Posts filed under ‘Identities’
I came out around age 16, at that time, yes there was Internet, but there wasn’t a lot there yet- searching “bisexuality” would likely yield more porn than decent information, and I was fortunate enough to be living in large liberal metro area that had books about bisexuality and gay/lesbian/bisexual issues more generally in the library. I’ll admit that for myself at the time, my understanding of bisexuality was rather binary- an attraction to both men and women. However, this was more due to my understanding of gender at the time than definitions bisexual activists were promoting. Many bi folks did and still do, use definitions like “being attracted to one’s own gender and others”, but others did and still likely do use more gender binary definitions. Bi communities have frequently experienced overlap and allyship with trans communities and individual activists, but transphobia and cissexism has also occurred and still does in bi communities. I think we need to be honest about all this- warts and all, to both bi/pan and monosexual trans, genderqueer and cis folks. Let’s not pretend we have this magically more Enlightened Than HRC attitude.
With this honesty I believe we can sincerely and politely respond to various critiques of bisexual identity from folks who prefer pansexual identities. If we do this consistently, along with affirming the legitimacy and choice of other non-monosexual identities and labels (and desire to use none at all) and listen to younger people’s desires for distinctive identities, I think we can work toward a broader, more inclusive bi community, (or whatever we agree on calling it!). We need to stop publicly arguing with pansexuals over the bisexuality definition. I understand it’s frustrating, but instead let’s redirect the conversation. Say “We accept and include pansexuals and respect your identities, please respect ours. We’d like to dialog and learn about each other *in person* or perhaps over Video chat (Skype, Googletalk etc) or even just message one on one. Obviously we’ll want to limit that to folks who are 18, or have parental approval for everyone’s protection.
This section is for the pansexual folks- I admit I’m less familiar with y’all- but I’d like to address some things I’ve heard from and about *some* NOT ALL pansexuals.
I’d really appreciate it, if you have not already- please learn more about bisexual and transgender movement history- really it was B & T before G & L came along and acted like it was all their in the first place, and B & T were just tag-alongs. (I admit this statement is specific to United States, while I know bits and pieces about other countries, particularly Britain and Germany I’d need to do more research to learn how different identity groups played roles in other countries)
For those who believe in the bi means binary definition therefore I’m pan, I’d like you to consider that I know quite a few trans and non-binary people who identify as bisexual (or sometimes both bi & pan) and in fact, many of them are involved in the Bisexual Organizing Project, BECAUSE or other bisexual groups around the country. I’ve also seen definitions of pansexual that emphasize attraction to “men, women and trans people” which doesn’t seem to actually be respectful of trans people considered many of them *are* men and women. If you want to be an ally to trans people please actually learn about them- in person (if & when they want to talk about it!) books, documentaries, blogs etc. getting many different opinions- there is no Grand Trans High Council that decides which trans celebrities to anoint or whatever. I admit to be being in a continual learning process about gender diversity myself! Other trans people are non-binary, genderqueer, agender, bigender, neutrois etc. there may also be some such folks that don’t see themselves as under the trans umbrella- we all know how complex those “umbrella terms” are now, don’t we?
I have also heard concerns from some trans individuals that pansexual sometimes seems to be used by people who have a particular fetish-y interest in trans people- not always, but it’s something they at least see as a “red flag” while dating. Date people because they are attractive, cool and interesting people, not for social justice/diversity cookies, and same goes for making friends.
I’m also hearing a “I’m gender-blind, transcend gender, I care about people not parts” sorta thing, which sounds familiar, it’s the same twaddle I used to and sometimes still hear from bisexual folks. That may sound cool and enlightened, but it’s also comes off as really annoying and will not win you friends. Most straight and gay people I talk to who have described their experiences of attraction have more criteria than “this person has this gender”. People of every orientation are capable of being superficial, lookist, sizeist or whatever label of bad-ness that you can imagine. We’re human. Sometimes there are messed-up beauty standards we absorb, consciously or unconsciously. Sometimes we just have features that attract us and features that don’t.
Resources about Bi & Trans movements in the next post…stay tuned!
Image by Shiri Eisner at bidyke.tumblr.com
More commonly called Bisexuality Visibility Day or Celebrate Bisexuality Day, September 23 and the week of September 20-26th is a time to recognize and affirm multi-gender attracted identities- bisexual, pansexual, omnisexual, polysexual, pan/biromantic asexual & demisexual, queer, fluid and so forth, and issues facing multi-gender attracted people.
Often-times our identities are erased and ignored, and people make assumptions about us based on who our current partner(s) happen to be. Misunderstanding in both broader heteronormative society and the gay and lesbian communities can lead to more isolation for bisexuals.
