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I Will Make Poetry - And It Will Be Loud
I Denounce Your Normality As Insanity
Dear DIVA: One Does Not Simply Justify Biphobia  
9th-Apr-2012 07:36 pm
Dear DIVA:
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 thing.

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.
9th-Apr-2012 07:35 pm (UTC)
Hear hear! And very well said my dear. *big squishes*

I had a bit of this issue with my ex-girlfriend who actually said to me, "I'm afraid I'm going to lose you to a man." Um. Why? There was no reason at all except that she had a previous gf who cheated on her. I don't even know if it was with a man or a woman, but in any case, I'm not her. In the end it's all about people's fears leading them to act in a discriminatory fashion and their need to justify it all.
9th-Apr-2012 08:00 pm (UTC)
I have nothing intelligent to add, but *applauds*. Fabulous rant.

(...why the heck am I not friends with you on livejournal? Off to rectify.)
9th-Apr-2012 08:47 pm (UTC)
The article, the subsequent letter and response, and the article in which someone blithely states that bisexuals are only attracted to two sexes gave me a slight case of The Rage.

Thank goodness they at least had Meg doing the article, she's a very good 'talking head' person and she's done loads on the Bisexuality Report.

The annoying thing with DIVA is that it is very biased towards women in relationships with women, often the B feels tacked on as an afterthought, which irritates (and is why I don't subscribe). Annoyingly, it's one of the better magazines out there though, so I do indulge!

Btw, have you been reading the series of bi visibility articles at Bitch Media? Here's the link, scroll down for the first one!

9th-Apr-2012 11:51 pm (UTC)
Being in the US (and mostly straight), I'm not familiar with the article or the magazine. But it sounds like some fucked up shit. Excellent response!
10th-Apr-2012 12:39 am (UTC)
Just came across this blog via the twitter BisexualFTW. Very much agree with this post, thank you for writing it, you articulated what I was feeling but was having issues finding the words to express. I'm a pansexual/bisexual genderqueer in a relationship with a pansexual cis male, but it's usually thought we are in a "straight" (if they think I'm a woman) or "gay" (if they think I'm a man) relationship when neither of us is monosexual. He is newly out as pansexual but I've been out for almost a decade, so I've been helping him through it. It's frustrating that both of us feel closeted even though we are both out and our relationship makes people assume we are monosexual.

Also, loving all the Doctor Who/Torchwood things on this blog! Specifically the angry Ianto at the end. :P

Best wishes,
10th-Apr-2012 01:46 am (UTC)
My wife is bisexual. I very much am not. So what? I love her and she loves me, and she would no more think of cheating on me with a man than she would with another woman. It comes down to love and trust, and if you don't have that with the person you are in a relationship with, then you shouldn't be in that relationship, whether they like men, women, both, or little green aliens.

Sigh. Yep. Fuck that bullshit.
10th-Apr-2012 06:37 am (UTC)
Very well said. I'm not familiar with the magazine, and now have no desire to be.
10th-Apr-2012 12:33 pm (UTC)
Sigh. And no-one has even mentioned the possibility of polyamory - which is not cheating because it is all up-front and everyone knows what is going on.
10th-Apr-2012 03:45 pm (UTC)
I just wanted to say that my partner is a bi, poly woman and I'm proud to be with her. Thank you for this article
- A
11th-Apr-2012 01:02 pm (UTC)
I wonder if it might reflect on the centre-of-gravity of Diva's readership?

I've got the impression that the magazine has always had to straddle a difficult readership profile, partly the mostly younger queer crowd who are relatively more sorted on bi and trans and such, but also appealing to an older lesbian generation that had much narrower rules. As a magazine editor who wants people to carry on buying so your title can carry on printing, you can only go so far outside their comfort zones.

In comparison, (bi mag) BCN's readership demographic is mostly bi and significantly more likely to be cool and froody with trans and poly and nonbinary and suchlike, so how discussions can be framed there is different from how Diva will tend to come at things.

It's a guess though, cos I probably know about 20 times as many people who read BCN as who read Diva, so I know I'm seeing things through a certain lens.

(none of this is saying I like it, simply that it can help to think about where people on the other side of an argument are sitting and how that makes the world look)
12th-Apr-2012 05:43 am (UTC)
I just logged in to my LJ account that I haven't used in years.. I had to comment on this.

Great blog posting.... And shame on Diva. SHAME.

I'm a straight male. I've been happily married to a bi woman for over 13 years. We're very happy together!

That article was pure, unadulterated discriminatory CRAP... And they need to apologise for it.

12th-Apr-2012 10:17 am (UTC)
Thanks for the great blog post. :) I really don't get the biphobia and discrimination just because you happen to fall in love with a person, rather than their gender. (Being genderblind is not different from being colorblind in my opinion).

Want a new friend here?
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