Thursday, 12 December 2013

Getting bi amongst the gays

(I'm going to apologise right now for the over-used pun in the title of this post, but to be fair, I don't think I have ever used it on this blog before, so it's almost like doing my duty to let it appear just once).

Regulars to this blog will remember that I watch the daily vlogs of Will and RJ, who are a couple "demonstrating just how normal gay life can be". The reason I've brought it up in the past, and I bring it up again, is that RJ identifies as a bisexual man (see previous post).

Unsurprisingly, they regularly hang out with a social group that consists of gay men, and whenever they film a group situation, there often references in the footage to 'all the gays in the room' or 'that's what we gays do' or similar, you get the idea. I have mixed feelings about the fact that RJ goes along with it, and sometimes he's even the one who says it.

On the one hand...
RJ is in a MM, long-term, committed relationship and hanging out with people he cares about who are all gay men, including his fiancee. It is a gay setting, and no one is denying his bisexuality by including him in the plural noun 'gays'. No one is calling him gay specifically, nor does anyone have malicious intent of any kind by using the term (though I cannot speak for any individuals who might of a private opinion that often occurs in gay men that RJ is in fact gay and should stop calling himself bisexual. Probably none of them think that, and as a viewer I've never seen anything that explicitly indicates any of them think that, but I wanted to acknowledge that it was a possibility); it's just a cultural reference because he is involved in that culture, and it is a method in maintaining their friendship bond by emphasising their commonality.

It would be annoying and awkward to demand that everyone always acknowledge that he is not attracted to just men; off the top of my head, I don't know how that would even work, referring to 'the gays and RJ' or 'the gays and bi men' - it would be odd and difficult to say 'that's would we do' and have the 'we' meaning both gay and bi men, especially as, despite a lot they often have in common, they are actually different. I'm sure it would feel like RJ wanted attention, to seem special, which obviously it wouldn't be. And it would potentially put up a barrier by emphasising their differences.

RJ seems comfortable with it - he has chosen to support the general banner of defending same-sex love, and has never indicated he is interested in the specifics of the bisexual battle against prejudice, which is a perfectly fine choice to make, as would the choice to not do anything and just get on with life. There is no onus on bisexuals to put effort into waving the bisexual flag.

On the other hand...
It makes me uncomfortable, and I think that's because I would not like to be included in any reference to 'us lesbians' because yes, I do identify with the LGBT community as a whole, but not 'lesbian' or 'gay'. If I was to get extreme, RJ is accepting and perpetuating bi-erasure. Putting a bit of thought into it, surely an alternative such as 'all the queers in the room' or 'that's would us LGBT lot do', or similar is a lot more inclusive and not rendering invisible any orientations present. Also over-used are racial/gender comparisons, but it is true that if you had a mixed gender group, it wouldn't seem like a special allowance to refrain from talking about 'us gents', 'we women', etc, and using neutral terms like 'guys' or even 'us lot'. I feel that we need to get into that inclusive way of thinking with LGBT language as well.

As I said, I have mixed feelings, and I can see both sides. I would not suggest that RJ take some sort of stand with his group; like I said, he seems absolutely fine with the playful banter of his friends, and I have noticed that when he's vlogging alone or just with Will, he refers to 'LGBT' when he means more than just gay men, so I'm reassured that it is likely he is not victim to internal biphobia; and everything seems cool within the group.

He's established how it operates with them, and I have established how I operate in my social group, and we've simply got different styles. My friends have developed inclusive language for our group interactions to the point where it's almost second nature, and that makes me content, because I feel acknowledged as present and involved, and also reassured that they are aware of the wider LGBT community and their separate issues; and because I get the impression (and hopefully I'm right) that they have no problem with it as they think it's the right thing to do too. I would hope that if they had felt it was annoying that they would have told me, and I think our friendships (plus the fact that they know that I deal happily with directness) are such that they would feel they could bring it up with me.

Big picture, I think it's an indicator of how the 21st Century English-speaking world is struggling to deal with the great changes in sexuality and gender knowledge, awareness, and attitudes using an outdated vocabulary.

1 comment:

  1. This kind of language has always bothered me as well. This is how I tend to operate:

    - With my friends, if anyone is saying "us gays", it's usually a flippant comment about stereotypes and I see no need to correct them.

    - If it isn't a flippant comment, i.e. a discussion on discrimination, I do correct them and mention that I'm bi.