Storify: Bisexual Visibility Week

Storify is shutting down in May and has informed users that we have to migrate our content elsewhere if we wish to save it. This is one of my old threads.

[Content Note: Graphic Sexual Descriptions, Abuse, Cheating]

Thread: On Gay For You (GFY) narratives in Romance / Erotica fiction and bisexuality.

So I keep seeing more tweets about "Gay For You" (GFY) narratives and here's my take which some of you have seen before. I am bisexual. At the same time, "Gay For You" is a thing I have said and felt and written about myself at points in my journey.

It is VERY TROUBLING for me to hear that my narrative, my life, my story is a trope that doesn't exist and was made up by biphobic people. Does that mean that GFY can't be written in harmful biphobic ways? No, it can be. Does that mean straight writers can't harm us? Many do. Does it mean that we need more bisexual representation? Yes, we do. Does it mean that we need less biphobia in general? YES, WE DO.

Every time there's a harmful stereotype about bisexual people, there's this movement to erase/correct it in ways that erase many of us. So you can't write greedy bisexuals, because biphobia. And you can't write poly bisexuals, because biphobia. Don't write cheating bisexu--

Biphobia has erased me all my life, and now I have to submit to further erasure because biphobia exists? How does that help bisexual people? "Ana, we need to erase the inconvenient parts of your bisexuality otherwise it gives the biphobes ammunition to talk smack about you." No???

YES, all these tropes (cheating, greedy, poly, hypersexual, GFY, etc) can be wielded in harmful ways. Of course they can be. But I am tired of hearing that I don't exist. And if I do exist, I need to be silent about it because my messy existence emboldens biphobia.

None of which gets into the idea that "gay" is a complicated word which some bisexuals claim as an umbrella and some do not. And none of which get into the idea that the Kinsey scale is a scale and bisexuals aren't all a neat 50/50 or 40/60 or whatever. It is ENTIRELY possible for a bisexual person to call themselves "gay" in place of "queer" AND it is possible to be queer for 1 person.

And it's annoying to have to place myself next to the straight authors engaging in gross queer-exploitation over this. Ew. They suck. But pleeeeeeeeeeeeease, in the fight against stereotypes, stop saying (a) I don't exist and (b) my bisexual existence is harmful. Bisexual people are allowed to be messy, greedy, cheating, poly, hypersexual, and/or confused. We're allowed to be people.

I love that Book Twitter wants to do better by bisexual people (yes! please do!) but there's nuance here that is being erased. And I'm really shirty with the current trend of finding a bisexual person to speak for all of us that, yeahno, Gay For You doesn't exist. If you think there is one spokeperson for The Bi People, then you're already treating us like stereotypes. Please don't???? The best way to combat stereotypes is to put a variety of bi people in your books. Not to declare only one Perfect Platonic Bi allowed.

#NotYourPerfectBisexual, I guess. And I know I'm gonna lose a lot of followers for this and I'm genuinely sorry, but it HURTS to keep seeing threads about how I don't exist. It hurts, actual pain, to keep seeing threads about how my bisexual journey hurts Real Bisexuals because I'm not perfect enough. It hurts to keep seeing threads about how my bisexuality is silent and shameful because I prove the biphobes are right somehow. That hurts.

I'm bisexual. My story is messy. That should be okay. And, like, okay. Here is a thing.

Please try NOT to take the absolute ~worst~ example of a trope and use it to declare the entire trope off-limits? Please? There are inarguably AWFUL, VILE, TERRIBLE, EXPLOITATIVE examples of Gay For You out there in the Romance world. Period. No doubt. But the fact that someone Ann Coulter'd up a shitty romance book doesn't mean the subject itself is gross and untouchable.

