Friday
July 29, 2005

SGN.org
Volume 33
Issue 30

 
Tuesday, Mar 01, 2016 02:09
 
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Lesbian Notions by Libby Post
Bye-Bye, Bi?
OK, I admit it.

When I saw the "Gay, Straight or Lying? Bisexuality Revisited" headline in The New York Times, my die-hard "how-could-a-woman-who-has-experienced-the-wonder-of-making-love-with-another-woman-ever-go- back-to-men" dyke heart skipped a beat.

But then, seconds later, liberal guilt set in and I read the article.

The reporter, Benedict Carey, writes about a new joint study from Northwestern University and Toronto's Center for Addiction and Mental Health that "casts doubt on whether true Bisexuality exists, at least in men." Described as "the largest of several small reports" (are the researchers having a "size" problem here?), the study used a tiny test group of 101 young adult men whose sexual identity roughly broke down in thirds - 33 said they were Bi, 30 said they were straight, and 38 said they were Gay.

A penile plethysmograph, also known as a PPG in the sex research world, was used to measure "genital arousal patterns in response to sexual images of men and women." The article didn't detail how the PPG was attached - I'll leave that to your active imaginations. What they found, however, was that, as expected, the straight guys got it up for the images of women, and the Gay guys did the same for men. The unexpected finding was that three-quarters of the self-identified Bi guys responded only to the images of men. And from these results the conclusion was made that Bisexuality, at least in men, does not really exist.

Now, the response to the article, the headline in particular, has been vociferous. The Times has been flooded with letters to the editor ranging from scientific to sarcastic.

Stanford biology professor Dr. Joan Roughgarden wrote, "In the 300 or more known vertebrate species with natural homosexuality, all combine heterosexual with homosexual relations. Humans are not likely to differ in this regard... The data in the article show that 20 percent of the pool having same-sex relations do identify as Bisexual. These people surely aren't all lying. Instead, psychologists should add a fourth possibility to their list: namely, that they are wrong."

Catherine Gaffney from that city of brotherly love, Philadelphia, wrote, "If our sexual preference were best detected by who [sic] we look at in pornography, wouldn't pretty much everyone be attracted to mildly unattractive people who live on the West Coast, and lack acting talent?" (I wonder if there will be an organized response from adult film makers to this one.)

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) have both galvanized their forces. GLAAD found the headline to be sensationalistic and derogatory. They even asked the Times to change the header on their online edition. The answer was no. GLAAD wants folks to write more letters to the editor.

NGLTF's Matt Foreman was "stunned that The New York Times Science section would carry such a shoddy, sensationalistic and downright insulting story" that equates sexual orientation with sexual arousal. The article "defames the truth in the lives and loves of millions of Bisexual men. The Times should be ashamed." A plethora of information regarding Bisexuality, the study's inaccuracies, and suggested action can be found at www.ngltf.org.

While the die-hard dyke heart says one thing, the rational thought process that inhibits my brain suggests that, absent all the sex-role stereotyping that permeates our society, we'd probably break down on the following scale - 10 percent of us would be either exclusively hetero or homo (that includes us lesbians), and the rest of us would revel in sexual fluidity.

Clearly, our culture is anything but devoid of sex-role stereotypes and the presumption of heterosexism, so this isn't likely to happen. But the question that really concerns me is not whether Bisexuality exists but why there isn't a stronger, independent Bisexual movement with political clout of its own. The messages of Bisexuals and transfolks can get lost and overlooked when we're all included under the ubiquitous LGBT political umbrella.

I understand that while some of the issues that Bisexuals face are the same for lesbians and Gays, some are different. I understand that the transgender community must grapple with both sexual and gender orientation. But I also understand political reality and how too many messages crowd each other out.

Just look at John Kerry's failed bid for president. With a smorsgasbord of "messages," his campaign never had a clear and coherent one. What happened? He lost.

While each of our singular communities has its own organizations, perhaps those of us with greater resources can help those who don't. It is vital to work in coalition when the issue calls for it and to maintain our singular identities. Wouldn't it be more effective if each of us - the lesbian and Gay community, the Bisexual community, and the transgender community - had our own strong political identity, so that when we do work together we truly are greater than the sum of our parts?

If this were the case, The New York Times might never have equated Bisexuality with lying.



Libby Post is the founding chair of the Empire State Pride Agenda and a political commentator on public radio, on the Web, and in print media. She can be reached care of this publication or at LesbianNotions@qsyndicate.com.
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