Amy Andre

Why Gay Organizations Might Be Missing Out

Filed By Amy Andre | July 25, 2011 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: bisexual activism, gay organizations, lesbians, women

Alan_Cumming.jpgWhat's in a name? Remember back in the day, when all the LGBT organizations were named "Gay This" and "Gay That," and lesbians pounded their fierce fists on the table and rightfully demanded lesbian inclusion in the names of the orgs, and, in most cases, won? That kicked ass!

But then many of our orgs, now named "Gay and Lesbian This" and "Lesbian and Gay That," stopped updating their names to reflect our diversity. What's that about? This article is a call to the community to start pounding our fierce fists.

For years, LGBT demographic researchers, from Witeck-Combs Communications to the Williams Institute, have been reporting that 50 percent of those who identify as either gay, lesbian, or bi, identify as bi. That means that bi-identified people make up half the LGB population. On top of that, these studies have shown that (a.) most bi-identified people are women, (b.) bisexual women outnumber lesbians two to one, and (c.) women make up half the LGB population.

Before we analyze those stats, and what they mean for gay-named organizations, let's take a look at the bigger issue. Specifically, this: If you're the average Joe Gay-Man or Jane Lesbian - or even Jamie Bisexual - you may be thinking, "Bisexuals? Where? I don't see 'em." And the reason I think you might be thinking this is because these are the kinds of things Joe, Jane, and Jamie say to me when I talk about these studies in my lectures at universities and conferences across the US. But we bi folks truly are everywhere. The phenomenon Joe, Jane, and Jamie are experiencing is what the bi community often refers to as "bi invisibility."

Think of it this way: how would you know someone was bi just by looking at them? You wouldn't. Which is why you might think you don't see them. But, by the same token, how do you know someone is straight or gay just by looking at them? Gay-dar aside, you don't. So, bisexuals aren't the only ones who are invisible. Monosexuals are, too. Even if you see two people of the same sex holding hands while walking down the street, you might know that they're a couple, but you don't know that they're gay; I hold hands with my spouse all the time.

In fact, none of us knows how anyone identifies unless and until someone asks them. And that's just what demographers have done, which is how we now know that 50 percent of LGB identify as B, and that most of the people in that B group are women.

What do these stats have to do with LGBT organizations? Well, most of the LGBT organizations in the US have the word "gay" in their name. (Many also have the word "lesbian".) But almost none have the word "bi" (or "trans" - which deserves a whole article of its own). Considering that bisexuals make up half the LGB population, that's a whole lot of people - and a whole lot of women - being theoretically excluded from those organizations.

This exclusion is usually in name only, because the majority of these orgs explicitly include bisexuals in their mission statement. But when you consider that the mission statement of an organization is usually buried somewhere on its website's "About Us" page - compared to the name, which is the very thing that it's called, in the press, in the community, etc. - it's easy to see that organizations may be missing out on up to half of their potential LGB members, supporters, donors, and clients (if they're a service org).

Even if the organization includes lesbians in its name, the organization might still be missing an opportunity to reach out to women, because, again, most women who identify as either lesbian or bi identify as bi.

Ask yourself the following questions: At the LGBT organization where you volunteer/ work/ donate, what percentage of board members are women? What percent of LGB members are bi? What percentage of clients are women? What percent of the LGB clients are bi? Is it 50 percent? And does your organization have "bisexual" in its name?

You might be wondering if an organization needs to explicitly name a group in its name in order to include that group. But what if the situation were reversed and the vast majority of LGBT organizations only had the word "bisexual" in the title, with no mention of gays, lesbians, or transgender people? How inclusive would those organizations feel to the G, L, and T folks in our community? Probably not very. Would you join an organization that included LGBT people in its mission statement - and was called the National Bisexual Association? Maybe. But maybe not.

Names are powerful things, and so are numbers. As a bi activist, I hear from bisexuals every day who feel excluded from the larger LGBT community. And I hear from LGBT organizations wondering why they don't have more bi folks walking in their doors. Here's an opportunity for both groups to take the first step, and consider: What's in a name?

Bi actor Alan Cumming at a GLAAD event
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Do biracial Americans with African heritage feel excluded from organizations like the NAACP? Do they feel excluded when confronted with organizations using the term "Black" instead of "biracial/mixed race" in their name? Possibly.

