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    December 26, 2007

    GNW Pick: Bisexuality unexplored

    Posted by: Chris

    • "Controversial new poll shows bisexuality widespread": QUICK LOOK: A national poll showing that bisexuals account for half the number of people who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual is drawing mixed reactions. Many bisexual men and... (MORE)

    The Washington Blade's Joshua Lynsen looks into the controversial Hunter College/Knowledge Networks survey that showed Hillary Clinton with an overwhelming lead among gay Democrats -- more than two to one over Barack Obama. A number of us raised questions about the demographics of the survey, which showed more than 50 percent of LGB folks were women and 49 percent were bisexual.

    Lynsen reports:

    The poll of 768 people, conducted last month, shows in its adjusted final tally that 15.4 percent of respondents are bisexual men and 33.5 percent are bisexual women. Gay men accounted for 33.4 percent of the poll’s respondents and lesbians accounted for 17.8 percent. The poll asked respondents to assign their own sexual orientation.

    Amy Andre, a sexuality studies expert who helped write a bisexual health issues report this year for the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, said the poll’s findings are not without precedent.

    The U.S. government’s National Survey of Family Growth found in 2002 that 56 percent of men and women who identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual were bisexual.

    “So the findings at Hunter come as no surprise to me,” she said. “Neither do the reactions to the Hunter study. Bi-phobia is unfortunately alive and well in the LGBT community, as is ignorance about the lives of bisexual people within the community.”

    Ahh yes, a mouthpiece from the Task Force -- who, it turns out, is a bisexual activist herself, although Lynsen does not identify her as such -- wagging the finger of phobia at the rest of us. The B's and the T's and their PC allies sure are ready with the phobia charge, aren't they? Does this give anyone else ENDA deja vu?

    Their view is one valid side of the story, of course, but critics of the survey ought in fairness to be given the opportunity to answer accusations of biphobia. Why is only one survey critic -- Andrew Sullivan -- quoted and given no opportunity to respond? Is that fair or balanced?

    Readership surveys of the nation's LGBT publications tell a much different story about the percentage of women and bisexuals in "the community," as do the membership lists of every major LGBT group, and the makeup of audiences at every LGBT event.

    Perhaps there is another explanation to the Knowledge Networks survey or the National Survey of Family Growth -- which I'd never heard of before the Blade report and which Lynsen never quotes directly.  Among the demographic data collected from respondents generally is their self-reported sexual orientation.  Those respondents are then culled into an "LGB subgroup" and polled on questions like who they favor for president.

    For one thing we don't know if that's the approach at all because Lynsen doesn't include an interview with anyone at Knowledge Networks amidst all the "biphobia" finger-wagging. If my suspicion is correct, the problem with that approach is that self-identification as "bisexual" is not the same thing as self-identification as part of the "LGBT community." A bisexual man or woman married or dating exclusively in the opposite sex, living a closeted life with homosexual activity hidden from their public partner, isn't the same as an out and proud bisexual whose family, friends and partners are aware of his or her sexual orientation.

    Sticking with that theory, one way to correct the data would be to ask respondents if they are open about their sexual orientation with their partners, at least, or simply ask whether they identify as part of the "gay community," the "bisexual community" or the "LGBT community." Otherwise, data about who they support for president, or what kind of cheese they eat or which airline they fly, isn't particular relevant to the purposes to which the data is being put.



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    1. Sheela Lambert on Dec 27, 2007 1:27:54 PM:

      It's odd to me that you are missing the point entirely. Wasnt the question about who is the LGBT community voting for? The poll showed that bi people vote for LGBT rights whether they are at home with their kids or hanging out at the LGBT Community Center. Why are you more focused on how many bisexuals are pre-approved by you personally? And who says a married or opposite sex-partnered bisexual person can't be out & proud? Or a celibate one? Do we all have to be same-sex partnered for you to consider us part of the LGBT Community? You folks are acting like white people who are scared to death hispanics are taking over the country. Should it surprise you that some bi people are offended by gay disdain and dont hang around where they feel they are not wanted, supported, valued? That doesnt necessarily make them closet cases. And there are as many gay closet cases as bi, so why pick on us? Even people in the closet vote. And if they are voting for LGBT rights, isnt that a good thing?

