Bi the way

BTL Staff
By | 2005-07-14T09:00:00-05:00 July 14th, 2005|Uncategorized|

It’s not every day that we take on the New York Times – certainly not in a front cover story. In fact, we tend to like the New York Times. We think it’s a mighty fine paper.
Which is exactly why we’re calling them out this week for pedaling a story that perpetuates the stereotype that bisexuals – specifically bisexual men – are lying about their orientation.
Bisexuals often don’t get a fair shake from lesbians, gays, or heterosexuals, often getting called “fence sitters” and being told they just need to make up their minds. Worse, they are perceived by the right wing as being insatiable sex-addicts, willing and wanting to sleep with anyone and everyone.
Needless to say, bisexuals are in an uproar after the New York Times ran a story about a study on bisexuality that implies that bisexuality doesn’t really exist. The story, titled “Straight, Gay or Lying?” and written by Benedict Carey, appeared on the front page of the “Science Times” section on July 5.
The problem isn’t that the paper ran a story on the study. The problem is the story seems to be aimed more at legitimizing the study, which is fraught with controversial claims and methodology, than objectively reporting on it.
Not only does the New York Times article not quote a single leader in the bisexual or LGBT communities, but it also does not acknowledge the past controversy surrounding J. Michael Bailey, one of the study’s leading authors.
For whatever reason, the New York Times chose to ignore Bailey’s controversial history as a sexuality and gender researcher. In fact, including this information would have made for a much more interesting – and more balanced – story.
“We remain stunned that the New York Times Science section would carry such a shoddy, sensationalistic and downright insulting story,” Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said. “It defames the truth in the lives and loves of millions of bisexual men. The Times should be ashamed.”
Bisexual activists are calling for an apology from the paper. “Mr. Carey and his editors should have done their homework before allowing this article to be printed,” wrote Kathleen Hepburn of Massachusetts in a letter to the New York Times which she posted on the Bisexual Resource Center Web site. “Many bisexuals struggle to find their place in the world, and poorly researched, inflammatory articles like this only make life more difficult, even dangerous. An apology for this libelous article is in order.”
The big question, of course, is why do people get so worked up about bisexuality to begin with? Why does the “fence sitter” – or, in the case of the New York Times, “liar” – label exist? Why is the fact that some people are attracted to both men and women so hard for some to accept?
Because it complicates things, that’s why. Life is far less confusing when everyone fits into one category or another. You’re either straight or gay, right handed or left handed, Republican or Democrat. Bisexuality is the ambidextrous Green Party of sexual orientation.
This complication stirs up ire on both the right and the left. It is, in a sense, threatening because it challenges assumptions and comfort zones.
There are some who believe that all people are bisexual. If this were true, it would challenge the very premise of the argument both for and against equal rights for gays and lesbians based on the idea of “choice.” If we’re all born bisexual, then gays and lesbians must choose to be homosexual over heterosexual.
On the flip side, this would mean that heterosexuals, including the staunchest anti-gay right wingers, choose heterosexuality and struggle with the homosexual desires they thus deny.
Of course, if everyone was bisexual then more people would identify that way. The idea that everyone is bi is much too simplistic once you apply it to the real life experiences of the many people who identify as anything else, just as it is too simplistic to write off bisexuality as a “lie” based on a flawed study. The important thing to realize is that bisexual people – just like gays, lesbians, transgender people and straights – deserve the same respect and acceptance of their experience that we all deserve and demand.

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 25th anniversary.