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There is a dearth of information on Bisexuals from history compared to the rest of the LGT community. So I thought I would post on why we are seen as a whole instead of separate entities.

We all have our individual definitions of what it means to be Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender based on our experiences, desires, and comfort levels. This too is applied socially creating a breadth of definitions for what are essentially immutable characteristics.

To be sure, there are more indicators that there are more differences among us, sometimes reinforced within the community, than there are similarities. But we work together against a greater society that perceives us negatively still and perceives us as a monolithic group with a defined agenda as seen in the right wing term "Gay Agenda".

It is this social cohesion created by a hostile society that brings us together in a way that would not be possible or needed in an LGBT embracing culture.

The "GLBT community" (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender) appears monolithic.  The quadratic formula of “GLBT,” adding together several second-order elements to create a single defined community, suggests communal interests.  This is the understanding that most heterosexuals in the U.S. seem to have.  Such a community of interest makes sense because homosexuals have long been subjected to heterosexist prejudice.  Yet, like most social phenomena, the situation is far more complex than it seems at first glance.  The very creation of the “GLBT” acronym suggests that gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgender are each clearly defined, separate and mutually exclusive categories – not one and the same.  When one begins to examine this “community,” one finds evidence of this separateness, for internecine struggles seethe beneath the surface, calling into question the idea of a “GLBT community.”  While many gays and lesbians feel that “bisexual” and “transgender” are simply names for parts of their own community, others actively reject the idea that bisexuals or transgenders are part of their community, seeing them as entirely separate and distinct.  Heterosexism against bisexuals and transgenders exists not only in the straight community, but in the gay and lesbian community as well.  Some feel, as we shall see, that bisexuality and transgenderism are detrimental to the social and political acceptance of gays and lesbians.  This curious phenomenon has been called “internalized homophobia” by some, meaning an irrational fear and dislike of other homosexuals.  (Fone 2000:6, Sears and Williams 1997:16) This presumes, of course, that bisexuals and transgenders are, in fact, “homosexuals.”  Others use neologisms such as “biphobia” and “transphobia,” meaning an irrational fear and dislike of bisexuals and transgenders.  The need for such terms belies the idea that there is a single monolithic “GLBT community.”

            The difference between “homosexual” and “GLBT” is elusive to many U.S. Americans.  The above paragraph and its plethora of specialized terms would have made little sense to most U.S. Americans (except a few specialized psychiatrists and psychologists) in 1950.  I suggest that most U.S. Americ mark intense personal and political struggles.  The divisions between gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgender are far deeper and more significant to each other than to those outside.  Where do these divisions come from?

Until the 1990s, there was little need to distinguish between different groups within the homosexual movement.  The differences between gay/lesbian and bisexual/transgender was of no practical consequence until the attempt came in the late 1990s to marry them together in a “GLBT” marriage of convenience.  The purpose of this marriage, of course, was political advantage through a community of interests. Bisexuals and transgenders, however, include all sorts of groups with radically unconventional lives: polyamorites, pansexuals, sado-masochists, Radical Faeries, drag queens, she-males, heterosexual crossdressers, working-class transvestite prostitutes, gender benders, genderqueers.  Many of these bisexual and transgender people have little in common with the modern construction of middle-class gay and lesbian identities.  When leaders of the U.S. GLBT movement began to confront the inconsistent interests of the bisexual and transgender people with whom they were now allied in the “GLBT movement,” they were faced with a political problem. Having included bisexuals and transgenders in the coalition, how could they at the same time argue that GLBT people are “just like you,” wanting the same middle-class lives as other U.S. voters (with the single exception of a same-sex partner) while being required to politically embrace polyamory and a man in a dress?

It has been my observations and experience that the greater external culture fails to differentiate amongst us. There is a wealth of misconceptions that continue to be raised by the non-LGBT culture: A Transgender woman is misidentified as Gay. Gay men like to cross dress for sexual stimuli (ignoring the heterosexual males that do so). Butch lesbians want to be men. Bisexuals can't decide. Bisexuals are closet cases....