      This was a poll, not a research study on census statistics. Oh wait, we dominated that one too (as you pointed out, the U.S. government’s National Survey of Family Growth found in 2002 that 56 percent of men and women who identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual were bisexual.) It's going to take more studies to confirm those numbers before we can be certain of them. But instead of freaking out that there may be more of us than you thought, why not get excited that there is a larger voter base predisposed to vote for our issues? Why not spend this energy reaching out, rather than pushing away?

      And to call Amy a schill for NGLTF is ridiculous. She is a bi community activist we are inclined to be inclusion-minded all on our own. Inclusion is our motto for god's sake.

      Sheela Lambert, Founder,
      Bi Writer's Association

    1. David on Dec 27, 2007 2:30:35 PM:

      As an out bi married male (15 years in a non-monogamous marriage to a woman), I have run into bi-phobia from gays and gay groups.

      Flat out - it's hurtful.

      Still, I am MOST at home among GLBT people. Most of my friends are gay or bi.

      There are definitely a lot more bis out there than some people would like to admit.

      I consider myself part of the GLBT community, take part in pride events, go to clubs, help out, etc. However, I don't support those organizations who purposefully exclude bis.

      Far as the voting - we (my wife who is straight and I) always vote for GLBT rights. We push for equal marriage rights for ALL couples. We push for health care and other benefits for ALL couples and families.

      Please, embrace us as the friends we are.

    1. Citizen Crain on Dec 27, 2007 3:04:20 PM:

      Sheela and David: Please re-read what I wrote. If a bisexual is "out and proud" and self-identifies as part of the "LGBT community" or "LGBT movement," then by all means they should be "counted." It does not matter to me if a bisexual is presently partnered, or lifetime committed, to someone of the opposite gender. But they should be out and identify as part of the movement/community before they should be counted as part of the movement/community.

      I would say the same thing about a gay man or lesbian who lives their G/L life entirely in secret or on the "down low." They, like closeted bisexuals who are not out to their opposite-sex partners, friends, coworkers, family etc., or attend/support GLBT events, groups, social gathering spots,etc., should not be "counted" when determining what "GLB" folks think about a presidential election or otherwise.

      This claim of biphobia is an interesting one. Is it "gayphobia" that causes bi activists to leap to charges of phobia and prejudice anytime someone who is gay differs from the P.C. line? Or it is just old-school intolerance that tries to guilt sympathetic yet independent gay folks into accepting whatever bi activists and their P.C. allies say we should think?

      Thank you, Sheela, for identifying Amy Andre of the Task Force as a bi activist. Too bad the Blade report didn't do that, so that readers could be given sufficient information to draw their own conclusions about her claim of "biphobia."

    1. Alexei Guren on Dec 27, 2007 4:08:49 PM:

      I guess I don't understand what all of the hair splitting is either.

      So if someone identifies as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual or Transgender individual, but doesn't specifically identify as being a part of the LGBT community or movement they shouldn't be counted? I guess I'm not seeing the logic here, you are what you are, and that's what the poll showed.

      To be honest, I'm not sure exactly what the LGBT community is at times -- and even the movement itself seems dysfunctional at times with major national organizations unable to reach concensus on what directions the movement should be going in at times.

      Personally, I don't really identify with the LGBT community - however, I do identify openly as a bisexual man, and have been out as one for over 25 years. When asked what my sexual orientation is, I happily respond with the truth.

      However, that doesn't seem to be good enough for you, it seems you would further want to break down our numbers based not only on our sexual orientation, but based on the communities we choose to affiliate with -- I wonder what will that accomplish? How does that make the movement as you call it better?

      I have to say I agree with the polls findings, I believe that bisexuals are a lot more common than is often thought, and am glad to see more of them willing to open up and participate in polls like this.

      I'm not sure what being PC has to do with any of this - and certainly don't consider myself PC - hence my life and my acceptance of who I am. It would have been much easier for me to hide in either the straight or gay world - especially as some monosexuals at times seem bent on pretending that bisexuals don't exist -- and yet here we are anyway, perhaps this poll is a portend of things to come or maybe the Pollsters just got lucky and dialed the bisexual area code and prefix.

    1. Curtis Fitzgerald on Dec 28, 2007 12:51:35 PM:

      "Ahh yes, a mouthpiece from the Task Force"; statements like that set the tone for the whole article and results in the pushback you're getting. I started coming out a couple of years ago. Maybe more bisexuals would come out if there were a more welcoming community to come out to. You seem to be accepting of bisexuals who are out; I appreciate that but wish you had a little more regard for LGBT people who are not out. I came out because it is the most effective way for me to make a difference. Perhaps other people make a difference by who they hire, vote for, give money to, etc. I'd love for everyone to come out, but don't think that is realistic or reasonable in today's world.

