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 I wrote my first (unpublished, very bad) novel at age fourteen.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.

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.

Stonewall

This weekend is Pride Weekend in New York City, and in many places around the world. We’re looking forward to marching, to standing under a sweltering sun and watching the revelers pass by. We’re looking forward to the inevitably steeply discounted prices on booze in post-pride happy hours in bars both gay and straight. We’re looking forward to celebrating the victory that is probably the most monumental in our lifetime, marriage equality. All of that will undoubtedly happen. All of us will certainly eat, drink, and be merry. We’ll be decked out in our rainbows, pride flags, drag.

The Supreme Court of the United States has legalized same-gender marriage throughout the United States. There will be many who believe and express the view that the struggle for queer rights officially ended on that fateful Friday in June, two days before the 46th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. They are wrong. The two have nothing to do with one another.

The Stonewall Riots are often lauded as the birth of the gay liberation movement. The Stonewall Inn is a bar on Christopher Street in New York City. During the late 60s, it was one of the very few bars that allowed—let alone catered to—the LGBT community. During this period, there were several laws on the books that criminalized queer behavior (the most famous of these laws dictated that an individual must wear at least three pieces of clothing “befitting” their assigned sex); many urban police departments deployed moral squads to enforce them.

The owners of The Stonewall—there are rumors it was owned by the mob, but that’s disputed—were required to pay off the extremely corrupt New York City Police Department. As long as the owners paid up, the cops left the place alone. This particular fateful weekend, the owners of the bar did not pay the police.

NYPD stormed the bar, roughing up transwomen, drag queens, butch lesbians, and gay men. Usually, our community would take it and be carted off to jail with minimal fight. Not this time. The queer patrons of the Stonewall Inn had had enough. They fought back. They forced the police out of the bar, ripped up parking meters as weapons, used the liquor to make Molotov cocktails, and fought with all their might. The riots went on for three nights.

Contrary to popular belief, however, the riots at Stonewall were not the first of their kind. There had been several, smaller riots in California in the years leading up to Stonewall. Of these, the Compton Cafeteria Riot in San Francisco in 1966 and the Cooper’s Donuts Riot in Los Angeles in 1959 are the most famous.

At the time of Stonewall, same-gender marriage was only a secondary blip on the participants’ collective radar. The big push for same-gender marriage would come some fifteen to twenty years later, during the AIDS epidemic. What the rioters at Stonewall wanted, more than anything, was to be free. Homosexuality, transvestitism, and transgenderism were all considered mental illnesses by the American Psychiatric Association. The police routinely committed acts of brutality—often sexual brutality—against queer people. Queer people were ghettoized, refused decent housing, employment, and health care. Violence, homelessness, and true inequality were rampant.

Leading the charge at Stonewall were trans women, drag queens, butch lesbians, and gay men of all races and social classes. Unlike the LGBT movement of today, it wasn’t driven solely by white, cis, homonormative gay men. We can get back to that. You will have to educate those who say LGBTQ rights are over. You will be discouraged. We will eventually prevail.

MARRIAGE EQUALITY!

The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that same-gender marriage is not only legal in every state in the US but a Constitutional right.

Read the decision here.

This is not the end of LGBTQ rights. We must continue the fight. Celebrate today, but continue the fight.

God bless America.

Clarifying the Non-Monosexual Terms

Bisexual, pansexual, polysexual, omnisexual, oh my! There are quite a few different terms to describe sexual attraction to members of more than one gender. If you don’t have your finger on the pulse of the queer community twenty-four hours a day, it is, inevitably, difficult to keep track of all the blasted terms used to describe those who practice non-monosexuality.

Which brings us to the first and perhaps most important of the many terms, monosexuality. Monosexuality is a word that is used to describe individuals who are only sexually attracted to members of one gender (i.e. straight people, gay men, and lesbians). Non-monosexuals are those who are not monosexual, and are attracted to more than one gender. This term is used very often in queer theory, sexuality studies, and other academic pursuits. I’ve only ever seen in it popular usage on Tumblr. Even though some immature individuals on the internet will use neutral and benign words like monosexual like an insult, which is far from its original intention. The word is only a benign moniker to describe those who experience sexual attraction to more than one gender.

