Off the Chart

16 Feb

Earlier today, @myladydisdain tweeted a link to this great article on the attitudes and discrimination faced by bisexuals, even within the LGBTQ community (and I sincerely hope that Ms Schumacher will pardon my hijacking her phrase for the title of this entry):

Many people, straight or gay, understand gender preference with a Kinsey Scale mentality: a straight man likes women, a gay man likes men, and a bisexual man likes both.  But bisexuality isn’t a gender preference for both genders; it’s a lack of gender preference for either.  For most bisexuals, the gender of the person they find attractive is substantially less important than who that person is.  We’re not in the middle of the Kinsey scale; we’re off the chart altogether.

Cards on the table: I’m heterosexual-monogamous; I like blokes – always have, always will – and don’t plan on sharing. But I am a fierce Straight Ally for Equality. From my earliest memory, even being raised in the fairly WASPish community I was, it just made sense to me that if you loved someone enough to be willing to commit your entire life to him/her, you should get to be with that person, regardless of who it is (obviously, talking about consenting adults here). And over the past four years, I’ve somehow managed to go from knowing only other heteros to being practically the only hetero I know [hyperbole alert]. I’ve had so many friends and even casual acquaintances come out to me as gay, bi, transvestite, polyamorous, etc. that soon nothing will faze me.

(As an aside, even being the hetero friend of a bisexual can at times be tricky; there have been a few times when some idiot made the assumption that because I have a female friend who’s bi, I must be one of that friend’s partners. No, Virginia, it really doesn’t work like that – and not just because I’m straight. But from a positive and purely selfish standpoint, I actually love having bi female friends. If I’m dressing to impress a bloke, I can get both perspectives on the outfit from one person. Yes, my bi friends have willingly helped me pick out clothes based both on the female opinion and the attracted-to-females opinion.)

My point here is that I have several very close bisexual friends, including knowing a few bisexuals who are in committed marriages (one marriage consisting of a bi guy and a bi woman, two others with a bi woman married to a hetero man). And I’ve had many long conversations with those friends and others about what they experience as a matter of course, much of which is echoed in Ms Schumacher’s excellent piece.

So there’s really only one point I want to touch on here. Upon reading Ms Schumacher’s comment:

If a bisexual woman has several long-term relationships with both genders but eventually marries a man, it’s … because she found her soul mate and he happened to be a dude

…I was reminded of a conversation I had with a psychologist a few weeks ago.

In the course of that conversation, the subject of the bisexual married couple came up, and I was telling this psychologist how much I’ve learned – and how much my perceptions have shifted through necessity and understanding – in the time I’ve known this couple. Her response was a comment along the lines of, “It must be difficult, being married to someone who’s always looking at other people.” (Not an exact quote, but it definitely reflects the attitude I heard behind her words.)

Now, due to the nature of our conversation, I had to be politic. Although I was shocked to hear a psychologist speak with such gross generalization and apparent misunderstanding, I bit my tongue without correcting her. I have no such restrictions here.

Firstly, sexual orientation (or preference) reflects how one is attracted to other people; it does not define one’s sexual behavior. It is just as possible to be bi and committed to one other person as it is to be hetero and cheating on your spouse. Every orientation has a wide range of types, just as every ethnic group does.

Secondly, ever heard of looking without touching? C’mon, even hetero married couples check out people in the mall or film stars that they find attractive! As one of my friends likes to say, “I’m married; I’m not dead.” Yes, it’s true: when a person (hetero, gay, bi, whatever) gets married, s/he still finds other people attractive – the same people s/he found attractive when single (gasp!). The difference caused by commitment is that you don’t act on that attraction – at the end of the day, you go home to your partner. Saying that all bis are promiscuous tarts is like saying that all politicians are adulterers (…wait…).

It’s simply distressing to me how little people understand about sexual orientations not their own – even among those working in professions that should “know better”. And I grant that I don’t know everything; but I flatter myself that I at least make an effort to understand, ask questions, and listen to both the words and the emotion of the response. And I hear a lot of deserved frustration – and fear.

Ultimately, all romantic relationships – hetero, gay, or bi – should boil down to being attracted to the personality of the person, not their biology (at least, not beyond the point of what gender(s) you find attractive). It’s not about how good looking they are, what their stock portfolio’s worth, or even what parts they have. Superficial looks fade. Stock markets fall. And sex, while undoubtedly important, isn’t everything. Can you laugh with them? Do you enjoy being around them? Do they make you feel good – about yourself, about life, about them? Are you friends with this person? Because that is what will last.