These notions show that those that do not identify as LGBT do not understand the complexity of the LGBT culture or individuals themselves, making understanding all that more difficult.

This is a society that violently enforces gender and sexuality norms yet they fail to understand the nuance of what they are oppressing.

Regarding violence against LGBT's, social control is the dynamic that is most prevalent in the minds of the attackers. Not homophobia based on their internal insecurities. So until society as a whole accepts the differences and degrees of the sex and gender spectrum we will continue to experience violence against us. Sometimes physical and many times verbal and legal as those invested in social control continue to perpetuate Stochastic Terrorism against the LGBT Community.

Although their assaults fall within most legal definitions of hate crime, Brian, Andrew, and Eric--like the rest of the informants I interviewed-- all insisted that their assaults were not motivated by hatred of homosexuals. To reconcile the apparent contradiction between the socially normative attitudes often held by assailants and the viciousness and brutality of their behavior toward gay men and lesbians, during the course of my research I came to conceptualize the violence not in terms of individual hatred but as an extreme expression of American cultural stereotypes and expectations regarding male and female behavior.

From this perspective, assaults on homosexuals and other individuals who deviate from sex role norms are viewed as a learned form of social control of deviance rather than a defensive response to personal threat.Thus, heterosexism is not just a personal value system, it is a tool in the maintenance of gender dichotomy. In other words, through heterosexism, any male who refuses to accept the dominant culture's assignment of appropriate masculine behavior is labeled early on as a "sissy" or "fag" and then subjected to bullying. Similarly, any woman who opposes male dominance and control can be labeled a lesbian and attacked. The potential of being ostracized as homosexual, regardless of actual sexual attractions and behaviors, puts pressure on all people to conform to a narrow standard of appropriate gender behavior, thereby maintaining and reinforcing our society's hierarchical gender structure.

So why LGBT?

Self preservation.

Originally posted to Remembering LGBT History on Fri Oct 04, 2013 at 08:11 AM PDT.

Also republished by Angry Gays, LGBT Rights are Human Rights, Milk Men And Women, and LGBT Kos Community.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thank you for the diary Horace. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Horace Boothroyd III, annieli, sfbob

    I want to comment more but I need my caffeine, I just woke up.

    And daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County Down by the Green River where Paradise lay. Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking Mister Peabody's coal train has hauled it away. John Prine

    by high uintas on Fri Oct 04, 2013 at 08:32:17 AM PDT

  •  Good post. (6+ / 0-)

    I hope historical scholarship is filling in many of the blanks.  For example, many people probaby do not know about the pink triangles in the Nazi camps and the genocide committed on GLBTers there.  

    In lesser ways, many people do not know of many accomplsihments by GLBTers becasue they were closeted for their own safety.

    Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

    by TomP on Fri Oct 04, 2013 at 08:46:31 AM PDT

  •  Well done, and it's a way of fighting another term (5+ / 0-)

    Deviant Sexuality, or, as Robert Spitzer put it in suggesting a revision to the DSM in 1973, " Sexual orientation disturbance."

    It's like the reappropriation of "queer" only we've come up with a more positive term to replace it and to demedicalize it.

    Seneca Falls, Selma, Stonewall

    by Dave in Northridge on Fri Oct 04, 2013 at 09:28:10 AM PDT

  •  I am constantly, unpleasantly surprised (3+ / 0-)

    by educated, worldly young gay men who confide to me that they don't think bisexuality is a real thing.  At this point you'd think I wouldn't be surprised anymore, but it still happens, and I'm taken aback every single time.  

    Yes, I do correct them every time, and I'm usually given a screwed-up facial expression, like "Whatever, that's just your opinion, man."  I don't get it.  I don't get where this persistent biphobia comes from in the kind of inclusive environments we've been trying to create in the 21st century.  But yeah, you hear "Just pick one gender-attraction and be done with it!" from people who argue, just as persistently, that they were born with their own attractions and could never change.  Holy hypocrisy, Batman!