Statistics about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people (or sometimes just GLB) have typically been lumped together, making it difficult to understand differences among these distinct groups. Wait, hold on. Statistics? Demographics? That’s boring, that’s not sexy, Mariah! Post a bi flag with a sparkly unicorn and talk about how awesome it is to be bi! Yes, I know statistics may seem boring and irrelevant to you personally, but here’s why they matter. They give us information about what bisexuals are experiencing, and the data we are starting to gather is showing us many serious health and economic disparities, even in comparison with gays and lesbians. (Trans people, who come in all orientations have it even worse) And in spite of this, bisexuals make up more than half of the GLB demographic, but specifically bisexual organizations and programs receive very little funding, and gay and lesbian led organizations that may include a “B” in their acronym, still may not understand how to serve and truly include the B.
Bisexuals this, bisexuals that. What about pansexuals? Yes, pansexuals and people who identify with other labels (or none at all) and attracted to more than one gender are included in these numbers. Or maybe they aren’t, it depends on how the questions in surveys are worded.
I have to say, that it still surprises me when I look at polls and see how many people don’t understand bisexuality. I came out when I was 16, 17 years ago, and have been fortunate enough to usually be around people to whom, I could at least educate about bisexuality, and at best reply to me “Well of course that’s a thing! I’m bi too, or my partner/friend/co-worker is bi”. I think we really need to expand awareness in broader heteronormative society- by heteronormative I mean, places and contexts in which people will generally assume everyone is heterosexual until proven otherwise. I feel that’s a much more accurate description than “straight community”.
Why are you so hung up on labels? Why can’t we just be people? I really wish the world was as open-minded as you, or as you believe it to be! Yes, ultimately we would like to live in a world in which we only really need orientation labels/identities when trying to indicate what sort of partner we are interested in. I think that is already happening with the younger generation, many of them just date or have sex with people, without being concerned about how the gender of their partners reflects on their identity! Many of them feel very accepted and affirmed in this, but some of them don’t- and that’s the problem. Bi/Pan/Queer youth suicide is a big issue, one we can’t tackle alone in GLBT communities- most parents are outside of our communities, and we need to communicate with parents, their schools, educators and bi/pan friendly therapists and make sure all these supports are in place everywhere- not just in big cities, and even in big cities we still lose our youth.
More to read!
Bisexual community has unique needs, starting with more and better data– commentary by BOP’s very own Camille Holhaus!
There are various ways people have tried to divide North America based on cultural settlement, economic activity, etc. Though really, the biggest division tends to be between the urban and rural areas! But if you’re curious here are some books, they are in reverse chronological order. I have only read the 9 Nations one. I think what is a lot more useful, would be to research the history and culture of the particular area you live in. (Above link compares these various books)
American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard (2011) This sounds like it oversimplifies and leaves out a lot about later immigration.
American Colonies: the Settling of North America by Alan Taylor (2001) This one covers all the European colonial powers, so- Dutch, British, French, Spanish. Might be of interest.
Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America by David Hackett Fischer (1989) This one really goes into cultural differences between early British settlements, and is definitely on my to-read list!
The Nine Nations of North America by Joel Garreau (1981) I think this has similar problems to the Eleven Nations book
Immigration & Assimilation from European Ethnic to “Whiteness”
How the Irish Became White by Noel Ignatiev (this one I have actually read- very good, though depressing!)
Roots Too: White Ethnic Revival in Post-Civil Rights America by Matthew Frye Jacobson
Special Sorrows: the Diasporic Imaginations of Irish, Polish & Jewish Immigrants in the United States by Matthew Frye Jacobson
Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants & the Alchemy of Race by Matthew Frye Jacobson
Working Toward Whiteness: How America’s Immigrants Became White by David Roediger
**Good White People: the Problem with Middle Class White Anti-Racism by Shannon Sullivan (this sounds very good!)
After reading reviews I would NOT recommend these-
Are Italians White? How Race is Made in America- the reviewer notes that the authors only compare Italian-Americans with African-Americans, not with Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Latinos or other groups that might have more similarities. It does not take into consideration discrimination that did take place against Italians, and especially Sicilians.
How Jews Became White Folks by Karen Brodkin- apparently the problem with this one is that it does not discuss the background of anti-Semitism in Europe much, and is better at discussing gender issues than racial issues. There are plenty of other books about Jewish American identity & assimilation, so I would look elsewhere.
Please share if you have any opinions on these books or additional ones that may be of interest. There is most certainly *much more* out there to read about various cultural influences in the U.S. and Canada- I am sorting through stuff about European immigration due to my own interests and focus, so this is not to exclude anyone else!
I have started reading “A Different Mirror- A History of Multicultural America” by Ronald Takaki which is quite good so far.
