Rosemary (sophy) wrote,
Rosemary
sophy

WisCon 40 Panel Write-up Bi Invisibility

Panel note disclaimers and clarifications:

1. I only use the names of panelists and moderators as listed in the program book (or as corrected/specified by panelists themselves before the panel). If you want your name removed, changed, or linked to any online identity (or added if I forgot you) please let me know.

2. I do not name or link to audience members, even if I personally know who they are, because I want to err on the side of safety. Please let me know if you need to be credited for a comment, or wish to be linked to as the person who said the thing.

3. My notes are always incomplete. I take them for myself primarily and love to share what I got, but I absolutely miss stuff and get stuff wrong. Corrections and additions are welcome!

4. If I mess up a pronoun or other important info, please lmk! I will fix it immediately.

5. I add my own thoughts and feels in [] - if you see something in my panel report in [] that means it was not part of the panel, just stuff that happened inside my own head during the panel.


Bi Invisibility

People who love and are attracted to people of more than one gender often get left out of the LGBTQ discussion. Our letter is in there, but not our views. "Bi people" often includes those who are gender fluid, non-binary, or pangender as well. Assumptions are made about us based on our gender presentation and current partner. Let's talk about myths, lies, and the truths about bisexuality.
M: Lou Hoffman. Angela Blackwell, W. L. Bolm, Elise Matthesen, also Tanya D. was originally on the panel - had taken herself off due to overbooking herself - but put herself back on when she realized that otherwise the panel was all white. (Thank you Tanya!!)
#biinvisibility for twitter



[Once again, I missed a buncha stuff re: intros. Sorry I suck at that.]

Lou started things off talking about using Bi+ as terminology to include all of the non-monosexual identities [I had not heard that yet - very nice!]

W.L. identified as being demisexual as well as other things in the Bi+ umbrella (i think?)

Angela said that "back in Atlanta, you didn't identify as anything". She said she is married and not closeted, but not out because no one asks.

Lou wanted to start off talking about myths, lies, and untruths about bisexuality. One is that there's not a lot of us. 51% of the LGBT community identify as Bi+ so we are actually the majority there. So why are we so often erased? Where's all the media portrayals?

W.L. talked about Lost Girl as a show with a lot of sexualization of the bisexual characters. Also with Bo, the main character, there is always this tension of giving equal weight to her male and female love interests. She talked about how media portrayals affect real life - for example in the dating world she finds both lesbian women and straight men are uncomfortable with the idea of dating her.

Tanya gets tired of the bisexual at the crux of a love triangle tropes. Also wants to see more bisexual women of color - there is Kalinda on The Good Wife and Angela on Bones [Annalise on HTGAWM?].

Tanya also brought up how poly and kink are treated in media - there's always that tension around them and it's never portrayed as healthy and happy.

Angela talked about Captain Jack on Torchwood as a positive example. He's pansexual - he likes everyone but not seen in relationships until later on.

Elise said that every 10 years, people will say "well 15 years ago you couldn't even talk about it this much..." No. We've been talking about it. The myth is that we're new. We need to honor our ancestors - especially people of color who get erased within the community itself.

Tanya brought up differentiations between bi and pan, etc.

Lou said something about trans, genderbending and gender non-conforming folk - but some of us are cis. [There are question marks here so I may have been confused about or just really disagreed with what was said here] The idea of bi as just liking men and women but pan liking trans [so much no - thankfully an audience member touches on this later]. The only binary we need is - like me and not like me.

Elise stated that you haven't lived until someone in an argument with you is trying to define you to yourself.

Angela said that as long as people are trying to fit everyone in boxes - there will be some who just don't fit in the boxes.

W.L. spoke from the point of view of a genderqueer woman saying that mostly femme-presenting bi women can feel invisible in gay crowds.

Lou spoke of the assumptions people make about your orientation based on who you are dating at the time, or married to. That erases your identity. She said that this happens more in the gay community than in straight communities [personal aside: while I agree that a lot of erasure happens more in gay spaces than straight ones, I disagree that this is one of the ways in which that's true - straight culture assumes it's the norm until told otherwise. queer culture is at least aware there are other options. YMMV.]

Tanya talked about adding in the intersection of race. She is cis herself and in a long term relationship with a cis male. She talked about how women have not wanted to date her because of the "gold standard" - lesbian who was never touched by a man. She has been questioned about if she is actually bi or even queer at all based on her race, and the queer spaces she has been in have been mostly white.

A myth that Tanya hates is that bisexuals are "greedy" - she doesn't even have time for one person in her life!

W.L. doesn't like being told to "pick one."

