Very Inspiring Blog Award

The Very Inspiring Blog Award thing-a-ma-jig has been bestowed upon me, and I’m so touched and honored I could sob like a small child. I’ve copied and pasted the rules from the lovely, wonderful blogger who nominated me.

Here are the rules:

  1.  Thank the blogger who nominated you.

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. I DON’T DESERVE. I AM NOT WORTHY. I mean, *cough*, uh, thanks.

  1. List the rules and display the award.
  2. Share seven facts about yourself:
    1. I am a sci-fi nerd for the ages. My favorites are Star Trek (all variations) and Stargate.
    2.  I hate sneezing; it makes me feel disoriented.
    3.  My laptop’s name is Dominic.
    4. I smoke Marlboros.
    5. My eyebrows are so blond, you can barely see them.
    6. I wrote my first (unpublished, very bad) novel at age fourteen.
    7. I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up.
  3. Nominate other amazing blogs and comment on their blog to let them know you nominated them.

I’ve narrowed down the nominating field to five blogs, because if I nominated my entire follow list, it would get out of hand. These blogs are all very, very important to me, as are many others. Please peruse and I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. The following are in no particular order.

5. https://ftmfml.wordpress.com/ The wonderful blogger who nominated me deserves all the nominations, and this “online diary” as he calls it never disappoints.

4. https://ollyaide.wordpress.com/ One part very personal writings, and one part social commentary makes the blog of a “Bisexual Genderqueer” an engaging and thoroughly enjoyable read.

3. https://mantodayblog.wordpress.com/ This blog is amazing in how it can break down really complex ideas into very easily understood concepts. A true how-to on the trans experience, I think anyone, trans or cis, should read.

2. https://queeringthenerd.wordpress.com/ A blog about life and queerdom that makes one feel not quite so alone.

1. http://janitorqueer.com/ This was the first blog I followed when I joined WordPress to start my own blog. This blog has been an inspiration to me, as well as a massive catharsis every time I read.

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Biphobia

Bisexuals. The most misunderstood, ostracized, and, inexplicably, hated of all the sexual orientations. As gay and lesbian rights are strengthened and their relationships normalized, biphobia increases. There are a lot of reasons for this, I think, and the specific reason depends on the group the biphobia is coming from, and believe me, it’s coming from all directions. In this post, I hope to describe some of the types of and motivations behind various instances of biphobia, as well as how to recognize it when you see it.

Bisexuals get the short end of the stick in pretty much every sexual grouping in terms of being judged or invalidated from the outside. In the context of our culture, most of us aren’t “allowed” to be bi at all. Think of the first bi person you ever met, or heard about, or read about, or saw on TV. What was this person like? I’d bet you ninety-nine cents that that person was female, white, and traditionally attractive. Society tells us that the only people who are “allowed” to be bi are pretty girls. Ugly girls are seen as not “truly bi,” but desperate. Boys are held to the most rigorous standards of the sexual binary. Trans and non-binary people are thought of by the greater society as exclusively gay, no questions asked.

So, let’s imagine for a moment that you are hypothetically this traditionally attractive girl. Congratulations, you can be bi! You’re bi, and enjoy getting your groove on with any human that you’ve got the feeling for. You’ve been out and proud for five years. Out of nowhere, you learn that your societal bi-pass has been revoked. WTF? Society views bisexuality as a “phase.” I’m sure you’ve heard that before. Bi girls, who society welcomes as beacons of “true bi” and “hotness,” are expected to go back to being straight after they’ve had their fun. A good popular culture example of this is Katy Perry’s breakout hit “I Kissed a Girl.” In the song, the narrator (who may or may not be Katy Perry, who knows—and, quite frankly, who cares?) kisses a girl—and likes it—even though she has a boyfriend. The song is clearly coded to convey that kissing a girl and being bi-curious is cool if you’re pretty, but you better beg your boyfriend’s forgiveness afterward and continue on that train to straighthood.

For bi boys, things can be even worse. Bisexual girls are validated in that their feelings are acceptable, if only temporarily. Bisexual boys are seen as jokes, as weak, lesser men because there is a perception that they are somehow refusing to come to grips with their “true” sexuality. Bisexual boys are, in the minds of our culture, gay boys who are too afraid to really come out. Sex in the City has made light of bisexual men by saying “bisexuality is a layover on the way to gay town.” Bisexual boys are routinely told that they cannot be attracted to members of both sexes, and that if they have even the smallest inkling of an attraction to other males, they’re gay.