Social Justice circles are doing this... thing... lately where Bad Example Exhibit A becomes this rallying cry to NEVER EVER do a thing. So instead of people saying "Don't do GFY in a shitty, flippant, exploitative, straight-gazey, bi-erasing manner!" it's "Don't do GFY!" I understand the allure of the latter position. It's easier to memorize and measure. It's simple. A simple rule to follow and you'll be ok! And if you want to follow that as a personal rule, great! No one needs to write GFY. (Arguably many people shouldn't.)

TO SUMMARIZE: Social justice needs to be seasoned with nuance. Please, I am goddamn begging. Messy bi people exist and we deserve to exist. So I guess my #BiVisibilityWeek thread today is about the fact that bisexual people should be allowed complexity. And my god, if you DO feel gay/bi/queer/pan for one person, that's OKAY. That's VALID.

Please don't talk yourself out of an attraction just because you're "usually" a different orientation. Label it how you need for now. Spoiler warning: That label will probably change over time if/when you allow yourself to explore that attraction. That's okay too!

Like. Can I just dovetail off this to talk het-centrism?

Many of us bisexuals are "raised straight", y'all realize? I can't speak for AMAB folks, but AFAB people can take a notoriously long time to realized we're bi. Because we're attracted to one-or-more guys like we're "supposed" to be! And all the feels we have for girls are just... normal???

I know soooooo many women and AFAB enbies who have that late-stage moment of, like, "oh. You mean all women DON'T want to kiss women?" Many of us don't move from "raised straight" to "fully blown bisexual" in a single jump of the checkboard, ya'll. For a loooooooot of us, that moment of "I'm... not gay... but... I'm gay... for her?" is a major milestone. One many of us remember FONDLY.

So, yeah, hearing that this is gross and the worst and erasure (especially in the context of straight-gaze m/m romances) is, uh. Um. Hmm. A lot of whether Gay For You trope is a problem, imo, comes down to the implementation. As with most tropes. End caveat here that you, personally, do not have to LIKE this-or-any trope! You, personally, can be harmed by this-or-any trope!

But there is a different between a trope being hurtful for you versus it being hurtful for everyone and therefore we all need to stop. I'm infertile and there's a LOT of things I can't handle with babies in. That doesn't mean all pregnancy/baby stories are bad. So to stumble towards a wrap-up on this: Personal preferences don't translate well into universal rules. Thanks. Tip your waiter.

Or to put it another way: Biphobia is always harmful, but not everything that depicts bi people in complex or unflattering ways is biphobia.

Thread: On Cheating, and positive aspects thereof.

Tomorrow I will piss everyone off by talking about cheating in positive contexts. *pencils in the date*

I'm using "cheating" here to talk about cheating emotionally and/or sexually on a partner who has reason to believe you two are exclusive. Now, I do not consider cheating to be a "good" thing in most contexts. There is great potential for harm, in my opinion. But. I do think there are contexts in which cheating can be a good thing for the cheater, and I think those stories are valuable. Let me explain.

My first marriage was hella abusive in pretty much every way you care to name. Physically, emotionally, I was ground into a nub. I got to a point where I did not believe I had value. I did not believe I was worthy of love. I thought I was worthless. And despite being a natural serial monogamist up to that point in my young life, I began having these vivid erotic dreams about a friend.

This person was not my type at all. They were not someone I would have normally pursued. And I was very troubled by my dreams. I had been raised to believe a strict Christian interpretation that mental cheating was as bad as actual cheating. Equal. So I put a lot of time into searching my soul as to why I was cheating with this person. And I realized it was because they were nice to me.

That was it. I was SO STARVED for any crust of affection that merely being a nice person was enough to send my libido into a freefall. That realization was a big part of what made me wake up and realize that my marriage wasn't working and that selflessness was killing me. Now I can hear folks crying foul already because I promised cheating, dammit, and that isn't REAL cheating. But it was real to me. And I've since heard so many heartbreaking stories about people trapped in abuse and cheating giving them a kick needing to leave.

(Incidentally and tangentially, I found out later that same husband was "actual" cheating on me. So I know it can hurt, hooboy.)