The most commonly known of all terms describing non-monosexuals is ‘bisexual.’ The ‘B’ in LGBT stands for bisexual, as much as people will joke that it does not. There is something of a controversy surrounding the term bisexual, as it comes from the Greek word meaning ‘two.’ However, many bisexuals affirm that their sexual attraction is not limited to only two genders, regardless of what the word means etymologically, as language—like sexuality—is fluid. The term bisexual has been in academic use since the nineteenth century, and it was coined in the same academic setting as ‘heterosexual’ and ‘homosexual.’ It has been in common usage since the mid-twentieth century. The bisexual pride flag, consisting of pink, blue, and purple horizontal stripes, was designed in 1999.

The only other term with the same historical reach in an academic space is ‘omnisexual.’ Superstar sexologist Alfred Kinsey used this term to describe the sexual desire that focuses on pleasure above anything else. Kinsey wrote extensively about how humans were born with sexuality pre-installed. He had observed that even small babies, who would be incapable of engaging in sexual activity, still masturbated, seeking pleasure. He concluded that humans, upon birth, are omnisexual, sexually desiring pleasure, and can remain that way into adulthood. Kinsey also theorized that our omnisexual desire for pleasure may make us naturally bisexual, seeking pleasure rather than a specific sexual partner. This is consistent with the socially constructed nature of sexual orientation.

Other terms to describe non-monosexuality are much more recent inventions. Perhaps the best known newer terms, ‘pansexual’ broke out onto the scene in the mid-to-late 2000s. The creators of the term argued that bisexuality, as a term, was limiting and reinforcing of the gender binary. They used the same basic model that the word bisexual employs, swapping bi (Greek for two) with pan (Greek for all). There has been a fair bit of controversy between the bi and pan communities, surrounding literal translations of familiar words, which I will write about in another post. Pansexuals, to draw distinction from poly- and bisexuals, often say that they experience sexual attraction regardless of gender; gender plays no role in sexual orientation.

Largely born out of the strife between bisexuals and pansexuals, polysexuals continued to interpret the words literally (rather than, I don’t know, listening to actual bisexuals). Essentially, polysexuality, which is another sexual orientation of entirely twenty-first century creation, is the sexual attraction to more than two, but less than all, genders. As someone who isn’t polysexual, it seems that polysexuality is a bit too specific for my taste.

Unfortunately—at least for the sake of clarity—there is another word in the realm of sexuality that begins with the prefix poly-. Polyamory differs from polysexuality (even though they are sometimes used interchangeably to mean polyamory) in that instead of being representative of being attracted to multiple genders, it is the proclivity to being in sexual and/or romantic relationships with multiple people at one time. Open relationships and multiple romantic partner relationships are both types of polyamory.

So, there you have it. A short primer on all things non-monosexual. I hope this helps cut through the confusion with the various terms that exist and often sound as if they mean almost the same thing. Because they do. Almost.

What You Can Do

Since my graduation at the end of last month, I’ve been scrambling to find work. I haven’t been able to find any yet, and I’m growing more than a little disheartened. The work I’ve applied for has not yet been what I’m looking for. I want, more than anything, to be able to help my community thrive. Helping others, preventing others from sabotaging or injuring themselves, building up their confidence in a way that very few people ever did for me, makes me feel extremely fulfilled. It does not seem as if I’ll be able to land a job like that, at least not yet.

I was determined to find a way to continue helping people, even while working in a job I may not love yet. During college, I was lucky enough to have been elected to the presidency of an LGBTQ organization, which, while being very challenging, was extremely fulfilling. The lack of that fulfillment has been very difficult for me.

