Op-ed: Why I'm Not Breaking Up With Lindsay Lohan
BY Diane Anderson-Minshall
June 12 2013 4:14 AM ET
Bisexual author and editor Rachel Kramer Bussel agrees: “I feel strongly that nobody owes anyone else their own self-identity. That would be a dangerous precedent to set, and if we're going to say Lindsay Lohan owes us to come out as bi, we might as well say Cynthia Nixon or anyone who's dated or slept with men and women owes us that. I don't think that furthers anyone’s cause and find it a bit condescending. From the statement she gave ... Piers Morgan, I don’t think she’s denouncing anything about her former life.”
Bussel reminds me that “there are a lot of people for whom none of the labels straight, bisexual, and gay work, and that’s OK too. And straight women can sleep with other straight women or lesbians or bisexuals, just as a lesbian may sleep with a man. I think this points to the problem with trying to pin identity on actions, rather than a broader definition that starts from within.”
While editing her new book, Twice the Pleasure: Bisexual Women's Erotica, Bussel says that she tried to ensure that “there were characters who didn’t necessarily identify as bisexual or didn’t say the word. I don’t think everyone you or I would want to call ‘bisexual’ is going to identify with the word. Language and labels and community are wonderful, but they can’t be forced on other people, and human emotions and sexuality are often more complex than a label and all its attendant baggage can handle. I’d like to think that embracing bisexuality also means embracing those who don’t want to put labels on their sexuality for whatever reason as well as working to create a world where everyone is free to explore their desires, both physically and mentally, without feeling ashamed or concerned about not fitting in to someone else’s preconceived ideas.”
Maria San Filippo, author of the new book, The B Word: Bisexuality in Contemporary Film and Television, thinks we may be coming into a bisexual moment culturally, one “that is significantly spurred by celebrities such as Evan Rachel Wood and Anna Paquin coming out as bi along with others of their generation embracing bi identity and sexual fluidity in general. That said, it's still the case that women [more than men] feel more comfortable and accepted claiming a bi identity, and it’s also still the case that bisexuality gets swallowed up or effaced by what I call in my book ‘compulsory monosexuality,’ especially within the movement for so-called gay marriage and in the academy, hence why The B Word is the first book-length scholarly study of bisexuality in visual media.”
In her book, San Filippo’s goal was to identify “missed moments” of bisexuality on screen to reveal just how frequently we look past desire between characters or our own desires as spectators when it doesn’t seem to align with the way we think in terms of sexuality as either gay or straight. But overlooking the intensity between the male characters in, say, The Great Gatsby is one thing; overlooking the reality of bisexual lives today is another.
Eisner says that several recent studies and reports over the past few years — such as the Bisexual Invisibility report or the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey — have been consistently showing us that bisexual people are severely and negatively affected by oppression and inequality, often in much higher rates than gay and lesbian people.
“While before, biphobia was considered as an inner LGBT community problem, at best, this new data has been showing us that biphobia and monosexism are broad social problems,” Eisner says.
For bisexual activists this has allowed for more vocalization about bisexuality in a political sense, and, Eisner adds, “The shocking data has not only shed light on our life experiences and challenges, but has also given us a powerful, tangible reason to organize around. In many ways, the numbers speak for themselves. On the other hand, numbers are meaningless without interpretations.”
Indeed, that’s because the stats on bisexual people’s lives are alarming. According to the Bisexual Invisibility report, the first major study on the well-being of bisexual people, which was commissioned by San Francisco’s Human Rights Commission, and several other studies, self-identified bisexuals make up the largest single population within the LGBT community in the United States. And yet bi people — who are often excluded, intentionally or otherwise, from both the gay and straight worlds — have higher rates of depression, anxiety, hypertension, smoking, risky drinking, and if they’re women, domestic violence victimization.
To borrow a phrase from Kermit the Frog, but it ain’t easy being bi, even if you’re a fully actualized, healthy adult. I guess that’s why I’m going to wait a bit longer for Lindsay Lohan to come around. I think she’s finding herself, and some of that might mean she’s bisexual and afraid to say it out loud. Or it might be she’s actually a straight girl who once loved another girl, supports marriage equality, and is doing her best to withstand the soul-crushing homogenization that is Hollywood. Or, like a lot of women I know — myself included — she may just now be fully grasping the full depth of women’s sexual fluidity without knowing how that translates to an “identity” (or if it even needs to). Either way, I’ll give her some more time.
DIANE ANDERSON-MINSHALL is editor at large for The Advocate and editor-in-chief of HIV Plus. She's a Lambda-nominated Bold Strokes Books mystery author, an L.A. Pride and NLGJA honoree, and one hell of a wife. Today she's either a lesbian-identified bisexual or a bisexual-identified lesbian, depending on which hour of the day it is.