Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Nothing natural?

In the Independent newspaper today, they had a long and involved piece entitled Scientists discover way to reverse loss of memory.
Briefly, a man whose brain was operated on to try to suppress his appetite suddenly recovered very vivid memories from 30 years ago. The more research is done on the brain, the more scientists find that manipulating it in some way alters how people act, think, feel and so on.

Another piece from the New York magazine forwarded to me by the New York Area Bisexual Network looked at various sorts of research that has been done by scientists from different fields looking at the so-called causes of homosexuality – length of fingers, chromosomes and so on and so forth. It also suggested that various stereotypical traits of lesbians and gay men might be biologically based, which to me beggars belief – it’s ahistorical and ignores cultural and geographical differences. I remember, for instance, when men having long hair was considered to be a sign of homosexuality. Who would that even occur to now?

“They’re born that way” seems to be the notion du jour – of this and pretty much every other age - and popular opinion likes to go down the common sense track, where if it seems to be true – because of repetition and stereotype, then it must be true. So male hairdressers are gay and female footballers are lesbian. Perhaps bisexuals are footballing hairdressers then?

So is that it then? We are all born gay or straight (or bisexual – although no one seems to be researching that). And we’re all man/woman, male/female, masculine/feminine and that’s that? Isn’t that just a tad simplistic? I think so.

In short, there’s a massive gulf between people who think sexuality is constructed in society - that we end up as we do because of our individual experiences in this particular space and time – and those that think our sexuality is a result what is going on in our brains / with our chromosomes bla de bla.

Science or queer theory?

I am particularly struck by this now as I’ve been reading queer theory for the first time in my life. I’ve always known it existed, but never having been schooled in it I was a bit intimidated, to be honest. But if you start from the beginning, say here it’s not as scary as all that even if it is a bit hard to pin down and define.
Anyway, while thinking that gender is formed in society, that gender is not glued to biological sex (what is that anyway?), and that sexuality is simply a role you play might be all very well to some readers of this blog, it wouldn’t really play in Peoria (do people still say that?)!

Now, I’m well aware that I don’t know enough about science on the one hand, or queer theory on the other, to have a properly informed opinion but that never stopped anyone in this debate. In any case, if you know a lot about one you are not likely to know a lot about the other.

It has always seemed to me, though, that the way people experience and express their sexuality varies so terribly much between cultures, both historically and geographically, that it has to be nonsense to say anyone is born to be gay/bi/whatever.

But hey – I’m a both/and type of bisexual. Do we have to throw out the born that way baby with the biological bathwater? Many people feel that their sexuality is such a deep and profound part of themselves that it is “natural”. They don’t feel that it is a role they can put on and take off. But are they right? What role does biology and neuroscience have to play in sexuality? Answers on a rather large postcard please.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Getting Bi

Bi? Fancy yourself as a writer? Then you should send your contributions to the wonderful women below. The first edition of Getting Bi was and is absolutely fantastic and fascinating... If you haven't got a copy, buy one instantly here.

Otherwise, read below....


Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around the World, 2nd edition

--Do you have something to say about being bisexual?

--Do you have a story about coming out as bi?

--Do you feel you could identify as bisexual but choose not to?

--Do you find connections (or conflicts) between your bisexuality and
other parts of your identity or life?

--Do you have something to say about desire? About relationships? About
religion? About community? About politics? About the position of
bisexuals in the place or community you call home?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, we want to publish you!

*We seek short personal essays or poems (200-1000 words) by bisexuals
from Central or South America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Asia, or
Africa. We seek Muslim voices from anywhere in the world. *(Essays from
people from other places and backgrounds will also be considered but our
present focus is on broadening representation. )

If you don't want your name in print, you can write under a pseudonym.
If you think you're not a "real" writer and would like to be included in
this anthology, we want you. If you're not comfortable writing, we can
interview you. If you are not comfortable writing in English, write in
your native language and we will translate your essay.

Essays will be published in the second edition of Getting Bi: Voices of
Bisexuals Around the World. The new anthology will be published in 2009,
in dual editions (English and Spanish).

The first (2005) edition includes personal narratives by people from 32
different countries, on 6 continents, ranging in age from 15-79. Please
help us make this amazing collection even broader in scope!