    1. Thomas Leavitt on Dec 28, 2007 1:05:18 PM:

      Your definition of the "LBGT" community is very narrowed and constrained... question: if a "community" of people is predominantly bisexual, but has significant proportions of "straight" and "gay/lesbian" people in it, is that part of the LGBT community in your opinion? Apparently not.

      Example: the San Francisco Bay Area has a very large and active "bi/poly/often pagan" community, which overlaps with the "kink" community, which overlaps with the broader "poly" community, and both of which overlap with the "bisexual activist" community (and have significant LGT contingents), but only the folks in the latter group would be counted as part of the overall "LGBT" community by your definition, and none of the spaces the former occupy would qualify as "LGBT" (perhaps because they have "straight" people in them?).

      My guess is that while most of these people are very supportive of LGBT rights, etc., the majority of them don't participate in "traditional" LGBT institutions (political organizations, "pubs", "GLBT events", etc.)... or, at least, that isn't the focal point of their social and political activity. Your definition of "community" excludes them.

      That said, let's return to the crux of the issue: SELF-IDENTIFIED bisexuals. I think it is quite radical of you to blithely assume that these folks are not "out and proud"... how many "closet cases" are going to respond to a survey and identify as "bisexual" (an identity option large numbers of people still aren't even aware exists)? In my experience, self-identification as "bisexual" is a huge step, and requires a non-trivial level of sophistication.

      I would also point out that it seems rather presumptive to assume that the vast majority of the "self-identified" bisexuals are "closet cases", but contrawise, assume that this is not the case with the "gays" and "lesbians" who answered the survey.

    1. Citizen Crain on Dec 28, 2007 6:43:13 PM:

      Alexei and Thomas: Who to "count" really depends on the purpose of the survey. If the survey is to gauge the views about politics or business from those who are gay or bi or support the LGBT movement, then I would include GLB folks who are out, closeted, simply affiliate with, or are "allies."

      But if the survey, like the one about the presidential race, is about how the "gay vote" or "GLB vote" will go in the next election, then I would not count closeted gays or bisexuals who have no affiliation with the "LGBT community" except what they do on the D.L. in adult video stores or the internet or the like.

      The same holds true for closeted bisexuals who are in opposite-sex relationships and have no connection to the "LGBT community" except their dormant attraction for the same sex.

    1. Citizen Crain on Dec 28, 2007 7:08:31 PM:

      Curtis: I'm sure that it is difficult for a male bisexual to come out to gay folks. Many gay men believe that the vast majority (or all) male bisexuals are actually gay but coming to terms with it in stages. This belief stems in part from so many gay men who did just that -- myself included, as well as from Harvery Fierstein's intuitive observation, "Show me a man who left his boyfriend for a woman, and I'll believe in bisexuals."

      No doubt the truth lies somewhere in between, with plenty of true male bisexuals and plenty of gay men passing through. That said, count me among those who imagine female sexuality as a fairly even continuum and male sexuality as an upside-down bell curve, with many more bunched on the ends of "monosexuality" -- homo and heterosexuality -- than in the middle -- bisexuality.

    1. Citizen Crain on Dec 28, 2007 7:17:26 PM:

      Sorry...one more thought for Alexei: Let me spell out the P.C. angle. Among the "progressive/ liberal/ PC" crowd, any sort of minority is patronized to, especially if it can be done at the expense of the "white male" patriarchy.

      So transgender folks are patronized to, as are bisexuals, and even lesbians, with gay men tolerated, primarily for their funding support.

      Yes, I'm exaggerating things, but you get the point. Anything that empowers the T's, B's or L's at the expense of the G's (at least those not "of color") has enormous P.C. appeal.

