Tonight is still Rosh Hashanah, the second day is tomorrow, and I returned to my home with my family from Tashlich with an inbox full of email about a debate that seems to happen every year. This year I joined the bi community and posted a selfie with my Giants hat, my Bisexual Pride shirt, the one with the pink, blue, and purple triangles, and shared the shot for the "My #bisexuality looks like... hashtag to go along with Bisexual Awareness Week.
What I found surprising, from reading recent articles, is that some still think that bisexuality doesn't look like me, and by that I mean... well trans. It really is astonishing that there are still people who confuse binary and bisexual. You would think that there were enough identity police knocking on our doors from outside the community, but we have a few within the larger LGBTIQQA acronym.
I am here to say that I am a very proud Jewish trans bisexual. Some may not think that the identities are compatible, or that a trans person could self identify as bi, and not pan, or queer, as an article from the Task Force just put out there once again, but I am here to tell you about intersectionality. It is a great word that touches everything in the world.
The bisexual community, and yes we have one, is one of the most intersectional places that I have ever landed. We are constantly calling each other, and others across the LGBTIQQA community, on being non-inclusive, not giving everyone a place at the table, racism in our midst and outside of our community, classism, sexism, cissexism, you name it, and then we hopefully dialogue. Sometimes we don't call out these things, or we fail, and get right back up and into our seat on the committee that we are working with, and try try again. Missing the mark is a huge theme in the High Holidays, believe me, I miss that mark all the time. These little pockets of growth are how we build community, by making mistakes and growing from the experience.
Just because I am Jewish, doesn't mean that I can take off my sexuality and hang it up when going to shul, I don't think anyone really can, it also doesn't mean that I have to choose which side of the mechitza I should be on, in fact I am an excellent fence sitter. I am a whole person, and should be accepted as such. When people confuse bi with binary, I feel like a large chunk of my identity is being questioned. Imagine if you will, being told that you do not exist, or shouldn't, by someone who feels that they have the authority to police gender and sexuality. When things like that happen to me, I feel invalidated as a bi trans person. In a time when Jews are thinking about T'shuvah, or the spiritual practice of returning to a place of re-alignment with G!d, and the people with whom we share our lives, there is something out of alignment with calling bisexuality binarist.
Robyn Ochs has a wonderful definition of bisexuality that dispels the myth that bisexuality has any part in binary oppression. “I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge that I have in myself the potential to be attracted – romantically and/or sexually – to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.” The key word here is "more than one", whereas, if one were only attracted to one gender be that gender your own or another the result would be mono-sexuality.
A.J. Walkley talks about this problem as "an incredibly common stereotype of all bisexuals" in her HuffPo column Bi the Bi: Two Bi Writers on Big Bi Issues and her co-author Lauren Michelle Kinsey points out that "The word "bisexual" doesn't imply that there are only two genders any more than the words "heterosexual," "homosexual" or lesbian do." The idea for the Bisexual Awareness Week was brought forth from the need to define ourselves. If one looks up the dictionary definition, one will see the binarist definitions come from outside of the bi community. (Though this hasn't always been the case. Read Shiri Eisner)
As Travis Mamone puts it in their blog Bi Any Means "a). most bisexuals do not use the binarist definition of bisexuality and b). many bisexuals actually identify outside the gender binary." Mamone goes on to quote Verity Ritchie's vlog on YouTube "Heterosexual comes from the word hetros, which means "different." Homosexual comes from the word homo, which means "the same." So if you were to apply the word bi--which means "two"--if we apply this in the same way we apply hetro-and homosexuality, then we've got "different" and "the same." So bisexuals are attracted to people who are different and people who are the same."
Definitions wont change anyone's mind, I know this from many years rehashing this topic in the world of bisexual and trans community work. What I do know is that I am a person, I am intersectional in my own life, I am Jewish, I am trans, I am bisexual and I am a parent. I want my kids to grow up in a world where they don't have to write blog posts stating that they exist in the world with their own identities. I don't want my children to feel like they have to defend themselves against people who have different definitions of who they are in their hearts.
What I want for my children, and all our progeny, is this simple thing. The freedom of self identification without someone policing their gender and /or sexuality.
Bay Area Bisexual Network
This blessing for the bi community was crafted for use by synagogues wanting to acknowledge their bi members especially during the Bisexual Awareness Week, which falls on the same week as Rosh Hashanah in 2014.
Blessed are you, Adonai our G!d, Holy One of Blessing, who allows us to be open about our lives, see beyond gender, and blesses us with myriad affections to share with our loved ones.
ברוך … שמאפשר לנו להיות פתוח על את חיינו, לראות מעבר למגדר, ומברכים אותנו עם חיבה מספר עצום לחלוק עם יקירינו
With these words the congregation blesses all who are open about their lives, see beyond gender, and have multiple ways of showing their affection. In essence, it is an open blessing that one may adapt for the many aspects of ones life, and not just an allution to ones sexuality. This blessing is heavily informed by Robin Ochs' Definition of Bisexuality: “I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge that I have in myself the potential to be attracted – romantically and/or sexually – to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.”
We are a proud co-sponsor of Bisexual Awareness Week!
Themes and Hashtags For Bisexual Awareness Week
In addition to the usual hashtags (#bipride, #bisexual, #BiDay, and #BiVisibilityDay), the following hashtags will be used on given, corresponding days during #biweek:
Sunday 9/21 #BiHistory
Monday 9/22 #BiFacts
Tuesday 9/23 My #bisexuality looks like…
Wednesday 9/24 #BiMedia
Thursday 9/25 #RecognizeBiMen
Friday 9/26 #BiTrans
Saturday 9/27 #BiAllies
Our mission is to foster a sense of bisexual/Pan+ community and promote better understanding of bisexual+ lives and issues within the larger lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) community and the public.
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