Warning- For anyone who reads this, and decides I am “anti-white people”, “racist against white people”, “anti-American” etc. and feels the need to trumpet this, your comments will be deleted.
Heathen 101 info–
Being Queer-identified & Heathen- Safe Spaces– Nice essay, but it’s a little old, so some bad links. Hence this list.
Friendly Online communities
Queer Heathens– Facebook, closed group
Urglaawe– Pennsylvania Deitsch Heathenry (see also related Deitsch culture/language groups)
Lokeans & Allies Ice Cream Social– Loki’s peeps are typically very sexuality/gender diversity friendly!
Virtual Sessrumnir– for devotees of Freyja
Circle Ansuz– anarchist Heathen group (I’m not an anarchist, but they have good info on far-right Heathen groups)
Sex, Status & Seidr: Homosexuality & Germanic Religion by Diana Paxson
The Viking God Odin- A Queer God of War (Note: this article is about a book written from a gender studies/queer studies perspective rather than a religious/mythic studies one, but hey the author is Norwegian…)
Nithing/Nidstang are Old Norse queerphobic slurs/concepts- don’t use them!
Lofn’s Bard– modern inspired stories about Frigga’s court (all unmarried ladies…)
First Love– modern inspired story about Frey
Not Recommended Spaces/Communities & How to Recognize/Avoid Unfriendly Groups/Individuals
Asatru Lore Forum
The Asatru Folk Assembly, Asatru Alliance (they publish Vor Tru magazine)
- First-off Happy Queer Pride, and Happy Same-Sex marriage victory for my fellows in the States
- Let people celebrate, but start nudging your friends/family/co-workers who are expressing their support into educating them about other issues facing our communities- rates of homelessness and suicide among queer/trans youth, need for laws against discrimination in employment & other areas. There are still many countries where consensual same-sex behavior is criminalized. I will be writing posts about how to do this without being a Debbie Downer (actually I should write such content for the BOP website, but if I do, it will be linked here)
- I’m waiting for my first entry on Witches & Pagans to be posted (after that I’ll be posting them myself) My blog is called Way of the Sacred Fool, and it is about integrating experiences with neurodiversity & disability into one’s spiritual path. I’ll be posting links to my entries on W & P to this blog, my Twitter & my Facebook page. This is my page as a writer/blogger, rather than my personal Facebook profile. If you only know me from the internet, please follow/like my page rather than trying to friend me. (Switching between the 2 is freakin’ confusing! I hate how FB is designed…end rant!)
- A bunch of us are organizing a Druid grove in the Twin Cities area. We have both members of ADF & OBOD involved, though we are not affiliating with either (at least for now) If you want to meet & get to know us, come to our second Meet n’ Greet- on Thursday June 16 at 7pm at the Como Park Grill, 1341 Pascal St St Paul. Next month we’ll be having an actual grove-forming meeting. We are also starting up an ADF Dedicant study group.
Like a lot of American celebrations with more radical roots, as GLBT Pride festivals & parades across the country have grown over time, they have become more mainstream and commercialized. (Great critique of Pride here) Some folks of a more radical bent wring their hands over this, longing for more overt expressions of sexuality, anti-capitalism, and pointing out trends with obscure academic sounding terms like “homonormativity” and pinkwashing. While I think there are many valid criticisms that can be made especially of larger Prides and the movement as a whole, these are internal community debates. Prides, while remaining GLBT-centered, are also a reflection of continued acceptance and integration into broader communities- much as ethnic celebrations like Cinco De Mayo, St. Patrick’s Day and so forth have become not just for Mexican and Irish-Americans. At the same time, there’s a balance to be struck. Straight & cis allies can enjoy Pride, while understanding that they are in a queer-centered space, so they can’t be complaining about being hit on by someone of the same sex, or guys parading around in leather chaps and such. There’s space for both the conventional lesbian soccer moms as well as the wacky drag queens.
This year of course we have even more to celebrate, as the Supreme Court just ruled in favor of marriage equality. Of course, I’m quite excited, though I realize there are many more issues we need to work on, both domestically and around the world. I do think we need to give folks a chance to celebrate before lecturing about gloomy statistics about queer youth suicides/murders and the continuing AIDs epidemic. Anyone who thinks the entire GLBT rights movement was just about marriage and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell obviously has a pretty superficial understanding of it (and probably is only really thinking about the G and L parts) But I think this is part of why it’s a good thing that a more diverse range of people attend Prides- we can get the chance to educate non-activist GLBT folks & allies about these issues and convince them to do more than wear rainbow beads and dance to ABBA.