And, oh yeah, I'm bisexual. And there's a stereotype that can be wielded in harmful ways about bisexuals being cheaters waiting to happen. So this ties into my #BisexualVisibilityWeek post from yesterday about how messy bisexuals exist and deserve our stories be told.

So here are some ways to be sensitive to cheating, if you feel like it.

Try to avoid stigmatizing language like "dirty cheater" and so on. People and humans and relationships are complicated and you don't know. I urge people not to assign blame when they can avoid it. You can know someone cheated but not know why or any of the details.

[TW: Abuse] I am BETTING ya'll wouldn't blame me for cheating after you saw my husband push me down a flight of concrete stairs, yanno? So unless you just NEED to vocally assign blame in a situation (like you've been tagged to be a Team Me), then maybe don't? Caveat that it's 100% okay to take sides when you've been tagged to be a Team Me. I'm talking about, like, internet convos about cheating.

Don't assume that cheating is always from hyper-sexuality or immaturity or selfishness or whatever stigma thing. Like, if I said I was a Bisexual Cheater, a lot of people would assume hyper-sexual rather than "abuse victim starved for affection".

Ummm, I'm probably forgetting some stuff but that's the basics. Something can be WRONG while the people involved are still HUMAN. Oh! And please try not to assume that because someone cheated once they're more likely to do it again? That's a tricky one, because I'm not saying to turn off your instincts. If you get a bad vibe from Boyfriend Chad, listen to that vibe!

But sometimes I see internet people talk about how cheaters NEVER CHANGE!!!! and can NEVER BE TRUSTED!!! and I'm like, umm? Past behavior is part of who a person is now, but it doesn't ~guarantee~ anything about who they'll be in the future. It's just a datapoint. Maybe if Husband 2.0 ground me into a nub and abused me, I might be more likely to cheat on him than someone else in my sitch, but. As those abusive conditions have not been replicated in our marriage, the result of those conditions (cheating) hasn't come about. *shrug*

There almost really needs to be a thread about how you can dislike a thing without stigmatizing it. I circle around this idea a LOT because a lot of social justice folks seem to confuse personal dislike with a moral judgment. As in "I do not like [trope], therefore it is wrong and must be stopped". That's... there's some steps missing in that equation.

Some things we dislike are wrong and/or should be stigmatized. Racism, for example, is deplorable. Stigmatize away! But having sex under a sex of complicated conditions that sum up to cheating... it's okay to dislike that, but let's not stigmatize it. Anyway! That's my thread on how cheating can be positive and some bisexuals cheat and we all have to live with that.

Thread: Bisexual can be defined in more than one way.

For my next #BisexualVisibilityWeek thread: Did you know there are different definitions of "bisexual"? THERE ARE.

Sexuality is super-mega-personal, so there's not one "right" definition of ANY sexuality, okay? *drapes disclaimer banner over everything* But there are a couple popular definitions of bisexuality and problems arise when people don't realize there's more than one.

(90% of all arguments stem from a failure to define your terms.)

(I just made up this statistic, but I feel strongly about it anyway.)

Bisexual Definition 1 (old, outdated): Sexual attraction to girls AND guys. This one isn't in use much because it tends to leave out enbies.

Bisexual Definition 2: Sexual attraction to my gender + not-my-gender. This is an okay one to have BUT NOT EVERYONE USES THIS. Why? Well, not all bisexual people are attracted to members of all genders. Some bisexuals aren't attracted to men, frex! Some bisexual people don't HAVE a gender!

Bisexual Definition 3: Sexual attraction to members of 2 (or more) genders. This is the one most bisexual organizations use, and it's widely regarded to be the most inclusive!

There are more permutations than these and again it is 100% okay to define your bisexuality in ways that work for you. But it's a good idea to know these different common definitions exist because people can get hurt if you assume their bisexuality means XYZ. Because, like, cannot stress strongly enough that there are bisexual people who are not attracted to men. That's OKAY.