In the interim, I’ve joined a site called 7 Cups of Tea as an active listener. During the two or more hours I commit to the site every week, people come to me for help. Because my profile is obviously very queer, many come to ask me about being transgender, accidental gay encounters, and how to deal with the crippling pain of parental rejection. It’s an incredible feeling. It’s all anonymous too, which is both really great and sort of disappointing, considering I’d like to know where the people I help are from, how wide my impact has been. At the same time, I’ve been down that stalker road before.

7 Cups chats take place on the site’s instant messaging feature. The person seeking help, referred to as the “Member,” has a randomly generated username. They are instructed to refrain from giving out personal information, though many will use their first names. “Listeners” are allowed to break our anonymity at any time, we just cannot ask a Member to do the same. Listeners over the age of eighteen automatically only listen to others over the age of 18. Teens who sign up to be listeners only listen to teens. Different accreditation can be gained on the site to listen to everyone, but I feel most comfortable speaking only with adults. There are forums on the site for Listeners to discuss their feelings after particularly traumatic chat. There all kinds of really great mental health resource guides.

If you have a few extra hours a week to devote to listen to the problems of needy people online, I urge you to give 7Cups a try.

What Makes Identity?

This post is going to serve, at least for now, for several of the Pride Month blogs. I have written, rewritten, unwritten, and rewritten this post over and over. I have been searching for the reason that this incredibly disturbing story crossed my desk, and I have been searching for the words to describe how I feel about it. I’ve been forced to simmer in my feelings of this, and it feels as if there are monumental updates every day. Here are my views on it as of now.

The internet and the collective consciousness of the United States has been in a tizzy all weekend thanks to the president of the Spokane chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Well, really, her parents. If you somehow read this blog but have no other interaction with the internet, this NAACP president is a woman by the name of Rachel Dolezal. Ms. Dolezal separated herself from her family and moved to Spokane almost a decade ago. When she got there, she decided to change her identity. She began identifying as a black woman: she darkened her skin, wore wigs, constructed an entirely different personal history for herself, and faked very public acts of racial discrimination.

Admittedly, the United States has a very complicated concept of and rhetoric surrounding race. Our history with race is long and extremely complicated, especially when looking in from the outside. We participated, like many of our European cousins, in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. We were one of the last nations to outlaw such heinousness as slavery and the trafficking of humans. We did not simply outlaw it, though. We had to fight a war to end slavery. Millions of our own people killed each other for the “right” to own other humans to do the work they could have done themselves. Those African-Americans who did not flee north during Reconstruction faced discrimination and violence on a truly appalling scale. Lynchings, legal discrimination, unemployment, rapes, murders, police who would refuse to investigate crimes against the black community existed all over this country. While African Americans were technically given the right to vote in the 1870s, states and local voting precincts placed undue burdens on African-Americans with the express purpose of disenfranchising them.

Dolezal’s outing sent the internet into a tizzy. People were smearing her, defending her, and, most disturbingly, comparing her story of racial deception to the lived experiences of trans people. The hash tag #transracial was created in support of Ms. Dolezal’s alleged predicament.

Ms. Dolezal has recently resigned from her post as local NAACP president and done interviews with Matt Lauer and Melissa Harris-Perry on NBC and MSNBC, respectively. In these interviews, she has neglected to apologize for the controversy she has created, even to the well-respected and long-standing organization her behavior has now damaged. She has adopted the label of trans-racial for herself and asks that it be accepted as as equally valid as a transgender identity.

This thought creates a rabbit hole in discourse that, if left unchecked, could be irreparably damaging to both the transgender movement and the various black civil rights movements.

Yes, both race and gender are both socially constructed. In fact, there are more biological differences between members of different sexes than there are of different races. This is a strictly intellectual view of the social construct theory. It has no meaning in the debate over transracialism or transgenderism. We don’t live in a vacuum. Theory and practicality are two very different things. Theoretically, because gender is a social construct, trans people should be able to live as they want with no repercussions. A dark-skinned person should be afforded white privilege upon request. We all know nothing works that way.

