Category Archives: Bisexuality

The Future of Sexuality

Sexuality In The Past

Sexuality in the Anglo and European West for some recent previous generations was a simple affair. In the Victorian worldview, when categorising things was the preoccupation, the population was divided into two categories, men and women. If a person (a subject), founds themselves to be in the category “man”, then their sexual and romantic desires were felt towards someone from the other category: women (the object of desire). The same is true in the exact reverse for people in the category “women”. If the subject was a woman, their object of desire was a man. Simple.

sexuality past (5)

There was, however, a certain Victorian consciousness of male subjects who desired other men as their sexual objects. This phenomenon was considered ‘deviant’, the result of some sort of mistake. The specifics of who was at fault and what to do about the problem make an interesting study in themselves but are not relevant for our purposes.

sexuality past_man

I strongly suspect the Victorians found men desiring men upsetting. Part of this upset was to do with the notion that it violated categories. They believed their categories to be “natural”, part of a higher order. The order was ordained by Science, if not by God. When strange anomalies occured to upset the “natural order”, they found them threatening, not least because these anomalies could seriously bugger up their nice diagram.

This uneasiness over categories is very pertinent. It is an emotional reaction to the perceived threat to a structure which is supposed to be neat, perfect, correct and inviolable. Structures (or categorisations) are only emotionally reassuring, only comforting, if they can rely on claims of (near) absolute Truth, solidity, precision and certainty.

If there are persons or behaviours that call into question the completeness of a category structure, or even the entire structure itself, this is so emotionally unsettling that something must be done to shore up the primacy of the system. If such persons or behaviours are in a clear majority, then the structure needs to be recreated. However, if these anomalies are in a minority it is tempting and common to try to eliminate the inconsistency. In this way persons who are privately having sex with whomever they wish without really thinking about it can come to be perceived as a threat to an entire structure of categorisation and sometimes, because structures rely on other structures, a threat to an entire nation’s public behaviour code, civil liberties, laws and moral fibre.

Sexuality is one such category, and we are still struggling to categorise it correctly today.  We are required to continue wrestling with categories because we still live in a world based mostly on inviolable structures to which we turn on questions about  laws, public behaviour, civil rights and so on.

Sexuality In The Recent Past

The civil rights movement of the 1960s-80s sought to redraw the category diagrams.  In terms of sexuality, it is now a very well-known story of improving “gay rights” in the public realm, triggered by the Stonewall riots and onwards through many milestones. One of the milestones that shows us that the movement has been successful is the achievement of same-sex marriage. Same-sex couples can thus access an array of civil and social privileges that they were previously excluded from.

The new acceptable categories can now be described thus: a male subject usually desires a female object, but sometimes, less commonly, a male subject may desire another male as their object. The same is true in reverse. A female subject typically experiences desire for a male object, but sometimes, less commonly, a female object. There are two new categories, “heterosexual” and “homosexual” that apply equally to men and women. The categories look quite nice again now, with a lovely symmetry down the middle.

sexuality recent past full crop

hetero-homo (1)

I couldn’t decide which diagram to include, so here are both.

Sexuality Now

In recent years the “homo” half of the diagram has begun to use the acronym LGBT(Q), standing for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and (Queer). This is an attempt to recognise that lesbians and gay men are not the only people who are “not straight”. Each time a movement arises to point out that there are more groups within in the “not straight” space, a new letter is added to the acronym. LGBT is currently an accepted basic standard.

At the moment there is a lot of activism and discontent around the lip-service adoption of the B and T letters because most organisations fail to actually provide meaningful services for, or inclusion of, bisexual and trans people. These categories have been very grudgingly added to the diagram.

This unease exists because these two groups “upset the diagram” once again. The bisexual movement currently suffers from erasure, while the trans movement is not actually about sexuality at all. None the less, I will argue that the (much younger) trans movement has been more successful than the bisexual movement to gain recognition.

Gender

The trans movement has recently come to prominence as a group of people who experience something unusual about their gender. Both feminists and trans people have come up with a language to speak about the difference between biological gender, known as sex, and the social construct of gender i.e. the way people are expected to behave or “perform” in social life which is based on their sex but not necessarily inherent in it.

The trans movement has pointed out that it is possible to have gender dysphoria, which means extreme anxiety relating to sex and gender. In the most clear-cut of cases some people are born strongly feeling that they are biologically one sex, but their body appears to have most or all of the characteristics of the other sex. This is detectable at a very young age, often pre-puberty. The feeling of mismatch is so strong that people with dysphoria are more likely to be depressed and some may take their own lives.

Recent campaigns for the rights of trans people have become quickly prominent and successful. Some Anglo-Euro nations have begun to sanction via state benefit the hormonal and surgical treatments for trans people to “transition” from one sex to the other, whereupon the symptoms of gender dysphoria can be eased.

Trans people still suffer from terrible social treatment (not least a very high chance of being murdered for appearing to be gender-nonconforming) however I think the success of the trans movement in civil/legal terms has been partly due to the fact that this revelation about trans-ness has not upset the category diagram too badly. Now we have a small minority who would like to switch from the known categories of “man” and “woman”.

sexuality now 2

Being trans is an issue to do with sex/gender, rather than sexuality. It is orthoganal to the goals of the diagram but, happily it does not disrupt it too much. Apart from the switch between categories, transmen and transwomen still have a subjective sex/gender and still identify their sexuality according to the sex of themselves in relation to the sex of their object of desire.

Background Bisexuals

The bisexual movement has existed for as long as the “gay” civil rights movement. Indeed in the early days there was little differentiation between gay and bisexual because the issue at hand was same-sex relationships and legal rights. However the bisexual worldview has been sidelined because it is hard to understand, hard to lobby for, appears to “muddy the water” of essentialist messages of what it is like to be gay and people who are willing to identify as bisexual keep going in and out of existence.

