Friday, September 29, 2006

Let them eat cake

If you happen to be in London tomorrow, you should come and join me. I'm going to be spending the day with my lovely chums at the House of Homosexual Culture's Autumn Fayre. It'll be a laugh.
Fancy a day of "desexualising sexuality", bringing the gay scene "out of the clubs and into the kitchen"? This is queer London's answer to the village fete.
Ian McKellen (sir) will be opening it - and selling the first fairy cake - then there'll be gingerbreadmen-icing by Gerhard Jenne (of Konditor and Cook loveliness), needlecraft from Stitch and Bitch, a Tupperware stall, Pasta Portraits, a bring-and-buy sale and very many more. Fun for all the (unpretended) family.
And, although this started off as a boys' event, naturally us girls have muscled in too. I've even heard a rumour that there's going to be an edible representation of the history of political lesbianism. Now that's something many of us have had stuffed down our throats; this might be the chance to eat it in a more leisurely fashion.
I'm serving teas, and if you come up to me and mention this blog, an extra big smile will come free with your 50p beverage.

Saturday 30th September, 12noon-5pm, St John's church, Waterloo Road, London SE1

All proceeds to the Food Chain

Monday, September 25, 2006

They recruit!

It's true what they told you: bisexuals are trying to turn your young people into wicked deviants. The
bisexual recruitment army wants YOU to be the bi-est.
And B*R*A's original 1881 motto: "We're Looking For a Few Good Men, and a Few Good Women, And A Place That Sells Sturdy Beds"
The saucepots!


Saturday, September 23, 2006

Celebrate bisexuality day

Celebration time, come on!

Today, 23rd September, is Celebrate Bisexuality Day. From its inception in 1999, it's a day for bisexuals to get together and feel really bloody proud. The link above explains more.

This year, according to the Bi Resource Center in Boston, events are taking place in Toronto, south Florida, Manchester, Boston, and Sydney. And in Sweden, where you can enjoy a whole entire conference. At least, with less than a teaspoonsworth of Swedish, that's what I gather.

So what would I choose? Maybe the Biversity Fur, Fins, Feathers and Flesh dance party in Sydney. That's a city where bisexuals party hard - and what a great place to do it.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

With his tongue down my throat

Or: 57 varieties of bisexual
1. men who don't kiss men

Picture: Juergen Teller, for Marc Jacobs

There's a very interesting discussion going on at the moment in the forums at A man is asking why men do (or don't)like kissing as he has found that many gay men assume bi men won't do it. Most of the men on the forum say they do like kissing men, consider it essential to enjoying sex. But some don't like it at all. They don't want to kiss anyone (part from their most significant female other), or they don't want to kiss men.
I have found this very interesting myself, although it was not something I thought about at all before I did research into male bisexuality for this new book. It had never occurred to me that men wouldn't want to kiss each other. But then I'm a woman.
Now please, politically conscious bis, don't be cross with me for looking at this. I know it could be construed as stereotypical, y'know, bi men who might be just looking for sex and not relationships or community. Behavioural bisexuals as HIV prevention workers did or do call them. But they do exist. You know and I know they do. So can we not just take a calm look at what might be going on?
Right then - when it comes to boy on boy action, why do some men keep their mouths below the belt?
Here's a much-edited extract of the relevant section of my book, The Truth about Bisexuality, to be published at some time or other. Really.

