Thursday, February 28, 2008

Confronting Our Phobias Within Our Community

In the past several posts I have blogged about the wind speed, a couple of notable obits, a humorous look at posters/advertising depicting women as dirty, a video composite of my political anger because I could not get it together to put my own feelings into words, and my comical definition of my affliction with "blogalysis."

Maybe I needed someone else to inspire me to write something, even if it is a long winded self-analysis piece.

Sarah in Chicago posted at Shakesville today. It's an extremely interesting self-examination of her own biphobia, titled: There's Something in Me I Don't Like, So I'm Getting Rid of It; I Just Need to Work Out How.

I recommend you read her post, and if you are so inclined, the comment thread. It's interesting as well. You won't get this in mainstream media.

Here is my comment, which I am somewhat reluctant to post again here out of concern that something might not come across exactly as I want it to or that I may not have expressed my feelings as accurately as I could have done. Her piece provoked me to start writing, and pour some things out. And so I did, without planning and without proofreading a dozen times and editing for clarity. Here it is:

First, thank you so very much for writing this. It is one of the more deeply complex and thought-provoking posts I've seen anywhere -- ever.

I think there are a lot of phobias within the LGBTQ community and this is just one of them.

As a gay man who is in year #18 partnered with my soul mate, I will confess I have probably expanded my understanding more in the two years I've been blogging than I have in the past 25 years in which I've been out and comfortable.

Bisexuality was one of the first issues I confronted. I’ve often felt it was merely used as a stepping stone in the process of coming out -- and often a lie, as it was in my case. I was never bisexual and because I knew it, I assumed every other person claiming to be bisexual was just in denial.

That was the first misconception I managed to blow away. And through the years I have learned that there is every conceivable mix of people out there. We do not fit neatly into boxes or categories. (And it would be wonderful if the rest of the world could just come to grips with that fact.)

A lot of the phobias may be rooted in our own selfishness about our desires, and about being accepted by the one we love. It is one thing if I were to be ditched and my partner went to another man. It's quite another if he left me for a woman because I'd feel violated on two fronts. I'd think, "oh, not only did you dump me, but you weren't even gay."

And that's true. He would be bisexual, not gay. I'm really glad he and I had a discussion early on about our identity and got our orientation out in the open. Because honestly, is that any different from a partner in a heterosexual relationship leaving for a same-sex partner? And we have quite a lot of that because of self-suppression and denial.

Could I ever fall in love with a bisexual? Before I read this post, I might have said no. After thinking this through, along with so many other things, the answer is of course.

Being in love is not solely about sex. If it is, that's not love; it's lust. Two people falling in love and remaining in love is a very special thing which transcends all else. We probably won't agree on other people we personally think are hot or attractive, we aren't necessarily going to like all the same foods, or have identical interests in movies, and we may not agree on the ideal thread-count in our cotton sheets. My partner and I chose each other -- that's what matters, not what our other inclinations might have been. And I’m glad we had honest discussions about our relationship and our identies.

I have also spent a lot of time putting this in the perspective of gender identity which is a huge bias we need to overcome, both in our community and society.

There was a time when I felt completely isolated from the trans community. At least with bisexuals we like the same thing part of the time.

Well, lo and behold, after I met a few transgender people via blogging and spent a lot of time getting to know one in particular, and even doing a blog post series about gender identity, I began to think about it in different perspectives.

I've often said that I don't consider myself or anyone else really 100% male or female. It makes it far easier for me to get over my prejudices and phobias if I put it in shades of gray rather than black & white.

Technically, I might be classified as 100% male since I was born with all the male plumbing and was dressed in blue as a baby, and all that, but I recognize that I have a few personality and behavioral traits that aren't exactly what Billy Joe in Alabama would call 100% male. But I'm digressing.

When I've asked myself, could I fall in love with a transgender person, there's a bit longer delay in answering my question than when substituting the word bisexual.

But the answer has to be yes. Physical attraction is not limited to what's downstairs any more than falling in love is limited to how great the sex is, or how lovely their eyes are.

What works for me in getting over the phobias is, first, getting familiar and comfortable with all those in the community are not like me. Understanding from their perspective, what makes them who they are. Then, I have to put aside my rather obsessive infatuation with men and dicks, and think about what it means to bond with someone in a way that can only be described as "in-love."

And while this is not meant to be comical, the L Word has helped me as well. Aside from the exaggerations which make for good drama, it's helpful for me to at least consider the dialogue which I might otherwise not be exposed to while dining out at Taco Cabana.

I've joked about how I think the Max character is hot. But underneath my humor, I know it's true. I'm completely gay by my own definition, and yet I have managed to admit to myself that I could indeed fall in love outside my own sphere -- even to a person who is FTM. I identify as male, and so does he. We work around the other things as any couple would.

Would I fall in love with a MTF if she was straight? Would that also make me straight? I think, but not certain, the answer to that question would be no, and for two reasons.

As a gay man I'm thinking my attraction both emotionally and physically would possibly be predicated on my attraction to her birth sex, and using that to justify the sexual aspect of my attraction. And I’d feel like I was living a lie, as a gay man in a relationship with a woman, even one who was born with the boy parts.

But this is complicated and at least I can admit I spend a lot of time analyzing my feelings on the subject.

Sarah, I don’t know if I contributed anything at all to what you were addressing, or if this entire comment is one long digression. As I said, what you wrote is highly thought-provoking, and that’s just what I did. Thought, and wrote. A lot.

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