Therefore, the bisexual (and intersex, asexual and other “queer”) thoughtforms and practices have been dropped from the public gay agenda for being too confusing. These priorities and people have been erased from gay awareness.

So while organisations now label themselves LGBT, the B in particular is almost universally ignored. I believe this is because bisexuality upsets far too many assumptions about how to categorise people and sexualities.

Here is my attempt to include bisexuality on the diagram:

 

sexuality now with bi

I added the grid to make it more confusing

Bisexual people occupy both sides of the diagram, because they can be a man or a woman, and then they have all these extra labels because they can desire either a man or a woman, or a man and a woman! That pesky and/or causes quite a lot of confusion. This spread across the diagram even calls into question whether the genders of either the subject or the object matter at all, which is the very foundation of the diagram!

Bisexual people have no place to be, a third wheel in the hetero/homo binary, excluded from both groups depending on the gender of their current partner, but still not included even if their partner is a match. Bisexuals are treated with suspicion because they seem to violate the purity boundary between gay and straight. Bisexual people themselves flip-flop between “being” gay and straight because being “half” anything never worked.

Studies of sexuality exclude bisexual people for ‘throwing off’ the results. Many straight scientists call the sexuality “indeterminate” and gay and lesbian people call it “on the fence” and “halfway out”.

Bisexual people also tend to come out at a much older age than straight or gay people, partly because many people experience their sexuality as something that changes over time, rather than as something essential they were born with, or that happened to them growing up as a child that they can’t control. This notion has been the cornerstone of gay rights, and to think that one has any control over their sexuality, or that it can change, is taboo.

Most people who have bisexual feelings take care to not identify with this reviled label, thus creating the illusion that this sexuality is a tiny minority, which is good for everyone else because bisexuality is so upsetting to the diagram that it cannot be tolerated.

(NB: if you unscientifically read between the lines of other data sets and hang out in bisexual activism circles, it seems clear that at least 40% of the population have behaved in a bisexual way in their lifetimes).

Straight and Queer

It has become increasingly common recently for the LGBTQI+ community to ditch all the letters, because they are becoming quite a mess, and adopt a former slur “queer” as an umbrella term to easily point to “not straight”. This umbrella has the advantage of pointing to a fairly large group (up to 20%) of the population while being non-specific about what it means, other than it’s in the gender & sexuality mess space. In this way it can encompass all the pesky extra weirdos with just one term, and reinstate the precious binary.

This is an opportunity for another way to organise the diagram.

The “queer” side is still just lesbian and gay, with its perfect symmetry of straight, but we’ve added the other weirdos (trans and bi) on the side. While these people apparently make up a minority, it still makes the categorisations looks awkward.

straight-queer (1)

Intersex, Questioning and Asexual need to go on the right but I ran out of space

This straight/queer grouping is supposed to be reassuring and it has worked for a while (for straight/gay people) but it seems like an unsatisfactory way to “contain” all the “mess” of people who are not-straight.

On the other hand, bi people flock to the word “queer” if not the community. More on that below.

However, this is not the only possible taxonomy.

Bisexual and Monosexual

I’m going to let you into a secret of the bisexual community, when those communities have enough structural momentum to temporarily coagulate. Bisexual people sometimes use an alternative binary to describe the world. It consists of Monosexuals (60%): those who are attracted to only one gender and Bisexuals (40%): those who are attracted to more than one gender. When bisexuals are prominent as a category, rather than treated as an enormous “anomaly”, a very different diagram appears.

bisexual-monosexual (1)

This representation gets closer to the world from a bisexual point of view. The gender of the subject is completely dropped from bisexuals in this worldview, because the label would say “man or woman” attracted to “man and woman”, which is pretty pointless. In the bisexual world, the diagram is not based on the gender of subject and object. So it also doesn’t matter if you are trans, or if your object of desire is trans.

“Monosexual” is the label for those strange people who insist on gender being the ultimate factor for sexual subjects and objects, and “Bisexual” is for those who do not. Monosexual people can still be trans, and I am remiss for not including it back on the diagram. At any rate they fit ok in the monosexual categories too.

How successful is this model? In my experience, people who are not bisexual, and even those who disagree strongly with bisexuals, tend to congregate in bisexual spaces. These include trans, intersex, agender, asexual and neuro-atypical people, as well as straight and gay of course. The true “umbrella” queer world, in my view, is the bisexual space, because everyone can fit there, with no dogma on gender or sexuality that fundamentally rejects what they feel inside.

Breakdown

At this point the actual word “bisexual” is simply meaningless. It originally meant “two” sexes and now the bisexual community defines it as “more than one”, in opposition to monosexuals, who only like one. But if gender is not really in the picture any more, why are we using these terms to define sexuality? Some activists have tendered the word “multisexual” as the opposite of monosexual, however this has largely failed. It has failed because using the idea of gender to define sexuality is pointless to bisexual people. This binary of bisexual/monosexual is unstable, and contains the seeds of its own destruction.

If not bisexual, then what? While ‘monosexual’ still seems somewhat descriptive for those with single-gender tastes, we have no good name for everyone else. The diagram is not based on gender, so the meaning of the words is dissovling before our eyes. The bisexual label has disappeared, with just a gap in its place. This is why so many bi people say “I’m just me” when asked to identify their sexuality. The question of their sexuality is mu. The true answer is outside of the frame of the question.

(I will, however, continue using “bisexual” for this article for lack of any other good word.)

I believe if we take the implications of the bi/mono model to their logical conclusion, if we run headlong into the black hole, we can finally dissolve or explode our categories of sexuality altogether. We can find new ways of making meaning about this attribute: sexuality.

Let’s explode

The danger of spectrums

When seeking new ways to define sexuality, it will be tempting to describe attributes as “spectrums”. Let’s take gender as an example. We have already said that bisexuality removes gender from the concerns of sexuality.  However, most people do have some preferences when it comes to gender.