It's more like --- would you feel excluded from a group if you were Blackfoot and the group was called the National Association of Cree Nations. Most likely. Bisexuals are a separate "type" of sexuality then gay,lesbian, and heterosexual. We're not half gay and half straight as you seem to be implying with your analogy. Shake your head!

If we absolutely have to use your flawed analogy, yes us Metis people do feel excluded from First Nations groups and form our own groups rather then try to get accepted into them.

On the contrary, bi people are both gay and heterosexual.

No actually not true. To quote "Bisexual Index" the UK's bisexual political site,

"Bisexuality is not a combination of heterosexuality and homosexuality. We're not half formed or half committed. We're whole.

We are not bi-sexual, we're bisexual! The word is in the dictionary - it's not two words put together. Pretending the word "bisexual" doesn't exist is a tiny, trivial way of denying our legitimacy, but it still is one. After all, if what we have is two sexualities then maybe we should pick one and stick with it?

But in reality there's no indecision, no uncertainty, no halves."

Why would being attracted to people of both sexes (i.e. being gay and heterosexual) imply that bi people are indecisive or 'half-formed'? I am not saying that at all. Bi people are fully gay and fully heterosexual (although not exclusively either). I did not mean to imply otherwise. I am not questioning the existence of bi people, merely the linguistic treatment of them as a separate group that is mutually exclusive with heterosexual or gay people.

I agree that bi people cannot 'pick one and stick with it'. Once a bi person is married, he or she is still bi (i.e. still potentially attracted to people of both sexes). However, in terms of behavior and discrimination, isn't it true that a bi person who marries some of the opposite sex (enters a heterosexual marriage), does not face legal discrimination and is treated by the law as a heterosexual? Similarly, isn't it true that a bi person whom marries someone of the same sex (enters a gay marriage) faces the same discrimination that all gay families face?

darksidecat | July 26, 2011 11:07 AM

"However, in terms of behavior and discrimination, isn't it true that a bi person who marries some of the opposite sex (enters a heterosexual marriage), does not face legal discrimination and is treated by the law as a heterosexual?" No. Courts dealing with bi parents in divorce, child custody, etc. discriminate like hell against the bi parent. Also, discrimination in employment, housing, etc. all still occur to bi people who are dating someone of the "opposite" sex. Threats of outing are used by abusive partners. The list goes on and on.

On the contrary bigots that are being both purposefully offensive are both moronic and stupid.

No, blacks who are multi-racial do not feel excluded from the National Association of Colored People. Good point. It is important for the names of organizations to be concise, clear, and stable over time.

Since you ask...

Yes. Especially those who are lighter skinned. Colorism is just as institionalized.

Thanks, Amy. I complain enough about Trans exclusion - while ignoring Bi exclusion. I need reminders like this, I'm afraid.

But then, I'm straight. It's difficult enough to wrap my head around LG sometimes. As I associate more with LGBT as opposed to just plain T, that's getting easier.

I crave your forgiveness, and though I have no right to ask for anything, I'm asking you to please keep reminding me, us, of this.

100% agree. I also wanted to add to this that I've actually come across quite a few organizations that don't explicitly include bisexuals in their mission statement because they include "queer." Often they won't amend it to include bisexual because they consider it to mean the same thing as queer. For example, the Chicago Dyke March Collective, who I have been arguing with over this issue for 4 years now and who have refused to do something as simple as add a word to their mission statement -- the neglect of which excludes a whole group of people.

Om Kalthoum | July 25, 2011 4:23 PM

Sounds like your solution would be to have a Chicago Bisexual March on a separate day or as a separate contingent. After all, didn't most of the dyke marches arise as a reaction to the testosterone vibe of the original gay pride marches. If you don't feel included, then do your own thing.

Ellynwithay | July 25, 2011 10:45 AM

Thanks, Amy. I soooo agree with you on names needing to be inclusive. And beyond that let's ask organizations that do include the B (and the T) to not JUST add the letter but also have it mean something. It doesn't stop after the letter is added.