    1. Curtis Fitzgerald on Dec 28, 2007 9:34:24 PM:

      Chris - Don't take this as an attack because I'm just trying to explain my perspective. I'm aware that many bisexual men eventually decide they are gay; gay men usually let me know early on that I'm probably gay. I don't argue because it doesn't matter to me if peope regard me as gay or bisexual. Maybe I'll wake up one day and decide I'm gay; what difference does it make since I'm already involved in the LGBT community? Most of the world lumps us all in the same category so it is ironic that bisexual men aren't more accepted in the gay community. Many of my co-workers tell me either I'm gay or straight so I tell them to regard me as gay. My wife often jokingly refers to me as gay. I supposedly don't exist yet I still have to put up with ignorant attitudes - I work in construction. That makes it all the more ironic that the gay community has an issue with bisexuality. I can see why many men choose to identify as gay, but the reality is that many of them have slept with or are sleeping with more women than I ever will. It seems like the gay community would welcome me with open arms if I left my family and declared myself gay, but not as an out bisexual. Should I start identifying as gay? Would that make me acceptable? Neither label is acceptable to the people who hate LGBT people so why is it such an issue with the gay community?

    1. anonymous on Dec 29, 2007 12:45:53 AM:

      "So transgender folks are patronized to, as are bisexuals, and even lesbians, with gay men tolerated, primarily for their funding support"

      Chris - did you see the Advocate's dreadful Gay vs. Trans cover story - where their idea of "fair and balanced" was to load the panel with trans people and thier lovers.

      I think the only lesbian they interviewed was a 'professional' festish person. What the hell?

      The division over ENDA was between the ordinary gay people who are interested in basic meat and potatoes issues,and the bi/trans/poly/kink PC crowd.

      And the Advocate, which is supposed to represent GAY people, does a gay vs. trans article which completely ignores ordinary gay people and gives the microphone to the bi/trans/poly/kink crowd. And of course, any gay person who disagrees with them is bi-phobic, transphobic, and I'm sure, kink-phobic and poly-phobic.

      They want to 'educate' and 'enlighten' ordinary gay people - but I'll pass on their education program. Ordinary gay people who are interested in real relationships don't need to be educated by the trans/bi/kink/poly/crowd.

      And Chris - the PC crowd only supports lesbians if we adopt their trans/kink politics. If we actually speak our own minds, they don't support us at all.

      And to address an earlier point - I don't actually think that female sexuality is more fluid. I think that in our culture, a man won't say he is gay unless he is REALLY, REALLY gay. But there are straight women, bisexual women, and transpeople who will lie and claim to be lesbians (or, 'identify' as lesbians if you don't want to call it lying).

      So that creates the impression that women are more 'fluid', when the truth is just that women who are not lesbians sometimes claim that they are, whereas men who are not gay will almost never 'identify' as gay.

    1. Thomas Leavitt on Dec 31, 2007 2:45:00 AM:

      Let's look at this extract:

      ...self-identification as "bisexual" is not the same thing as self-identification as part of the "LGBT community." A bisexual man or woman married or dating exclusively in the opposite sex, living a closeted life with homosexual activity hidden from their public partner, isn't the same as an out and proud bisexual whose family, friends and partners are aware of his or her sexual orientation.


      A gay man or lesbian woman living a closeted life with homosexual activity hidden from their friends and family, isn't the same as an out and proud gay or lesbian whose family, friends and partners are aware of his or her sexual orientation.

      I don't think you'll disagree with the statement above... but I do think that you would disagree with any argument to the effect that said individuals represent a significant proportion of the self-identified gay and lesbian respondents to this poll.

      In fact, it seems pretty clear that you think this is a particular and nearly exclusive liability of the self-identified bisexual population. A position you're willing to take, and that you assume your audience will agree with, without bothering to supply any supporting evidence.

    1. Hawyer on May 26, 2008 12:25:37 AM:

      Ohhh yawn !!! Don't even get me started. GLBT indeed! No wonder the gay community can't break out of a huddle without getting injured.

      Alluding to the Citizen Crain's anecdote (above): show me a guy who lives with his boyfriend and sneaks out for pussy on the side - and I'll show you a bisexual.

      Point is (above testimonies notwithstanding) I have never met a self-identified bisexual ... not that my experience is all-encompassing, the real issue is political and social relevance:

      Presumably, if a so-called bisexual person experiences social or political discrimination - it is relative to his/her homosexual identity.

      SOO ... give it up self-identified bi-guys and gals. The lifeboat is full to the gunwales with us homos. We have neither the energy or enthusiasm to take on your travails - real or imagined.

      Your homosexual longings fall into one category - and one category only - GAY.

    1. Monster Beats Sale on Nov 26, 2011 3:26:09 AM:

      Your homosexual longings fall into one category - and one category only - GAY.

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