Eponymous Fliponymous

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Two incidents got me thinking about this question. One was on The Advocate website where after an article about Lady Gaga, commenters started praising her as “a great Ally.” Ally? Last time I checked, she was an out and proud bisexual, a member of the community fighting for equality and respect for the entire community… lesbian, gay, bi, and transgender. In the course of this conversation where she was labeled an Ally by people who thought they were doing a good thing, thought they were praising her by denying her identity as a queer person.

In the course of the conversation that ensued, it became clear that the reason she was being described as an Ally was because the people doing the relabeling did not believe in the existence of bisexuals. They see bisexuality as either a lie, or a transitional identity on the path to gay (or “Bi now, Gay later”). This is erasure on a huge scale, and it’s coming from within the monosexual gay community. I mean, bisexuals don’t erase themselves, right? Right?

Wrong.

Last year, I attended a great rally, one that sprang up in protest of a homophobic preacher who had been invited to my campus by the College Republicans … At this rally, a lot of people spoke up. I was one of them. I said that I’d spent 25 years in the closet and I’d be damned if I’d let this guy shove me back into one.

I then watched, incredulously, as several people did just that to themselves. They would step to the middle of the circle and say, “I’m bisexual, I’m an Ally.” They stood up in front of people in the LGBT community, and people in the Ally community (straight people, in other words), and said, essentially, “I’m not really queer!”

This is problematic at best. I have a friend who is bi – and for the first few years, she was invisible to me as a community member, because I (and lots of other people) thought she was an Ally. She has since come out more clearly as bi. What I saw people doing at the rally was the opposite – voluntarily and deliberately removing themselves from the queer community (even if they might not have understood that that was what they were doing – just as the people who praised Gaga as an Ally may not have understood that they were shoving her back into the closet. Maybe some of them did…)


{Two brief notes on language: 1) I use the term “queer” (and occasionally “teh queer”) as a general umbrella term for the LGBT population. I understand that for some people, particularly people older than I am, the word “queer” has a negative connotation. I subscribe to the “reclaim the word” school, as well as recognizing that it is the accepted academic term for research into LGBT issues. If the word queer offends you as a member of the LGBT community, I apologize and ask that you share with me a non-euphemistic, easily parsed, and equally inclusive term. 2) For those who might need a little 101, Ally means someone who supports a community they are explicitly not a member of, so while I am a member of the bisexual community and the LGBT community as a whole, I label as a Trans* Ally because I use my cisgender privilege to support my transgender friends.}

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