Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Mike Huckabees’s New Book Spreads Myths About Bisexuality

Mike Huckabee’s new book, “God, Guns, Grits and Gravy,” has been getting a lot of attention lately, especially for his slam on Beyonce and Jay-Z, which demonstrates just how out of touch he is: You pick an example of a successful married couple to demonstrate your conservative bona fides?

But I was particularly interested in Huckabee’s misunderstanding of LGBTQ people, namely bisexual people.

"Shouldn't a bisexual be able to have both a male and female spouse? Wouldn't restricting that person access to both genders be denying the bisexual his or her marriage 'equality?’”

There’s a lot to break down here. First of all, Huckabee uses the phrase “a bisexual” not “a bisexual person,” which is generally a red flag. Anytime I see someone refer to a group of people using the adjectives to describe that group as a plural noun I prepare myself to hear some nonsense. Take “females” as an example.

Second, equality is in scare quotes, so we know Huckabee thinks this is a perversion of the meaning of the word.

But what I’m most interested in is the main theme of what he is saying, which is a profound misunderstanding of what bisexuality is. And if you don’t know what it is, then you probably shouldn’t be talking about it. People might wonder why anyone should even respond to a claim by someone who clearly falls on the far right, when such a statement is completely in line with someone of his ideology. However, in this case, Huckabee’s misunderstanding is really not that different from so many others, even people who consider their politics moderate to liberal. A lot of people have misconceptions on what it means to be bisexual. That’s why I think this is a valuable time to remind everyone of common myths about bisexuals.

The idea that all bisexual men and women need to be with both men and women at all times in order to “truly” be bisexual is patently false. I’ve had people relate to me instances where bisexual women cheated on them, as if it were reflective of all bisexual people. Do straight people cheat on one another? Yes? Well, then, I doubt it’s an issue confined to bisexuality. And just as straight people have open relationships and marriages, so do bisexual people. Though it bears repeating that everyone assumes bisexual people (women especially) have open relationships regardless of what their actual boundaries are. That leads us to:

Bisexual people don’t have any control over their sexuality and will sleep with anyone.
I know that it’s difficult for some people to understand that being bisexual doesn’t mean you’re up for anything. It may be true for men as well, but it seems particularly true for bisexual women, who perhaps encounter an even uglier side of male entitlement toward them (and at times women’s entitlement). It’s true for men in particular because there is already a feeling that women exist for their entertainment, and so if a woman is bisexual, she is really begging to entertain them, because why else would her sexuality exist? Many men (Not All Men!!) want bisexual women to cater to their gaze, whether they’re on a first date, contacting women through OKCupid or in a relationship. Couples can also feel very entitled to bisexual people, as if they exist to excite their relationship, regardless of what their targets are feeling.

Bisexual men don’t exist.
Both straight men and gay men like to further this myth, though I’m sure people outside of these groups also contribute from time to time. Straight men can’t believe that someone who is “one of their own” could possibly find men attractive. It also forces them to question their own sexuality in a way that being around gay men may not. Gay men often insist that bisexual men just haven’t embraced being gay yet and are hiding behind bisexuality for more societal approval. I’d argue that bisexuality can be more isolating than “picking a side” and doesn’t really shield you from judgment, but that’s another piece altogether.

If you haven’t been in love with the opposite sex, you aren’t really bisexual.
Someone asked me if I’d ever been in love with a woman, because if I hadn’t, how could I claim to be bisexual? That’s a truly ridiculous idea. Plenty of straight people have never been in love, and no one has thought to ask, “Have you ever considered that maybe you’re not straight?” The same also goes for other double standards, such as virginity. If you’re attracted to a group of people, you likely know that, even if you are going through denial. No one would question your sexuality as a straight virgin, but try claiming that as a bisexual person (or other sexual preferences) and you’re told you’re trying to get attention/going through a phase.

If you’re married to or in a committed relationship with the opposite sex, you’re not bisexual anymore.
Nope, it’s still true. As much as we like to commit to the myth that married or otherwise committed people are incapable of finding others attractive, we know that’s not true, no matter what your sexuality. Bisexual people are still capable of being attracted to the same sex, regardless of whether they act on said attraction.

Things are a lot more complicated than what I’ve described above. There are so many more possibilities to discuss than what I could get to here, but these are some general myths to be aware of.  Please think before you say something like the comments above to a bisexual friend, date or significant other, because it can hurt to hear the same insinuations and judgments over and over again.

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