"Many men report a great deal of ambivalence about their bisexuality - far more than do women. They seem to want to keep men at a distance, and keep the sex distant too - no kissing, no stroking, no sensuality - simply animalistic.
Here's Jeff:
I am only attracted to men in terms of their genitals, their butts and the unique feeling of pleasure that a penis can give me in my ass.
I never even stare at men on the street like I do with women, but I do sneak looks at naked men in the gym. I guess the clothes must be off. Plus, I have to have chemistry with the right guy. Most men turn me off. I would never kiss a man. Jeff, 42
Some men need a bit of a nudge to understand what's going on. For instance, Steve said,
Ask me to kiss a man I would run a mile. Figure that out if you can.
When I asked him to elaborate, he said:
It's too intimate. I don't want to be that close to a guy. Steve M, 45
So is it all about intimacy, then, closeness? Or rather rejecting it?
As one MTF transsexual (who describes herself as a "she-male", and still lives part of the time as a man) said:
I do not have ANY emotional relationships with men. It's only sex. I cannot imagine even having breakfast with a male partner. As soon as the passion is gone, I look for my things and start to say "goodbye". Cherry, 49
Some of my male interviewees were very ambivalent about having sex with men. They said they only have sexual contact with other men if the situation is right. They do it, then say they won't do it again because they feel sick, but then they do it again anyway. Several men pointed out to me that there is a gradation from gay men to really bi men to men who will have some kinds of sexual contact with other men contingent on all sorts of things and often deny that they really want to do it. For instance, some male swingers will only have sexual contact with each other when women are there too, and claim that there is no desire behind their actions. Their relationships with men do not include affection; or to be precise, if they involved affection (their friends and brothers, for instance) they did not involve sex.
HIV researchers June Crawford, Susan Kippax and Garrett Prestage, working in Australia, found a big difference between bi men who had some involvement with the gay community and those who hadn't.
Evidence suggests that bisexually active men, particularly those who are separated socially from gay communities, distance themselves emotionally from their male partners.
They quote surveys that show that whereas only 60% of such men kissed their male partners, 89% of out gay men did. They used terms like fooling around, and saw themselves as sexual adventurers, having also often done SM, bondage, voyeurism etc. Their sexual practice with men was not central to their lives or who they were." It comes from this book.
The men on have a vast range of identities, politics and lifestyles. They are out and no-not-never-in-a-million years. They are part of bi groups and aren't. But they do go on a site where you are assumed to be bisexual, discussing things to do with bisexuality. To that extent they aren't in the closet. Whatever they are doing, they are doing it consciously.

Girls gone slightly wild
There is another discussion on that site too. A woman says that a female friend of hers has been kissing and cuddling her in a nightclub and she wonders whether the friend is sexually interested; another respondent says that is just what women do in clubs.
So, there is some interesting gender politics stuff going on here - the perceived difference between bi men and bi women. Women having a snog is perhaps the least bi thing they can do, while remaining titillating: Madonna and Britney with their tongues down each others' throats, for instance. Girls in clubs looking round to see who's watching. They are still as straight as a straight thing, if that's what they want. For straight-identified men, kissing is the most bisexual thing they can do. It implies desire, vulnerability, intent. It threatens their masculinity.
While traditional notions of feminity have been largely abandoned, masculinity has changed much less. While David Beckham and metrosexuality mean that men might seem to be in touch with "their feminine side" it only penetrates as deep as their moisturiser. In particular, the fact that men in general look down on femininity and prize masculinity has not changed at all. This is key to the way many bi men see gay men: they equate "gayness" with a lack of masculinity, and this seems to them to be a direct attack on their sense of self.
As one of my interviewees put it:
In succumbing to bisexuality, men are surrendering their masculinity. There's no surrender of identity for [bisexual] women. Clive, 50
He's right. And God knows, surrendering their masculinity is the last thing many men want to do. Patrick Califia, actually writing about transsexual autobiography here (and who is himself FTM transsexual), puts it succinctly:
Such books, he says, "reinforce the vigilance that even the most macho of men are encouraged to feel, lest their precious manhood be swept away in one unguarded moment of tenderness, grief, femininity, or homosexual passion".
Of course, many bi men snog away with each other, fall in love, are part of the gay community, are bi activists out and proud. There are also women - prostitutes but also swingers - who don't kiss their clients or casual sex partners. Probably they want to keep their distance too. But readers, this post is not about them. There are at least 56 varieties of bisexual left. And Be Warned: eventually, I will be writing about all of them too.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Oh those liberals

Swinging all the way

Or, possibly, oh that writer Tim Hames. To quote from this piece from the Times Online (link above):

"Then there is policy. Strange as it might seem to say, what the Liberal Democrats require is more bisexuality. They have to be able to swing both ways. They need a combination of policy stances that would mean that it was not impossible for them to form an administration with either Labour or the Tories. If they were so situated, then they would have the maximum leverage in any post-election bargaining that might occur and much more of their manifesto would be fully implemented."