It has happened for years that activists had assumed that adding "B" and framing the issue as one of sexual orientation meant inclusion. Meanwhile, reverting to language which doesn't always fit bisexual people ("gay," "queer" -- and sometimes objections to these terms are dismissed as homophobia), plus the persistent attitudes that bi folks are "really" either gay or straight tend to drive people away, and bi voices are thus erased.

I hope people listen -- although they may need to keep being reminded, unfortunately. Bisexuality seems to be even more invisible than trans*, lately.

Not to mention all the people who identify as "queer" rather than bi!

I am actually less worried about "form" issues like name inclusion than I am about "substantial" issues like real inclusion.

One example close to home, is my local LGBT center. It's usually called "The LOFT." It's full name is "The LOFT: The Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center, Inc." When I was on the board some years ago (I was the first openly trans person on the board), I advised the board as to *how* to effectuate a formal corporate name change, but I did not press the issue. Regardless of the name, the organization is both bi and trans friendly.

Another example is The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) - an organization that has done a great deal for the trans community, at least (I am not familiar at all with what NGLTF may have done for bi folks).

There was a point in time when "Negro" or "colored people" were the polite terms used to refer to African-Americans. While those terms are no longer in the "polite terminology" usage, that hasn't caused either the National organization for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), or the United Negro College Fund, to change their respective names.

When selecting a name, do we *have* to include the entire alphabet-soup list? It's not just LGBT anymore, I am seeing a lot more of LGBTQ, and some LGBTIQ, and even some LGBTIQQ (with "I" for "Intersex" and the "Q" covering "Queer" and "Questioning.") Some may try an LGBTTIQQ to accommodate the various trans separatisms. There is another branch that has gone to LGBTQIA (the last three being Queer, Intersex and Asexual). (Yes, Asexual is arguably even more invisible than Bisexual, and some might classify asexual into oblivion by including the class as something like "low-intensity-bisexual" or something like that.)

Should we consider alternatives to adding all the diverse non-het, non-cis, non-binary classes? Do we do this by some sort of classification system? Do we acknowledge all the various identities so as to not offend anyone, either in lieu of or in addition to whatever umbrella terms might make others happy?

Should we settle on one big umbrella term?

Imagine NGLTF making a radical change to the
National Identity, Sex, Orientation and Expression Diversity Task Force - NISODETF -
rather than the even lengthier
National Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Bigender, Transgender, Transsexual, Genderqueer, Genderfluid, Gender-different, Gender-nonconforming, PAangender, Polygender, Intersex, Queer, Questioning, Drag, Transvestite, Crossdresser, Omnigender, Pansexual, Non-monosexual, Butch/Femme, Bear, Otter, Chub, Cub, Faerie, Assimilationist, Transgressive, Two-Spirit, Nelly, Boi, Aggie, Asexual and Supportive Straight Cissexual Monosexual Task Force (NGLBBTTGGGGPPIQQDTCDOPNMBFBOCCFATTNBAASSCMTF)*

* In compiling the lengthy name, I apologize profusely to anyone whose identity was left out inadvertently, and the names were added willy-nilly with no idea as to any hierarchical or preference to being named earlier or later in the list.

Maybe National Alphabet Soup Task Yeomen (NASTY) might work? :)

Where I live the term queer is used to encompass all those acronyms. For example they will have a "Queer Youth Dance" or the pride centre will say it's for all queer people, occasionally you'll still see LGBT. Unfortunately everyone still bickers and shoots bigoted comments at each other and tries to exclude people no matter what the name is. I think this is because these people seem to have nothing better to do.

The vast majority of gay people (85% or so) do not identify with the offensive and inaccurate term 'queer'. By using that term you will drive away gay people. Where I live (San Francisco), people in general just use the term 'gay' but the media sometimes uses the offensive 'GLBT' or 'queer'.

The vast majority of gay people where I live are happy with the term queer and are in fact the ones who came up with idea to use this word as they are the ones that run the orginizations. If you don't like that that's ok I would never call you queer since you don't identify as that. I guess you don't identify as a bigot either but I would call you that so I don't know. I live in another country then you so words are going to mean different things.

SarasNavel | July 26, 2011 3:47 AM

...and what's the one thing all those letters have in common? In some way or another they vary from the expected clean binary in their gender identity, role, appearance or expression.

