Catholic doctors offer homeopathic ‘treatment’ for homosexuality went a headline I read on Twitter this morning.
It’s a very Twitter-friendly phrase (not least because the article it links to is nine months old and I’ve not seen this mentioned on Twitter), almost asking for sarcasm and jokes from people who only have to think either that homosexuality is fine or homeopathy is evil.
If only all “treatments” for queerness were as harmless as water! I thought, but I’m glad I didn’t say so, because of course when you read the article it turns out that this homeopathic treatment is “controversial in itself… using high concentrations of substances like platinum.”
All the more grim and sad because of course like all other horrifying “aversion therapy” it isn’t even going to have the advertised result; in so many ways, homeopathic “cures” for same-sex attraction are based on ideology, not science. Wanting it to be true doesn’t make it so.
Apart from that, what struck me about this article is how easily and effectively bi-inclusive it is. The Lesbian & Gay Federation of Germany said this “treatment” is “lacking respect for homosexual and bisexual people.” A couple paragraphs later they’re quoted as saying these offers of supposed help from the Catholic Physicians in Germany are dangerous because “they exploit the insecurities of homo- and bisexual young people and their parents.”
Of course the word-choice isn’t exactly the same as I’d expect, but that is what I’d expect in something originally said or written in another language.*
As with the play the other day, the strength of the effect it had on me to see such matter-of-fact instances of the word “bisexual” is evidence of how unusual it is.
And not just used in a “find and replace” kind of way.** I kind of like that “homo-” is shortened to be tacked onto the full word “bisexual” there, even if an unintentional function of the translation or something, it makes me think of the distinct problems that would affect bi people who, if surrounded by the kind of homophobia or biphobia (internal or external) that leads to seeking such “treatment,” face a unique set of challenges like having to hear “you do know how to be attracted to the opposite sex [sic***], why don’t you just do that?”
By specifically including the word “bisexual” — twice! in a short article! — these quotes led me to consider this particular plight of bi people in this situation (which is not better or worse than that of gay people, but different) and also made me feel included as a part of the community facing the issues being written about. All of this is to the good.
And it’s so easy to do, people. I’ve written 800 words so far just to tell you about the benefit of four little words — “and bisexual” twice — in a random short article that was called to my attention for entirely different reasons.
So yes. Do this. If it’s appropriate; if you actually mean “and bisexual people too, yes.” Hell even just thinking does this thing I’m about to attribute to “gay,” “lesbian” or “homosexual” people apply to bi people too? would be pretty awesome in my book, even if you then decide that it doesn’t apply and there’s no outward evidence that they’ve thought this thought. As a bi person reading about “gay” or “LGBT” things, my standards can be pretty low! Because even with them, I am still so often disappointed.
Don’t keep disappointing me. Please think about what you’re saying, and how you can contribute to bi inclusion rather than bi erasure.
* I’ve also been told that “homosexual” is not a good term because it was coined in a medical context that problematized same-gender attraction; it wasn’t a word used by the people with that attraction to describe themselves… and since this led me to notice it more, I’ve realized how often “homosexual” is used in the UK and U.S. (and possibly other anglophone places, but these are the ones to which I pay most attention) by people who are complaining about those uppity queers wanting to be treated like real people. For instance, I immediately thought of the anti-equality comments made by a Tory MP a couple of weeks ago, e.g.: “In my view Civil Partnerships has already made great strides for homosexual rights.” And in googling to find this story again, I found that searching for “homosexual” instead of “gay” (even though Google includes both words in its results even if you only search for one) brought up many more results about the “intolerance” and ‘backlash,” proving again that “homosexual” isn’t a word used as much by gay and lesbian people as by their opponents.
** Bi friends of mine and I have long recognized the trope of Stonewall, when we finally pestered them enough (we had postcards that said “Some people are bi, get over it” and sent lots and lots of them to Ben Summerskill), seemingly going through their new publications to replace, e.g., “lesbians” with “lesbian and bisexual women.” Bis never seem to be considered separately; statistics and generalizations are split up by gender (and of course assuming only the two genders causes all kinds of problems of its own that we can’t expect the country’s leading queer charity to deal with!), if at all.
*** Of course I think “gender” is the appropriate word to use here, and that “opposite” supports the incorrect assumption that there are only two, but people who talk like this are unlikely to be so considerate of that.