Monday, October 23, 2006

Can a radical feminist be bisexual?

Can she? Because if not, I am totally fucked.

Let me back the hell up.

So, for the past five or so years of my life, I have identified myself as a lesbian. My first semester of college, when I met Ms. Vicky Vengeance, and fell madly in love with her (because really, who wouldn't?) I finally came to terms with my own simmering Sapphistry (nice, right? I know) and came out to myself, my friends, and eventually, my family. So by the time I was 19, I was a DYKE, damn it, and PROUD. OH YEAH.

Oh, yeah.

But lo, I was never really considered to be so incredibly butch or anything. A friend of mine once helpfully said my look was, "Like nerdy-tomboy, except that you hate sports and such." In other words, I wear clothing that is comfortable and enjoy ponytails -- with scrunchies, no less. Clears things up, right? Basically, coming out for me meant not-at-all altering my fashion, my gender presentation, my general attitude towards men which has always been, you know, functional, female, and boredom, respectively.

But being a young lesbi-thing, I certainly tried on different hats. I tried on INDIE ROCK ANDROGYNOUS hat, which worked swimmingly well with my alarmingly large breasts, hips, and thighs. I tried on I AM FEMME AND YOU ARE BUTCH hat, until I realized that, ultimately, that required more work than any hetero relationship I had ever been in. I tried on, I AM SOME WEIRD COMBINATION OF CASUAL FEMININE AND STONE TOP but that just really came about because I hate bad hand jobs and am Hitachi-spoiled, so it is like, why bother.

My latest incarnation has been I AM CELIBATE BECAUSE I AM SO ABOVE THIS SHIT. Which honestly, has been working out just fine ... or so I thought.

Because now my new therapist has broken the hard news to me that I am probably not as against the idea of making out with a XY-human as I thought.

Of course, my first reaction was to laugh, consider getting a new therapist, and laugh about it with Vicky (who's first reaction was to IM me, "you told her you are a LESBIAN, right? [emphasis on the LESBIAN]"). But really it didn't bother me all that much, because it's not like the lesbian thing is a really big part of my identity? Right?

Well, apparently, it did. Because now I am in the middle of a 100% freak-out, courtesy of my friend bipolar disorder by way of my new pal, identity crisis.

I fell in love with a boy once when I was institutionalized and once when I was in high school, which is pretty similar to institutionalization, so I chalked up both incidents as Crazy Shit From the Past. Oh, well, guess not.

The point of this post though wasn't just to keep you all updated on my post-adolescent angst but to mention a real problem I'm having -- if I am going to accept the bisexual label, how can I possibly educate myself what with all the stupid fucking genderqueer lovin', sex-positive, fuck-all-labels CRAP that apparently every single bisexual on the planet is in love with? Also, another thing, who do I ally myself with, when so many bisexual women activists seem to be really coming from a place of, LOVE THE PERSON NOT THE GENDER, when I'm like, fuck no, I love the FEMALE gender, I am a WOMAN-identified woman, I just happen NOT TO BE A LESBIAN APPARENTLY.

For the record, I DO believe that I may (gulp) NOT be a lesbian, but I am very hesistant to find a new label for myself. And if you say labels don't matter, fuck off, seriously. The day labels don't matter will be in the post-patriarchal, post-racist, post-awful society that might exist right around the time the sun fucking crashes into the Earth, which I think is supposed to happen at the earliest next June.

23 Comments:

Blogger Amy's Brain Today said...

I personally think lesbianism (woman identification, call it what you will) is a DECISION, not a label.

10:08 PM  
Blogger Vicky Vengeance said...

Um . . . well . . . *cough cough* you know one person who is sorta kinda *cough cough* a bisexual who isn't all annoying like. Um. And anyway, what's so wrong with loving the person not the gender? I mean there's loving the female gender and there's loving the mixed up male female mangle most of us end up in anyway, right? Am I right?!

12:03 AM  
Anonymous Amananta said...

I don't think radical feminism requires any certain sexual orientation, personally. Although I do think iot requires questioning attractions to men and all components of any ongoing relationships with men.

5:22 AM  
Anonymous Soleil said...

My friends at home have a term for this. You could say that you're a byke, or rather, a bi-identified dyke. Everybody wins!

8:19 AM  
Blogger spotted elephant said...

What amananta said. If you have to be a lesbian to be a radical feminist, then I'm in big fucking trouble.

But relationships with men are like a tightly wound ball of problems. You always have to be questioning and on the alert for extra bullshit.

9:42 AM  
Anonymous vanilla valencia said...

That's a toughie. I'm definitely bisexual and entering into radical feministhood - although bumpily as most of my female friends are "choice" or I-feminists and let's not get into discussing my male friends.

I am lucky to have a very good male partner, who doesn't get defensive when I call him on his privilege.

So it really is about awareness - besides, you don't want to be with a guy who isn't aware of his own privilege anyway.

9:58 AM  
Anonymous witchy-woo said...

Again, what amananta said.

Oh, and Edith, I love you :)

1:34 PM  
Blogger kyagyn said...