Two scientists have so far tried to classify bisexual preferences. Kinsey designed a spectrum (with numbers 1-6). Number 1 means those who are exclusively heterosexual and number 6 means those who are exclusively homosexual, with number three meaning you are equally attracted to men and women. This spectrum is sort of useful but has many problems.

One problem is that this Kinsey number changes as soon as you modify any part of the question. The dimensions of time (past, present and future), fantasy, sex drive and levels of opportunity all play a huge role in how one’s attractions can be rated on the scale.

In comes the Klein grid, attempting to make sense of these different desires, where you rate your Kinsey number for fantasy, the past, the present etc. and end up with a grid of different numbers. This is quite fun at first,  however as their own website shows, this taxonomy soon dissolves into nonsense. As I’ve written before, these are well-intentioned attempts at eternalising an inherently nebulous thing.

The truth is, sexuality is nebulous and refuses to be pinned down by number scales. Level of attraction to one gender does not really relate to attraction to another gender along a sliding scale. They are not even on the same scale! Placing an apparent binary at opposite ends of a single scale is a mistake. It is still within the old gender binary way of thinking.

Factors, influences, preferences

It is easier to say that gender is a factor, but one with as variable importance as any other number of attractiveness factors, such as: body shape, eye colour and social status. It is perfectly possible to find both blue eyes and brown eyes attractive and to prefer blue eyes does not say anything at all about how much one likes brown eyes. These are all just factors of attraction.

Now that we are looking for factors of attraction, the landscape becomes clearer. Factors of attraction in the object of desire can be physical attributes, mental attributes and social attributes. There are also a number of factors relating to the subject experiencing attraction too. One’s age, sex drive, hormone balance, sexual practices and turn-ons are all big factors in attraction.

Cruicially, one lesson from the bisexual world is that preferences can change. It is not threatening to think that one used to prefer blondes but now like brunettes, but it is currently taboo to say that one used to prefer women and now finds men attractive too. The essentialist argument was important for gay rights, but now it is damaging all of us by impying that sexuality can never change. When we acknowledge change, our various identity labels can change too, with much less harm than is caused now.

When thinking about all of these preferences and factors, common configurations emerge. The queer world has been making headway inventing names to refer to these clusters of attributes, such as: femme, boi, bear, butch, cub, twink, unicorn. The straight world has far fewer words, but they exist, such as ‘cougar’, even if they do get ruined  (‘sapiosexual’ anyone?) However there could be much greater mileage in identifying and naming these common configurations.

Gender will very much still be in there, since not-trans straight people are still the most common. These days one ticks some boxes on dating sites e.g ‘male’ looking for ‘female’ and this new model would be just as simple. Non-transgender people are known as cisgender and most people are straight, or heterosexual. ‘Cishet’ is the word for the common configuration of “cisgender” and “heterosexual”. It is already commonly used in the queer world. So now you might tick the box ‘cishet’ looking for ‘femme’. Simple.

None of this is new. Dating sites have been trying to capture these preferences with more or less success for decades. I simply believe that our conceptual models, which are exclusively based on gender, are holding us back from realising the broad potential of sexuality.

Sexuality In The Future

Given the avenues of thought provided by Bisexuality, the future of sexuality could be very different. Rather than see sexuality as a biological binary because it depends on the biological “binary” of gender, sexuality can be seen as a personal attribute with both biological and cultural components that is affected by many factors.

Like other human attributes a person’s sexuality is both enduring and also evolves over time. It features many strands of influence, some biological, some social. Most of these strands are context-specific, some occur all the time. Some strands of attraction relate to the subject of desire and some strands relate to the object of desire. Some refer to social context, some are factors totally outside of our control, while some strands can be readily changed by new interactions or even conscious effort.

Many of these strands commonly appear together and so colloquial labels will continue to grow up around these clusters to make it easier to describe oneself and who one desires, but these labels should be seen as flexible, incomplete and eventually, obviously, they will go out of date.

In this model, changing one’s own gender, or changing which genders one is attracted to is unproblematic, just as liking blondes or brunettes is unproblematic now.

Some scales apart from gender seem obviously very useful, such as sex drive. Some people have no sexual desire at all, and some people prefer to have sex every day. Surely matching with a person on sex drive is just as important as on gender (if you’re monogamous). The ways that age can interact with sex drive seems very interesting. Should we be encouraging more sex between older women and younger men, for example?

What other scales and dimensions come into play with sexuality?

New Diagrams

I think some of the current ways of thinking about sexuality are still useful when providing a simple model for people who need that. Much like high school physics, we could present a simpler model to high schoolers that is oversimplified. Then, just as with physics undergrads, the more complex model can be revealed when the person is cognitively ready for it. Perhaps in high school we will still use this diagram:

teenagers

and for those who are cognitively ready it will look more like this, a many-stranded colourful cluster of changeable attributes and preferences:

sexuality future

I imagine this to be like colourful strings of yarn, and there would be hundreds of strands all dangling before us. Each person can grab lots of strings, and grab different ones on different days. A certain group of strings might have a label that describes it, and one’s own fistful might be quite similar to the label, but each person’s fistful o’ yarn will also be unique. This diagram does not have hundreds of strings, but you get the idea.

I think that if we adopt this way of approaching sexuality, our conceptions of it can go from this:

sexuality now 2

to this:

rainbow harp

Rainbow Harp! Image by Sheppard Arts

…without too much hardship. Looks like fun!

Conclusion

Sexuality and gender don’t belong in boxes forever, and it’s not too hard to think outside them. We can conceptualise sexuality as a personal attribute that depends on many factors and evolves over time. We may simplify this for those who need it, but the complex model should underpin adult life.

Also:

  • Diagrams are harder to make than they look.
  • Bi people are fun! You should hang out at their parties.
  • I got the inspiration for this blog post from a strangely coherent dream.