As in, "Men" must be dominant, hairy, muscular, tall, identify fully as male, and be sexually attracted only to those who fit the following description of, "women". "Women" must not have body hair, and must be submissive, slight, shorter, identify fully as female and be sexually attracted only to those who fit the definition above for "men". Pure hypothetical social and biological binary. Everything else is a label or identity that strays from the that false, assumed case of 'pure' male and 'pure' female, so let's call it what it is and stop dancing around each other's carved out spaces.

I vote for, 'Gender Atypical' to cover everyone in the aforementioned alphabet soup. 'Sex and Gender Atypical' doesn't work as it would include intersex people and the straight, post-surgery trans women crowd (TS/HBS/WOH/whatever). It's the descriptive, personal label for the legalese of, 'sexuality, gender identity and expression'.

Gender Atypical is also simple enough that people outside the LGBTQQI immediately get what it's about, and they don't seem to have a negative reaction to it as it has no history. It's politically neutral and actually describes the one and only trait that sets all those people apart as a group from the average social definition of man and woman.

If all of us letters are going to work together we have to find and remember our common ground. Anyone who falls outside the norm of 'man' and 'woman' as defined by our greater society can also decide to identify as any specific subgroup as well, and fight for their specific needs. But let's at least hold our our common ground first. If we don't, those who want to take away our rights have already identified what makes us different, and they will continue to use it us by conflating our fought-for identities and continue to turn us against one another.

As a trans lesbian who primarily dates bisexual cisgendered women, I could not agree more.

I'm constantly amazed by the 'larger communities'' reactions to bi and trans identified people. I feel as though my girlfriend's identities have been under almost as much attack as my own, if not more. From "Bi now, Gay later" to other ridiculous attitudes, it just doesn't end.

When I date someone who is lesbian identified, it gets even worse. From barely whispered "You know she's really a..." to purposeful exclusion from social events, its disgusting. As though her relationship with me negates or changes her identity, let alone bringing to light the bi-exclusion from such events. Just plain disgusting.

By not being more methodically inclusive we create an environment that encourages these attitudes and actions and perpetuates said environment.

As tiresome as the alphabet soup can be, there is definitely value in listing identities in a name. By placing bisexual and transgender alongside lesbian and gay, you're bringing a level of recognition stating that these identities are just as valued and valuable to our community as any other. Another option is of course, to avoid listing any particular identity, thus placing everyone on an equal level.

I still appreciate how my college's GLBTIQQSA(Sorry if I left anyone out!) Organization was named after Oscar Wilde and Gertrude Stein and declared itself an alliance for sexual diversity(Wilde Stein, ASD). It was a great way to avoid leaving anyone out. As a result, we often had bisexual and straight students alongside gay and lesbian students in leadership positions within the organization.

I feel for you. As a person who is also trans and is in a domestic partnership with another trans woman. Both of us are also bi. I identified as bi (was 13 or 14 I think) long before I identified as trans or came out as trans. haha bi now gay later never heard that one. I've heard, lets see:
Fence Jumper
Half Breeder
Coward that won't come out of the closet
It's the bisexuals that spread aids to the heteros (that one from both straights and gays)

As for trans and being accepted into any group where it's women with women, forget that, it's never going to happen. We get enough trouble from the lesbians just trying to use the washroom at the local gay bar.

I'm curious as to why you continue to bother being involved in any of these groups at all anymore? They're just constantly crapping on people like us. Drop em and go out and live your life, you don't need to go through such bigotry and hate. Go find some other cause to fight for like feeding people in third world countries or helping the homeless.

I like your organization's name. I am bi myself and have used the LGBT acronym( as far as I know there's nothing offensive about it, but forgive me and feel free to point it out if it is. This is just simply a case of me not knowing.) but I agree there has to be something that we can come up with that is all-inclusive of the many groups under our umbrella.

Dan Massey | July 25, 2011 1:34 PM

At the risk of starting a REAL argument, may I suggest that the MOST inclusive term that covers the entire spectrum of sex and gender variance is TRANSGENDER, as in "everybody is Trans in one way or another, it's just that some people haven't figured it out yet." For example, before I decided to choose functional androgyny, I spent several years in the land of hypermasculinity. There's an entire spectrum of masculinity on the xy side across which GAY is widely distributed, without being exclusive, and there are a lot of people there who run the gamut from neurotic gay virgins to neurotic straight virgins. Their distinguishing quality is simply IGNORANCE and fear of the open alternatives. I do not say this of all, just a lot of them.

