Thursday, February 5, 2015

Bye, Bi Bowie?

Image courtesy of Observe The Banana.  Some rights reserved,
Over forty percent of the LGBT community is bisexual (Pew Research), yet many still ask, “isn’t it just a phase?” Throughout 2014 there have been many new offenders, including Jessie J and Larry King. Even the LGBT task force published articles questioning the legitimacy of bisexuality and those who identify as bisexual. All of these statements; however, raise a larger question. What are the damages done - if any - when bisexuality is erased and ignored from the media? The answer is complicated and messy, but I have found that when the bisexual community is perpetually mocked, ignored, and erased from the media there is detrimental damage done including unequal treatment within the LGBT community as well as an inability to self-identify and come out to others.

When someone thinks of representation in media throughout the years, they might consider what an amazing year 2014 was for representation of women and LGBT people in television and other forms of media. A great example of this is the recent hit television show of Netflix, Orange is the New Black. The show, which includes strong women, transgender inmates, and many lesbian characters, was based off of the experience of Piper Kerman in a low security prison. In real life Piper Kermen openly identifies as bisexual, yet the show’s main character Piper Chapman, is never called bisexual. In fact the word bisexual is only said once in its entire 26 episode history. When shows like this constantly perpetuate the idea that bisexuality does not exist, it raises intolerance towards bisexuals from both the straight and the gay communities. According to a 2013 PEW Research study, this has caused a negative shift in the lives of many bisexuals. Only 22% of bisexuals say that their orientation is a positive part of their life, compared to the 46% of gay men who say that their orientation is a positive part in their life.

A lot of the people in the LGBT community also question the actuality of bisexuality and even ignore the bi population. In the New York LGBT pride parade there were three grand marshals, none of which was bisexual. In addition to this, during bisexuality celebration week, the LGBT task force (then named Gay and Lesbian Task Force) published a paper titled, “Bye Bye Bi, Hello Queer,”(Cruz).The paper belittled people who identify as bisexual for being transphobic and queerphobic. This completely erased pansexuality and other such identities that fall underneath the bisexual umbrella. These actions from within the queer community keeps the bisexual population from being able to reach out to others even in the LGBT Community. According to the same 2013 survey, only 28% of bisexual people are out to someone in their life. This is a small percentage in comparison to the amount of gay men and lesbian women that are out to important people in their lives. Seventy-seven percent of gay men are out to others and seventy-one percent of lesbians are out.

Many argue; however, that bisexuality is not a legitimate orientation because of the lack of culture and community that surrounds the bi community. In response to the article published by the New York Times, Mark Stern published a rebuttal that questioned if bisexuality was a reality if there was no “bi-culture”(Stern). I have found this to be quite false. The American Institute of Bisexuality is a large part of who is fighting for our community and culture to be seen. The problem with how our culture is being perceived is that we are just trying to be perceived at all. According to the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, the bisexual community is the “invisible majority,”(Lewis). While many may fail to see the culture and community around bisexuality, I would argue that our community exists, we are just too busy fighting to be heard at all to bother trying to make it flamboyant and extreme. Multiple celebrities who are outspoken bisexual activists and expand our community into the light include Anna Paquin, Carrie Brownstein, and David Bowie. No matter how many seem to help the cause, though, there are still those that can not see our culture and accept the legitimacy of bisexuality as an orientation and identity, including Mike Huckabee, who perpetuates the idea that anyone who identifies as bisexual is untrustworthy, and Brendon Urie, who insists that his bisexuality was simply experimentation, even though he “finds [himself] attracted to dudes all the time.”

Although there has been amazing work done by the AIB and the countless bisexual activists around the world, there is still a large amount of bisexual erasure that is done. This erasure is harmful to many and can cause a lot of damage. These damages, in some cases, are irreversible and can affect a person for their entire life or even end it.