Another incredibly damaging stereotype is that all bi people, want, more than anything, to engage in group sex. Look at all mixed-gender, mainstream, group sex porn. Ninety-eight percent of the time, there are two traditionally attractive girls and one dapper lad. Oftentimes, the male actor will sit back and watch the girls go at each other. It’s only okay to be bi if you’re doing it for the straight people, right? However, this phenomenon of misperception is not exclusive to straight dudes. I’ve seen many, many straight women who ask bisexual males to engage in threesomes with her and her husband/boyfriend/partner. This is no more acceptable than the other way around. I will never understand why straight people find it acceptable to view bisexual people as sentient sex toys, but they do.

If you’re bi, and you came out as bi in middle school, high school, or even college, you’ve fallen victim to this next misperception/foray into biphobia: the idea that bi people are easy. The stereotype goes that if you’re bisexual, you must really be desperate for a bone that you’ll take anybody. God forbid you try to turn down Mr. Downing His Eleventh Beer Fuckboy over there, he’ll respond, almost as if scripted, that he “thought you were bi.” Bisexuals do, by strictly a body count, have more options than monosexuals when it comes to selecting a sexual partner. Why, oh, why would that possibly make people think we can’t get any? That doesn’t make any logical sense.

There are two other derivations of the bi = easy fallacy. One is that bisexuals are greedy and unfaithful. The other is that bisexuals are kinkier than your average bear—well, um, person. The infidelity fallacy is probably the most universally dangerous one that bi people face. Sure, it can be annoying that straight boys think you want to have threesomes, but an intimate partner who believes you’re cheating with someone of another gender can get you killed. I really don’t know where this flawed logic came from, maybe it’s some kind of misunderstanding about the difference between polysexuals and polyamorists? It could be related to the idea that all bisexuals are down for group sex, which, in the larger society, is viewed as shaky morality at best. Either way, it exists, and it is dangerous. Just like in all of the facets of the monosexual community, there are some bisexuals who enjoy casual relationships, committed monogamous relationships, and polyamorous relationships. Not all of us want to date everyone or sleep with everyone. If we tell you we’re committed to you, believe us.

The other side of that coin is the completely false belief that all bisexual people are the kinkiest in the world. So, we’re attracted to all genders, does that inherently mean we like actually having sex in different ways than our monosexual peers? Not necessarily. I’m sure there are many bisexuals who are into kink, but I know just as many straight, gay, and lesbian kinksters.

Even the LGBT Q community is rough on bisexuals. These societal misperceptions have polluted even the queerest of the queer, which is both tragic and unfortunate, given that the whole idea of queerness is to rage against our socially constructed and divisive oppressors. Neither monosexual group in the queer community is guiltless on this. There are many lesbians who refuse to date and condescend to bisexual women. They back up this biphobia with empty statements about not wanting to touch a body a penis has touched. Some lesbians would even find dating a virginal bi girl anathema, as the idea of said girl leaving them for a man would be too distasteful. This is ridiculous.

Gay men take a somewhat different approach in biphobia toward other men. Many seek to convince a bisexual man that he isn’t actually bisexual; that social conditioning that attraction to a male body by another man, even if it isn’t exclusive, automatically equals gayness. This is, in the long run, less damaging than the scarlet-letter effect described above, but it is nonetheless unfair and damaging.

And now, we have arrived at the pinnacle of biphobia: semantics. Yes. I know that the Greek prefix ‘bi’ means two. I know that there are more than two genders. But you know what? Words, like humans, are malleable things. The meanings we give to words change over time. You wouldn’t be calling the very tasty grilled cheese you just had ‘awesome,’ if you were maintaining its original meaning (which would be literally in awe, like you’ve just seen the actual literal face of God or something). What’s more, the vast majority of humans fall into the dyadic sexual paradigm, and that’s really what we’re talking about when we’re talking about sexuality—although, there are, of course, many exceptions to that rule. About one out of every 2,000 births, in fact. But I’m guessing the Greeks didn’t have the capacity to do that kind of statistical analysis. It’s important to understand why our words originally meant what they did so that we can more easily fight back against those who would throw their dictionaries or etymology books at us. Words change, just as society and everyone in it does. To imply that because ‘bi’ means two that bisexuals cannot be attracted to, or aren’t attracted to, or hate transgender people is all out lunacy. And this is coming from someone who’s both proudly bi and proudly trans. When I, speaking in my capacity as a bisexual person, am lambasted for my perceived transphobia, I shake my head at how much semantics can derail discourse. (I’ll be writing an entire post, coming soon, on the discourse between bi-, pan-, and polysexual as orientations).