Though a preferable word may come to be popular, right now Transgender is the most comprehensive term for all forms of non-normative sex and gender expression. If someone doesn't want to be part of this group under this approach, that fine with me, but it certainly doesn't change reality, just nomination. Not wanting SRS is characteristic of 90% of currently self identifying transgenders, which is, of course a very personal differentiator of the surgical transsexual community, but hardly one to start a fight over, IMHO. Obviously, some will disagree, and some will disagree loudly...

Does the NCLR advocate only for L people? Didn't think so.

Why not NCLGBTR? Some organizations have a focus that they simply fail to make public due to not coming off as politically correct. Inclusion is now mandatory for good image and credibility, even if the organization feigning it doesn't have any sincere interest of following through.

If we let groups specialize and each one serve its own interests honestly, we wouldn't have all this chaos about one group ultimately feeling neglected because we have this notion that there must be this forced union of completely different individuals.

It's as if I grabbed every branch of Judaism and Christianity, and expected them to function under a single doctrine and church. Or, if I went and grouped up Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Egypt, and I were to tell them that because they are mostly Muslim that they should work together and share the same goals and philosophies despite being radically different people.

There's always this tension among the letters of the alphabet soup because their experiences and backgrounds are in such stark contrast. Hell, even people under one letter can't get along and decide what their issues are.

Om Kalthoum | July 25, 2011 3:27 PM

This is one lesbian (ex separatist and survivor of the 60' and 70's) who is undecided but is probably coming full circle on this question. And I think that popular culture is probably helping to make this decision, too. I'm speaking here mostly about how our umbrella organizations should be named, and I think that Gay means all of us. The ever-increasing addition of letters to our common designation: LGBxxxxxx is getting joke-worthy. If we don't know the most current letters, why should we expect outsiders to? It's gotten to the silliness level. What does Q mean, anyhow? Questioning? Queer? I don't even want to use any T word for fear of the reaction that provokes from some faction of that community. Enough!

Do we break down Straight or Heterosexual? No, but don't most of us understand that those folks embrace a huge diversity of behavior and being? So it should be with Gay, I think. The measure of any organization should be how well it works towards serving our needs. In my case, that means lesbians or women. I'll look to the ACLU if they're doing the best job on a particular issue or case. Of course, with organizations which emphasize serving their subgroups (lesbian or trans or bi) this shouldn't even be a question. But somehow we manage to argue even there.

"The measure of any organization should be how well it works towards serving our needs. In my case, that means lesbians or women"

How narcissistic of you. I'd say the measure of any organization should be how well it work towards serving the needs of all humanity.

Gay isn't going to work, gay has become strongly associated with only homosexual men. As the article stated at the beginning it could have just stayed that way but it didn't. A new word would have to be created.

Exactly. The nonsensical alphabet soup approach has to go. It is quite harmful.

I would certainly NEVER join or support any organization that used the noxious term 'LGBT'. 'LGBT' is offensive, disconsonant, vague, awkward, grammatically incorrect, disjointed, and redundant. It makes no sense to say gay AND lesbian, since all lesbians are, by definition, gay (do you says dogs AND collies?). People who are bi are both gay and heterosexual, but it is only if they marry or partner with some of the same sex that they face discrimination and that they would ever be included in a gay civil rights organization. Transgender people are a minority for a completely unrelated and separate demographic characteristic - their gender identity. There is no reason to lump transgender people in with gay people. In fact, it is highly destructive as the main lie told by homophobes is that gay women are somehow not true women and that gay men are somehow less masculine. By grouping transgender people with gay people in an organization's description or name, the description becomes confusing and also supports the lie that gay folks are somehow insecure about their gender or opposed to traditional gender roles.

"People who are bi are both gay and heterosexual, but it is only if they marry or partner with some (sic) of the same sex that they face discrimination and that they would ever be included in a gay civil rights organization."