(This is nothing against men! This is just a thing I've encountered a lot and some folks stress that they aren't REAL bisexuals. You are!)

Also because of #3, it's important to understand that there are bisexual people who aren't attracted to their OWN gender. That's valid!

Thread: Labels are made for people, not the other way around.

For my NEXT #BisexualVisibilityWeek thread: Did you know it's okay to NOT be bisexual?

Sexuality is really really complicated for some people and that's okay! Labels are imperfect descriptions of ourselves. I've known lesbians who were attracted to NO MEN WHATSOEVER except, like, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. And, like, if you are attracted to no men at all except Joseph Gordon-Levitt, some may not want to use "bisexual" as a label. That's okay! No one should pressure you to use a label you don't want to claim. (This is one of MANY reasons why I am okay with "[sexuality] for/with u")

HAVING SAID THAT, your partners are allowed to choose not to be with you if they feel your label doesn't include them! That's their choice. Some enbies won't date straight/gay/lesbian-identifying people because they don't feel included. Some don't mind or care. You do you!

The thing to remember is that your label is yours and only YOU can change it. Follow me here, because this is important. Trans people face a lot of violence from folks who are afraid we'll "make" them be a different label. Understand that isn't possible. No one but YOU can change your label. This is freeing of worries, but also means your attraction is YOUR responsibility. Not ours.

If you find yourself attracted to someone outside your label, that attraction is yours to deal with. It's not the other person's "fault". It also doesn't mean you get to decide the other person's gender is wrong. ("Well, Ana, you're really a woman, because I said so.") Nope!

Here are the things you can't change:
- someone's gender

Here are the things you can (maybe) change:
- your attraction
- your label

You may decide you're not attracted to them after all. (Fine!) You may decide you need to change your label. (Fine!) You may decide your current label is imperfect but you're going to keep it for reasons. (Fine!)

The OTHER PERSON gets to decide whether they want to reciprocate your affection and how they feel about your label and treatment of them. Now for me, personally, if you come at me saying "I'm usually X, but I'll be Y for you, Ana", you'd better be Joseph Gordon-Levitt. But everyone else on earth gets to make their own decision on whether to date you! And they can decide no for any reason! And that's fine!

So if you're thinking "am I bisexual?" the answer may be yes! (JOIN US WE HAVE COOKIES.) But you also DO NOT HAVE TO BE. And if anyone says you "must" be bisexual or you're -phobic, please send them my way because that is not how this works.

Also, it is not necessarily biphobic to not embrace the term for reasons. Please do not say that! YES, some people avoid the bisexual label because of biphobia. Others avoid it for other reasons. You just can't know some times. So in summary, your sexuality can be ANY LABEL YOU NEED or even NO LABEL AT ALL, and that's okay. If anyone gives you grief for being or not-being bisexual, send them to me and I will be very stern with them.

Thread: More on labels and when they are imperfect.

I want to talk a little more about being an enby through all this. Bear with me, because this part is personal.

Labels are made to serve people, not the other way around. Labels are for communication. Because we communicate in a culture that has subscribed to a gender binary for many years, that complicates things in some way.

I sympathize with someone who is:
- attracted to women and fembys
- looking at labels like "wtf"

Because you either go with lesbian and risk that awkward "er but also bisexual for enbies" conversation or go bisexual and then... men happen. Men are often Not Cool to bisexual women and AFAB enbies. I can understand wanting to avoid ALL of that.

I'm writing an AFAB enby right now who is only attracted to women and AFAB enbies. Xie struggles with labels. If xie had to pick one, xie would say xie is a lesbian because it's the best word xie has. It is an imperfect word. So this is AGAIN why an conversation about Gay For You is complicated because labels ARE imperfect and enbies do exist and words are hard.

It is simplistic and frankly makes my teeth grind when hard-liners say "well, everyone should just be bisexual then!!" Because, again, people were not created to serve the label. Labels were created to serve people. Any other view is ridic to me.