So there you have it, some common, pervasive myths about bisexuality that confidently hop over the line into full-blown biphobia. If you see something, say something.

What Have We Learned and Where Are We Going From Here?

It’s July 6th. We’ve had a week now to decompress from the excitement, alcohol, and endorphins of Pride. For the Americans reading this, you may still be nursing a hangover from Independence Day. Maybe you need a few more days. If not, this has been a pretty monumental year in terms of LGBTQ+ rights. We had a lot more to celebrate this year than we have ever had before.

Marriage equality has spread across this world like a virus—or a wildfire, I’m not sure which is the best metaphor to use here—this year. The United States now recognizes and performs same-gender marriage in all fifty states. Our marriage equality was won in the court system. In Ireland, this year, marriage equality was won by referendum—the first nation on earth to legalize same-gender marriage by popular vote. In various parts of Mexico, regional appeals courts have ruled same-gender marriage bans unconstitutional. In Slovenia, a same-gender marriage bill was passed by that country’s parliament, it is being appealed by the courts, but may soon be legal there as well.

Lest we forget how far we have come, we must recognize the governments of Mozambique and Lebanon.  No, these two nations did not legalize same-gender marriage, nor civil unions, nor domestic partnerships. These countries have not come that far, not yet. In 2015, Mozambique and Lebanon have decriminalized gay sex. That may be a bigger win for our community than even the legalization of marriage, for if we are not jailed, we have won.

At the time that the United States has reopened diplomatic relations with the island nation of Cuba, the regional arm of the World Health Organization, the Pan-American Health Organization, has designated Cuba the first country to effectively eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV. New York State has recently begun a budget proposal to end epidemic-level HIV incidence.

Six states in the U.S. require insurance companies doing business within the state to cover transgender health care. Those states are California, Oregon, Colorado, Connecticut, Vermont, and New York. That’s awesome. Four countries on Earth allow transgender people to self-designate their gender on legal documents. Ireland became the fourth and newest addition to that list this year, a few weeks after passing marriage equality. They join Argentina, Malta, and Denmark. New York City allows trans people to self-designate their gender on the recently launched NYC municipal ID cards, but this does not translate onto birth certificates, driver’s licenses, or passports, which is limiting.

There are more transgender individuals in the media than ever before. The United States state of Oregon has its first bisexual mayor. The city of Palermo in Sicily has its first gay mayor. US Soccer star Abby Wambach, who just helped the United States win the World Cup, kissed her wife immediately after the game. Our visibility is higher than it has ever been, and that’s a wonderful thing. However, I think we all know we have a hell of a long way to go.

Engaging in gay sex in large swaths of the world can land one in prison, or worse, the grave. In the “developed” world, a person can be fired, evicted, or denied opportunities because of their gender or sexual identity.

Queer people face harassment, sexual assault, physical assault, domestic violence, and verbal harassment on a daily basis. Transgender women of color are the demographic most likely to be murdered in the United States. Five trans women of color were killed in the United States in the first five weeks of 2015. Trans suicides, especially those committed by youths are woefully underreported, and still dominate the progressive media. Queer people in rural places, even in the most developed of countries, are murdered without anyone knowing their names.

Forty percent of all homeless youth under the age of eighteen are queer. Many of them turn to sex work, one of the most unforgiving and dangerous pursuits on the planet. Living on the street also puts these children at risk for falling through the cracks in terms of education, healthcare, and employment opportunities. Being shoved through the foster care system can do more harm for these children than good.