Yes, strange to say is about right. This is the party that has been most connected to bisexuality with all that Simon Hughes is-he-isn't-he-can-we-say-the-word-bisexual stuff from back in February. He might have lost that election battle, but at least we had a bit of a discussion on that old bisexual thang.
Still, it is good to have the word "bisexuality" used in a positive way for once, as in being able to see both sides, develop a "both/and" perspective, as many bisexuals have said for years.
But still, "gay" is bad, kiddies, as you will know from the playground.

Thanks to Cat from the Yahoo Bi media group for this link.

Monday, September 11, 2006

How Kate Millett turned me on

Or: bisexuals I never met, part one

In the autumn of 1976, I was an au pair in Paris. Dizzyingly lonely, harassed by men every time I set food outside the front door, pretty much centimeless (due to my own inability to negotiate - or mention even - the fact that I was expecting to get paid) I spent a lot of time hanging out at the Drugstore du Rond Point des Champs Elysees. It was a kind of bookshop/newsagents - probably more too, but that's what springs to mind - and there I clapped eyes on the book Flying, by Kate Millett.
Realistically, it was probably the fact that it was a book in English that made me notice it. Perhaps there was more. Perhaps I knew that she was an influential and controversial feminist thinker, author of Sexual Politics, but more probably that came later. I know why I spent day after day in that bookshop, with no money to pay for the book, just reading it standing there propped against the magazine shelves.
The clue is in the blurb on the back:
"Flying is her extraordinary, frank account of the tumultous period when both her book and her own acknowledged bi-sexuality [sic] outraged the public and triggered some of the most violent, far-reaching aspects of the women's movement."
That word, that one word, made me know I had to read it. And I wasn't disappointed. In this, her autobiography. KM - artist, writer, academic, intellectual, wife and lover of women - gives a fearless, naked in all senses, account of her life and loves up till that point (38). Her writing is extraordinarly vivid and personal; she does a lot, mixes with fascinating people at a fascinating time, but there's every sense that she is suffering too.
The book starts with a trip to London, where she recalls her sudden, unwanted rise to fame after the publication of Sexual Politics - an interview in Life magazine, on the cover of Time, being asked in public if she was a lesbian, the pain and guilt of hurting her religious mother.
Sexual Politics, after all, was essentially the first work of feminist literary analysis, and the mainstream was very keen to slap down the new women's movement. The book looked at misogyny in American literature, to illustrate how men in general use sex to degrade women. The work - and KM herself - were overtly against monogamy and the family. In the late 1960s, that was heretical to almost everyone.

Still true today
Unfortunately, some of what she writes is still quite true today: "The line goes, flexible as a fascist edict, that bisexuality is a cop-out. Yes, I said, yes I am a Lesbian. It was the last strength I had."
She was vilified as a result of this enforced coming out – by the heterosexual women's movement for being queer, by radical lesbians for not being enough of lesbian, by straight society for supposedly hating men. She can't, mustn't, write about sex. Just like now. See this post. Yup, I will repeat, women aren't allowed to talk about their sexual feelings and remain intellectuals of good standing.
More than that, though, what I found moving, and could relate to, were her struggles: to find love, to not feel rejected, to keep on creating - through a film of fairly consistent low-level depression and relentless introspection.
People are always talking about the need for role models and KM - wild woman, artist, bohemian - was the perfect role model for me. She was very consciously, openly bisexual. Feminism might have been going hell for leather in 1976, but not where I was and I certainly didn't know where to find it. But she did, she was doing all those things I wanted to do and be, in my tiny, solitary Parisian room.
I didn't meet any women in Paris, 1976. I didn't meet much of anybody: everyone (apart from the men who wanted a piece of my body) kept themselves to themselves, and I was too scared to go to a lesbian club although I walked up and down outside plenty of times. In fact, I couldn't wait to come home.
I finally bought the book myself in 1980 (I wrote the date inside) by which time I was officially a "practising bisexual". I also read some of the others: Sexual Politics (of course), Sita, the Basement, but it was Flying that really blew me away.