Angela talked about people who "fit in the quiltbag" [sidenote: cute! i like that phrase!] not even believing in bisexuality, especially within gay male communities.

The myth of the "bi's in disguise" - married to cishet person and in queer community = people assuming you're just there as an ally.

Elise responds that "I am not responsible for other people's lack of imagination."

A myth that Elise hates is that you're only Really bi if you have equal attraction to both genders. This led to a hilarious bit about "just being a straight lady who tripped and fell on a woman - oooops! - we'll help each other up... in about an hour..."

Elise then told a story of actual bi erasure - she was one of only 2 out bisexuals at a university LGBT conference. When they got the t-shirts, it just said "gay and lesbian". When called out on it, people said they were in a hurry to get them to the printers. "So, what? The B fell off???"

Tanya told a story about almost getting into a fist fight at a pride parade. A (presumably) white gay man was making bi jokes. She was like "I am a short fat girl but I will Fight you!" He kept insisting it was funny, so she said "how so?"

She talked about feeling isolated by both black and queer communities.

Lou addressed the being called an ally instead of part of the family and listed Lady Gaga and Allan Cummings as famous examples. Also about the comment of bisexuality just being "in fashion": "I've been out so long now I've been in and out fashion 3 times!"

Tanya brought up Dan Savage who throws bisexuals under the bus - he is a gay while male with lots of privilege who has a platform and social capitol. (Apparently the folks livetweeting this panel got blocked by Savage just for talking about this! lol)

Also brought up groups like HRC and Fuck H8 for not being accessible to bi folks. Tanya referred to them as "LGBT groups who forgot about everything but the L and G". They're supposed to be for everyone, but they aren't.

Elise shared a story about a Take Back the Night workshop titled "Lesbians and Straight Women Working Together" - this divides the world into two categories. Bi people were standing up and were told to "go to whichever group you feel closer to." Other people who weren't sure of where they belonged were told to go with the bisexuals. The bisexuals stood up and said - that's not fair to them! So people kept speaking up and Elise got asked to run it the next year ("always the punishment for speaking up" lol).

She said that sometimes, as much as we need labels, we also need to strip them away. There are times we need to battle and others when we need to lean in and listen to one another. What are people saying about their identity words and what they mean to them.

Tanya talked some about this idea of bisexuals being mythical, about tragic queer tropes, and about media portrayals being more openly bi and happy. "When do we get to see our happy ending?"

Lou spoke to being asked "who abused you?" in response to identifying as bi.

Elise said an important thing to remember even within the bi community is that we are not special snowflakes. Especially those of us who are white/privileged in other ways. She mentioned an article titled "Bisexuals: the Tragic Mulattoes of the Sexual World" and Tanya got out her flask and began drinking. Because, yea. Wow.

An audience member and Lou talked some about HRC getting better feedback when they dropped the B from their publications.

W.L. threw out that if you are religious, you should find out what your religion says about bisexuality. She said she is Jewish, and the official Rabbi consensus is that Bisexuals should pick a side and stick with it.

There was some audience and panel discussion around terminology such as Queer vs. Bi

One audience member said the value of bisexuality for them as a non-binary person is that any relationship they have is bisexual.

W.L. talked about feeling more like "an amorphous blob person" as a gender, and was drawn to bisexuality as community building around differing genders.

She talked some about the straight and gay communities assuming that men, especially, cannot be bisexual.

Elise said that she is newly out as genderqueer, but prefers to use the term "genderwyrd", and is still finding the vocabulary. The realization that while the bi community gave her more space than others, it's still not enough space. She added that "being alive this long has helped me realize that I don't have to have it all figured out right now."

Tanya mentioned bi net as a resource (this? http://www.binetusa.org/). She also added that other people's assumptions about you are their problem. Other people do not get to define you.

Elise added that it is not up to you, specifically, to fix this. It is systemic and there is a lot of work to do. Just keep asking "what about the bisexuals in this group?"

An audience member stressed the importance of being careful not to include being attracted to cis/trans people as part of bisexual identity. Trans or cis women are women and trans or cis men are men. If you are dating a trans man, you are dating a man. [THANK YOU AUDIENCE MEMBER UGH UGH UGH THIS HAPPENED TOO OFTEN]

Another audience member brought up being asexual and bi-romantic and the focus in the media on the sex part of being bi.

Someone else in the audience mentioned the myth of "bi privilege" as in "straight passing privilege". Tanya replied "what bi privilege am I missing out on?" Another audience member quipped they we all get a little coupon booklet. [lol] Tanya added that what is seen as a passing privilege is actually erasure.

Lou said that "bi privilege" is a myth propagated by gay and lesbian people.

[As always, I missed a buncha stuff - add/correct accordingly.]
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