One Does Not Simply Justify Biphobia
Last month, DIVA Magazine
, which advertises itself as one of the leading magazines for queer women, ran a feature in which they examined biphobia in the queer community. Seeing as this is the magazine which, not so long ago, listed Lady GaGa in an article entitled 'Top Ten Women We Wish Were Gay
' ('...already calls herself a bisexual - but, come on, lesbian is so much more Lady Gaga.'), my excitement at finally seeing the issue addressed was mixed with rather high levels of trepidation.
This trepidatious feeling was soon to be realised. The article is advertised on the front cover as 'How To Face Your Fears And Date A Bi Woman' - suggesting that a) the article is aimed at lesbians and not the non-monosexual section of DIVA's readership and b) that biphobia is rooted in some sort of legitimate fear that needs overcoming. This seems to set the tone for the rest of the article. In the article, bisexual women are encouraged to 'understand' the fear that grips lesbians when faced with dating non-monosexual women, lesbians are encouraged to air their views as to why they would not date a non-monosexual woman, and the given 'solution' is that bisexual woman will just have to work that little bit harder to prove their fidelity.
In a somewhat misguided attempt to show balance, DIVA seems to have forgotten something that is fundamental to the queer fight for equal rights - if you dislike someone because they belong to a specific group which they cannot help, and actively act upon this dislike, then that is the essence of discrimination, prejudice and bigotry.
Although I feel obliged to applaud DIVA for attempting
to address this issue, I cannot feel anything but despair and disapproval over the acting out of this address. Stating that bisexual women must work harder to 'prove' that they will not cheat suggests that non-monosexual women are, in essence, guilty until proven innocent. This shouldn't wash in a court of law, and it certainly shouldn't wash when we are discussing real people, with real lives and real feelings. I, and any other non-monosexual person, should not have to prove my fidelity when the only thing I have done to garner suspicion is being born in the first place. To suggest that we do suggests a deep-rooted feeling that we are pre-programmed to cheat, and that is not only deeply offensive to a large group of diverse and wonderful people, but also deeply hurtful and the kind of thing that can stay with someone for a very long time.
It is also very kind of DIVA to provide a wonderful, confidence building section in which lesbians state just why
it is that they would never, ever think about dating a bisexual. It is even kinder to suggest that these experiences have to be understood before bisexuals make any wild accusations of prejudice.
'These women have had bad experiences,' we are told. 'Can you really blame them for not wanting to date bisexuals?'
Call me insane, but this statement brings to mind something that a friend of an older generation once said to my mother:
'People of my generation have had bad experiences with gay people,' said he as she tried, in vain, to protest. 'Can you really blame us for not liking homosexuals?'
I'd wager that the latter would be called bigotry. Blaming your dislike and discrimination of an entire group on a bad experience you have had with a few members of that group? Out, foul bigot, or I shall wave a banner in your face!
So why is the former, by DIVA at least, not considered bigotry? It seems that that one change - the replacing of 'homosexual' with 'bisexual' - is enough to lower 'discrimination' to 'understandable trepidation'.
And that view in itself, as expressed by DIVA, is perhaps bigotry encapsulated.
If one takes a look at the original question, which was posed on DIVA's Facebook Page
, one finds comments that are more hateful, more virulent, and more full of bile than anything that eventually made it into the article. In one block of comments, all bisexuals are tarred as 'cheaters', 'unfaithful', 'confused', 'greedy', 'untrustworthy' and, in perhaps my favourite indictment of the entire non-monosexual community, 'dirty' people who spread STIs from men's penises to poor, unsuspecting lesbians.
DIVA in no way discrouaged this type of response. In fact, all they did was throw the meat into the pen and let the lions feed.
These 'experiences', as recounted by lesbians in the magazine, are peppered with a few weary, almost pained recountings from non-monosexual women about how their failure to fall into an acceptable group had led to heartbreak for them. This is, perhaps, one of the saddest things. These comments are exclamations of true emotion, of true hurt, of true heartbreak, and they break something in my soul. I myself have felt the feelings that they were recounting - on many occasions, I have liked a girl but been unable to ask her out or express my liking for her because I fear that, the moment I 'out' myself as not quite gay enough, I'll be out on my ear without a second glance.
