My Bisexual Blunder

Friday night. I was waiting for my wife to come home with the pizza dinner and half watching the new season of True Detective. I casually cruised over to Facebook, certain everyone in the world was having a more exciting life than I. When I saw the message from the famed Loraine Hutchins, I knew immediately. I screwed up.

And I knew in the back of my mind how I screwed up, but Loraine is more eloquent on the nature of my blunder, so I will quote directly what she wrote to me:

I write to express my concern at the bisexual erasure language in your HuffPo piece. I'm glad you wrote it and I share the core of its sentiments but leaving out bi people from the litany of those who benefit from the SCOTUS decision is simply not ok. Alternating it with references to LGBT (thus putting the B back in, along with the T) is merely confusing. I thought you had my back. I thought you understand what being a bi ally is about. I thought you understood that bi people have been a KEY part of the marriage equality battle from the beginning, whether recognized or not.

I published a piece, "After Marriage Equality, What Will We Create Next?," here at the Huffington Post--and I blundered and mucked up language to erase bisexual people. Before I go any further, let me state this plainly: I was wrong. I apologize.

So, what happened? While I was writing the piece, I was thinking about the paradox of marriage equality: it is so extraordinary, so large and so important, and at the same time it is an incredibly narrow advancement. Marriage equality only affects folks who are in partnerships that qualify for marriage as the state currently construes it. This leaves a lot of people out: single people, partners who choose not to have long term commitments, poly couples, casual daters, people who are dating but not committed, people who dedicate their time and energy to multiple friendships and not a single, exclusive relationship, folks who organize their lives around other activities and not primary relationships. The list could go on (and it does in Nancy Polikoff's great book Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage--a great book if you haven't read it!). I was thinking about this paradox and about the limits of marriage equality when I finalized my piece for submission to the Huffington Post and I decided to just say gay men and lesbians as a way to show the narrowness of marriage in some parts of the piece and to use the LGBTQ acronym to express expansive possibilities for future action. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but obviously it did not work when published and people outside of my head read it!

Loraine again eloquently explains why my decision to use the narrow nouns was wrong. She writes:

Some of my best friends are out bi activists in this fight. They don't "become" "gay" or "lesbian" when they enter a same-sex relationship. It's called a mixed orientation same-sex relationship, if you want to call it that, and sometimes it's two bi-identified folks of the same sex pledging commitment and union to each other, in fact often this is the case.

I should know better. This is my public apology to Loraine, whose work I respect enormously, and also to other bisexual people--and transgender people--who were erased in the piece. I am sorry, and I am thankful for the feedback and the opportunity for more dialogue.

There are amazing resources on bisexuality and the history of bisexual activism demonstrates how big my mistake was--and how I should have known better. Loraine's book with Lani Kaahamanu, Bi Any Other Name, is one great resource. BiNet USA has an excellent presentation on bisexual community issues and their blog is regularly updated and worth following. There is a great history of bisexual activism here and BiNet's history of the movement is here. In addition to Bi Any Other Name, also check out Shiri Eisner's Notes for a Bisexual Revolution and Robyn Ochs's Getting Bi. The American Institute of Bisexuality also has great resources, including Bi Magazine. I'll be doing some of my own remedial reading over the next days and weeks. Maybe some of you want join me in reading and thinking more about bisexuality?