Bibliography

Conclusion, Updated March, 4 2015
The process of writing this blog has been rigorous and stressful, but also very thoughtful and meaningful to me. I went into this experience already having a very clear opinion on where I stood on the topic, and researching it only furthered my opinion on the topic. I was very pleasantly surprised by the thorough discussion that was sparked through this article and the comments that I received. I think that throughout the time I researched this topic it began gaining more headway in the media, but there is still a long way to go. I was glad I got to talk to so many different people about the topic and gained many new viewpoints on it. There were also many new sources that I was linked to or found on my own in responding to the comments. One amazing leap forward for the bi population was the election of the first openly bisexual governor in Oregon state. A development like this is so important to the community and I am so glad that I was able to spark a conversation about it while this event occurred.
This article helped me open up and learn even more about the bi community. It has helped make me so much more grateful for the allies that are in my life and the community I am a part of. I do not think I will ever look at the LGBT world the same. It also makes me so grateful that a conversation such as the one conducted in the comments section can take place even on social media. I am glad I had to chance to write this article and hear from everyone who gave me feedback.

11 comments:

  1. Hello PansexualPrincess,
    I love how passionate and outspoken you are for your topic. It is really obvious how much you care about it. Here is an article about research conducted for over ten years! This article proves that bisexualality is scientifically proven. Do you think as the years go on that the backwards ways of people will change? I know and love people who identify as gay and I could not imagine if someone told them that their sexuality didn't exist. Thank you for your deep insight and wonderful words.

    Sincerely,

    TweedleDum

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    1. Hi TweedleDum, thank you so much for your comment! I was unable to read the article but I have thought a lot about your question. I think that as with any subject, as it gets more attention people will begin to challenge their original beliefs. This article (http://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2015/02/15/oregon-governor-scandal-means-first-bisexual-will-be-in-states-top-post/) talks about how few outspoken bisexual activists there are, but when they are put into political positions, it is impossible to ignore them. It gives me hope that the less we ignore them, the more we can grow as an overall culture to be more accepting of anyone on the LGBT spectrum.

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  2. Hi PansexualPrincess!
    I think that you chose a topic that not everyone has knowledge about. I also love the passion in this article, I mean I can just feel it as I read the words. You also bring up the point of whether or not bisexual is even considered a sexuality within the LGBT community, which I think it is absurd for it not to be considered one. Another good thing you bring up is other sexualities, such as pansexual, that aren't as commonly heard of. Do you think that this problem within this community will be solved within years to come or do you think it will only get worse? I applaud you for working on a topic that is very sensitive, and I also applaud you for how well you carried out the task at hand in this post.

    Thanks for adding to not only my knowledge, but others as well,
    km

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    2. Hi KM, thank you so much for taking the time to further the conversation with me. I think that this problem will be solved in the future, but I do not think it will happen very soon. It is a problem that has faced bisexual people since the beginning of the true LGBT community. There's still a large number of people in the LGBT community that feel that there is something wrong with being bisexual. I hope that this can change within the next ten years, and I think that with more education about the entirety of the spectrum could help the whole community, including straight allies and anyone that falls underneath the large umbrella of LGBTQA.

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  3. PansexualPrincess,
    This is such a thoughtful and honest post, thank you for sharing your experience and all of this amazing research. While the statistics you share about bisexuals are alarming, particularly that only 22% say their identity is a positive part of their life, I was heartened to learn that at least in the homosexual community, it seems like progress has been made with people feeling comfortable being out to others. It is frustrating, though, that certain groups within the LGBT community are still so marginalized, as no one should have to "fight to be heard." I appreciate you bringing my attention to this, as it is honestly not something I have spent much time considering. I will now! I most certainly want to be a good ally, but I obviously still have blind spots. Are you familiar with the work of Jennifer Bryan, PhD? I have heard her speak at educational conferences a few times now, and she explores the gender spectrum and discusses identity in a very accessible way. Seems like we can always use more education about the complicated nature of human sexuality. Well done!