People who are bi are not both gay and heterosexual, that should be clear using just common sense but apparently it isn't to many of you. When a bisexual is in a heterosexual relationship they don't transform magically into straights, they're still bisexual. If you're not in a relationship with someone or not seeking one you don't all of a sudden stop being gay. It's not about who you are sleeping with.

You're right bisexuals are only going to face discrimination when they're in same sex relationships. Actually wait you're not right, bisexuals also face discrimination even when they're in heterosexual relationships when they stand by the gays and lesbians in the 'battle' for acceptance for all peoples of sexual and gender diversity. I certainly hope any gay civil rights group you run stops refusing money and support from bisexuals when a bisexual starts sleeping with the opposite sex. I can see it now,

Bigot: "Sorry sir you're no longer welcome here?"

Bisexual Male: "Why?"

Bigot: "You're sleeping with a woman now you're no longer part of our group."

Bi Male: "...but, but I've given this group money and stood by everyone here, I never discriminated against anyone on the grounds of their orientation"

Bigot (while he counts the money Bi Male has just given from his last donation): "Get away from me you half straight, half hetero, you're nothing but a fence jumping, half breeding closet case!"
"In fact, it is highly destructive as the main lie told by homophobes is that gay women are somehow not true women and that gay men are somehow less masculine."

I'm sorry if us trans people make you look bad in front of the heteros, you might also need to be excluding effeminate gay men from your special group of bigots as they also perpetuate that stereotype. Maybe you need to institute a manliness test for anyone entering any gay group you belong too. You need to make sure they aren't perpetuating a stereotype. You could have questions about mechanics and do a muscle mass and amount of body hair test, it would be cool.

hmmm a very masculine gay man isn't going to be getting much discrimination at all really they don't have to worry about being beaten at random when they walk out the door of their home at night. How about this you tattoo a pink triangle to your head come back in a year and let us all know what discrimination is like and we'll exclude you from our group, "Get out of here you pink triangled freak, you're making us all look less manly! Kneel before my manly power, oooo, ughg , ooo, ugh!"(that's supposed to be a hairy ape man sound)

It's just too bad that the stonewall riots were spear headed by effeminate men, street people, prostitutes and the transgendered. "The Freaks" if you will. While this was happening manly manly manly men like you were out forming a group that's basis was assimilating gay men into society and figuring out the best way to stay in the closet.

Don't worry many of us transgendered people want absolutely nothing to do with you either.

OT: totally ? your little dialogue and am immediately grabbing to post to tumblr

Gay women, also called lesbians, are gay. There is no need to ever say 'gay and lesbian'. You could say 'gay men and lesbians' or 'gay men and women', but it is much clearer, more precise, and less verbose to say 'gay'. Anyone who can be romantically attracted to or fall in love with someone of the same sex is gay, regardless of their sex. This also applies to bi people, who are both gay and heterosexual.

Again, bisexual people are NOT "half gay" (or closeted or indecisive or confused or whatever) they are "not a combination of heterosexuality and homosexuality. We're not half formed or half committed. We're whole."

Please do us the courtesy of hearing what we say instead of simply making thing up. It all works much better when you start from a position of truth.

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Amen. There is no reason to lump transgender people or left-handed people or Zoroastrians in gay civil rights organizations. Actually, the best approach is that of the Human Rights Campaign or Equality California. These organization names tell you what they are for and that they welcome all people - heterosexual or gay.

Yes the HRC really stands for trans rights and is just so accepting of them. I'm sure you know it doesn't and is the reason you have used it as an example.

Just as a general note, it is fundamentally impossible for a bi person to be *both* gay and straight.

This is because to say that they are both gay and straight is to say that they are two separate and mutually exclusive things. (Although I'm very much into liminality, and all that)

This is why there sexual orientations consist of four broad categories, instead of two: Homosexuality (gay), heterosexuality (straight), asexuality, and bisexuality.

Or, in less weighted terms: same, opposite, neither, and both. With the reference to a combination of sex and gender characteristics.

Thusly, it can literally be said that someone asserting they are "both straight and gay" is literally speaking about something they don't understand and have little to know real knowledge about.