Where she is now
The 1980s and 1990s weren't particularly kind to Kate Millett: her influence faded and she had periods of serious mental illness, which she wrote about in The Loony Bin Trip. I was really pleased when I heard she was coming to London to give a talk in the 1990s but her mother was ill, and she never made it. The next time I heard of her, was in an article in the Guardian in 1998 - where she was apparently selling Christmas trees to make a living. Cue righteous shock about what happened to our feminist heroines; certainly from me. Apparently, though, this article - which she wrote - had all the wit and humour taken out by the editor and her life was not nearly as pitiful as it sounded. See here.
Lots of her books are available now, being reissued in 2000 after being out of print for years. The farm (where the Christmas trees came from) she bought in upstate New York with the proceeds of Sexual Politics is now a centre for women writers, artists and musicians around the world. KM herself conducts masterclasses in writing from time to time.
I was so pleased to read this when I did an internet search while doing this post. You can find out more about her by looking at her website
Thank you Kate Millett. You helped me become myself.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Bisexuals go back to school

You'll see them here, there and everywhere - kids in their new school uniforms, hyped up for the new term. It might be hotter in London than it was a month ago but no matter: it's time to knuckle down to work.
And of course, for some it will be hell.
As reported in Pink News, Stonewall is conducting a survey of young people to see how extensive homophobic bullying is, and the forms it takes. Early results indicate it's every-bloody-where.
The people I know who work in schools and colleges (ie with kids up to 19) report that anti-gay feelings among the young people are extraordinarily widespread. One teacher, working in an inner-city college, told me that the kids were very keen indeed to know whether he was gay, being gay seeming to encompassing every kind of badness. Actual same-sex behaviour wasn't all that they were concerned about: they were very keen on being ultra-masculine or feminine, and they wanted everyone else to be like that too. Another is aware that several of her students are gay but this is a secret that stops with her. Essentially, she protects them from their classmates.
Then of course there's the wide use of the word "gay" as an insult by young people, even on the BBC (DJ Chris Moyles on Radio 1, which was widely reported). But "gay" couldn't be seen as an insult unless being gay was also thought of as something dreadful. After all, no one says, "oh this book is blue-eyed/ vegetarian / flowery. Even liberal adults who don't seem homophobic sometimes say it.
This kind of homophobia in young people seems to have got more entrenched if anything, perhaps because queerness in general has a somewhat higher profile these days. When I was at school, girls were occasionally called "lezzers" but no one really believed they were as no one had ever actually met, or seen, or heard of, a real lesbian.
But I also read a piece recently about how more high school girls (this is in the US) are "making out" with their female friends in order to entice boys. Some of them, allegedly, are as young as 13. It seems likely to me, though, that these girls are completely heterosexual and just doing it for the boys. If you were really keen on another girl, it seems more plausible that you would feel very nervous about being outed, about being rejected.
However, the same piece also claims that gay teenagers are coming out younger. It says that schools with gay/straight alliances make it easier for youngsters to come out. We don't have them in the UK, I don't think, but it seems clear that in progressive or liberal schools, young people are more likely to be accepted whatever their sexuality, and will therefore be able to come out. A boy at my own son's school did precisely that, making an announcement at school assembly. Apparently no one was particularly surprised or bothered. And people using "gay" as an insult were considered downright unsophisticated.
So, if you're a queer student, there's a lesson for you. Make sure you go to the right school. And for that, you need to have the right parents, live in the right catchment area, and make sure there aren't too many religious zealots around.
Good luck! I really hope you don't need it.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Ten reasons you need this bisexual blog

1. Because almost everyone thinks almost everyone is really gay or straight. Or more probably straight or gay. There is no bisexuality.
2. Except among female celebrities, where there may be bisexuality... of a kind.
3. And although there are a lot of sex sites where bisexual people get together, there's nowhere at all dedicated to the discussion of bisexuality. If you have a blog that does just this, for God's sake get in touch and I'll buy you a drink. A big one. What we have to discuss will take a while.
4. In any case, there are hardly any British blogs that discuss sexuality at all. If they do, it's about bloggers' own personal experiences. See post below.
5. The blogs that do talk about sex are from the US. Come on now, fellow Brits. Let's get talking.
6. And whenever bisexuality is mentioned in public, people still curl their lips, as if to say "oh yeah?"
7. So hardly anyone comes out.
8. Making everyone else think that bisexuality doesn't exist; and bi individuals that they are the only one ever.
9. Especially if they are men.
10. In any case, I need to write this blog. I do. Because it bugs the hell out of me that still, in the 21st century, what seems self-evident to me - that many people, men as well as women, desire, or love, or have sex with, men and women - seems so hard to grasp for so many people. I know I'm not the only one who thinks they need to wise up.