That each person who commented, including myself, felt compelled to prefix their answer with 'I am bisexual and I am not a cheater/greedy/promiscuous/confused', is a sad indictment of how engrained this prejudice is. It is an automatic response to defend ourselves against an accusation that has no solid basis. We should not have to defend ourselves in this way, precisely because the accusations are unfounded. Of course, there are unfaithful or promiscuous non-monosexual people, just as there are unfaithful or promiscuous lesbians, gays and straights. And yet, despite this, it feels like every single hurt voice is engaging in an ultimately futile attempt to make people understand this - and to understand that we are hurting
. To be discriminated against is a painful
It's even more painful reading these - because I know
that the majority of lesbians that I know do not
feel this way. But articles like this only heighten the extreme sense of isolation that a bisexual, young or old, may feel within the queer community. It's not helpful. It exacerbates a problem which they claim they want to solve. Why cause more pain? I can't understand it. All I know is that, immediately after reading the article, I crawled under my covers and had a good, old-fashioned sob fest over the projected belief that no one will ever love me.
Because it hurts
When I started writing this, I had the idea that I would somehow detach it from my emotions. But, looking back at it, there is no way to detach emotion from it, because my immediate reaction to it is rooted so deeply in my own sense of hurt, insecurity and stolen confidence.
But, DIVA has made it quite clear that they don't in any way support the notion that the bisexual experience is any more painful than the plight of lesbians who have been 'the victims' of bisexual behaviour.
In this month's edition of the magazine, I found a rather wonderful letter by Simone Webb
(who has also written a blog post
on this subject, which is, in all probability, a lot better than this one!) which called DIVA out on the utter failings of this misguided piece.I was really quite disappointed in your article on biphobia (April). Could you really not find a single lesbian who would date a bi woman or had had a positive experience with bisexuality? The readers’ experiences were divided into bi women who’d faced bad reactions from lesbians for being bi, and lesbians who talked shamelessly about their bigotry against women just because they liked men as well. I know there are lesbians out there who don’t behave like this. Furthermore, even the line on the front of the magazine – “How to overcome your fears and date a bisexual” – seemed to imply that such fears were totally natural and understandable for lesbians to face. They’re not.
This, it seems, sent DIVA immediately on the defensive - as they left this editor's comment:Ed: The article aimed to acknowledge the painful experiences of both lesbians and bi women and looked at ways to move on within relationships. Neither lesbians nor bi women can claim to be more hurt, as the reader stories showed.
Which basically sums up the whole thing, really. Even in an article which is ostensibly about biphobia, bi women are playing second fiddle; 'the painful experiences of lesbians and bi women' - note the order, which even if subconscious says a lot about the inner workings going on here. And although it claims to seek for some way to 'move on with relationships', the main bulk of the article, and the attitude with which it is being treated by the DIVA team, does nothing but reinforce the idea that non-monosexual women and lesbians can never truly come together.
This article is NOT about addressing a deep-rooted prejudice, discrimination and bigotry that has a very real negative impact on people's lives - this article is about justification. Bisexuals have
to understand that their pain, as the victims of discrimination, is no worse than the pain of the people who inflict that discrimination. Or so, at least, DIVA would have us believe.
You know what? I haven't sworn yet in this post. I think it's time I did so.
Fuck that bullshit.
One does not 'overcome' homophobia by stating that the homophobes are hurting just as much as the homosexuals. One does not 'overcome' racism by claiming that the racists are hurting just as much as the racial minorities. And, likewise, one does not 'overcome' biphobia by 'understanding' that the people inflicting that biphobia are hurting just as much as the bisexuals.
The only way it can be overcome is by recognising one very key fact.
Biphobia is discrimination.
And discrimination is wrong
DIVA claims to stand against discrimination. And, in light of this fact, I'd like to stand side by side with Simone Webb in asking DIVA for an apology. And I hope you'll all join me in this.