Gay and bisexual men, as well as trans women, are contracting HIV at rates close to the infection rate at the height of the AIDS pandemic. America’s healthcare paradigm systematically fails at-risk individuals, allowing so many of them to fall through the cracks and miss key aspects of care. There is enough information and prevention mechanisms in place to eradicate HIV, and yet the infection rate is still astronomical.

Gay and bisexual men are not allowed to donate blood unless they remain entirely celibate for twelve months. Gay and bisexual men are not allowed to donate organs, even if they are HIV-negative and the person who needs an organ is their sibling or partner. HIV-positive individuals are not allowed to receive organ donations, even by other HIV-positive individuals. It’s impossible to know how many people have died because of these draconian laws.

The state of the queer nation is not strong. It is weaker than our rainbows and parades would make us think.

But how do we go about fixing such major problems when the heterosexual world believes its work is done? How do we, as a collective community made up of very diverse parts, choose which major issue to throw our full support behind, after so many years of fighting for marriage?

Queer people face myriad incredibly strenuous problems all over the world. Each of them will be an uphill battle to solve. If we follow the patterns our community forged in the twenty-first century with the overwhelming present of lobbying force for marriage equality, how would we go about choosing which issue to elevate to the level of full-court press? Whose lives are we supposed to deem more important? We know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we cannot change hearts and minds any more than we can change law overnight. Nor can we change them on all issues with equal speed.

Our marriage equality infrastructure will be dismantled within weeks as the vestigial lawsuits and attempted stops on marriage are dissolved. Why? Would it not make sense to transfer those resources toward further needs of the queer community? Would it not make sense to rebrand Freedom to Marry as Freedom to Work, or Freedom to Live? This fight is not over.

Don’t get me wrong, there is no shortage of organizations out there fighting the good fight. In New York City, which is where I am based, there are such organizations as: the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), which has been fighting for the rights of HIV-positive individuals and queer healthcare rights more broadly since its inception in 1987, the Anti-Violence Project (AVP), which has been teaching queer and HIV-positive people how to counter the violence perpetrated against them, and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP), which has been fighting for the rights of trans people and was named for the transgender activist Sylvia Rivera who spearheaded the riots at Stonewall. These organizations are good at what they do. They need help. Help them. Help them all if you can.

Where we must go from here, even after a long year full of wins and losses, is forward. We must honor those who don’t make it to next year’s Pride because of the rampant violence and discrimination against us. We must never forget their struggles and sacrifices in the face of a world that cannot accept diversity. We must fight tooth and nail for each and every one of our next victories. They will come slowly, but they will come if we keep up the fight.

New York City Pride: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

New York City Pride is an orgy of rainbows, half naked bodies, hot pavement, the smells of bodies and melting condoms, and a cacophonous soundtrack of house music, screaming, and chanting. It never calls itself a parade, but always a march for equality. It was expected that Pride 2015 would be an intensely felt one, and it was. Why, then, in the aftermath, do I feel so sad?

Those who keep track of such things have said that 2015 was New York’s most-attended Pride march in its forty-five-year history. More than two million people flocked to the march route, standing five, ten, twenty, twenty-five people deep in the more popular sections of the route. Before the march, the organization responsible for putting Pride together, Heritage of Pride, estimated, based on the numbers each participating organization registered with, that 25,000 people would march. I would imagine that that number would be revised significantly upward.

I marched this year, as I do every year, with the non-profit organization my partner founded, the CUNY LGBT Task Force. This year, we joined forces with the larger City University contingent. We had a pretty substantial turnout, even though a lot of my friends bailed because of a light drizzle.

The police department went out of their way to protect and celebrate with the queer community, a stark contrast to the way things were during Stonewall. That the police could improve relations with our community, even only for a day, is possibly more progress than marriage equality. The police installed and maintained barricades to separate the marchers from those watching. This has been done for every parade in New York City since 9/11, a precaution to protect everyone. They maintained those barricades when appropriate, ignored infringement upon the barricades when young queer people hopped over to join the university’s contingent at the request of one of us, even danced with several marchers (there are photos and videos all over the internet of various cops doing this, it’s pretty priceless).

