Biphobia in the pansexual community


I’ve pondered writing a letter to the Pansexual community, but this says it better than I could.

biUK

Sali Owen (twitter: @SaliWho) writes:

As awareness of non-binary gender identities has developed, some members of the queer community have chosen to identify as pansexual rather than bisexual. Pansexuality is sometimes defined as attraction to people of all genders, which is also the experience of many bisexual people. More often than not, however, people define their pansexuality in relation to bisexuality. In response to the question: “What does pansexual mean?” I’ve seen countless people reply: “I’m attracted to people of more than two genders. Not bisexual.” The implication is that bisexual means binary attraction: men and women only.

Since I came out in the late 90s, I haven’t seen one bi activist organisation define bisexuality as attraction solely to men and women. Bi and trans* issues began to grow in recognition at the same time. When I use ‘bi’ to refer to two types of attraction, I mean attraction to…

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The First Open Letter to Dan Savage


I keep thinking that I should write about Dan Savage’s biphobia, but there is just so much of it I wasn’t sure were to start.  So rather than try to go through all of it I’m just going to comment on this gem Mr. Savage did while promoting his book “American Savage

Dear Biphobe,

I would really like to start this letter by pointing out this video I’m responding to starts with a viewer question,

DanSavagei'mnotbiphobic DanSavagei'mnotbiphobic2

a question which doesn’t really get answered.  The implied answered is either “no, I’m just as ignorant about Bisexuality as I ever was” or possibly “yes, my understand has changed, I have an even more negative view toward Bisexuals” but the actual question isn’t even addressed.   What was the point of asking a question if it just gets ignored in favor of the standard blaming of Bisexuals for biphobia.  But I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt since this isn’t on the official Dan Savage YouTube channel and assume that someone of The Dish Blog channel added this without telling you what the actual question was.  I’ll just say they asked you what you would like to say to people that call you biphobic, or something like that.  But now lets deal with what you, Dan Savage, actually say in this video.

Right off the bat you give the standard line about gay men using Bisexuality as a stepping stone to coming out.  Even if that is true there are many reasons not to question the orientation of those young Bisexual men.  Indeed just the opposite, let me ask you, and and other gay guy who first came out as Bisexual a question.  When you identified as Bisexual, would someone telling you that you were really Gay help you to come out as Gay?  Or would it have just driven you back into the closet?  Now I’m to ask you to think like a young Bisexual man for a moment and answer those questions from that point of view.  Because I will tell you my answers, because it actually happened to me.  When I was 18-22 years old I was questioning my  sexuality (I was a bit of a late bloomer), I would occasionally talk to my friends about this.  When I stated that I thought I was Bisexual, the reactions I got ranged between calling Bisexuals “confused” to telling me to my face that men can’t be Bisexual.  About the best response I got at the time was from a lady that told be that if I identified as Bisexual I would not be accepted by either Gay or Straight society.  Given that at the time I was in a serious relationship with a woman I knew I wasn’t Gay, so this biphobia did drive me back into the closet.  It was roughly 15 years later that I was finally able to come out, only after I didn’t care what others thought.  That’s right, attitudes like yours caused me to stay in the closet for over a decade.

The next thing you say causes my blood pressure to seriously spike, because you double down on your biphobia and claim that this is evidence that you are not biphobic.  The line in question is ” you meet somebody who’s 15, 16, 17 is old me tell you that there bi there are meted by a little voice in back you have goes yeah so was I you don’t say that out loud but you think”.  Okay, my problem with this argument, which you and a lot of your fans seem to like, is you are saying it right now!  You are a public figure who is often listed as a LGBT activist (even though you seem to only care about the “G” part) so every time you say that you assume that teenage Bisexuals aren’t really Bisexual you are telling that to current young Bisexuals.   The only way you can deny that is if you think that no young Bisexuals listen to you, and that is just idiotic.

What you don’t seem to understand here is it’s not the fact that some Gay men use the Bisexual label as a tool to help them coming out isn’t why people call you biphobic, it’s the fact that you continue to push this idea that unless you directly attack Bisexuals you are not biphobic.  I know you won’t get this so lets use an example from your history, when Rick Santorum equated Gay sex with bestiality he was not attacking any individual homosexual, and he even clearly said ” I have no problem with homosexuality”.  But what he said was clearly homophobic, and I’m sure you would agree.

You then start in about talking about the idea that anyone in a relationship a different gender “disappears into default Heterosexuality”, now I won’t go on for a long time about this, but I will state that people assuming that Bisexuality is a phase is what causes this problem.  Not Bisexuals getting into relationships, and maybe if more Gay activists like you would remind people that people should be able to label themselves things would improve.

And can you please just shut up about that Northwestern Study, you seem to think that only by being as biphobic as you did they “prove” bisexuality exists.  When there were many other problems with that study.   The first study was done with subjects found through advertisements in Gay magazines and in Gay bars, hardly the best place to find Bisexual men, but it is a great way to find Gay men that will tell researchers that they are Bi to pick up a little money.  But all that aside, I’ve got a question for you on that study.  How would you react to someone trying to prove that Gay men actually exist?  Even the fact that the study ever happened is biphobic, no other sexuality is ever studied to see if it actually exists. But better writers than I have spent entire posts tearing about both studies.

But my real problem with your stance that you continue is that you still argue that it’s not biphobic to assume that young Bisexual men are lying, and that is either damaging or pointless.  If they are not lying you are telling them that they will be seen as a Gay unless they can prove they are Bisexual, and if they are lying (i.e. they are actually Gay) you are trying to take away the tool you admit you used to help your coming out process.  

WOW, you really have the balls to pull the “I have Bi friends” BS.   Do I really have to explain how being friends with someone doesn’t give you a get out of bigotry card?  Racists can have Black friends, misogynists can have women friends,  homophobes can have Gay friends, and biphobes can have Bisexual friends.  Just because you can treat people that you personally know with respect doesn’t mean you aren’t a bigot toward those you haven’t met.

Then you wrap this up with blaming Bisexuals for not being out.  You claim that you want Bisexuals to come out, that if we come out then things will get better for us all.  And this hypocrisy is what causes most people to call you a biphobe, you tell everyone that it’s okay to assume that Bisexuals are lying and then you tell us that we should be telling everyone we are Bisexual.   Those really don’t work, do you realize how hard it is to come out to people who don’t believe you?   If someone assumes everything you say is a lie you quit talking to them.  It’s as simple as that.

Now that I’ve tried to show how practically everything you say in this video is biphobic, I’d like to give you a little bit of advice to move forward.   How can you mend fences between you and the Bisexual community?

  1. Admit that at least some of what you have said in the past was biphobic and apologize.  Don’t try to justify it, don’t claim that everyone was saying the same things, just say “What I said in the past was biphobic, and I’m sorry that I perpetuated these stereotypes”  or something similar to that.
  2. Listen to the Bisexual community.   Maybe have someone from the Bisexual Resource Center or any of the other Bisexual Organizations on your podcast or maybe be a guest on a Bisexual podcast.
  3. Be prepared to apologize multiple times, you have a long history of being very negative toward Bisexuals.  It will take just as long, if not longer, to convince people that you have changed.
  4. Make it clear that it is harmful to question anyone’s self identification.

If you do these things, it will not erase what you have said in the past, but it will do quite a bit to convince people that your attitude has changed.

Thank you,

Troy