Written by Jackson Otieno
Monday, 27 February 2012 07:20
For the past four or so years , every 14th of February has seen me suffer the ill fate of most lovers who assume the ‘financier‘ role in a relationship; regret for having parted with hard earned cash or regret for not having the cash to part with. In 2012, however, I was spared this fate because of two things. Firstly I have undergone a serious deprogramming in terms of my values and attitudes towards relationship roles and responsibilities and secondly, I am in a relationship setup that wouldn’t exactly allow for a work night evening out (and am not complaining).
So on Valentines of 2012 I had the time and opportunity to attend an afternoon session on “how to make relationships work”, a polite theme name for “single and searching” I thought. It was a rather informative discussion which saw the contributions of members from across the LGBTI landscape. After the session someone came up to me and asked, “I noticed you din’t raise your hands when the singles in the room were asked to do so, yet you were seated all by yourself?!” My reply, “yeah, my partner couldn’t make it. She lives far away…” I couldn’t finish the statement because a look of honest surprise was followed by an inquiry into why I even attended the meeting seeing that I am a man dating a woman. I was taken aback for a second but gathered some courage to engage him. Our exchange was broadly on two topics. First was the fact that I am dating a woman. Second was the automatic assumption that my relationship status should, as a result, be ‘open’. Slowly my biggest concern was being re-illuminated, the invisibility of bisexual identity.
So I set out to read. My mission: to shed some light on the misconceptions around “bisexual monogamy”. However the more I read and thought about it, the more I realized that no matter how much we dwell on explaining our sexuality, it will be useless since we have been forced into an opaque invisibility, where a text-book conventional definition is known to all yet we remain silhouettes without a defined depth.
If you ask many members of the gay and lesbian communities who a bisexual is, you would get a more or less basic idea even if not utterly definitive. But certainly you will hear lots of myths and misconceptions. Indeed these myths have existed for so long, and are so entrenched that they end up being a cast that we have moulded our identities on. This is especially true for persons who lack the information needed for their own psychological and social well being as they manoeuvre through the tides of their respective bi-, pan- or poly-sexuality. Or their fluid, queer, flexi or bi-curiosity; Feeling totally in concurrence with their feelings at one instant; and being haunted by feelings of “not rightness” in the next.
Most of us have used these misconceptions unknowingly to justify some behaviour and eventually institutionalize them as bisexual traits. More than once I have heard somebody say, “My boyfriend has no problem if I see another person as long as it’s a woman” or ask “what happens to your bisexuality when you are happily married and stay with this one person for the rest of your life?”
Much effort has been focused on educating against these misconceptions but it seems that the same level of mis-recognition evident in mid 2000’s; when bisexuality and monogamy were deemed incompatible ; when bisexuality was see seen as a stage/phase between mono and heterosexuality, and when we were defined as persons who are attracted to “both genders” as opposed to “same and other genders”; is still here with us.
It is all about identity and, at the risk of sounding retrogressive, Identity politics. Not so much the practice of it, but the outcomes of it.
Look at the acronym L.G.B.T.I., L and G come first since lesbian and gay movements were at the forefront of homosexual rights advocacy and their main challenge was the hetero-normative society. They had to fight for their recognition and identity. It is through fight for recognition that people will tend to hear from you what you are all about. In Kenya, the Bisexual, Transgender communities are at the moment being accommodated by the fact that it has become policy to move away from identity politics to a more value and idea based networking. In as much as I support this approach, it is evident that Bisexuals haven’t really had a chance to present our case, describe our identity and outline our values as would be necessary for a mutual understanding with other groups.
There is much need to be firm in our identity and more conspicuous in presence even as we work together in the good fight for equality and non discrimination based on sexual orientation. We should not be cowed into not raising the point when we feel miss represented. A friend of mine told me after we left the meeting on valentines that she was waiting for the Bi issue to come up and was surprised that it did not. Like all other times she was “ready to set the record straight if anyone misrepresented facts”. I feel this should be every ones attitude if we are ever going to survive this sea of myths and misconceptions. Stand Up for who you are.
And Bi the way, there are groups such as PurpleHaze that work to create spaces for Bi discussions.
-October 24, 2006 – Self-described feminist bisexual L.M. Hake, writing in Off Our Backs (11/1/05) describes her journey from bisexuality through polyamory and back to monogamy in the essay, “The journey back … to monogamy.”http://narth.com/docs/monogamy.html
- The Bisexuality Umbrella…by ~Drynwhyl
- Sexual Dissonance in bisexual monogamy.. by Arwynhttp://m.raisingmyboychick.com/2010/03/sexual-dissonance-in-bisexual-monogamy/?wpmp_switcher=mobile&wpmp_tp=0