The March’s organizers made Edie Windsor, the eighty-something plaintiff of 2013’s Supreme Court win, the repeal of DOMA (The Defense of Marriage Act), a judge. It was sort of incredible to see her. Several of the people in my marching contingent ran to take selfies with her. She wore a pale blue t-shirt with black lettering that read: “This is what a lesbian looks like.” I think it was a nice gesture, albeit one only politically-aware people would truly appreciate. Sirs Ian McKellan and Derek Jacobi were the grand marshals, which was adorable, although I wish they’d chosen American grand marshals for this particular Pride.

Everyone, marchers and watchers alike, was incredibly excited to be there. People cheered and screamed until they lost their voices. They jumped and danced until their feet blistered. People kissed, hugged, and celebrated with complete strangers. The human connectedness of Pride was beautiful, as it usually is, amplified by an exponent of ten. But it wasn’t all beauty and body glitter.

One of the things that vexes me most about Pride is how corporate it has become. Sure, it’s kitschy and cute. Sure, many of the corporations that bring their floats through Pride give out freebies and discount coupons for their stores. That’s all well and good. In fact, Chipotle handed out coupons for buy-one-get-one-free burritos, tank tops reading “homo estas,” and buttons that say “I eat burritos” and “I eat tacos” (a little food-based sexual humor is always good in my eyes). Yes, all fine. However, the primary drive of a corporation at Pride is to court the queer community, especially white, cis, gays with a lot of disposable cash. They’re there to post lip service to their ‘commitment to diversity’ and line their pockets. In many cases, they don’t want trans or queer people even frequenting their places of business, as it ‘scares’ the normal people away.  Now, I’m probably being a little harsh. Some of these companies probably do believe they are helping us by being there. Regardless, their reasons for being there are selfish, not truly for our benefit.

What we now know as New York City Pride began in 1970 as the Christopher Street Liberation March. As the name suggests, it was a march to memorialize the Stonewall riots and to demand equal protection and rights. From its very inception, this march was political. During the AIDS crisis, the march was funereal. People ‘fornicated’ on the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. People were arrested for waltzing up to the line of propriety and daring to cross it. Pride has always been political. The Pride of today has become something else entirely. Floats are very common; floats are for celebratory parades. Pride is not a parade. We are not zoo animals, or purebreds on show. We are human beings. We are human beings who are treated as less than by society. We march for visibility, we march to prove a point. We take to the streets to demand equal treatment. The goal in our hearts, at least in the hearts of activists, has not changed since 1970. The priorities may have, but the fire has not.

Part of me thinks that my generation has just realized that in New York City, anyone can legally walk around topless. In my contingent alone, there were eight topless 18-24-year-old girls. This is not a problem. In fact, I am so for that on multiple (mostly political, I swear) levels. The way they were received was disturbing. Men, presumably straight, touched, attempted to lick, and overwhelmingly photographed their breasts without consent. They handled it extremely calmly, but this is so fucked up. These types of things also happened to the twinks we had with us. My best friend was groped more times than he was comfortable with. What the fuck? Pride is not the place to sexually assault and harass people, especially people as young as college students. This is not what Pride is for. Consensual sexual play, absolutely. Harassment? No. Straight people, this is not a place for you to ogle queer people. You’re not edgy or queer for this behavior. You’re gross.

Worse than corporate intrusion, sexual harassment, and straight appropriation, though, is the rampant transphobia. If I had a dollar for every time I heard the t-word while marching the two-miles of New York City Pride, I could put off my job search for a month or two. Straight, as well as LGB, people were yelling at drag queens and speaking amongst themselves as to how Pride isn’t for the trans community. I overheard a few people bullying a young trans boy who was watching the march, a trans pride flag draped over the barricade. I, as a trans person, did not feel safe or welcome.

Collective amnesia is a helluva thing. Stonewall was spearheaded by really brave trans women, drag queens, and butches, mostly of color, and both the trans/gender non-conforming and POC communities have largely been dropped from the mainstream eye on LGBTQ issues. If it hadn’t been for the bravery of incredible role models like Sylvia Rivera and Marsha Johnson, there would be no same-gender marriage. There would be no non-discrimination bills. I urge the A+ gay community to remember that before screaming the word tr*nny on the corner of Christopher and Greenwich Streets.

Pride is political. Pride is a time to push boundaries, to raise awareness. Pride is not a time for silence. There is more colors to the rainbow than red, and there is more to fight for than marriage. We have to continue the fight and resist the urge to turn everything into a glittery party.