Post Script

I did not realise when I started this post that I am proposing the end as we know it of sexuality labels and ditching LGBT. By the end of this post I realised that’s exactly what I’m doing. While this is scary, I think it may actually be the right time. The straight /L / G project has been pretty successful. There’s very little left to do. In order to achieve the goals of B, a turning-inside-out of assumptions has to happen. As a bi activist, I started to realise that, rather than berate people for not identifying as bi (which causes sooo many organisational problems), or berate others for being so prejudiced towards “b” that no-one will identify as it, I decided I should accept how others feel and behave, understand why, and work with it. Work to push it further in its own direction, rather than force it into boxes. This might be one way of doing that? I’m not certain. As I said, I woke up from a dream with this all in my head, you can let me know if it makes any sense.

 

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Bisexuals at London Pride 2017

We ARE marching!

PORTLAND PLACE! 1pm cut off xxx

All the bi groups of London will be marching with ‘UKBiPride‘ this year as part of the ‘UKPrides’ section of the parade. They are the ones allocating our marching spaces, and I will copy their instructions here.

Order of events on the day

9am – 11am Big Bi Breakfast hosted by BiscuitMag (@Biscuitmag on twitter)

Address: Fitzrovia Center, 2 Foley Street London W1W 6DL

10.45am – 11.15am Collect wristbands

Address: UK Pride Organisers Network (UKPON) on Gildea Street, near Wogan House

11.30am Travel to form up point.

Address: unknown, usually near Baker street. We are the front of section “B”.

1pm Head of march moves off (we will start moving around 1.20pm?)

~3pm Reach end of march and attempt to enter Trafalgar square for stage entertainment/stalls

Rest of afternoon/evening: no bi specific event planned. This meetup event has co-ordination for people wishing to meet other bi people on the day: https://www.meetup.com/london-bisexuals/events/235740898/

 

Instructions from UKBiPride

Hello wristband holders and lovely folk on the waiting list!
Bi Pride UK want to thank you for your massive enthusiasm to march with us at Pride in London next weekend, Saturday 8th July! Below you will find some key information about the day. If you emailed us on behalf of others (e.g. a group or a partner), please forward this email to them so they know what’s happening on the day too. It’s a long email, but we wanted to make sure that you get as much detail as possible…
Meeting Point and Time:
As you will be aware, we have a very limited number of wristbands allocated to us (50). Because of that, please let us know if you are no longer able to attend for whatever reason, so that we can reallocate your wristband to someone waiting patiently on the waiting list. We have already been able to reallocate a few wristbands, so if you are on the waiting list, don’t lose hope!
We will be meeting close to the UK Pride Organisers Network (UKPON) on Gildea Street, near Wogan House. We will get there at 10:45 to start handing out wristbands to the 50 people on our list. If you do not arrive by 11:15, we will start giving out the wristbands to those on the waiting list. By 11.25, if we still have any left, they will be given out to anyone else on a first-come-first-served basis. If you are running late but are definitely coming, then please call 07837754474 and we will hold one for you.
We will be leaving the meeting point at 11.30 and heading to our place in the Parade.
We will be marching at the front of SECTION B. If this is your first Pride, that may sound very confusing; Pride in London is divided into a series of sections, each with their own theme. If you get lost, there will plenty of Stewards around with brightly coloured high-visibility jackets to ask, and there’ll be plenty of signs on lampposts telling you which section you’re in.
Clothing, Accessories and Things to Bring:
Through some generous supporters, we have procured enough t-shirts for each of our wristband holders to wear on the day! These will have the Bi Pride UK logo on them, and we are very excited to debut them here. We would very much appreciate you wearing these t-shirts while marching with us, although there is no pressure to do so, but then returning them to us at the end of the march so we can use them (after washing them!) at future events. If you would like to keep the t-shirt (because they are just that awesome), we are requesting a donation of £5-10.
Our message for this march is Show Your Colours, and so on the rest of your body, please feel free to wear and bear whatever colours or flags you feel best represent you! We want you to feel free and open to be who you are and wear your colours, whatever they might be, proudly. Banners, placards, flags, capes, face paint, hair spray, whatever, all welcome – the more the merrier.
Remember to prepare for all weathers – this is London, after all. Make sure you have comfy shoes, plenty of water (it’s a long day), snacks if you feel you need them, suncream (it doesn’t hurt to be optimistic), antihistamines and/or any medication you might need, and an umbrella (because you should always be prepared!).
Security:
Pride is a wonderful event, but there are always some people who want to rain on our parade. To make life easier for yourselves, we recommend that you don’t bring any large bags with you, because getting them searched every 10 minutes is just tiresome.
Also, the Pride in London Parade operates on a strict wristband-only policy. This means that only people wearing a wristband will be allowed to enter the Parade form up area. If you are running late and have let us know in advance, we can arrange to give you one to allow you to enter the area, but otherwise we’re afraid we’ve got to stick by the system. If you don’t have a wristband, though, that doesn’t mean you can’t hang out with us, though! Which brings us to…
Social stuff:
If just marching isn’t enough for you (and let’s be honest, why should it be?!), check out the meet-up that we’ve been told about, organised by a few people for the Saturday morning, from 11am at the Fitzrovia Centre: https://www.meetup.com/london-bisexuals/events/240449746/ There will also be people gathering post-parade (https://www.meetup.com/london-bisexuals/events/235740898/), so plenty of ways to keep the party going in whatever manner you’d like! For more information on these things, please use the contact details on the respective event pages.
Finally, Bi Pride UK would like to thank you again for spending Pride in London with us. We are very much looking forward to meeting you and building together this amazing community. Let’s spread the bi pride and enjoy our day!
With visi*bi*lity and love,
Allison & Abigail (Co-Chairs of Bi Pride UK) and the entire Bi Pride UK Committee

 

My Instructions in line with previous years

Pride colours

Bisexuals are a diverse group with no single unifiying attribute, but at Pride that means no-one can see who we are! The bisexual colour is purple, so please everyone wear head to toe deep purple outfits, so that we look like a unified block that can easily be seen. We want to be visible!