No, sexual orientation is actually a continuum (known as the Kinsey scale). It is because homosexuality and heterosexuality are NOT mutually exclusive that people can be both gay and heterosexual (i.e., bi). Indeed, as Amy Andre notes in this post (although not in these terms), probably at least half of all gay people are bi. To say bi people are neither heterosexual nor gay is incorrect; they are both. This does not in any way imply that sexual orientation changes over time or that bi people are not in touch with their sexual orientation.

Again, may I most respectfully beg that you actually hear what bisexual people say instead of making up fantasies about them to suite this or that political position. For you use and information here is the current most commonly accepted definition of bisexuality:

Bisexuals are people with the inborn capacity to form enduring physical, romantic, (some include spiritual) and/or emotional attractions to

(1) those of the same gender as themselves
(2) those of some other genders/gender presentations.

There may be an individual attraction for one gender or gender presentation which can also be fluid and changeable over time.

Bisexuality is not synonymous with being polyamorous (some also add "or promiscuous"). Individual bisexual people may be celibate, monogamous or non-monogamous just as individual straight, lesbian or gay people can be.

No matter what the gender/gender presentation of the person they are partnered with, bisexual people remain bisexual. They do not suddenly switch orientation as if by magic when they enter into a relationship.

Thank you, and I agree completely with your definition. Of course I understand that sexual orientation is not affected by behavior or relationship status. I still don't see why this means that bi people are neither gay nor heterosexual rather than both gay and heterosexual.

Part of the problems regarding the taxonomy of sexual orientation stem from the desire to see everything as an either-or binary, again. It's not that simple.

Is a man who's attracted to a transsexual (non-operative) woman bisexual? Straight? Gay? None of these accurately fit if he's *exclusively* attracted to transsexual women, consistently, with little to no attraction to cissexual people, and throughout his adult life (there are some). Even trying to assign a point on a Kinsey-style continuum is problematic, since many admirers are attracted to particular aspects of femininity that wouldn't be reflected on a linear scale which would imply androgyny.

This is not a failing of people for existing, but a failure of our language to want to overcomplicate something that simply just *is.* Language likes simplicity; the law even moreso -- but life has other ideas.

It's also worth noting that there are more expressions of non-binary orientation than bisexuality. Panseuxal, polysexual and other forms of identification also exist, sometimes with the same wide variety of definitions that exists in trans* taxonomy. There are many voices here, and again, we cannot presume to speak for all of them. My experience of bi-* is not going to be everyone's experience of bi-*

Mercedes, I want to thank you for this --

"This is not a failing of people for existing, but a failure of our language to want to overcomplicate something that simply just *is.* Language likes simplicity; the law even moreso -- but life has other ideas."

Beautifully put. I can't decide, though, if language likes simplicity, or hates it. Ditto with life. The simplest things - things that just *are* - seem to be the hardest to pin down in words. Funny how that works.

Paige Listerud | July 25, 2011 7:09 PM

Lesbians and gay men miss out by not being prompted to dig out even deeper layers of internalized homophobia that masquerades as biphobia.

I think LGBTQ organizations that habitually neglect bisexual visibility or issues simply don't have the guts to look at themselves. The bisexuals that hide in the woodwork of these organizations do nothing for bi/pan/fluid/queer people.

For many years I've seen bisexual visibility neglected. I now blame bisexuals for not striking out on their own to create their own community, their own culture and their own politics. And I'll bet most bisexuals are too scared to go beyond a "born that way" model of defending their lives, which is what keeps them hiding in the woodwork of lesbian and gay organizations or staying home and not getting involved at all.

I predict that unless bisexuals are ready en masse to switch to an independent movement of their own making that goes beyond biologically essentialist forms of political defense, they will keep on running into the neglect, the perpetual invisibility and the accompanying biphobia of the LGBTQ community. I wish that it could be otherwise. I wish that our lesbian and gay compatriots would listen to us, acknowledge our contributions, and begin to see us as part of them, as part of their success story, rather than as failures or threats to their advancement.

If you want the bisexual community to advance and you want bisexuals to finally have the kind of culture in which they can get their needs met, separating from the general LGBTQ is going to have to take place. I know this is something that most bisexuals don't like to hear. Most of you just want to belong or get along. Unfortunately, that doesn't produce any change in the status quo and continuing to contribute to the LGBTQ without getting anything for it in return, like respect, doesn't change anything.

