know more than a rudimentary amount about your bisexuality? That implies you expect them to want to know all about your romantic life. But that's not what I mean. They treat my bisexuality as if they don't and can't know more than a rudimentary amount about what it is in life - they don't understand that it is in fact the same concept as my brother's heterosexuality, in terms of how parents understand their children's sexuality ie. to them, they assume a deep understanding of the social structures and norms that make up my brother's sexuality, and they assume only a rudimentary understanding of those things that make up mine, when it fact, because the only difference with mine is a wider gender pool of possible partners, they can understand it as the same as before they knew about they extra possibilities of partners.
But they don't see it as deep, valuable, and ingrained like my brother's heterosexuality; it's almost like they think I'm pretending, just to be edgy.
Urgh, you see why this video made me depressed? I still struggle with my parents - they don't take me sexuality seriously. And it doesn't feel like it's getting better. It upsets me that they also don't understand why I'm upset by their attitude - they think they're being accepting and loving, but they're doing it a distance, treating it like a fucking phase, a trend that will pass, and therefore does not need to be considered something to be integrated, it is a blip, inconsequential. But it's the characteristic that defines how I go about finding that one someone to combine with to make one life together til death - not inconsequential!
Communication. Tell them how I feel. Yes, yes. But these are my parents - I'm not the responsible one in the relationship, I'm the child, and the parent-child relationship is heavily biased towards the parents' responsibility in relationship maintenance. Yet I also keep stum to maintain their happiness, because they would feel guilty that they're failing on the "how to deal with your child coming out as bi" score. Endless circles.
Do the circles have an end? Will it get better?
As I was glancing through all this today, idly in a moment of quiet when I was up to date on all my subscriptions to YouTube and online TV catch-up, I noticed something in the 'searches' section. This tells me what people who found my blog through web searches put into the search engine. One of the things that someone, or more than one person, had searched was "does it feel weird being bisexual?"Something about that made me stop and think, and I want to share my thoughts.
This is a question I would never have conceived of being asked, as it seems to be one from the outside of bisexuality, and of course I am on the inside. I have never been asked this, and I find it really strange to answer it. What does it mean? What makes someone not bisexual think it might be weird to be bisexual (as opposed to anything else that isn't their own orientation)? It's the use of 'feel' that gets me. I could understand 'is it weird to be bisexual?' But 'does it feel weird?'Does it feel weird being bisexual? How could your orientation feel weird? Is the person asking someone scared that they are bisexual, wondering if it's a bizarre thing to be and therefore it should feel weird? Because that is saddening; it breaks my heart. My immediate answer to that is it shouldn't feel weird. But it does feel alienating. I feel like I'm seen as weird, because most people identify as straight, and most people think the only other option is gay. It feels weird to moderate my behaviour to fit into the binary world, it feels weird that I can't fully engage with people how I want to, because me being with a man is not seen as bisexual, nor is me being with a woman, even though whenever I am with anyone I am attracted to, it feels bisexual. And I know the world doesn't get that.Does it feel weird being bisexual? In many ways, no. It's my natural state; it's intrinsically who I am and influences everything I say, think and do, the same as being a ciswoman, or white, or British. Being attracted to more than one gender is the only way I understand the world - the thought of being attracted to only one is weird! It feels like exactly how I ought to be, the best way for me to be, the path that I am meant to take. It feels good because it's right for me, and it gives me something solid about my identity, and that in turn gives me membership to a great, worldwide network of everyone who goes under the 'B' umbrella, and it's so amazing being part of such a diverse set of people whilst still having something in common.Does it feel weird being bisexual? It's not like I have anything to compare it to. Though it took until I was 14 to realise that I needed to use that label as opposed to the default 'straight', actually being bisexual is how I've always been as far back as I can remember even having a concept of liking my peers even just platonically. I didn't know it at the time, but looking back, as an eight year old, I felt as 'bisexual' as much as the majority of my prepubescent peers felt 'straight', without any true understanding of intimate relationships. So if I've been bisexual since I was aware of my relationships with peers, how could it feel weird? It's all I've ever been - it's all that I've ever known. It's normal for me.Does it feel weird being bisexual? If I sat outside myself, and looked objectively at the concept of being bisexual compared to the gay/straight binary, it can look weird. It seems insubstantial almost, so undefined and flexible, which doesn't seem human. But then, coming back to myself, it seems like the only plausible option! Love is, to me, the greatest goal, and everyone has the capacity to love, so why would you not be open to loving and being loved by anyone? Gender seems such as arbitrary thing to be picky about, especially when you know how sex/gender/gender expression are all one spectrums between the concepts of male and female. But then, I wholeheartedly accept that straight people feel absolutely nothing for the same-gender, and gay people feel absolutely nothing for any gender except their own. That's how they feel, and it doesn't feel weird to them.Does it feel weird being bisexual? It's not a specific sensation to feel. It's a state of being, it's a worldview, it's part of what's floating behind my eyes. There's no set of criteria, or symptoms. It's a label I use to describe a very personal part of my life - attraction, and intimate relations; it's a fact of human existence that some of us are attracted to people, and some of us are distinctly not attracted to people, and me, I am attracted to people. It's as important to me as breathing. I'm bisexual head to foot, outside and in, every molecule, because my relationships with people I am attracted to affect me mind, body and soul, and the power of it rings through my life like a sound wave bouncing off a canyon's walls and filling to whole thing with echoes.Does it feel weird being bisexual? It might do when you first realise life is not going to be how you expected it to be. It might be when you first crush on someone of a gender you haven't crushed on before. The first time I kissed a girl, it felt good, but it felt weird, because I had spent 14 years not expecting it be part of my life. But now, kissing women, and kissing men; sleeping with them, loving them, talking to them, sharing affection, wanting them - it doesn't feel weird. It feels bisexual; it feels like what I want, and who I am.Does it feel weird being bisexual? Not now I've embraced the truth of who I am. It feels great.
