Thursday, June 15, 2006

Identity groups

"Straights and 'bisexuals' should never be admitted into a gay consciousness raising group; otherwise the whole procedure is a sham."
Steve Gavin, 1971

At the beginning of gay liberation, a lot of the thinking was about liberating everyone from sexual roles for sexual freedom. During the seventies this shifted into building a gay separatist identity, gay men (and even more so lesbians) wanted to define their own space, excluding 'nonhomosexuals.' The effect of this was to exclude bisexuals leaving them outside the group or forcing them to remain closeted as bisexuals.

To some extent this is still true today. I struggle with this. I can understand that there are times when 'I need to be with my people.' A lot of people don't understand this. I know some people struggled with this at the anti-racism/anti-oppression work at Opus last year. Some people couldn't understand the need for identity groups, for people of colour to go off in an identity group for people of colour. 'Aren't we all the same? Isn't that what we want?' some asked. Well yes, but belonging to a group that is a minority and/or historically oppressed is a different experience than belonging to a majority/historically powerful group. Sometimes I need to be with my people; not all the time, not because I dislike spending time with people different from me, but sometimes I just need to be with my people.

For a gay man, being in a gay nightclub is an experience of 'being with my people.' The trouble is, for me, as a bi man, it's not always an entirely safe space to be myself, it isn't fully my people. I have felt like I was 'with my people' only once in my life at a bi workshop with the BRC in Boston. Just once, in 24 years of existence. This pains me a little. Of course bisexuality is not my only identity, and I am surrounded by my people in terms of native Europeans most of the time. But what I don't have I miss.

It is good to form identity groups, but what about people on the edge of these groups, people of mixed race or bisexuals? People that fit into both/neither category? These groups we build up both existent and don't exist at the same time. There are different sub-groups of humanity, but at the same time, the diverse thronging gushing evolving nature of humanity will not be contained within them.

How does a oppressed group assert itself, grow in confidence in itself, without simultaneously excluding and oppressing others?

Just my meandering thoughts, no great conclusions this evening.


Blogger Bill Baar said...

Read Gen Colin Powell's autobiography. He responded to exactly this issue with African American Troops who found a need to get together as African Americans, in their own bars, in their own space.

It's natural, not a big deal, people should get over it.

Same goes for gays, model railroaders, anyone unique......

1:06 am  
Blogger LaReinaCobre said...

There are no bisexual groups in your city? There are more and more multiracial and biracial groups here in the states. There will be a multiracial group at GA in St Louis this year. I do not think you are alone in having a "split" (or shall we call it "shared"?) identity, but many times folks who do are invisibilized. I am trying to be more conscious of this.

4:24 am  
Blogger Rich said...

Hmm, yeah. Manchester has had a "gay community" for many years, but these days it is often referred to as the "LGBT community" as though bisexual (and, even more perplexingly, transgender) people belong in that minority group for what appears to be no other reason than that they don't form a significant-enough minority on their own.

I'm not really into this concept of "voluntary segregation" but then I have never really belonged to a minority group (unless you count Unitarians as a minority group!) so it's difficult to see it from that side of the coin.

7:56 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


annual conference for bisexuals

13-17 july 2006
glasgow, uk

8:12 pm  

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