Friday, June 22, 2007

Utopian bisexuality

I wonder what is the reticence for so many people to identify as bisexual. I must admit I find it puzzling and a little bit disturbing.

I'm reading Carter Heyward right now, and really loving her writing, but I've just come across some words of hers about this. First she talks about her 'attraction to women as well as to men.' She says 'bisexual' might be an OK 'box' for this but then says,

The problem with bisexuality in my life (and I can speak only for myself) is that it has been grounded too much in my utopian fantasy of the way things ought to be and too little in the more modest recognition of myself as a participant in this society at this time in this world, in which I have both a concrete desire for personal intimacy with someone else and a responsibility to participate in, and witness to, the destruction of unjust social structures - specifically, the heterosexual box...

It has been my experience that to live now as bisexual is to live somewhat abstractly in anticipation of a future that has not arrived. That is why, for several years, I have been coming out of bisexuality, coming out of a utopian vision in order to focus my sight on the urgency and immediacy of the concrete present.
(Our Passsion For Justice, page 80)

First let me say this was written in 1979, and her position may have changed since then, I don't know.

This is something that a lot of thinkers (theoriests, theologians, scientists) do with bisexuality: they make it a past tense or future tense object, and reject it as present tense. Here Heyward makes bisexuality utopian: in the New Jerusalem we will all be bisexual, but it cannot be a present tense way of living. In fact there's a suggestion that it is less responsible to be bisexual, being lesbian is the better way to work against unjust social structures.

Firstly, I disagree. I think boundary crossers are always more subversive to the system. But secondly that doesn't matter. I'm not bisexual to dismantle social structures. That's backwards. I'm bisexual because I fancy men and women. I say I'm bisexual because to say anything else would simply be lying. This is true whether I'm in a relationship with a man or a woman or I'm celibate. There's nothing abstract or utopian about it. It's simply one of the everyday simple, boring facts about my life. Openly identifying as bisexual is what leads to my full flourishing as a human person, my salvation, I know, because I've tried to live denying it. It becomes a justice issue when others discriminate or attack me because of it. And those attacks can come from the gay community as much as from the straight.

It is one of my regrets of my time in Boston that I couldn't (for various reasons) take a class with Carter Heyward at EDS. It would have been good to have these conversations in person.

I don't do enough bisexual theology on here. If you find anything that relates at all to bi theology, please send it my way. It's not something I'm giving much time to at the moment, but it continues to be an interest. Mainly because no one else is doing it.

And while I'm on it, if anyone can point me in the direction of Hinduism's influence on the Transcendetalist Movement, that would be cool too.


Blogger Toonhead said...

Interesting post. As a bisexual married to a male, I have trouble coming out in a lot of venues because, what is the point? To society at large, my marriage makes me "normal" and is sanctioned by my state. Some people when they find out tend to complicate the matter by wondering if we (my spouse and I) have some sort of "open marriage". As a young minister (also identified bi with an opposite sex partner) wisely described it, a man may be attracted to both blonde and brunette women but he ultimately marries a brunette. He still finds blondes attractive but remains faithful to his wife. I love and am faithful to my husband and have final approval on any mistresses (grin).

5:45 pm  

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