I wanted to pass on my recommendation to you, if you don't know him, to have a look at what he has to say. Yes, he's gay, but we won't hold that against him; like a lot of gay things, it is still relevant to us to engage with conversation about same-sex relations (even though we cannot conceive of only being attracted the just the same sex - weird). He's a philosophy professor, he is handsome and charming, very articulate, and simply likable. His humour is also topnotch, and he wrote a book with an anti-same-sex marriage campaigner, so he must have significant patience and a kind heart.
He even mentions us! This is the specific video that I'm going to post for your first dive into his style of vlogging:
Have look at it, and if you like it, I heartily recommend that you browse his channel to see if he covers any topics that take your interest. My goodness, do I wish my videos could turn out half so well - but of course, I'm a twenty-one year old student, and he's much more experienced and has a PhD, so duh!
I just uploaded a video response to one of my favourite Youtubers, RJ, a bi man in a same-sex relationship who does a daily vlog with his boyfriend Will, to show that two men can have a completely normal life together - they are amazing, and entertaining, and I watch every day! They just moved into a place together, so there's been a lot of trips to Ikea, but they've also had a few friends round, and one is a straight guy, Chris, who is also a vlogger. On RJ's extra channel, he posted a conversation he had with their straight friend about bisexuality, and I found it so good I had to respond, and what I had to say wouldn't fit in a comment.
Go check out the original video :
and then my video response (it might not appear under RJ's until he approves it):
and tell me what you think in the comments - do you agree?
This is major in itself, because they don't have conversations about sex and gender - I even started telling them about the spectrums of sex/gender/sexuality/gender expression! Think that blew their minds a little.
Anyway, my dad and I were the ones really going head to head. I was expressing my disappointment in him that he felt we needed to keep my bisexuality from his siblings and their kids - my aunts and uncles. He said he'd tell them when I had a girlfriend, because it was immaterial until then.
He said that in three years since my coming out, there has never been a moment in conversation with his siblings when it seemed the right moment to just mention it casually. I don't believe him, but he's sticking with it.
My brother then asked why I never came out to him. It was then that I really realised that, yes, what they were saying was true, it does feel like you're making a big deal out of it to tell people directly - but that's why coming out to your parents is a big deal, and that's why I was relying on them to pass it on in a less direct manner than a specifically convened time, like my coming out, to relevant family members, who they talk to relatively frequently.
I told my brother, 'I suppose I expected them to tell you'. I eventually had the courage about a year after coming out to them to specifically bring it up with him by saying "you know I'm bisexual right?" and I was shocked to find out that he knew from reading it on my Twitter profile!
Who is right? My father thinks it's none of their business, and even when I get a girlfriend, there's no need to specify, because one's sexuality is a private thing. If you do, you're ramming it down their throats and making a big deal.
I think sure, some people don't want to be particularly open about being a minority and just get on with their lives, and fair play to them, I've got no problem with them doing that. But I don't feel like that about my life; I don't want people to think I'm straight when there's opportunity to correct their assumption, because it's untrue, the same way I don't want them to think I'm anything else that I'm not.
And in my wider life, I want to enhance bi-visibility, and the way to do it in my intimate network of the family is be out and proud, which I don't think is shoving it down their throats. I don't think anyone is going to think my dad is making a big deal if, say, in conversation with his brother about my cousin's upcoming wedding, talk of my future wedding comes up, and he mentions that it might not be a man, and when his brother asks for clarification, dad tells him I'm bi.
And I'm not saying make my grandparents' lives difficult by telling them, because there isn't much point. It'll get sticky when I do bring a girl home, and I'll probably have to fight them about telling the grandparents then, but that's not the issue. Am I right to be disappointed that my dad has kept it from my family?
Please leave your thoughts in the comments.
On July 12th I finished my second year of my three year degree course in stage management. I went home, and spent a week working as the stage manager for a kid's holiday drama club. I then went to Bath for a few days to see my friend who's working at the university over the summer. The day after I got back, I drove across the country for an interview. I spent the entire of Sunday at church, working throughout for the Patronal festival.
Monday, I started work on my graduation project.
Apart from two weeks at the end of August when I'm working with the National Youth Theatre, I will be spending my entire rest of the holidays, and then the first six weeks of my term, working on this research project. My few days in Bath are pretty much the only true holiday I'm going to get, and that's fine. I think my project is worth putting that time in.
So when I posted on a tech theatre forum here on the good ol' internet, asking for participants to be interviewed, I was hurt by the unexpected condemnation of several posters, telling me that my project was a waste of time, and that I must be a piss-poor stage manager to pursue it.
The title of my project is "Can LGBT professionals be 'out and proud' in technical theatre?"
Their claim was that backstage is free of any problems, no one cares as long as you do your job well. And I truly hope that by some miracle, that ends up being my conclusion. But it seems to be a reigning perception (I don't know whether my critics are straight/cisgendered or not), and it's shaken my faith.
Is it worth interviewing LGBT and non-LGBT technicians about the attitudes towards and the experiences of LGBT techies just to prove that the myth is true that backstage theatre it's a refuge of non-discrimination? Will I have wasted my time if it turns out that there are no issues?
On another note, seeing as I'm unlikely to give up and do something else even if it isn't worth it, if anyone reading this in Aug/Sept/Oct 2013 is or knows anyone working in technical theatre in the UK, tweet me @iamabisexual.