By Michelle Garcia
Originally published on Advocate.com September 23 2013 10:45 AM ET
I have a serious crush on Arielle Scarcella. It's not just because she's adora-hot or because of her frank yet cheeky manner of speaking that shines through her bubbly Brooklyn accent. It's also because her video "What Lesbians Think About Bisexuals" made me fill with rage.
At first, I decided I didn't need to watch it after the first seven seconds. I've already heard the biphobia, even from some of the closest people in my life who were either gay or incredibly supportive of gay rights. (I guess just not bisexual rights?) I'd heard it on television, in movies, and those brainless magazines I read as a teenager that advised bisexual and questioning teenagers like me that they were probably just going through a phase. So why did I need to just get angry by some YouTube video?
But for this column, scheduled specifically for Bisexual Pride Day, I watched. Of course, the women in Scarcella's video delivered on what I guessed would come out in the wash. Some of the lesbians she interviewed described bisexual women as "greedy" and "rare." Even a perfectly attractive bisexual woman is a "waste" because she probably had "a dick in her mouth last week." You know, because all bisexuals run around giving out BJs on a weekly basis. We get punch cards at birth to ensure we can fill a quota. Inside secret: The tenth one is free!
I'm not going to rag on people's preferences; we're all entitled to like the type of people we like. If some lesbian in Brooklyn (or Omaha or San Antonio) isn't into bisexual women, fine. She has that right.
However, this vitriol that I've seen between lesbians and bisexual women has got to stop — this sort of ugly thinking essentially pits family against family. How can a teenage girl, not quite sure of what her orientation is, see these kinds of attitudes and feel empowered to own her sexuality and come out as bisexual? It's like we've become the conservative loonies who condemn others over their sexual orientation. Progressives and LGBTs unabashedly blame those people for keeping us in the closet with tools of hatred and ignorance, but aren't these biphobic notions doing the same thing? It certainly kept me from being comfortable with who I was, and I resent that, even now, as a 28-year-old adult in a happy marriage.
I was a 14-year-old outspoken, feminist extrovert, but I somehow allowed other people to tell me how I felt or tell me that my sexual orientation was of less value. I let myself believe that bisexuality wasn't real or was greedy or that coming out was pointless, because other gay and straight people believed it. But at the very least, the anger that I still feel over this is what drives me to wake up and come to work at this publication every day. I picked up an issue of The Advocate when I was 20. It was around the time that my feelings started to sort of make sense to me (and a year before I started working here as an editorial assistant). And even though we tend to be on the lean side when it comes to bisexual content, I wish The Advocate was at my newsstand at age 14 instead of Seventeen or YM. The teen mag editors understood straight, and they understood gay, but to them, anything in between seemed to be a phase or a transition before picking either side. Unfortunately, I believed it too.
So when Scarcella questioned the rationale behind these lesbians' thoughts, she made them squirm. Two thirds of the way through this video, she asks, whether they would date a bisexual woman if she turned out to be the love of their life. Most of them said yes very begrudgingly, perhaps because they didn't want to look like jerks at the end of the video. But she also questions why so many lesbians are so concerned that the bisexual woman they fall in love with will suddenly grow uninterested and cheat on them with a man. Isn't that what happens in general when you date someone? You like each other, you get together, you spend time with each other and figure our whether you can go long-term, and if you can't, you split up and usually move on to another human. Heartache is heartache; would it somehow be better that a bisexual woman left a lesbian for another woman?
Scarcella digs into the real issue here: self-esteem. And I don't only mean that among lesbians but bisexual women as well.
I went to Portland in June for a conference about LGBT people, gender, and sports sponsored by Nike. I geeked out for three days with like-minded, interesting people from across the country who loved baseball and the Olympics as much as I do. But I kept finding myself apologizing for being bi and being married to a guy. Eventually, one very cool, bright woman reminded me that this was Nike's LGBT Summit — I was invited to be there because I'm still family, and I care deeply about this topic.
So, if you were wondering, that's why we must have Bi Pride Day. So that actual bisexual people can own their sexual orientation and feel like we're not just sitting on a fence or can't decide or that we're disappointing someone. Bi Pride Day exists so that some teenage kid who doesn't quite get what she's feeling can see that she's not crazy and she's not going through a phase. Sure, declaring that you're straight or even gay when you're not might seem easier because it simplifies it for others. Believe me, I have heard some stupid and sometimes hostile questions about bisexuality. But we're all complex people, and our sexuality should be allowed to be complex too.
Watch the response to Arielle Scarcella's video, "Bisexuals Respond to What Lesbians Think About Bisexuals":
MICHELLE GARCIA is The Advocate's commentary editor. Follow her on Twitter @MzMichGarcia.