So if I got friendly-flirty with a lesbian and she was like "yo, I totes respect your gender and this label is hard, you know?" I get that. Other people can feel differently! That's okay! That is the beauty of human variety! But that's my point, honestly. This isn't simple.

Thread: But what if someone's feelings about your orientation are wrong? (i.e., possibly rooted in biphobia)

Someone has asked me some questions about this and I want to break out of nesting to talk about it.

Feelings are not Actions. Feelings are valid feelings, even if they're Factually Wrong. Actions still need to be respectful. Someone can decide they don't want to date a bisexual person for ANY reason. No one owes you a date. No one owes you a "valid" no.

Someone can decide not to date a bisexual because of:
- unfair stigma
- feeling excluded as a nonbinary person
- dislike of the letter B

You can explain all day long that YOUR bisexuality includes enby people (mine does!) but if THEY aren't feeling it? They can walk away! They can be wrong. You two can be incompatible because of that wrongness. It sucks, but humans are imperfect and so are labels.

They still need to ACT respectfully to you. That means not hectoring you for your label, not stigmatizing you, etc. If they can't maintain respectful Actions over your bisexuality, they are uber-wrong and you may need to sever that connection entirely. But no one is obligated to date you (or anyone else) to prove they're not biphobic.

"Elmo, my bisexuality includes enby people so I need you to stop arguing with me over it--that's biphobia." (VALID.)

"Elmo, my bisexuality includes enby people so I need you to get over your icky feels and date me--if you don't, that's biphobia." (NO!)

Respectful interaction from others is a human right. Dating / Romantic / Sexual access from others is not a human right. And here is the thing I was edging around above re: feelings being valid for that person. Bisexuality is not inherently enbyphobic. The "attraction to members from 2 or more genders" is a perfectly cromulent definition. Noooooothing will make me roll my eyes faster than "bisexuality is transphobic so you need to be pan". Bite my enby ass.

BUT. CAVEAT. Any particular individual enby person can 100% decide that THEY are still uncomfortable with the term and THEY still don't want to date you. And you don't get to put their feelings under a microscope and parse whether they come from biphobia or misinformation or valid reasons. Enbys do not owe bisexuals dates. Enbys do not owe pansexuals dates. Enbys do not owe lesbians dates. Enbys do not owe straight people dates

Nobody owes anyone a date and nobody owes anyone a reason for not dating them. Everybody owes everyone else basic human respect. That's it.

Thread: Bisexuality and how we train people not to recognize it in themselves.

On today's #BisexualVisibilityWeek thread, I wish to talk about sexual attraction and how it's complicated sometimes. Specifically, I want to talk about how a lot of bisexual women don't immediately realize they're bisexual because of the way our culture is.

Caveat: I'm not a woman but I spent many formative years being labeled as one, which informed this view. And this is a long thread, sorry. I spoke earlier in the week about how a lot of us are "raised straight". It's assumed from babyhood that we'll grow up to date men.

This is hetcentrism: the centering of heterosexuality as a default normal that folks must opt out of instead of opting consciously into. But there are other factors at play that muddle bisexual awakenings for a lot of women, and I want to talk about those.

We live in a sexist society that simultaneously male gazes EVERYTHING yet treats women's bodies as icky. So on the one hand, as a bisexual girl growing up, I thought low key attraction to women was normal because it is NORMALIZED. This male gaze magazine cover at the checkout informs me that a woman is Pretty and, hey, look she is! Normal straight girl here, la dee da!

At the same time, vaginas and all things to do with them are stigmatized heavily. (I've seen men called "gay" for liking to eat pussy!) So I didn't have strong lustful "grr, I wanna lick pussy!" feels because (a) I didn't do that AT ALL (conservative sex-negative raising), but also because (b) I'd absorbed the misogynistic sexist message that feminine bodies were kinda squicky weird.

