The Cost of being Out at work

October 3, 2008

I live in a “liberal” city, and work in a “liberal” non-profit.  I am very very out at work.  I am sure at this point that everyone knows I am queer, although most probably do not know I am bi.  I have not experienced any harrassment or negative comments, although I have heard things that are not particularly celebratory or welcoming.  I am not afraid of losing my job because of being out.

However, I do feel I am being tokenized for my queerness.  Because I am out, and talk about the need for my organization to particpate in training on LGBTQ issues, and because I talk about anti-racism  as an issue, I am being boxed into the category of the “cultural competancy girl”.  Everyone seems to know that to be a non-profit with any integrity these days you need to at least say you are doing something about cultural competancy.  However, no one seems to have the actual knowledge or sensitivity or awareness to do this in a culturally competent way.. At least where I work.

This morning my supervisor came over to me with an article about discrimination in Seattle.  She told me how appalled she was to discover how many LGBTQ people experience dscrimination, harrassment or assault because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and how she didn’t know that there wasn’t an anti-discrimination law in WA until 2006. 

Great that she is thinking about it.  Great she is reading about it.  Reading it out loud to me at my cubicle?  Totally insensitive to the fact that the article is talking about ME.  I am more likely to face discrimination, harrassment or assault because I am queer.  How might being read this information that I try not to let consume my life on a daily basis affect me during my work day?  Perhaps I would get sad, frustrated, angry.  And I have no outlet.  Because while I feel comfortable being out, I don’t feel comfortable being totally cadid with most people who work here.  People just don’t get it.  So, I can go for a walk and talk out my feelings for a few minutes with the one person who really really gets it, but is this how I want my experience of being out at work to be?  No, not really.

tired and sad: what to do about biphobia?

July 12, 2008

I am feeling really sad and hopeless right now.  I just don’t know how to keep telling people how I feel, when it seems very few people are actually listening.  Maybe people don’t realize how much it affects me because I try to be calm about it, and I really haven’t gotten super upset in awhile.  Biphobia affects me, it affects my life.  I make choices everyday about how much to reveal about myself to every single person I interact with because of biphobia.  Biphobia affects my experience at work, and I am constantly conscious of myself as a bisexual person when I am working.  When I meet someone new, I have to decide when and how to come out to them, and they may never know that I am bi, depending on the situation.  It all depends on how many questions I want to answer, or myths I want to dispel.  Since most people don’t think they know anyone who is bi and/or have a lot of stereotypes about what that means, and the Queer community at large has not cared to tell straight people that bi people exist, it is generally acceptable for people to ask all sorts of weird questions.  Sometimes this is generally out of curiosity, but really, I don’t always want to be answering questions about my sex life or my identity.  Who would?  In additon to my public, work life, in my personal life I have to make the same choices.  Most of the people I hang out with know I am bi, but that doesn’t stop biphobic things from coming out of people’s mouths.  Most of the time this seems to be an issue of lack of understanding that biphobia is a true experience, and very separate and different from homophobia.  I experience homophobia too, but it looks a lot different, and to me, is easier to deal with because many people understand and are supportive when homophobia happens.  I am tired of telling people that something they said was biphobic in the gentlest way possible, or just taking it in until I can process it with someone who understands (there are two people currently on that list).  So, if you truly care about me as a person, you will do everything you can to be educated and aware and understanding, and not rely on me to tell you when something is biphobic.

Dan Savage: Stop with the biphobia already!

July 4, 2008

http://www.gay.com/health/sexuality/qanda.html?coll=rela_fantasy&sernum=1053&page=1

http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/SavageLove?oid=2859

 

Both of these are littered with the incredibly common bi stereotypes that seem so ridiculous to me, I just have to roll my eyes.  Dan Savage sees himself as so much of an expert that all he references are “people he knows”.  That’s great and all, and maybe all of the bi people he knows fit the stereotypes, because a few people always will (I know I fit a few of them from time to time).  Its just like a straight person saying ‘all gay people are sex addicts,’ well I am sure there are some gay identified folks out there who are also sex addicts, but that doesn’t mean everyone is.  Basic stereotypes lesson, right?