Deep purple is an unusual colour and you will not have something suitable in your wardrobe on the day. Lilac, blue or “wearing your purple socks” are not good enough! You need to go online and buy something NOW especially for the parade. We want to be loud and proud!

Here are some inspirations:

These beauties can be ordered from The Bisexual Index Their other t-shirt designs sometimes come in purple too. Make sure to select purple when purchasing!

If you can’t afford these, grab yourself a plain deep purple tshirt from ebay.

Pre-form up meeting

The pre-form up meeting is once again at The Fitzrovia Centre at 9am-11am.

Address: 2 Foley Street, London W1W 6DL. Nearest tube: Goodge Street

Here you can paint faces, change clothes, meet some other bis, have a cup of tea, eat cake, use the toilets and collect your wristband for marching in the parade. You will also get on-the-day updates that will be very important.

Attending this meeting promptly is the only way to guarantee you can march in the parade. Please attend this meeting on time!

Wristbands

You must have a wristband to march in Pride.

Important change to last year: UKBiPride are requiring all participants to email them directly in order ot get a wristband. The deadline is 16th June and there are only 50 wristbands to allocate. Please email biprideuk@gmail.com saying you would like a wristband (put it in the subject line).

Last year we ran out of wristbands when we only had 50, please email anyway so that we have an idea of numbers for next year (and come along anyway, there are always no shows and dropouts).

Since we are co-ordinating with another group this year we have to arrange distributing wristbands. This will most likely happen at the pre-form up meeting in The Fitzrovia Centre.

The Parade

We must form up in <street unknown> at <time unknown>. (Likely near to Baker St Station) We will depart The Fitzrovia Center at <time unkown>.

The area becomes extremely busy and phone signal sometimes blacks out. It is quite hard to get information about the parade on the day if you have missed the pre-form up meeting. If you persevere though, someone might get back to you on Facebook, Twitter or Meetup eventually. I recommend the app WhatThreeWords, which uses a three word code to give you a map pin that is accurate to within 3 metres of a location. I’ll post our three word location once we are installed at form-up.

The parade takes a very long time to move off and reach Traflagar Square, be prepared for lots of standing and being out in the elements for several hours.

Trafalgar Square

The parade ends in Trafalgar Square and a stage with live music is set up there, plus stalls and food and drink. If you can get in (!) it’s a great way to socialise after the parade. Jon Bi from the London Bisexuals Meetup Group normally forms up a group there. More information can be found on his Meetup Page.

What to bring

London Pride is a long day that is very tiring, you’ll need to bring two types of things: extreme fun and dressing up stuff for a wild day and extremly boring things to keep you comfortable and happy on a gruelling day of standing up.

Wild party fun times: Pride is so great because the gays go absolutely wild. There’ll be all the men in just g-strings, extravagent carnival-style drag queen wonders and people dressed in leather dog masks, to name a few,  all running wild down the centre of Regent’s Street and Oxford Street as neary a million normal people cheer them on. It’s a goddam rush and is the most wild dressing up you’ll ever see, so don’t hold yourselves back 🙂

  • Facepaints, especially bi colors: Pink, Purple, Blue
  • bi flag
  • deep purple clothes, head to toe, including pants (I like to get my pants out)
  • purple/rainbow unbrellas
  • whistles
  • portable speakers
  • bi badges and stickers
  • spares for everyone else: purple scarves, hats, tops, long socks, badges anything you’ve got
  • CAKE

Why not check out the Biscuit Magazine Etsy Shop for stickers and cards.

Practical stuff: those hot men in g-strings will be wearing just two other essential items: trainers and sun lotion. Remember how you had to prepare carefully for a day trip to London, because being a tourist in London for the day is exhausting? Well this is that. Don’t be complacent just because you live here now.

  • comfortable walking shoes – VERY IMPORTANT
  • umbrella
  • foldable waterproof jacket
  • sun cream
  • hat/headscarf
  • medium/large bottle of water
  • snacks (you will be without food 12noon – 3pm)
  • cash money
  • oyster card
  • foldable layers of clothes – light jumper, leggings
  • string, tape, scissors, safety pins (useful for attaching bi flags to people & wardrobe emergencies)
  • plasters, paracetamol, antihistamines

 

YAY

We look forward to seeing you there!! Any questions you can comment here or email me: jezzburton@yahoo.com or tweet @ssica3003.

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Eternalist problems with bisexuality

Preamble

My thoughts in this blog post rely on other frameworks to better understand bisexuality.

The first set of frameworks are eternalism/nihilism and  monism/dualism as outlined by David Chapman on his project called meaningness. Very briefly,

  • Eternalism says that everything has a definite, true meaning.
  • Nihilism says that nothing really means anything.

I will be focussing on eternalism. Eternalism resolves the ambiguity of life by saying that, even if we can’t fully see or understand it, there is an ordering principle to everything. This ordering principle can explain everything, providing comfort and a sense of control. The most obvious examples are God, or the non-theistic Fate. However many things can be eternalist, such as staunch belief in Science (scientism) or political ideologies.

There are two common ways to futher enact eternalism, called monism and dualism by Chapman. Very briefly,

  • Monism is the idea that “All is One.”
  • Dualism is the idea that the world consists of clearly separate objects.

To take a religious example, Monist Eternalist thought appears in New Age religions that state “you and the universe are One”, meaning you will be saved because you are God. Dualist Eternalist religions say God is a thing, separate from you and he will save you.

I will also be looking at several of Chapman’s ‘Eternalist ploys’ and linking to them as I go along. I really do recommend an extremely long click-around the book linked here before reading my thoughts to come.

Problems of bisexuality

In the bisexual activist community, it is commonly known that advocating for bisexuality is extremely difficult because of a number of problems.

To begin, almost nobody actually identifies as bisexual because the label, or stereotypes of the label, do not fit their experience.