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    1. Hi Ms.Gerla, thank you so much for your comment. I was not familiar with Jennifer Bryan's work until your comment, but it sparked me to look into her writings and her work for team Finch. I think that her work helps open up a discussion in an environment that values safety and education. This is an environment that is needed far more often. I think that it would be very interesting to get to hear her speak, especially since what she has to say is the interactions between young adults and their own sexuality and gender.

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  4. Hi PansexualPrincess. I enjoyed reading your blog a lot. I liked how honest you were on the topic and how involved you are with it. Your hook was amazing and I agree with everyone of your points 100%. Also, I think that people should show who they truly are and should not be discriminated against. With the article you have written, you will educate many people on bisexuality. While I read your blog, I wondered how many people are considered bisexual is the USA and the world? I found an article from the New York Times that I found almost as interesting as your blog and I think that you might find it interesting as well (I will put the link at the end of the comment). Thank you PansexualPrincess for doing this topic justice and widening my and hopefully other people horizons on this topic. Excellent job! Here is the link to the website: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/05/health/05sex.html?

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    1. Hi GraceGiraffe, thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. I found in this article ( http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/health-survey-gives-government-its-first-large-scale-data-on-gay-bisexual-population/2014/07/14/2db9f4b0-092f-11e4-bbf1-cc51275e7f8f_story.html ) that 0.7% of the entire US population is bisexual. While this is a small percentage, it is still a large number of people considering that the current population of the US is reaching 320.1 million people. That would mean that nearly 2.25 million people openly identify as bisexual. That is also not considering those who fall elsewhere underneath the umbrella of bisexuality. I, for example, identify as pansexual, which is still underneath the umbrella of bisexuality but in many surveys would not be considered bisexual. As for the article you linked me to, I found it very interesting, but still very harmful.I know that there have been many researchers that have been trying to disprove the exact theory that was found from the tests reported on in the article, and they are making some progress. It was mentioned in the New York Times article I used for research that can be found in my bibliography.

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  5. Hello, Pansexual Princess. I am impressed by the honesty and educational quality of your post. There is so much here that those who are not affected by the situation simply "do not see." We talk about this in class as trying to identify what is missing in an ad or media spot that carries implicit bias. Your post prompted me to watch Transparent with my daughter (adult content alert) and to discuss the various relationships, particularly Sarah Pfefferman's, who, though supposedly happily married, reconnects with her former college lover. Although the show focuses on the gender transformation of the family patriarch, there are suggestions here of other gender identities that are equally meaningful. I read a review in Out that feels the show will do a lot for publicizing the "honest perspective of bisexuality, which often takes a beating in the media." Are you aware of this show? What do you think about its potential to have a strong positive influence on our awareness of bisexuality--particularly given the recognition it is receiving in the entertainment world? What difference does a major media content supplier (Amazon) make in opening up public discourse on bisexuality? Thank you for sharing this issue! --Ms. Riches

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    1. Hello Ms.Riches, thank you so much for commenting and giving me a link to that review. My own mother and I are big fans of the show. We watched it together and soon fell in love with the diverse cast of characters. I think that the show is taking a huge leap in the right direction. When using the term LGBT, many do not immediately think of the B and the T. This show tackles the erasure and pigeon-holing of these two groups head on. I think that with the press and attention it is receiving throughout this award season is doing some incredible work for the community. I think that these content suppliers are now starting a conversation that has been hard to find in popular media for a long time. By opening up these conversations I think that it is finally giving multiple communities the opportunities to talk about the topic together, and in turn gives the topic much more recognition and acknowledgement. Another show that is helping open up a discussion on bisexuality is the Nickelodeon animated show, The Legend of Korra. The show's finale ended with a shot of the main character Korra sharing a loving embrace and holding hands with Asami, a young woman who she had spent many years adventuring with. The show's creators later on released a statement that they had written the scene to be romantic and that they intended the two, who had dated men prior to the finale, to be bisexual. The importance of this representation is key. It is very rare to find bisexual representation in any shows, let alone children's shows.

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