If you’re going to be committed for the next 50 years, you have to like your partner, first and foremost.

(Well, I’d hoped to start off this new blog with something a little more light-hearted, but there you have it.)

9 Responses to “Off the Chart”

  1. Lschuma! at 08:14 #

    I’m really glad you enjoyed the article! Thank you for reading!

    Yes, it’s a sad but true reality that many confuse “attraction” and “behavior.” If I ate every piece of food that looked good on a menu, I’d be pretty fucked, wouldn’t I? I think it shows an assumption that those of different sexual orientations are somehow more significantly “different” as well.

    • ButMadNNW at 10:34 #

      I’m glad you wrote the article! 🙂 I believe these things need to be discussed openly and without stigma if we’re ever going to achieve wider understanding. Thanks for taking the time to comment on my humble blog.

      And, though it is unfortunate, I can’t really blame people for that belief in the difference of which you spoke. They have to believe that to justify the fear they feel of That They Don’t Understand. Not seeing a difference means they’re hating another person for no reason; instinctively, they know this is wrong. So they invent a “difference” to justify it – “They’re not *really* part of my group, so it’s okay not to like them.”

      I’m not excusing this – it’s just a fact of human psychology. Realizing it happens is the first step.

    • Leda at 11:44 #

      Hello, Lauren!

      Speaking as one of ButMad’s bisexual pals, I also want to thank you for a coherent and well written article, that I’ve bookmarked for later citation as and when needed. I consider myself lucky to have been on the receiving end of very little aggressive biphobia in my personal life, but the passive kind (presumptions and the like) can hurt just as much, especially when people assume I am either gay or straight depending on the gender of the person with whom I am currently involved. I’ve had a lot of comments on the lines of, “But I thought you were a lesbian?”, for example, when innocently commenting on attractions to men, which while they may be honest in intent still reveal an undercurrent of assumption that one can only ever be attracted to one gender.

      The latest upset I suffered was via a particularly nasty Facebook group called “REAL Homosexuals go ONE WAY!” which, much to my sadness, was run by gay people who wanted to promote the stereotype of the bisexual who is only playing with their sexuality because it’s “in vogue”. I joined for a time to try to reason with them, and was subject to increasingly personal and spiteful attacks.

      Anyway…enough of that negativity. Thank you, once again, and please keep writing like this. It’s so helpful and comforting.

  2. GreyDuck at 11:29 #

    Hey, look, it’s a blogger on WordPress! *grin*

    Okay, in all seriousness: I’m straight and polyamorous, and I’d be worried if my partners (and their partners) weren’t still “looking at other people.” I’ve never, ever been into that mindset of, “Well, we’re together now, so the rest of humanity must CEASE TO EXIST to our libidos!” I like the “everything on the menu” comment above, I’m probably going to use that in future discussions with the clue-impaired…

    • ButMadNNW at 12:20 #

      Yeah, how about that? I dood it! *wink* (Which reminds me, I need to shoot you a question later.)

      See? I learn something new everyday – I never knew/realized you were poly. And speaking as hetero-monogamous, I agree with you: when I finally get involved with a bloke, I don’t think I’m going to care that much if he’s looking – to me, it means the drive is still humming (and ready for use *winkwinknudgenudge*) – though outright leering in front of me won’t be welcome. What’s going to matter is knowing he’s committed to me. My Sister has asked BIL if he thinks such-and-such (famous or mundane) woman is attractive, and they have honest conversations about it, without jealousy. For many reasons, they are one of the couples I seek to emulate in my future marriage.

      • GreyDuck at 13:50 #

        Well, yes, there’s looking and there’s inappropriately leering. Sometimes the line seems rather fine, yet it’s definitely there.

        I’m very quietly poly… my primary relationship is with someone who’s essentially monogamous-minded, and my secondary relationship is with someone who’s married (to a very smart, clever, cool guy), and that’s about it. My network is pretty darned small. *wry grin* So I’m hardly an expert on the subject…

  3. patrisearts at 12:08 #

    Brava, ButMad!
    I applaud on every point.
    (How did I miss your WordPress blog? )

    • ButMadNNW at 12:31 #

      Hiya, Ven! You missed it because it just “went live” last night! 😉 I opened the account… gosh, a couple weeks ago?… but have been fiddling with setup (which I don’t think is complete yet) and too distracted with other concerns/work to get around to finally posting anything.

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