Most people believe they are ‘not bisexual enough’ because they don’t have equal and unbiased sexual attraction to all genders, all of the time. Many people disagree that “both homo- and hetero- sexual” is an adequate term for their feelings.

Many bisexually-behaving people either swing between identifying as ‘straight’ or ‘gay’ depending on their current partner or refuse labels entirely and state “I am just me”. Some find their way to the queer community, which is more of an umbrella term but some of their bisexual behaviour must be sublimated to fit into queer spaces (eg opposite-sex attractions), just as those who remain in a hetero society sublimate their same-sex attractions.

Tragically, despite feelings they are not a ‘true’ bisexual, most bisexual people’s experiences are very similar to each other and distinct from other people’s. This means that services of any kind which are tailored to straight, gay, lesbian or trans people are inadequate and unhelpful for bisexual people, whereas bisexually-tailored help would work, if it were available, or if anyone accessed it, which they don’t, which means funding for new services is hard to get, because no-one identifies as bisexual.

This leads to depressing statistics about mental and physical health amongst bisexually behaving people, with outcomes being far worse than any of the aforementioned groups.

When bisexual people come together in an understanding environment, the effects can be profoundly positive, but finding a way to reach bisexual people is notoriously difficult. The positive effects can also fade quickly over time as normal life once again denies bisexual experience.

Understanding bisexuality through frameworks

Having read Chapman’s ways of slicing reality into stances, I became very interested in how or why this might apply to bisexuality.

I believe bisexuality is inherently nebulous, complex, changing over time, with multiple things going on. It explodes neat binaries and refuses to be its own, easily understandable thing.

At the same time there are strong patterns of commonality between people who feel or behave in a bisexual way, grouped into clumps of common experience. Most bisexual people share some but not all of these groups of experiences, some but not all of the time. This makes the label bisexual more of a marker for a rough direction than any kind of explanation, leading to everyone’s frustration with it, and labels in general.

Common objections to bisexuality from the stances

The eternalist stance has a problem with any sexuality that is not fixed over a long time, while some gay activism has focussed strongly on eternalist principles to fight their cause, such as having no choice about sexuality, whether from a genetic or environmental standpoint – ‘born this way’.

However, bisexual people experience attractions to other genders fading in and out over time. Some bisexual people “decided” to become bisexual or first experienced another-gender attraction quite late in life.

This leads to many people denying that bisexuality can exist. It is dismissed as “just a phase”, as if sexualities must eventually become ‘stable’. Or dismissed as treacherous or dangerous,  as ‘watering down the message’. Sexuality studies exclude bisexual people because they ‘muddy the water’.

The monist view that we are all one comes into play when bisexuality is denied by appealing to similarities. People either say “well, we are all human, that’s what matters” or the extremely pernicious statement “well, we are all bisexual really”. While it is true that most people could conceive of the idea that someone’s attractions may vary across gender boundaries, it is certainly not true that everyone behaves in a bisexual way. Otherwise everyone would be bisexual, really.

I believe this monist inability to see categories also leads people to entirely reject labels. The monist view says ‘I don’t see why we need labels anyway, it only serves to divide people unneccessarily’. However as we have seen, when bisexual people cannot rally around some words or identities, their health and wellbeing suffer tremendously.

When it comes to being gay, almost no-one  gives the following advice: “well, you are just you, you are unique, you should only take up labels that suit you” but this is almost always given as advice to someone questioning whether they are bisexual.

Similarly, the dualist view ends up rejecting labels. Dualism insists on concrete categories, particularly gender of self and gender of the people to whom one is attracted. A bisexual person suspects that they do not fit neartly into the category of hetero or homo, so the dualist creates anthoer category called “both”. This category is entirely unacceptable to a bisexual person as briefly described above.

It’s also very hard to undestand as a dualist, since liking two “opposites” at once sounds suspiciously like categories shouldn’t exist at all. The dualist then wants a bisexual to ‘decide’. Parents constantly state “so you’re straight now”, “so you’re gay now” to a bisexual person when they have a new partner and bi people themselves swing between “gay” and “straight”. Other dualist biphobc statements include “pick a side”, “choose a team”, “stop being on the fence”.

Many valiant attempts to create categories that do seem to fit bisexual people have occured to better describe bisexual experience. These include:

  • bi-romantic, to capture the relationship aspect of attraction only
  • hetereo- and homo- flexible, to express a ‘mostly, but not always’ fit into dualist boxes
  • pansexual, to describe attraction based less on gender than on other attriubutes
  • queer, to express ‘not straight, but check the details’
  • fluid, to desribe lack of fixity over time

And many others.

However, each label only decribes an aspect of bisexuality. The process of choosing and applying many labels which may change over time or not be an exact fit soon becomes absurd, and many people give up the idea of labels all together as unworkable.

As we have seen, the monist view dismisses labels as divisive, while simple dualist labels are not nebulous enough for real people to fit into, but at the same time applying mutliple, more fuzzy categories becomes absurd.

Eternalist ploys

A couple of the eternalist ploys mentioned by Chapman struck home as being relevant to bisexuality.

Continuum Gambit

The ‘continuum gambit’ is a ploy by eternalist thinking to regain control of, and create boundaries on, nebulous things.

When it becomes obvious that things are not either this or that, but somewhat both and neither—a typical manifestation of nebulosity—the continuum gambit suggests that reality is a matter of shades of gray, corresponding to numbers on a continuous scale.

This describes the Kinsey scale perfectly. Kinsey was radical and needed in his time and set us on a new course of thinking about sexuality forever. However, the Kinsey scale is misleading and useless about 10 minutes after it is first discovered.

A person will yield as many different numbers on the scale as there axes of experience around sexuality. The same person will have wildy different numbers depending on the history of their relationships, compared to feelings now, compared to the future, let alone actual behaviour vs desired behaviour in an ideal world vs fantasy life (which normally has no correlation with actual acts).