Way to blame us for the hatred we face. Thanks for the marginalizing and blaming the victim all over again. Why not help bisexuals instead of attacking us for not removing ourselves from your movement?

Paige Listerud | July 25, 2011 10:14 PM

Just so you know, Brenda, I am bisexual and I have witnessed the continual problem of marginalization and dismissal of bisexuals in the LGBTQ for 27 years. Against my better judgement, I've done what my bisexual community wanted--fought for the "inclusion" of bisexuals in the LGBTQ. Now, I see that we're still fighting for inclusion--and we're supposed to be included already!

I'm advocating that bisexuals be independent from a community that doesn't care about our empowerment, that isn't interested in our voice, that is perpetually neglectful in giving us a place at the table. I'm suggesting that we would be better off on our own. Of course, that takes two things: 1) the bravery to step out on our own and 2) being fed up enough with the repeated cycles of invisibility and biphobia in the general LGBTQ to want to form an independent bi movement.

Brad Bailey | July 26, 2011 1:33 AM

Paige, I agree with you. If I had felt ostracised from the LGBT movement for 27 years, I'd certainly tell it where to go in no uncertain terms and start my own movement. The numbers are already on your side: 50% of LGBT people are bisexual. It's just a matter of inspiring them and leading them. Do it! I think it's a great idea!

This is a tangent and I don't want to revive this part of the thread, but I feel the need to speak to the mischaracterization of bi/multiracial experience. Race analogies are not inherently problematic, but they certainly are problems when formed out of lack of awareness of how race operates for the people who are serving as the analogy.

No, blacks who are multi-racial do not feel excluded from the National Association of Colored People. Good point.

Where did you get this information from? Did you just assume it to be true? Have you talked with multiracial organizations and community? If you did, you might have discovered that the NAACP actively fought against allowing multiracial people to listing more than one race in the census. It was quite a while ago, but it's a sore spot that was never resolved. And it's not just the NAACP. Multiracial individuals commonly feel excluded when race based advocacy groups act as if we don't exist.

Most likely. Bisexuals are a separate "type" of sexuality then gay,lesbian, and heterosexual. We're not half gay and half straight as you seem to be implying with your analogy. Shake your head!

I agree that bi folks are not half gay and half straight, however, the only reason an analogy to biracial folks would imply that is if you don't understand bi/multiracial experience. Biracial folks are often discussed in being "half x, half y," however that is not how we experience our lives. Multiracial folks are not malformed versions of our parents' races, but whole versions of our own - complete with experiences of race in society that are unique to being multiracial.

Lindasusan | July 28, 2011 12:46 AM

The way I describe it is that bisexuals aren't half gay/lesbian and half straight any more than water is half ice and half vapor. It's its own identity. (These words are about more than just behavior.)

And the notion that bisexuals no longer face any discrimination if they're in different-sex couples is just factually incorrect. For example, there's data from Out & Equal coming out about the experiences of bisexuals in the workplace. Also check out the "Bisexual Invisibility" report put out by the San Francisco Human Rights Commission earlier this year: [Full disclosure: I was the principal author on the latter report.]

Stonewall Girl Stonewall Girl | July 30, 2011 12:44 AM

Valid points Amy. When my appointment to the DNC was ratified in Sept of 2009, a couple of other things happened which, to me, were more significant. Besides “gender identity” being added to the by-laws and charter, the “Gay and Lesbian Caucus” which had been informally called the GLBT Caucus was formally renamed the “LGBT Caucus” and the DNC’s “Gay and Lesbian Leadership Council” (GLLC) was as many of us saw in NYC last month the “LGBT Leadership Council”. It did make me feel welcome and did draw at least one additional member to our caucus.

The evening before the formalities I stopped by the hotel bar for a drink and look for friends. Not seeing anyone I knew I found the nearest open seat and despite my terminal shyness struck up a conversation with the 2 female DNC members sitting next to me. The bottom line after mentioning that the G&L Caucus was being renamed, one of the gals said that although she was married to a man, she considered herself “BI” and would consider joining the Caucus. She is a member of the Caucus and was very proactive in the fight for marriage equality in her state and getting her state Democratic party involved.

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