BISEXUAL INCLUSION: AS IF THERE IS A CHOICE By Bill Burleson
“How Gay Are Bisexuals?” was the title of a commentary by Paul Varnell in the last issue of Lavender Magazine (October 3, 2003). Varnell suggests that bisexuals don’t make very good gay people, and in fact gay activists should reconsider including “bisexuals as a part of a broader gay community.” Fascinating. Bisexual inclusion in a greater GLBT movement has been an issue long before Varnell wrote this commentary. Indeed, my own inclusion in either the gay community or a greater GLBT community has been an issue over and over again in my 27 years identifying as bisexual. From the very first time I entered the Brass Rail in 1977 to reading Varnell’s essay today, people have been questioning my credentials. Never mind I’ve been to Pride for fifteen straight years, staffed booths the past ten. Never mind I work as an HIV/AIDS prevention educator. Never mind that for eight years I had a business called “Pink Bicycle.” Hey, I can show you my OutFront membership. Yet, for some people, I guess I can never be queer enough. Regardless of what Varnell thinks about bisexuals, we are here to stay. Indeed, bisexuals have been here from the beginning. Changing the names of groups from “Gay” to “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender” is not an act of altruism on the part of gay people; it is simply recognition of the existing diversity in the community and our common struggles. The only choice is whether to acknowledge it or not. There certainly are issues and struggles unique to the bisexual community. Society perceives orientation on the basis of the gender of one’s partner, resulting in our near complete invisibility. One result of this invisibility is a near lack of a bi community and its support, making it more challenging to come out than it otherwise would be. Why come out if you are in a happy relationship with someone of the same or different gender, and there is no support on the horizon for you if you do? Add to this the
occasional ostracism from what should be our allied communities, and bisexuals have a unique and difficult path. However, bisexuals also share many of the same issues as gays and lesbians. Bisexuals face the same discrimination, get bashed, fired, kicked out of our families, and all the things our culture heaps on lesbians and gays. Bisexuals cannot marry their same sex partners. These are not gay issues; they are issues for all people who love others of the same sex. So here’s the bottom line: these problems cannot be solved by or for only one community. Our fate is your fate, and your fate, ours. Say you don’t like being associated with bisexuals? Sorry buddy, we are all in this together; you’re stuck with us. Rather than use bisexuals as a group to demonize, how about we learn to accept and appreciate the diversity that is our queer community and work for human rights that should apply to everyone? If acceptance of diversity is what we demand of the straight world, shouldn’t we demand the same of ourselves? We need to ask ourselves: what are the goals of the gay community? If it is to create a new privileged class—“Hey, Maybe the Republicans will like me if I sell out the bisexuals, transgender people, queers who are poor, the disability community, polyamorists, atheists, and the left-handed!”—you will inevitably fail. If, on the other hand, we seek to make it OK for all of us to live how we choose and love whomever and however we want with other consenting adults, that would be true success. Finally, “How Gay Are Bisexuals”? That’s easy. About as bisexual as gay people are.
Bill Burleson’s address is firstname.lastname@example.org Visit www.tcbop.org for more information about bisexuality