I think a woman can be a radical feminist regardless of the sex of her lover, either actual or potential. However, are you assuming that being attracted to males debars one from being a lesbian? Many lesbians are but choose not to act on such attractions, sometimes for social and sometimes for political reasons.

3:08 PM  
Blogger lost clown said...

I just gave up on everyone and am a spinster in training. I still want to know what my colour is in the rainbow. ;)

12:00 AM  
Blogger Phemisaurus Terribilis said...

Hmmm, tis unlike you, Edith, buying into the homo-hetero-bi crap. Men have their uses, but 'partner' isn't one of them.

2:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's all over now. By this time next year you'll be married and have seven kids.

4:05 PM  
Blogger antiprincess said...

about 15 years ago I was part of BARF- Bisexual and Radical Feminist.

nowadays the acronym stands for Biblical America Resistance Front (resistance TO biblical america, not resistance BY biblical america).

I did a post on May 2, 2006 briefly touching on the group's origins and my experiences in it. it can be found in my archives.

your therapist might be wrong. just mistaken. not pushing an agenda or being deliberately malevolent - just wrong. people make mistakes.

or your therapist might be messing with you, for whatever therapeutic reasons s/he thinks are important.

or your therapist may be pushing an agenda or being deliberately malevolent.

I guess it's also possible to be experiencing this crisis of conscience as a result of changes in your brain chemistry, not the other way around. I'm not sure how bipolar works in that regard (I bet there are plenty of experts out there who would be happy to help on this), but I wonder if brain chemistry changes can induce a person to doubt things that she knows to be true.

Best of luck on your journey.

8:32 AM  
Blogger Kim said...

"... by way of my new pal, identity crisis."

Oh! You've met Identity Crisis!
He's a bastard -- I've know him for years. Still and all, he's a reasonable fellow if you learn to listen VERY carefully to yourself first, everyone else, after.

Diggin' the honestly in the post, E. I'm one of THOSE who believes to some degree, we're all Big Bisexuals. It's just what we choose to do with this that bestows **Identity** upon us.

9:40 AM  
Anonymous Bunny said...

Edes-- the great thing about identity is, you can choose one. Whichever one you wind up being most comfortable with, not whichever one your shrink thinks is most appropriate.

I think you can call yourself a dyke if you damned well want to, since that seems to feel best for you. It's not like having a minimal attraction to men obligates you to date men, fachrissakes. You like women better-- doesn't that mean you're a lesbian? Isn't it about preference, not totally ruling things out? I don't understand.

Anyway, I hope this works out well for you and soon.

1:01 PM  
Anonymous delphyne said...

Why didn't you go with your first reaction, laugh and get a new therapist? How on earth does the therapist know what is going on in your head and your heart better than you?

I'd be straight out the door if a therapist started telling me what my sexual orientation was. What were they thinking of - it's obviously upset you.

3:44 AM  
Anonymous delphyne said...

There is also political lesbianism as per Sheila Jeffreys and other radicals -

"Not Jeffreys. She became a lesbian in 1973 because she felt it contradictory to give "her most precious energies to a man" when she was thoroughly committed to a women's revolution. Six years later, she went further and wrote, with others, a pamphlet entitled Love Your Enemy? The Debate Between Heterosexual Feminism And Political Lesbianism. In it, feminists who sleep with men are described as collaborating with the enemy. It caused a huge ruction in the women's movement, and is still cited as an example of early separatists "going way too far".

"We do think," it said, "that all feminists can and should be lesbians. Our definition of a political lesbian is a woman-identified woman who does not fuck men. It does not mean compulsory sexual activity with women." Although many of the more radical feminists agreed, most went wild at being told they were "counter-revolutionary"."

http://books.guardian.co.uk/departments/politicsphilosophyandsociety/story/0,6000,1519268,00.html

3:52 AM  
Blogger Heart said...

Huh.

No?

:P

What Delphyne said?

The thing is, I think the subject of who women are attracted to, this chemistry thing we have going, is a whole set of posts/essays/articles/books all in itself. I know that for myself, sometimes feeling that pull/attraction/energy/chemistry towards a person is my sign to run for the hills. It doesn't say anything at all about my "sexual orientation," (a term I can't stand in any event). But I can't begin to imagine how somebody besides me can tell me whether I'm whatever, in terms of who I am drawn to or connect with romantically.

This whole discussion always gives me a headache. I think some of the best writing on this was done by Sonia Johnson in her book on relation SHIPS, written in the '90s, entitled The Ship That Sailed Into the Living Room. We (generic "we") talk about "lovers" when what we mean is "sexers"-- they're the people we have sex with. The people we are most intimate with may not be people we have sex with. The friends/intimates stay long after the sexers have come and gone. The people we're attracted to may not be people we should EVER have sex with OR be friends with or have any intimacy with. So how can it even be *about* attractions or chemistry or whatever.

Well, anyway.

No.

:P

Heart

11:55 AM  
Blogger lost clown said...

I LOVE Sonia Johnson.

That's all.

