Bring Out the Bisexuals By Bill Burleson
Tonight, forgoing my usual evening of reading Tolstoy, I opted instead for a relaxing evening of PBS. Alright, alright, that’s bullshit. I was doing what I am almost always doing at 10:35, surfing into Seinfeld reruns. No matter, the point is a funny thing happened on my way to the show: I flipped into Jerry Springer. Now this isn’t the first time I’ve surfed into the Springer. I’m aware of this icon of American culture enough to get by at parties, even though I’ve never watched more than ten seconds it. Really, let’s face it, that’s pretty much all you need to get what’s going on. Here you are lazing about working over the clicker, and all of a sudden a spectacle worthy of Armageddon flashes up on the screen. Ugly people (and I don’t mean physically, although if you wanted to go that way you could) flashing their ugly lives (double meaning intended) on national TV, not a one carrying a full boat of 46 chromosomes. Surely there is not a god, because if there were, these folks would be pillars of salt and human lightning rods. But this evening, something happened. Tonight was the first time I actually watched a whole episode. Why? Because the topic was “Bring Out the Bisexuals.” Indeed. Lets bring them out. First was a woman stripper who left her man for the arms of another stripper. Second was a transsexual leaving his wife for the arms of his gay lover. Third was a woman who left her man and now she’s in the arms of her sister. With these “people” as a base, add in yelling and screaming, men in black restraining them, loud beeps, censored squares, a chanting audience, and a stage full of people defying Darwin every day they live, and you have the idea. Cheap trashy fun for the whole family. But I didn’t watch it for the cheap trashy fun of it. Really, I’m being honest this time. I watched it because it occurred to me that this is where most Americans get their information about bisexuality. Of course most Americans have little or no information at all, but when they do see
the word “bisexual,” it’s when surfing past shows like this. Not from the Bisexual Resource Center, not from GLAD, not from BiNET, they “learn” about bisexuals from Jenny Jones, Montel Williams, and Jerry Springer, not to mention Penthouse Forum, Hustler and Playboy. Which is a great contrast from what I see. As an active and involved person in the bisexual community, what I see is an interesting, intelligent, articulate, compassionate community that bears no likeness to the one on TV tonight. I see a community of gentle people, hardly willing or able to tussle on a stage with “their man” and several bouncers in black. I see a community hopelessly maligned by the media at every turn, be it in this trashy arena or in mainstream films such as Basic Instinct. Go ahead; name one positive depiction of a bi man in a film. All this makes it harder for us to be out in our work lives, our families, and our community. All this makes it more important for those who can be out to come out, so we can speak up against this image of our community by being a real-life bisexual. I’m not suggesting that you need to be a credit to your orientation. No, here the bar is low; to improve on Jerry, all you need to be is sentient. Of course, bisexuals are far from the sole owner of the “abused by the media” mantle; the entire GLBT community suffers in the press. Years past, after spending GLBT Pride with two hundred thousand fellow travelers, one could count on coming home and seeing the event on the news for fifteen seconds with two sensational pictures. And the history of African Americans in film is a case study of media marginalization (check out the Boondocks for the scoop on that). That said, there are two unique features of depictions of bisexuals in the media: first, there aren’t any. We are invisible. Second, there is one exception the first feature, we have Jerry, and all his screaming sagittal crested friends. “Lets bring out the bisexuals?” Let’s not, OK?