Welcome to Disruptions. This column will try to inject some radical thought into your designated library procrastination time, based on current social justice movements. I am writing as a white, able-bodied, queer femme person, and if I ever speak out of turn in this series about an experience that is not mine, I am keen to hear from readers and start conversations.
This introductory instalment is late for Bi Awareness Week, but there is always more to say on the subject. When considering different approaches, I clicked on as many related links as appeared on a hashtag search. I came to the conclusion that we are still in a preliminary stage to the real discussion about bisexuality. Authors are compelled to write their annual 800 words affirming that attraction to more than one gender is legitimate. This is because society still needs reminding of this, but it stalls the bigger questions from being answered, like why is biphobia so prevalent in our culture and how does it support other structures of oppression?
Many articles will tell their readers that bisexuals really are normal (honest!). They will be concerned with the type of assimilationist politics that try to claw marginalised orientations into the heteronormativity of the mainstream without upsetting too many conservative values. They will plead for recognition in the form of passivity, a time when society finally gets that bisexuals exist but has replaced its harmful biphobic practices with silence on the issue without change.
Statistics about bisexual experience are increasingly accessible. Scotland’s Equality Network published ‘Complicated?’ last year, about experiences of accessing services. Two thirds of respondents said that they did not feel part of an “LGBT” community, fewer felt accepted by the straight world, and a third would be uncomfortable sharing their sexuality with their GP. Bisexuals are more likely to struggle with mental health issues than their straight, gay or lesbian counterparts, as detailed in ‘The Bisexuality Report’. There is a void between the specific services bisexuals need and the resources available.
In the face of these realities, isn’t it empowering to embrace the awkwardness of bisexuality? Instead of rationalising it into something palatable, can we celebrate its unique traits?
So I’ll admit it: I’m confused. I don’t know what I want. I don’t know if I’ll ever find a boy who can appreciate my level of femme rage. I don’t know how to express my own gender from day to day. I don’t know if monogamy is desirable or just expected. I don’t know if I’m attracted to people or if I just want to be them. And I think this is okay.
What bisexuals do simply by having feelings is challenge the viability of the easy option. (Not to undermine the difficulties that gay men and lesbians still face, but biphobia has specific manifestations pertaining to the choices they make and the violence they survive.) By refusing to be decisive or live their lives in a binary manner, they are challenging the validity of heteronorms and gender roles both at once. The bisexual femmes who refuse to be ready-made for male pornographic consumption; the bisexual men who don’t allow the masculinity police to dictate their choices – they are all living confusing and wonderful identities.
No matter your orientation: reclaim your confusion. Politics is confusing and so is the news. So is racism and the entitlement of white people. Gender relations are weird. The media is as confused as we are. Let’s stop trying to choose between thoughts that seem mutually exclusive but are not. You don’t have to have relationships with either men or women. You don’t have to be either a man or a woman. And you don’t have to know what you’re going to do with your fucking arts degree. I’m inclined to think that if you’re not confused, you’re just not thinking hard enough.
In the stream of a flood of consumerist choices and online information, we can be stunned into a state of apathy. Instead of letting confusion about current affairs and social relations distract you into submission to the Decisive and Knowledgeable Patriarchy, let it fuel your critical mind and send you on your journey into bi liberation. Reclaim it!
*Many of the ideas in this article are indebted to Shiri Eisner’s book, Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution. It explores bisexuality’s potential to overthrow the gender binary, and its common ground with other identities including those of trans and mixed-race people. Follow their Facebook page for daily links to stories concerning intersectional bi politics:
*Bi & Beyond Edinburgh are hosting a day-long event on October 24th called BiFest Scotland. Information is available here.