5:03 PM  
Blogger The Scarlet Pervygirl said...

bunny--the worst thing about identity is that you can choose one, too. When you just ARE one way, you're not eligible for being another way; I'm white, for example, so I'm not giving up being black. But when you choose, you're giving something up. The shit thing about being an adult, I'm finding, is that often the things you give up are every bit as valuable as the things you gain when you make a choice.

Edith--Thank you for writing this. My sexual orientation and what to call it and what to do about it and what's going to happen and who I'll end up in a lifelong relationship with and whether gender matters and why and do I suck at kissing have been driving me crazy--sometimes literally sick with anxiety--for about seven years now, with no resolution whatsoever. Thank you for pointing out that I'm not the only person in the universe going through this. I wish you the best of luck and peace with your decision.

1:14 AM  
Blogger simply wondered said...

whether or not it's a choice, my guess is that feminism is about your having the right to make it for yourself - but you knew that...

3:31 PM  
Anonymous imogene said...

Hello,

This is my first visit to this blog.

I have so much to say on this issue. I identify as a political lesbian. No matter what happens, I CANNOT reconcile being a radical feminist with fucking or loving (straight) men. Heterosexuality, to me, is based on oppression and INHERENT inequality. (Even if the guy is progressive/sensitive/ sweet/feminist/submissive...blah blah blah)

I give my love, energy, and body to fags and dykes.

But I have to say, this doesn't come easy or "natural" to me. I had to really condition myself, through reading radfem stuff, to take up a queer lifestyle. I partner with butch dykes and trans boys because I like the masculine look. All bio guys experience male privilige, and I am even militant enough to say that this makes all straight relationships abusive/exploitative/coercive to a certain extent.

Unfortunatly for me, I still find some guys really attractive physically, despite my efforts to the contrary. It is a tricky position to be in, and since there are so few of my kind (seperatists/ lesfems, whatver you want to call us) there is almost no support in any community. To be kind of vulgar, its like when someone is a vegan as a form of political protest, but they really love the taste of meat and dairy.

best of luck.

11:23 PM  
Anonymous Bob Junt said...

Wow, I love the way you write. This kept me interested the entire time. I will have to visit this blog more often. Thank you!

4:05 PM  
OpenID tnt666 said...

It's great that you are questioning to all of this. I think questioning things is the most important part, and the personal answers, if not the all-encompassing answers will come later on.
I knew I was interested in both males and females from before puberty (13.5 yrs) and within a year I pretty much new I wanted no part in reproduction or marriage. Religion? my family was already non-religious, so that did not get in the way.
I have been very positive about sex my entire life, and at some point, that caused confusion. I confused enjoying sex with "sexpox feminism", which eventually became a big no no, and I also confused really really liking sex with what I erroneously thought would be a natural inclination to "work" in sex. Well I tried that for two years, and then found out right up close that liking sex with people you WANT to have sex with (no matter how many there are, promiscuity was my middle name) is entirely different from people buying sex FROM you!

So after that, my social involvement slipped away for a few years. I played a lot, had lots of sex with both sexes. I am still very much anti-marriage and anti-natalist, but what has changed, decades on, is that my analysis of the joys of sex has changed. When we're young, we can be trained to like/dislike almost anything, specially if we are open minded people. I now focus a lot less on sex, so in some ways, one could say I went from bisexual to asexual (of course I'm still bisexual in attraction and dream of both sexes) since the action has pretty much gone. But hey, that is kinda a reality for any woman who chooses to say no to marriage, our sex life kinda runs out after a few decades and enough po-dunk towns (city-life would probably differ).

How this relates to radical feminism, ya, rough. The gates of radical feminism have in great part been guarded by lesbians, and mostly dykes at that. Someone up thread mentioned a bi-dyke, ya, that sounds close, but bis are un-boxable to the lesbian community, and in the het community, we're seen as some sort of novelty, which can be momentarily funny at a drunken party, but in the larger picture is annoying. Even among bi.s we don't really agree on anything, we're like cats and atheists, impossible to herd. Personally, once a person is committed to another through a life-long marriage contract, why call oneself a bi? We are all capable of being attracted to either sex, even to a infinitesimal degree, so those bi.s who claim it's just a mind thing, and one can only have ever had sex with one person makes no sense to me.
I rather prefer the definition of an experiential bi rather than a theoretical bi.

As for gender, though I've on occasion been with a dude which might have exuded some degree of machoness... mostly I am either attracted to athletic males and females, and males who might be closet gays and androgynous women. I have no attraction to blonds or to anyone performing any kind of "gender identity". Basically the word "gender" is about as big a deal breaker as a moustache or a pro-sports addict or a church goer. As a pretty staunch atheist, I would not be in any long term intimate relationship with a religious person, just as it makes no sense for a vegetarian to make long term commitments to a 3-times a day meat eater.

The TGQAIIBIID-L-B movement does nothing for me. I've never known any bi person to ever suffer socially for being bi, and I've known a lot (but I don't live in the Bible Belt!). The radical feminists tend to distrust us, and the bi groups are way too into trendy queer exhibitionism. I remain more closely affiliated with radical feminism than any other form today, but it's not always peaceful discussions!

Cheers!

8:30 PM  

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