The Klein grid is an attempt to take into account these considerations, and involves some interesting thoughts, but the results seem to me to become immediately meaningless. A bisexual person will not be indentifiable from the general population when taking this test, and interpretation of the results is apparently complex. This is normally a sign that it is useless for ordinary people and indeed the website itself suggests it’s better to find a therapist.

(Lack of) wistful certainty & others

Wistful certainty is the idea that there definitely is a right system to do things that will solve all our problems, if only we can discover it. For example, the certainty that once we discover the correct laws of physics, they will explain the entire universe. Or the certaintiy that if we develop just the right combination of policies, there wil be a political system that works well enough for everyone.

The fact that this is not true is not immediately obvious (in my view), with the above examples. I believe many people are supported by wistful certainty surrounding many assumptions in their lives, making them more comfortable than they might be otherwise.

However, the lack of wistful certainty is immiediately apparent with bisexuality. There is no hope that someone is working on this stuff and it will all be figured out eventually. Rather, the bisexual person is simply weird,wrong and does not fit any systems.

No-one is examining the puzzle of bisexuality to give them hope. Rather they are excluded from studies as anomalies There are no meanings to bisexuality, fixed or otherwise.

This lack of eternalist bolstering leads to the opposite stance to eternalism, nihilism. Nihilism is not sustainable for very long and is very depressing. Bisexual people either switch back to dualist eternalist (“straight now, gay now”), monist eternalist (“I’m just me, I don’t need labels”) or tragically, commit suicide.

Stages of development

There is another way, however and hopefully many bisexuals reach this stage, at least eventually.

Chapman calls the answer to the eternalist/nihilist stances the complete stance, which sady he has yet to talk about in any great detail (but there are smaller sections on many of the other pages, take a look).

However, the next key framework I am looking at is Kegan’s framework for social and cognitive development, a summary of which can be found here. This is Chapman’s summary and I found it through the meaningness blog. I have yet to read the book, I have only read the summary but it seemed like a good summary that extracts and explains key points.You must read this first before anything I say next makes sense (and we’re at the end so you can stop here if you like).

The first 4 stages do not really relate to the stances, but the 5th one, fluid mode, seems relevant.

There is much discussion on the meta-blog about how few people reach stage 5, about how society operates largely in stage 4, providing no structures to support the transition from stage 4 to stage 5, leaving many stage 4.5ers adrift in nihilisitc depression.

Stage 5 is the moment when the system that a person has been using to have beliefs, achieve projects and relate to others has been replaced by the idea that there are many systems, none of which is objectively the ‘right’ system, because any system is founded on fallable axioms. Rather systems are simply a better or worse fit for situations. Where previously a person was adept at defining their role within a system, a person can now use and even define entire systems dependent on context. In this mode, conflict between systems seems less problematic, as do internal inconsistencies.

A bisexual person will hopefully come to realise that the system we currently have for gender and sexuality is flawed. Labels are both useful sometimes, but not descriptive other times. Categories like gender don’t really exist, but are still handy shorthand for a cluster of attributes. Bisexuality is something outside of gay/straight, it is not simply “both” but it is also not “neither”. That each bi person is different, yet there are commonalities of experience.

I will make a blog post soon talking about how lessons learned from bisexuality can help individuals and societies progress to Stage 5 / fluid mode / complete stance with more understanding and emotional support.

Bisexual notes – genitals and new binaries

 

New Binaries

Before we even move beyond binaries (that bisexuals can access) we can point out that there are a wealth of more subtle binaries that become visible to bi people, because they have opportunity to play on both sides and being overly invested in neither. Trends that are normally hidden by the apparently impenetrable miasma of gender norms (that the trans movement and feminists both live under, and in certain crucial ways contribute to or reinforce due to their preoccupation with historicity) become clearer to bisexual players.

These oppositionals include:

Active role’ and ‘passive role’

(which can be in part loosely situated within old style ‘masculinities’ and ‘femininities’ but which in this case are obviously accessible to both genders/all bisexual players and with any combination of partners)

‘Subjective role’ and ‘objective role’

in which players can idolise (for example) a celebrity in two ways, sometimes wanting to be with them, have sex with them, experience them as an outside/objective agent. In that way your sexual object has their gender and one raltes to them through one’s own gender. Then alternate: sometimes want to be them, emulate them, inhabit them, in which case an agent takes on that person’s gender and one’s own gender becomes the ‘other’ gender to interact with.

‘hard… thrust’ versus and as well as ‘sponge… flow’

expound [Elizabeth Grosz, philosophy of the body]

similarly

‘defined inside/outside boundaries’ (enabling ‘in/out’) vs. and as well as ‘shifting/diffused boundaries’ (which dissolves the notions of ‘in/out’);

The whole damn mess is all so rhizosomic daahhlink… Deleuze and Guttari postmodern chiciness.

Versus and as well as… power of and, and, and

no wonder some bi people decide to be polyamourous – half and half seems like loads but is actually statistically likely if we really are supposed to have a choice.

Genitals

Clitoris as engorged, waving around object, clitoris as a penis, continue with that thought, clitoris enjoys the same things, engorgement, envelopment, lubricated massage.

‘Thrust’ – contraction of the muscles around the legs, backside, within the vagina, makes the vagina small, the back wall pressed against the back of the clitoris, creating a larger surface area out of composite bits of the genitals, create a thrusting pole, if viewed in cross section. This sensation we could attribute to ‘masculine’; since it is persons with penises that learn this lesson first, and womb/vagina havers learn more slowly.

Vaginal as sponge, feminine, space, envelopment organ

(subsection lips) (Irigaray??)