Many of the reasons for using stereotypes against bi folks come from dating.  Gender and dating seem to be sensitive issues.  Most lesbian identified folks I have talked to about dating bi women say it would be more hurtful if the next person their ex dates was a man.  Interestingly enough, I have also had straight men say it would be harder if their ex (bi) girlfriend were to date another man after them.  Penises are threatening.  And these are expressions of insecurity tied to the sexism inheriant in all of us because it is still present in society.

When Savage tells gay men not to date bi men because they really want to be with women, he is pointing out that homophobia affects bi folks (thanks for that acknowledgment, at least).  However, what he doesn’t realize is that BIphobia affects bi folks as well, and many of the men who have bisexual behaviors simply do not identify as bi.  The gay men he is giving advice to might actually identify as bi if the word were given a little more credibility. Why would you use a word that gets you kicked out of the club?  Especially with advice like this floating around.  In addition to this, very few studies of queer folks focus explicitely on bi identified people and their behaviors, etc, so how do we know for sure what bi identified men are or are not doing/wanting/feeling, etc?  Even when studies do include bisexuality, or focus on bi people, many times those studies are filled with the same stereotypes seen in Savage’s articles and advice. 

Would it be too obvious to point out that bi men and married men are two distinct (and overlapping) categories?  Generalizing about all bi men, when you really mean to be talking about guys who are partnered in some way is simply ridiculous.  Wouldn’t the story contain the same heartache if the guy was in a long term (supposedly) monogamous relationship with a man? 

Dan, biphobia is outdated, stop repeating yourself and start thinking about the real issues behind people’s problems.

Coming out & dating

June 26, 2008

Usually, when I start dating someone I am already out to them or come out within the first few interactions.  Its important to me to know that the person respects my identity before getting involved and attached.  Generally, coming out tends to be a rewarding experience.  Many people express a new level of knowledge about human sexuality after I explain to them what bisexuality means to me.  Sometimes, well fairly often actually, people express their own bisexual feelings to me either at the time, or later.

Very recently, I began “casually dating” someone that I have been acquantances with for several years.  I was not sure if this person knew how I identify or not, and was a little nervous to come out not knowing how they would react.  When I expressed my nervousness to my straight-yet very affirming roommate she said “well, maybe this person has bisexual feelings, too, you never know right?”  and my internalized biphobia came out and said ” No, no, I am pretty sure they aren’t bi, sometimes you just know”.

I was happily proven wrong, when after stumbly upon my myspace profile (which outs me as bi), the person I am dating expressed sexual feelings for men, and wanting to pursue that more.  I felt, happy, relieved and excited that this person felt comfortable to share this with me, and is acting on feelings they have had for a long time.  Happy bi moment!

BECAUSE conference

April 10, 2008

Two weeks ago, I went to Minneapolis to visit my best friend.  I had planned to go that specific weekend due to the BECAUSE conference happening on the University of Minnesota campus.  BECAUSE (Bisexual Empowerment Conference: A Uniting, Supportive Experience) began in 1992 as a way to gather midwest bisexuals together.  The conference had not happened since 2004, but had been going strong for thirteen years before that.  It was sponsored by UM’s Queer cultural center.

I only went to the key note speaker on friday evening, just to see what folks were talking about and get a feel for the conference atmosphere. The speaker was Ron Fox, who is a psychologist and has made a bibliography of just about any bi themed, or bi inclusive book, magazine or film internationally.  He spoke a lot about what was out there as far as literature around bisexuality and was really interested in debunking the myth of there being no bi research or bi literature.  It was interesting to hear about books I had never read, and to hear how someone else valued books I had never bothered to read.  (I ended up buying one of these in a bookstore the next day- written by a minnesotan).  When it came to the question and answer period, one of my favorite bi questions popped up.  “Why are bi women so much more visible than bi men?” His answer?  “because of homophobia and patriarchy” period. the end.  no further discussion.  what??  I think that can be elaborated upon, don’t you?  Some of the other audience members chimed in, but the answers didn’t satisfy me either.  OK, I know, I’m a tough customer when it comes to things like this, but really, my straight best friend came up with better answers.

