It seems as if, after limping into the new Millennium and being on life support for the first decade of the 21 century, the bisexual movement might want to consider pulling up stakes and packing it in.
It’s not like we didn’t try. Hell we had such momentum in the late 80’s and through the first part of the 90’s that it looked as if we were putting together a lasting legacy for future generations of bisexuals to be proud of. To have Lani (Ka'ahumanu), Lorraine (Hutchins) and Fritz (Klein) mentioned in the same breath as (Harvey) Milk, Elton (John) and Ellen (DeGeneres). But something happened, or more accurately, nothing happened.
I can go on about how I feel we dropped the ball. How by being so passive and “tree-huggery” we have basically written ourselves out Queer History, but that’s for another day. No point in sifting through the ashes of yesterday while I witnessed the final nails being driven into the bi movement at the Hyatt this weekend. "Done."
At the GLAAD awards I sat with my friends Mike Szymanski and Denise Penn (American Institute of Bisexuality bought a table and invited me to be their guest) and for 3 and half hours I can count the times the word “bisexual” was spoken on a hand that was missing three fingers and a thumb. Thank god for Drew Barrymore or Team Bisexual would have gone home with a big fat goose egg.
Sure there were plenty of speeches that included “LGBT” but lets be honest, LGBT has become this “all inclusive” PC bullshit term everyone has learned to rattle off. The same way most white people use the term “African American” out of not wanting to offend or appear racist. Now Gay, lesbian, and transgendered folks have all learned to include all four letters so as to appear inclusive. But there was no inclusion at the GLAAD Awards. Not in the nominations, not in the several video montages they ran highlighting the years big events in news and entertainment, nope, not a “B” in the bunch.
Couldn’t there have at least been mention of Anna Paquin coming out? I know it was recent but there were plenty of Ricky Martin references, yet Anna can’t get a shout out? Not even a joke about how “Anna is bi; she likes humans and vampires.”? I now it’s a really bad joke but that’s how desperate I became by the end of the night when Adam Lambert implored for more diversity in the Gay and Lesbian world (Adam, always the rebel, didn’t even feel he needed to include the "T" and "B" in his pleas for diversity, the irony being lost on him). I would have loved a bad bisexual joke just in order to not be invisible. Sadly none at all.
Now, normally in that situation I would have gotten more and more angry at the powers that be, to have shut us out once again. Lord knows I’ve railed against the exclusion of the B-Word enough times that my close friends could probably quote me verbatim. But this time felt different.
I listened to speech after speech that night about the work GLAAD does to make sure that positive images of gays and lesbians be portrayed and celebrated. How both fictional characters and out performers get seen and when they are seen they are acknowledged and praised (hence the awards).
Two decades ago, movies, television and the music industry didn’t simply open their arms and welcome characters of gays and lesbians. Producers, writers and singers had to fight for every non-stereotypical portrayal of someone queer, and when a positive image did make it through, GLAAD was there to really promote and congratulate the show, network, or celebrity that was brave enough to push the envelope.
Gays and lesbians really got behind TV shows and slowly the shows gained at first a cult following, then soon a more mainstream audience, giving the next character or show to come down the pipeline a much easier path to finally getting green lit. Singers (mostly women) came out and found that their audience followed them despite being queer. All the while GLAAD was there to make sure it was noted and celebrated.
Gay men have made sure that their media images were nurtured, promoted and cherished. Lesbians had their rabid loyalty to any show, movie or singer who represents them (does anyone really think “The L-Word” was actually good?). Even transgendered folk have leapfrogged from the bottom rung of the queer community past bisexuals by developing a community and iconic celebrities that GLAAD honored (Candis Cayne co-hosted, Chaz Bono was a presenter and the montages included several TG images and clips).
But the bisexual community? Well, we have done shit to promote and support mainstream images of bi themed movies, shows, characters or performers. So busy with self promotion and supporting local, grassroot pet projects that when someone comes out as bi we read about it in some blog, it hits the media for one day and then back to our potlucks we go.
The next thing Clive Barker is gay not bi. Lindsey is a lesbian. So uncomfortable with confrontation that we let it slide. We don’t try to do what GLAAD is so good at, we don’t promote and support the hell out all things bi, and by doing that we silently endorse bisexuality simply being a pit stop on the way to gay or lesbian. Reinforcing one of the oldest arguments that bisexuality does not really exist.
We have squandered the past 20 years of bisexual characters in film and television by not canonizing them into our culture. For over two decades we have ignored any and all bi musicians by not honoring them at the seemingly countless conferences we have each year.
I mean I love our founding mothers and fathers of the modern bi movement as much as the next person, but maybe we could have invited Me’Shell Ndegeocello to be honored just once? Maybe have Alan Cummings deliver a keynote speech and be acknowledged instead of Robin Ochs again?
You’d be surprised how loyal they will be once we start thanking them. How sad it is for me to admit that three of the actresses I have used in my last two projects, (Steam, Rose By Any Other Name…) all identifying as bisexual, have gotten more attention and appreciation from the lesbian press and community than from the bisexual world? How did that happen? Have lesbians become more open minded about bisexuality than bisexuals themselves or have they simply come to appreciate all women who chose to be out about loving women?
And how long until these actresses feel more loved by the lesbian media and fan base than by fellow bisexuals that the “b-word” is replaced with “lesbian” in their interviews?
In the end, we are to blame for not pressing GLAAD to make the “B” in LGBT be more than an empty gesture. We should have been more aggressive in having them show a little parity when it came to images of lesbians, gay men, transgendered people AND bisexuals. To go an entire year and get barely a mention from GLAAD is much more an indictment of the state of the bisexual community than it is about inclusion into the mainstream LGT media images.
GLAAD recognizes how important positive images are in the mainstream media in gaining acceptance. The bisexual community has chosen to keep it’s collective head up it’s collective ass, wasting it’s time, energy and resources on useless research no one but ourselves are interested in, with embarrassing self-promotion that would make Kate Gosselin blush, and stroking the egos of the elders when their place in our history is already well established.
We should have been looking forward because now it seems we have missed the boat that would have helped make bisexuality a valid and proud identity as opposed to the near invisible punch line we are quickly becoming. I’d like to think that the 2011 GLAAD Awards will be different but based on our history I’m not holding my breath.
Like I said, it kinda feels like it’s over.
Kyle Schickner is a long time bisexual rights activist as well as being writer, a film producer and director. He currently lives and works in Los Angeles, where he produces and directs films, web series, music videos and commercials for his production company FenceSitter Films which is devoted to creating entertainment for women, sexual and ethnic minorities.
Read More About the 2010 LA GLAAD Awards as covered by a bisexual journalist:
Exclusive interview: Adam Lambert discusses his 'little shards of bi-curiosity'
Where's the B at the GLAAD Awards? (part 1)
Where's the B at the GLAAD Awards? (part 2)
Read about your community's 2010 Agenda and then
Join your national Group BiNet USA
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