[other male genitals – huge and needing research but possible sites of pleasure could be: skin sensation on the head, around the edge of the head, shaft engorgement, pressure on the penis/shaft, lubricated massage of penis, testicular sensation/musculature*

*candidate for exclusive to males/masculinity]

Gooch skin and pressure…

Anus sexuality…

Anal canal – for itself and then in relation to pressure on prostate/pressure on vagina then in relation to simultaneous inside and outside pleasure, anal interior, manual exterior, which is available to all genders

Simultaneous within/without

Anal with exterior manual stimulation, whether head/penis/balls or clitoris/labia

Worst housemate ad ever

I’m clearing out my Sticky notes on my desktop and thought I’d repost this amazing piece of prose before I delete the sticky forever. Needless to say, no-one replied to this ad, which I consider to be a failure on the part of the human race.

Slutty meat eating smoker wants to live in the dirty parts of town.

Bisexual, polyamorous, feminist, activist, loud, cantankerous, meat-eating smoker seeks furnished self-contained accommodation in the dirty parts of town.

The good part (?):

I’m a manager at the council (“professional”), always pay the bills, always wash up, have no pets and I’m regularly out of the house. I have no mental health problems and have this other side of me that is kind, polite, witty, quiet and full of good conversation. Honest. I also have a vagina – which seems important to some people.

For 400 quid or less you can have me (and regular income secure for the near future). References and deposit available.

Illicit Kisses In The Lady’s Room

I’ve recently been flirting with women who are in some way unavailable.  When I interact with these women the locations are varied, but when they are in public I find myself fantasising about private places in public locations where I could try to steal a kiss from them, or something more.

In a very public location, such as a pub, the one guaranteed place I can think of as a location away from prying eyes is the toilets of the establishment. Since the interaction is a girl-on-girl fantasy, I observe that I can imagine our kiss occurring in the public areas of the bathroom, ie near the sinks, by the mirrors, in the lobby section that many toilets have etc. It would only be an extreme need for privacy that would send us into a cubicle (well, for a kiss anyway).

When I have feelings of taking a girl off in private, the door of the female toilets becomes the safe zone. If the bathroom were a unisex one, then I would definitely retreat further into a cubicle. This is the first time I’ve considered the single-sex toilet as being a “safe space” for women. I have allowed discussions about unisex toilets happen to around me, and I am broadly in favour of unisex, since many problems are solved by this approach.

Being a girl who moves outside of “girl” stereotype somewhat, being more interested in games than clothes, programming than makeup, feats of strength than social graces, and boys more than girls, I rarely encounter the benefits of all-female spaces. I don’t feel actively alienated from these spaces and there are some that have strong positives, such as feminist groups, but overall I find my experiences neutral.

It is thus a surprise to find comfort in the idea of the female toilets as a safe zone, in order to be with other women. In addition to feeling more private than a large room such as a pub, I feel I can rely on social norms practiced by groups of women. These include the idea that I will not receive unwelcome attention (in the form of stares or spoken intrusion) from whoever might also be in there. Similarly, any reproach for my activities will be easily brushed off, since women reproach each other through social punishments like exclusion, (rather than, say, physical bullying) which is no threat from strangers. I even feel that if another woman from our mutual social circle should happen to see my illicit encounter with a “taken” woman, that person would have at least a 50% likelihood of keeping the tryst they’ve observed a secret.

I also reflect that the female toilets are not a universally safe space. The toilets at a lesbian club are an entirely different beast to a mainstream establishment. I have heard stories from my friends of women busting into cubicles and feeling them up even while they were pissing. But broadly, generally, as a cis-gendered woman the female toilets feel like a safe zone that can be sought out almost anywhere.

This means I’ll have to think in more depth about women-only and “safe” spaces, but I thought I’d share this little part of my sexuality with you. If me and another woman have disappeared at a party, you might be able to guess where we’ve gone.

Sex is hard to talk about

I recently watched an old Dan Savage video where he answers the question “do threesomes ruin relationships?”. He answered that if there is a problem or some kind of lack in a relationship then adding another person into it for a charged sexual liason might very well ruin a relationship, but successful threesomes happen as well. It’s just that you don’t hear about the successful ones. The people having successful threesomes are not running around telling their friends and family about their hot three-way over dinner; they are not “out” about it.

Over the course of the last year, certain features of my life have enabled me to have regular fulfilling sex – including group sex – in the context of varied yet stable and emotionally fulfilling relationships. These features include being bi, being poly, having good communication skills to establish consent, having bi poly friends and places to hang out together. Safe sex is a top priority, as is consent, as is communicating openly about needs and preferences. If someone finds a new partner, this news is greeted with joy and maintaining other relationships and activities outside of this friendship group is also a priority.

The nature of this sexual contact is such that we find ourselves talking about being happy, being fulfilled, finding positive effects on our mental health and overall wellbeing.

Personally, I have been on a deliberate journey to make sex as positive an experience as possible due to starting from very negative beginnings. The success of this journey is a source of happiness and pride for me.

In the context of the wider world it seems clear that the more sex is talked about with children and young people in an open and honest manner the better their subsequent choices are and the more healthy they can be. Sex can and should be a topic of conversation that is as normal and natural as one’s other activities and hobbies.

As an activist, I would like to be ‘out’, especially about the benefits of group sex, which I have spoken about before. But when I imagined going in to work and someone asking me about my weekend and my reply being that I had a birthday party that involved a select guest list of comfortable friends and we all had amazing sex, I couldn’t see that being taken as an acceptable detail of conversation, even though I’m out to my colleagues in every way I can think of.

I have someone in my life who takes great pains and great pleasure in pointing out that I don’t know what the boundaries are of “normal” conversation and regularly go too far with what I’m willing to say. I find it emotionally draining to trigger someone else’s sense of discomfort (much more so than dealing with my own), even though in most cases of people being ‘out’, it is very much to the greater good that people are exposed to things so that they start to perceive them as normal, or everyday.

It is to everyone’s benefit if we can talk openly about sex (including lack of it), but the social pressure in the UK that bears down upon anyone who wants to start the conversation is weighty indeed.