Add to this pile of mud, queer people are hypersexualized in our society. And I wasn't hypersexual, therefore not queer! My "sexual" feels for men weren't graphic; I wanted to cuddle and kiss. But my SAME feels for women had to be platonic... right? In this manner, we hold queer feelings to a higher bar than straight feelings, because hetcentrism.

To add MORE mud to this mess, I didn't understand sex. Hetcentrism taught me that sex was a penis in a vagina. I had a vagina, and I really liked penis-shaped things going into it, so I didn't see how sex with a woman would even work. It was yeaaaaars before I understood that not all queer vagina-owners like oral sex and that strap-ons and such are valid sex toys.

So a number of things stunted my bisexual awakening. Let's number them!

1, normalization of male gaze, such that attraction to a pretty woman's appearance seemed like a thing everyone does.

2, stigma of vaginas, such that I was low key afraid of vaginas (including my own) for a long time.

3, hyper-sexualization of queers such that I held my female desires to a different/higher bar than my male desires.

4, inadequate sex-ed, such that I assumed my desires for peen meant I straight-up couldn't be happy with a woman.

It took many years for me to shake free of a lot of that and say wait no, I'm attracted to women, I'm bisexual.

Accepting that and exploring that has actually upped my frequency of "grr lust" feels, for whatever that's worth. But I also get to accept that "grr lust" isn't a thing that comes to me as often as it does for some others AND THAT'S OKAY. I'd rather fiercely cuddle Joseph Gordon-Levitt than sex him. This is also true of my feelings about Ruby Rose.

The key (for me) was in letting go of the double standard I had for those feelings. My relationship with sex is complicated because of my upbringing and disability and that's okay! But all this definitely contributed to those "I'm not gay... but I'm gay for her???" milestone feelings in my life. Because many of those times I DIDN'T want to smash my face into someone's genitals. (Not that there's anything wrong with that!)

I "just" wanted to cuddle and touch her and never stop touching her face and live on her couch with her and send her boyfriends far away and buy a house by the beach and sleep in the same bed and have two cats together and watch the sunrise every morning and braid her hair and and and and -- YEAH OKAY THAT'S VALID. It wasn't less attraction for me just because I wasn't thinking about her genitals.

But it took me YEARS to realize that I feel those feels for boys too and I never felt those feels were less valid for not being cock-driven. In summary: Queer attraction doesn't need to be hyper-sexual 100% of the time to be valid. It can be! But doesn't have to be.

SIDE NOTE: I don't personally break out Sexuality from Romantic orientation FOR ME because I'm bieverything and it's all good. But. Some people do and that's valid. There are people who are het-sexual while being bi-romantic. Or ANY OTHER COMBINATION. Labels are complex. So, like, agaaaaain this is one reason why you can't just say sexuality is simple and writing it is simple, because it's not. That's okay.

My first ever sexual experience with another person was with a girl but I spent years not thinking it counted because it wasn't romantic. And I failed to recognize my very very romantic feelings for a dear friend because it wasn't (yet) sexual for me. I regret that so so much. (Not in a "I wish I'd married her" way, but I wish I'd told her how wonderful she was because she deserved to know.)

We do kids a disservice when we treat orientations as simple, because then... well, stuff like this happens. It's OKAY for a person or character to say "I have these feels, I'm not sure what it means for my labels, but I won't deny these feels."

Also, and I want to be very clear here: there is no sex act that can make or break your sexual orientation. You can be bisexual without ever once wanting to put [body part] on [body part] and do [sex act]. There's not a test for bisexuality. There are MANY sex acts that are 100% contextual for me. I might do them with the right partner, but I don't long for the act independently. There are people who do long for that act! And that's okay! No shaming! But it's also okay to NOT independently long for that act!

Like, I love giving blowjobs to my partner but I never sit around thinking "my god I need a cock to suck". SOME PEOPLE DO AND THAT'S OKAY! Just always keep in mind that your sexuality isn't something you need to measure up to or "pass" as a test. You're you. Your label should ideally be something that you feel covers you best and most comfortably, like a comfy pair of clothes you love.


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