    ...

    All that being said, and as much as I love Jillian Weiss, I'm really frustrated by one aspect of her paper:

    Until the 1990s, there was little need to distinguish between different groups within the homosexual movement.  The differences between gay/lesbian and bisexual/transgender was of no practical consequence until the attempt came in the late 1990s to marry them together in a “GLBT” marriage of convenience.
    I think the history she outlines shows that the community had already long since distinguished itself before the 1990s, so I'm not sure what she means by "little need".  But I'm more confused by the "marriage of convenience", and I've read the article three times now looking for an explanation of this somewhere in her history of LG and BT relationships.  She charts the development of pre-1990s bi- and trans- phobias very well, and she presages the "emerging split" between GL and BT due to post 1990s bi- and trans- phobias, but I don't see any explanation of why and how and under what circumstances this marriage of convenience came about at all, given that it's a huge part of the story.

    Most frustrating for me is this passage:

    It is against this backdrop that, in the early 1990’s, the term “transgender,” a neologism with an unclear meaning, began to be included in the GLB coalition... Originally, the term “transgender” was intended by its coiner to refer only to certain non-operative transsexuals, but later mutated to refer to anyone whose gender performance varied from the norm.
    Wait, what?  Who included it?  Where did it come from? (the controversial Virginia Prince coined the word, but she wasn't involved in this 1990s movement inclusion.)  All this passive voice frustrates me, not for grammatical/style reasons, but because it avoids specifics that happen to be important here.  A term doesn't "come to be included": certain individuals came to include it.  And how does it fit into this larger narrative of persistent bi- and trans- phobias?  

    The friction between inclusion/exclusion and "normative"/"non-normative" ideologies are the linchpin for understanding the current LGBT movement.  One of the biggest issues in this discussion, the reason LG and BT came to be defined as a coalition at all, is elided over completely.  It's especially strange given that, as Weiss correctly argues, the inclusion of the then ill-defined "Transgender" conflicted with the "We're just like you!" ideology of the "coalition-builders".  So how did that inclusion come about, if the people behind the coalition disagreed with the fundamental precepts of that inclusion?  Isn't that a necessary piece of this puzzle?

    Anyway... If this were a blog post I'd let it slide (you can't cover everything), but it's an academic article, so I put on my academic cap, and ... Couldn't help myself.

    I love the article otherwise.  Very good, well-sourced, and gives a fantastic, broad overview of a persistent and ugly problem in our communit-y/-ies.

    Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

    by pico on Fri Oct 04, 2013 at 10:53:51 AM PDT

  •  Tell it, Brother! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LilPeach, Horace Boothroyd III

    I'm so glad you (and Robyn) post so much because I can't post (or even comment) nearly as much as I'd like to.

    One thing I'm hoping to also highlight more myself in the future is the insistence on the binary that I sometimes experience even within the queer community. I know way too many lesbians who have strong negative prejudices against bisexuality, both for ideological and emotional reasons. The say someone who is bisexual simply can't be trusted. Of course, as a bisexual (or pansexual maybe, I wouldn't rule out any physical sex characteristics of gender or gender presentation, or any possible constellation thereof, from being attractive for me) person I have a problem with that.

    And there are many within the queer family who are uncomfortable with those of us who reject or simply do not feel adequately described by a binary gender construct. Though many keep this view to themselves, I have been sometimes told I clearly don't have the balls (how ironic is that) to really be a man so I should just stay a woman. Doesn't feel good.

    So yes, self preservation. But many LGBT folk can definitely do better at embracing B and T as truly accepted and valued members of the family. And on an LGBT institutional level, we will see in the coming years to what extent the LGandB have our T backs or throw us under the bus.

    Maybe - just maybe - our foremothers and our forefathers came to this land in different ships. But we're all in the same boat now. - Rep. John Lewis

    by bluesheep on Fri Oct 04, 2013 at 05:08:59 PM PDT

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