So, overall, I was not unexpectedely disappointed in the keynote speaker.  I really wish that bi activists would dig deeper and move into a different level of analysis about things.  We all know the stereotypes, how about we talk about why and how those stereotypes function?  We know bi women are generally more visible, we know that probably has something to do with patriarchy and homophobia, but how are those two things functioning to keep bi men from coming out or becoming visible?  And do bi men need to come out and be visible?  And how can bi women help with this?  AND, we know the bi community and the trans community are connected, and need to stay connected (I was happy that BECAUSE recognized this) but how can we truly work together?  How can we take the word BI (with such a binary connotation) and make sure trans folks and people attracted to trans folks feel included in this?  Is this neccessary, or is a word change neccessary? 

These are the questions I want to see talked about at a bi conference.  Otherwise, aren’t we just talking about the same stuff over and over again while the rest of the world is moving on without us?  We need to meet the world where it is and move forward to create a strong bi presence that is not oppressive to others.  Can we do this?  Or, am I again, asking too much?

Links for the conference (the ones I could find anyway):

http://gibbin.org/bihistory.html

http://www.biresource.org/746

its not Friday, and this is kinda more serious, but here’s a link!

March 27, 2008

http://community.livejournal.com/postqueer/514969.html

its from the livejournal community Postqueer, and is pretty interesting (comments especially).

Finally, a good/fair/balanced/well thought out article on bisexuality

March 22, 2008

http://www.edgeboston.com/index.php?ch=entertainment&sc=culture&sc3=&id=71703&pg=1

 This article rocks.  I don’t think I have ever seen such a thorough look at bisexuality in anything that wasn’t a bi-specific book.  And even then, this author looks at so many of the current issues and does a really good job of exploring where they are coming from and what they mean for bi people.

I especially like the look at the gender difference, and why men may be more reluctant to identify as bi than women are.  It certainly has been true in my experience that I know many more (bio/cis)women who identify as bi than (bio/cis)men.  And most women I have encountered have thought about their attractions a considerable amount and have considered the identity of bi, while most men I have encountered would not consider the label of bi, even if they have had sexual experiences with more than one gender.  I have often wondered what the cause of this is, and thought of reasons why.  I think article does a good job of pointing out that straight men control a lot of what happens around sexual identity.  I think there is also some social conditioning around sexuality that is different for men and women, which could be another cause.  Women are typically socialized to believe that attraction can come from emotional intimacy, and also may have strong emotional bonds with ‘girlfriends’ while growing up.  Women are conditioned to form those attachments early on and throughout their lifetimes, and also may see emotional attachment and sexual attachment as related.  Men, however, are not conditioned to be as ‘touchy/feely’ and also are conditioned to see romantic relationships as a sexual thing, rather than emotional.  They have less movement between emotional and sexual, and also less initimate bonding activities between men.  Does this emotional attachment between women create a more fluid sexual environment that allows more women to feel comfortable going between the lines of sexuality?  Does the lack of emotional attachment between men create an environment where men feel less comfortable moving between these boxes?  Is this reinforced by straight mens’ ideas about bi women and homophobia surrounding gay men?  Does the gay mens’ community reinforce these boundaries by being generally unaccepting of someone who is not “all on one side” of the line?  Being out as bi is hard enough for me, and I think its much harder for men.

I also really like the part about both thee straight and the GLBT communties pushing bi people to the other side.  There is no space to move between the two, and there is hardly a community large enough to be in a ‘bi space’ most of the time.  For me, I have definitely felt more comfortable in a GBLT/queer space, however, I have also spent a considerable amount of time /effort/energy making space for myself within these community spaces.  I have encountered a lot of biphobia and have had struggles to maintain my bi identity within these circles.  I don’t blame people who don’t want to work as hard as I have to quell stereotypes and make sure bi folks are included, its a lot of effort.  I also find it difficult to navigate straight spaces as a bi person.  I can be out as ‘queer’ sort of, if people know what that means, but usually they assume it means I am a lesbian, and if I am dating a guy that assumption could be confusing.  My strategy so far has been to be out to people I trust and enjoy confusing everyone else with a side of generally not talking about my dating life.