One of my fellow Unitarians- reflecting on the General Assembly- our national conference held that same weekend- points out two other important Supreme Court rulings that we should be celebrating– the one upholding the Affordable Care Act* (yes, I’d like a single payer system, but I’m still glad we have this one!) which I did hear about, and another the makes it easier to prove implicit discrimination in housing– proof of explicit intent to discriminate based on a protected status is no longer required. (I may have described that wrong- it’s hard to summarize legal stuff- so read the article) This is huge, because for decades the Supreme Court has been getting pickier about how obvious discrimination has to be before they will accept that it’s happening.
(By the way- if any “No pre-existing conditions/I’ll magically never lose my cushy job with benefits, so screw you” people want to bitch to me about how it’s soo unfair they are being forced to pay for insurance they don’t need, don’t bother commenting, you can cry me a frickin’ river.)
First off- who is Rachel Dolezal? She was until recently the president of the Spokane, Washington chapter of the NAACP- the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She is also a professor of Africana Studies at Eastern Washington University. For ten years she has been presenting herself as a light-skinned African-American woman, but recently both her parents came forward to the press and said essentially- Ahem, we’re her birth parents, and this is our ancestry, and African it ain’t (well other than the all humans eventually come from Africa part) To be clear I think Ms. Dolezal was wrong to misrepresent herself to Black communities, and the way she treated her family members (both her parents & brothers) makes me a little sad inside. I suppose some people would say, hey screw identities/labels, and race, she can be whoever she wants to be, and what matters is the activist & academic work she’s done.
I’m not going to spend too much time self-righteously condemning her, because I think this is a time for anti-racist & social justice-y white folks to reflect. Because while Ms. Dolezal may have creating her identity, we created the culture that made her possible. The culture of All Identities Are Valid, Create Your Own Reality, and Everything is a Subjective Social Construction. Granted, I still do affirm that many categories like race and gender are social constructions, but I do not deny biological differences in human beings such as variation in skin color and anatomy. But the facts of biology and the meanings and stories that humans assign to these variations over the course of history are two different things. The social consequences of being assigned a “race” at birth are very real, even if the divisions between the races are often arbitrary. Based on the “one-drop rule” of American culture that goes back to slavery, even 1 distant ancestor of African origins could give Rachel Dolezal the social license to identify as Black, while the same amount of Latino, Asian or Native American heritage would likely still mean she was white. I am not sure who or what is the deciding factor in why this “rule” is still used, and certainly it’s much less of a factor in determining people’s identities.
Now, I’ve spent a lot of time in mostly white activist-y groups (or non-activist groups with a progressive slant, like the Pagan subcultures) Whenever race is discussed, there is always a mixture of white guilt, ritual confessions of racial “sins” both individual and collective (especially directed awkwardly towards any person of color who happens to be present!) and earnest attempts at white ally “guidelines” or rules. I’ve heard people apologize for growing up in all-white towns in Iowa that left them “culturally illiterate”. I’ve witnessed much hang-wringing and self-flagellation about the lack of diversity in both membership in leadership of various organizations. I’ve also wondered about what types of diversity are we talking about- and not talking about? Would I get more “diversity points” as a woman of color than I do currently as a white bisexual Pagan woman with invisible disabilities? I “know better” though, than to bring these things up.
I’ve voluntarily attended multiple workshops and panel presentations about white privilege and allyship, and speeches by David Roediger and Tim Wise, both authors/leaders/activists in whiteness studies and white “allyship”. I’ve read many books on racial issues. And I still don’t really know How to Be a Good White Person. Mostly I just try to be a good person in general, and try to stop worrying so much about saying and do the Wrong Thing. Mostly I try to make an effort to listen to people from different backgrounds from myself, and do what I can to help their voices be included. I think American culture has plenty of ways to encourage people of color to become neurotic self-doubters and self-haters on the basis of their skin color and ethnic culture, but for white folks signing up for these neuroses is largely voluntary. So any whining we do is understandably, not going garner much sympathy. And it’s not really helping anyone, including ourselves. Guilt eats away at your stomach, not at injustice. We also aren’t sure what we’re supposed to be culturally. Rachel is “part Czech, German, Swiss and possibly Native American”. Did her parents talk about any of that when she was growing up, and learning to admire the cultures of their friends and neighbors? Beyond a few family recipes, I suspect not, like in many “white” families. It doesn’t matter where we come from, we’re all Americans now. Except, I forgot to tell you honey, but no, you can’t be Black. Or Indian. Or Asian. But I don’t know what to tell you to be instead. Just be a “regular” American!
So no, I’m not surprised at all at by Rachel Dolezal. I can see why she did what she did, even if it was dishonest and an “easy way out” of the endless unspoken “Well, WTF am I supposed do?” questions that lurk in white “allies” minds.