Remembering My Hat

10th April 2014

Quick wins for bisexual inclusion

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 18:30
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Bisexuality is often erased as a legitimate sexual identity. There’s an example of that happening here, when I last felt moved to blog about this. This time, I thought I’d try to do something more positive in response.
I’m going to assume here that people do want to include bisexual people when they are talking about ‘LGB people’ or ‘LGB&T people’. I’m going to assume that when they fail to do so, it’s a slip-of-the-tongue, a habit that they want to change. So here are some suggestions for rewordings for common slips-of-the-tongue and the pen.

Although I’m focussing specifically on bi inclusion here, I’ve tried to be trans*-inclusive within this focus, but would especially welcome corrections or additions to this. I’m not trying to cover ‘quick wins for trans* inclusion’ here, but I am trying to ensure that what I am suggesting about bi inclusion is not trans*-exclusive. And of course other suggestions and comments on anything here are very welcome. What have I missed? Do you agree? What other quick wins might there be?

Don’t describe someone as ‘gay’ just because they have a same-sex partner

… because many bisexual people have same-sex partners and don’t describe themselves as ‘gay’. Use the words people use to describe themselves.

This applies to public figures too – Oscar Wilde, Lord Byron, Tom Daley and whoever the latest male politician or sportsman is to have hit the media for having a male lover. Obviously, if they do now describe themselves as gay, then so should you. But if they don’t, then don’t. You could describe them as bisexual or as being attracted to more than one gender or just talk about what has happened without using sexual identity labels. But, best of all, use whatever words they use to describe themselves.

Don’t say ‘gay and straight relationships’ or ‘same-sex and heterosexual relationships’

… because that excludes people in bisexual relationships. Depending on what you actually mean, try ‘all types of relationships’  or ‘LGB and heterosexual’ or, to some audiences, ‘queer and straight’. You might try ‘same-sex and different-sex relationships’, if that’s the distinction you’re really interested in, but that isn’t very trans*-inclusive, because it implies that two people are either the same or different sexes, and sex can be more complicated than that.

Bisexual people in different-sex relationships are not ‘in a heterosexual relationship’ because they are not heterosexual. A heterosexual relationship is something that heterosexual people have. Well, subject to the point above about using people’s own terminology – if bisexual people in a different-sex relationship do want to describe their relationship as heterosexual, then of course they can, but don’t impose that label on them.

Don’t use ‘gay’ as a shorthand for LGB or LGB&T

… because most bisexual people don’t think of themselves as gay – if you say ‘gay’ they feel excluded. ‘Gay’ as a shorthand to include trans* people really doesn’t work well. And some lesbians really don’t like it either. In more formal writing, such as policy reports and research findings, it’s easy enough to avoid using ‘gay’ in this way  – just use LGB or LGB&T or LGBTIQQA or any other such acronym that is appropriate to your context. In speech and some types of media it can be harder to find replacements for ‘gay’ as a shorthand. ‘Queer’ works in some contexts. ‘Non-heterosexual’ works in others.

Don’t forget biphobia (and transphobia)

… because while bisexual people may experience homophobia, they also experience biphobia too. Try ‘homophobia and biphobia’ or ‘homophobia, biphobia and transphobia’. Or, depending on the context, ‘hate crimes against LGBT people’.

There’s more discussion of biphobia and how it differs from homophobia here.

Don’t say you talked to ‘LGB&T people’ if you only talked to lesbians and gay men

… because that suggests that LGB&T people really means lesbians and gay men. Say ‘lesbians and gay men’ if that is who you talked to.

If you had hoped to talk to B and T people as well, but not managed to do so in the end, you could say that. But the fact that you know that there is more to LGB&T than L and G doesn’t make it legitimate to generalise from L and G to LGB&T.

Don’t always subdivide your group of LGB people by gender (e.g. ‘lesbians and bisexual women’ versus ‘gay and bisexual men’)

… because that erases bisexuality by making it sound as if gender is always the most the important difference between LG and B people. Try looking at the bisexual women and bisexual men together as one category. Or see whether some other subdivision, such as race/ethnicity, age or social class is more important.



1 Comment »

  1. The thing that makes all of this problematic is that we – people – tend to believe what we see more than what we know for a fact, that actions speak louder than words and that, here lately, gender is the key ingredient in sexuality when, in fact, it’s really about what might be going on inside someone’s head about this. This bi erasure thing is stupid; trying to diminish bisexuality and bisexuals via semantics is just so childish in a society that now believes that people are either straight or gay and blind to the fact that there is a middle ground here. Trans folks get bashed because for a lot of people, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to be born male but want to be physically and emotionally female and while they’re taking their hits, it’s not as ‘bad’ as what we, as bisexuals, are facing.

    And, perhaps, these same ‘factions’ are overlooking the fact that a trans person could also be bisexual, huh? They probably are. Given that there is so much angst about labeling people, to ‘avoid’ this, we play with words in order to lump everyone together so that it appears that, for bisexuals, the middle ground upon which we stand doesn’t exist and then attempt to invalidate us by making gender the focal point – and in ways that as educated as I am, makes my head hurt because it just doesn’t make sense. They tend to want to focus on relationships and trying to say that this, too, is important to our sexuality when, in fact, it isn’t at a basic level unless, of course, one wants to split some more hairs and establish that there are emotional relationships and sexual relationships but they aren’t mutually inclusive… but then seek to invalidate bisexual behavior by saying there’s no difference here.

    Is your head spinning yet? Mine is! As a bisexual – but mostly as a person, I don’t associate myself with the LGBT community so I tend to speak more plainly; if I mean lesbian, I’m going to say lesbian because biseuxal women aren’t lesbians – duh. A man can be in a same-sex relationship but still be bisexual and the key here isn’t what is seen but what that man believes himself to be – again, relationships really have nothing to do with this. All this erasure talk seeks to takes something that has always been as clear as glass to me and overly complicate it; an observer can say whatever they want about what I’m doing, like being in a loving relationship with a woman but willing to lie down with a man for another form of sexual gratification… but the truth isn’t found in what I may or may not do:

    The truth is in my head and it doesn’t matter is anyone else agrees with this view of myself. Society can say what it wants; it can try to erase my sexuality and invalidate it and even add in a little chaos… and it changes nothing with me but it does make it clear to me that since they don’t understand biseuxals (in particular), they’d rather be part of the problem and not part of the solution that would lead to better understanding.

    It’s really not that difficult if one employs simplicity, logic, and common sense; I am bisexual because I say I am.

    Comment by kdaddy23 — 11th April 2014 @ 19:46 | Reply

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