Overall, this article has covered many issues that I consider relevant, and does a really good job of giving a fair approach to the topic.  Impressive!

fun link friday!

March 22, 2008

http://www.cafepress.com/stillqueer

just a fun link!

Outness with Family- is it different to be out as bi, than gay or lesbian?

March 18, 2008

When I came out to my mother 3 1/2 years ago, I told her I identified as bi or queer, I never used the word ‘gay’ and corrected her use of the word in reference to me.  I knew things could become more difficult later on if I didn’t start out with the truth.  I wasn’t sure she got it, but decided not to push it too much right away.  Several months later, I was in a relationship, my first relationship-relationship with a woman.  I told my mother.  This is how the conversation went:

me: Mom, I have some exciting news for you!

mom: okay.

me: E and I are dating!

mom: [silence]

me: isn’t that exciting?

mom: [pause] well, I guess so. [long silence]

me: did you have a question, mom?

mom: well, I guess I just don’t believe the whole gay thing with you.

me: well, I’m not gay, I’m bi.

mom: I guess I don’t know what that means

me: it means I can fall in love with someone of any gender.

mom: [long pause] okay, well, the other day when you sent me that email, I was really upset. .. (this email had nothing to do with my sexual orientation, and the conversation just went on from there)

 That was a hard conversation for me, and the last one we really had about my sexual orientation and her questioning it.  I dated E for a year and a half, and we lived together.  My relationship with my parents was tenuous during this time, and when I told them we had broken up and I was moving out, they were practically ecstatic.  Our relationship has been easier since this time.

This leaves me in somewhat of a bind.  If I am dating a man, do I tell them?  Let their imaginations go to that place of marriage, etc?  Do I only tell them if I am dating a woman, and preserve the slight amount of queer identity I have with my family?  I feel like I have already failed myself and my personal beliefs and politics by not telling them about the man I was dating last summer, and now, as I think about seeking out dating women, I feel as though it would be really horrible to tell my parents about it.

And, there is the question of my younger brother’s wedding.  Who should I take? How can I go about not feeling invisible as a queer person, and also not feel like I am lying about who I really like?  It seems like the only way around this is to wear a button, or come out to everyone.  Might be inappropriate and silly to do at a wedding.

Sometimes, I think it would be easier to be a lesbian.  But I am not a lesbian.

How to date a bisexual person

March 14, 2008

http://www.wikihow.com/Date-a-Bisexual-Person

 read the link first, then read what I have to say about it.

 First off, their deifnition is fairly standard, but fails to mention a gender other than men and women.  However, this is true of most basic definitions.  They also make a point to say that bi people are monogamous just like straight people. True.  However, the heavy weight on monogamy being better is rather apparent.  I’d rather see something say that it is ok to be monogamous and poly, but I do see the point in dispelling the myth. Most of the dating tips simply say “date a bi person like you would date anyone else”  good point.  Bisexual people are people, and deserve the same treatment as anyone else.

However, towards the end they kind of go back and say bi people might not want long term relationships because of not wanting to be either homosexual or heterosexual, and imply that bi people can escape homophobia by getting married and having kids.  This something I have heard from many queer, bi, and straight folks. . . and I tend to disagree.  Even if you are functioning in a heterosexual community, you’re married and have the requisite 2.5 kids and a white picket fence, you’re still bisexual.  You have still experienced feeling shame for your attractions, you still experience homophobia and biphobia from a heterosexist society.  Embodying heterosexuality does not mean you are and therefore experience heterosexuality just as any straight folks do, I think it may even mean that you experience more doubt, shame and confusion about whether or not your feelings for the same sex are ok, and also whether or not you truly belong in your life.