It is not uncommon that a person has a particular attachment to a culture into which one was not born. It is not uncommon that a person feels disconnected from the people, culture, or role into which one was born. This probably happens every day. I myself have always felt disconnected from the family I was born into. This does not give one the right to choose on one’s own to change cultures or families. Gender is malleable. Roles, careers, relationships are malleable. Cultures and families are much, much less so.

Trans-racialism is not a thing. I, as a white human who often advocates for immigration reform, cannot decide tomorrow to wake up and declare to the world that I am Latino. Aside from the fact that I am unable to speak Spanish, there is nothing in my lineage to indicate that I am Latino. I have never been discriminated against on the basis of my skin color, language, or ethnic origin.

To make the comparison between trans-racialism and transgenderism is flawed on either a theoretical or practical front. From a theoretical perspective, concepts of race are extremely narrow and restricted to a specific culture. Since there is no biological basis of race other than skin pigmentation, each culture determines what this means for themselves. The American concept of race is steeped in a bloody, violent, disturbing history that is almost entirely exclusive to us. South Africans have their own violent history with race, but it is very different from our own.

Gender, on the other hand, is more or less the same. Many cultures seek to understand gender from a biological sex perspective. The roles of various genders differ, the methods of determining whether or a person belongs to a non-binary gender differs, but there are far more congruous aspects of gender to us as a species than there is race. It would be impossible to compare the way Americans understand the differences between “white” and “black” as it would to compare those same principles to those understandings in, say, India.

From a practical standpoint, the lived experiences of black and white bodies in the United States are very different, just as the lived experiences of trans- and cisgender people are different. Black bodies, like trans bodies, are subjected to heightened scrutiny, viewed as lesser beings than their white/cis counterparts, and subjected to violence that would be anathema to the dominant cultures. Neither black nor trans bodies have any say as to how they are. One cannot choose to be black any more than one can choose to be trans. They are experiences from which there is no escape or choice.

Race is a social construct, and that fact alone is what has everyone so confused regarding Rachel Dolezal. If it’s a social construct, why can’t someone be trans-racial? It’s not that kind of construct. Race is constructed insofar as our understanding about what our features or skin pigmentation mean. Our features and skin color are not constructed, they are there. They are unavoidable, in most cases. Ms. Dolezal has attempted to gain something by “identifying” as black. What it is, I’m not sure. I’m not sure anyone’s sure. She has made an ass out of herself. She has made a mockery of the black community and the trans community alike. “Transracial” and “transgender” are not synonyms. Let’s stop that kind of discourse right now.

I want to apologize again for my silence. I’m not even sure this post makes any sense. I wanted so badly to write something on this subject and hit roadblock after roadblock in my mind. Sorry. I’ll be back to normal tomorrow, I swear.

(Belated) Pride Day 13: Top V. Bottom

I apologize in advance for this. I’ve gotten very annoyed that now that I’m out as a bi trans guy, the first question people want to ask is “top or bottom,” as if those are the only two choices.

The False Dichotomy of Top and Bottom

A quick glance at gay culture reveals dichotomies largely built on hetero- and cisnormative gender lines. There are butches and femmes, tops and bottoms, doms and subs. Sexual behaviors, for some reason, have become social identity. What kind of a fucked up, self defeating attitude is this?

To be honest, the butch/femme culture in the lesbian community challenges heteronormative paradigms in a way that the top/bottom and dom/sub communities don’t. However, no one is perfect and we live in a really heteronormative world.

Why is it that sexual identity, gender identity, and social presentation are so bizarrely linked in the queer community? Is there some aspect of this that imposed upon us by hetero society? Why is it that tops feel pressure to present themselves as hyper masculine and that we assume that all femme guys are bottoms? Why is there this need to recreate gender norms in spaces that try to subvert them?

Why should we, in re-creation of hetero society, restrict ourselves sexually or socially by their constructed limitations? Why should we deny ourselves pleasure in upholding an unnecessary and arbitrary framework of exclusivity?

Think about that the next time you’re tempted to ask me whether I’ll “be a top or a bottom now that I’m a dude.”