Send submissions to Robyn Ochs (robyn@robynochs. com) by June 30, 2008.

Thank you, and please help us spread the word! !

Robyn Ochs ( & Sarah E. Rowley, Editors

Monday, January 21, 2008

I'm pleased that I exist but...

A report from the American Psychological Association that (female) bisexuality is a stable identity has been doing the blog-rounds over the past few days, as well it might.

According to from which I lifted this (and a whole heap of other sites):
“A study of 79 bisexual, lesbian or unlabeled women ages 18-25 over a decade found that bisexuals maintained a stable pattern of attraction to men and women, according to a press release from the APA. The study also disproves the myth that bisexual women are unable to commit to long-term monogamous relationships. Results were published in the January issue of Developmental Psychology, published by the APA.
University of Utah psychologist Lisa Diamond, who conducted the study, said in the press release that the research provides the first experimental study on the topic and debunks long-standing beliefs.
"The findings demonstrate considerable fluidity in bisexual, unlabeled and lesbian women's attractions, behaviors and identities and contribute to researchers' understanding of the complexity of sexual-minority development over the life span," she said.
Bisexual women were more likely than lesbians to change their identity but tended to switch between bisexual and unlabeled rather than lesbian and heterosexual.
At the end of the 10-year study, most of the women were involved in long-term (more than one year in length), monogamous relationships -- 70 percent of the self-identified lesbians, 89 percent of the bisexuals, 85 percent of the unlabeled women and 67 percent of those who were then calling themselves heterosexual. (The Advocate)”

So great ammunition for anyone who’s been on the receiving end of the: bisexual women are just confused / waiting for a man to come along / you watch out – it’ll all end in tears stereotypes.

What do you think?

There was a bit more background to the study, and lots of really interesting comments on the great blog Feministing. Jessica, who writes it, asks her readers whether the study concentrated on women because men’s bisexuality is less acceptable and seen more as a temporary stop on the way to gayness. (Well, just because that’s true, doesn’t make it a reason not to study women’s behaviour/ identity/ whatever.)

I do have this nagging feeling, though, that all this new-found quasi acceptability bi women seem to be enjoying (I say seem, because I’ve seen little evidence of it in “real life”) actually is because men (some: not all by any means, despite the stereotype) like it. Fundamentally, I believe that women's bisexuality is actually a bit more challenging than that - or it can and should be. I want women’s relationships with each other, sexual and otherwise, to be taken seriously and not always viewed in relation to men. I want bi women who bear no resemblance to Tila Tequila to appear in the media. I want bi women of all ages, shapes and sizes – not just young and pretty ones – to be able to live without harassment. And really, I know that this won’t happen until bi men are taken a bit more seriously too.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The first of the year

Promptly (I promised mid-Jan in my last post and I am as good as my word this time), here I am, unrelated deadlines met, back on my blog.

I didn’t want to be thinking about blogging while I had other things to concentrate on, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t keeping an eye on The World of Bisexuality.
One of the ways I’ve been doing this is through setting up a Google Alert for bisexual stuff. It’s a great idea, actually – it means that whenever a website of any sort anywhere puts the words bisexual, bisexuality or bi online, I get to hear about it. Just search for Google Alerts and it'll tell you how to do it.

Because of this, I know that Tila Tequila has dumped Bobby (her hot boy date from the last Tila Tequila series), the better to have another bisexual dating show; that it would have been Simone de Beauvoir’s 100th birthday – and scandals about her sex life are potentially clouding new autobiographies; I know that, in several blogs, women are discussing what people think about bisexuality and how they can find a community to call home; I know that bi people had a “coffee klatch” – whatever that is - in San Francisco last night; and I know that there’s a lot of people floating around in the ether who don’t like bisexuality. Don’t think I’ll link to them.

Like lots of bloggers, I have comment moderation on here. That’s not simply due to spam commenters: who knew that there were important connections between feminine lesbians, UFOs and ancient Egyptian gods? Not me, although 2,000 word comments on tried to tell me otherwise. Then there’s the biphobia. Now I don’t think I’m a “sick fuck”, but others obviously disagree.

I tell you what, there’s an awful lot of weird and freaky biphobia out there. Reason to keep writing what I consider to be no more than common sense, I suppose.