Thursday, July 19, 2007

Cool kids

I’ve been a bit absent from this blog, as you might have spotted, due to a serious onset of brain fog. You know – no concentration, no thoughts worth thinking, a general d’uh-ness.

Still, today a gentle breeze of positivity and cheer has whisked the clouds away. I’m going to Brighton (the English Brighton, not the New York beach) tonight to see my son graduate from university. A sense of pride is in order!

But anyway, back to bisexuality and I started thinking about telling your kids you are bisexual.

It was easy for me. In 1993, when Women and Bisexuality was published, A was eight. He was very proud of my writing and was inclined to tell people when I had a book coming out. I knew that he had to be protected from other people’s negativity, so I told him very clearly that I could love men, or love women, and that many people didn’t like that. (I mentioned a few who might object). I told him that I had written a book about it, and he should be careful about telling people. He said, very matter-of-factly, “Well Mum, you know what they say: each one to their own”.
Of course, he spent a lot of his childhood, from the age of 0 upwards, hanging out with a big old bunch of queers, but I thought his reaction was terrific. And I still do.

Ms Melancholy, in a recent (and lovely) post, talked about how her own son, of a similar age, asked if two men could get married. When told that, in many places, they couldn’t, his reaction was “that’s not fair”. And it isn’t.

What wasn’t easy for me were other people’s reactions – that I was a promiscuous, bad mother, who was obviously too dazed by my wanton lusts to be able to concentrate on parenting. “He’s going to be so confused,” some said. I mean, it wasn’t as if these people really knew me at all – they just heard the word “bisexual” and their brains lit up. Or switched off, perhaps. I know that these same people are baffled by the charming and generally together man that he has become.

Ironically, of course, while my son knew, in theory, that I could “love men, or love women”, in practice, I hardly dated anyone when he was little and on the rare occasions when I did it was when he was staying overnight with other family members. When I started seeing the man who is now my partner, A was 12 and they didn’t meet until I knew our relationship was a serious one. (Although we had been friends for a long while… but that’s another story.)

So much for the revolving door theory – that I would have so many lovers coming in and out of my life that A wouldn’t know if he was coming or going. In reality, after I split up with A’s father, it was The Wilderness Years for me.

What about you?

In general, other bi people with kids have three ways of handling it. A) “They don’t need to know”. This is usually from people who have a long-term partner/spouse, and see their bisexuality as something purely sexual. B) “I’d like to tell them but I’m afraid of the consequences” or C)“Of course they have to know, how could they not”.
Because so many people think that bisexuality is necessarily temporary, a phase, something that will go away when you “settle down”, nothing of any importance, how precisely to manage coming out to your children is not something that is discussed.
I have been lucky; some people have found their children’s reactions have not been what they hoped. But if they have always known bi / progressive / queer / unconventional people, it’s probably a lot easier.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

25 years too many

I was in lying on the grass in Central Park, New York, this day 25 years ago, recently graduated and weeping with excitement at being in what seemed to me the most incredible, amazing place in the world while the fireworks accompanying the 1812 Overture banged and flashed overhead to celebrate Independence Day.

Back across the Atlantic, a man died in London. At the time, no one knew what was wrong with Terrence Higgins, nor its future significance. That didn't last long.

There's an article from the head of the Terrence Higgins Trust in the Guardian today, together with some audio from Terrence Higgins' partner, Rupert Whitaker.

So - 25 years of appalling pain, horror, sadness, and death, yet many people still behave like it has nothing to do with them.

Still not putting it on
According to a study reported on Aidsmap, about men on the gay scene in three British cities - London, Manchester and Brighton - 22% of HIV-negative men reported unprotected anal sex with a man who was either HIV-positive or of unknown HIV status in the last year.

Oh dear. No, worse than that. Why are you risking your health/life in this way?
No doubt many of these men have sex with women too - whatever they call themselves. Now, I know that - according to other studies - bi men seem actually less likely to have very risky sex. Of course, no one knows for certain - as the whole thing's shrouded in secrecy - but anecdotal and, to a certain extent, other evidence indicates that bi men are less likely to have anal intercourse with other men than are men who are entirely gay. Still, I don't want anyone to die of this horrible disease; I don't rate bi men more highly than gay men, for instance, or even men operating under the delusion that they are entirely heterosexual and just having sex with another man because... well, why not? I don't want any of them to get it.

And according to another study, men in the US who have sex with men - gay, bi, whatever, make up over two-thirds of US syphilis cases. Incidences of heterosexually-transmitted syphilis have reduced but this is more than made up for by the increase in it between men. Not only does contracting syphilis show that you are having unsafe sex (although it is very much easier to get syphilis than HIV through oral sex) but it also makes contracting HIV more likely.

You know what to do

This makes my blood run cold. I know I've said it before, but really, some things can't be repeated too often.
Please - do I have to hang on to your ankle like a heavy weight and stop you going off for unprotected sex. Use a fucking condom.
You might have not seen people around you dying of Aids, but I have and it's HORRIBLE. Worse than horrible. Please, no roulette games. Unlike a lottery win, it really can happen to you. And even though treatment is so very much better these days, the health implications are still enormous.
A bi male friend of mine, who spent the 70s and 80s in San Francisco, and who - due to a mixture of luck, monogamy and unrelated ill-health - managed not to contract HIV, told me how he met one of his peer group on the street there recently. They were both very shocked as each had assumed that the other had died. And how sad and sick-making that this was a reasonable assumption.