Who Do You Love?

Hollywood seems finally to be catching on. Women who are mostly
straight sometimes explore a same-sex liaison as a valid
relationship option for themselves?and not merely as sexual
titillation for male viewers. Consider Frida?s
matter-of-fact (albeit steamy) depiction of Kahlo?s bisexuality or
Kissing Jessica Stein?s
it?s-not-working-with-the-boys-so-let?s-try-it-with-each-other
premise. Why the increasing legitimacy? The Gay and Lesbian
Review
(Sept./Oct. 2002) sees the silver screen echoing
the trend among college-age people to explore bisexuality. Placing
characters in bi situations, though not going so far as to label
them as bi, is a hip?and probably more marketable?way to introduce
queer themes to mainstream audiences. Let?s face it: The hard-core
dyke who has sworn off men for all time isn?t likely to have much
cross-over appeal.

But just as the bi or ?bi-curious? character is establishing
herself as a new on-screen presence, real-life women who have taken
both male and female lovers are struggling with how to present
their identity to the public. As Robyn Ochs, editor of the
Bisexual Resource
Guide
, has noted, many such women are refusing the
bisexual label. Some reject any sort of label; others object to the
?sex? in bisexual with its connotation of promiscuity; still others
don?t want to reinforce the ?bi? notion that there are only two
genders, thus ruling out the possibility of attraction to a
transgender person.

And then there are the politics surrounding bisexuality within
the lesbian community itself. Turns out it isn?t just straight
women who do some experimenting on the side. Sometimes it?s the
presumably hard-core dyke who ends up?surprise!?falling for a guy.
What then? As Sabrina Margarita Sandata of the zine Bamboo
Girl

(www.bamboogirl.com)
writes after getting hitched to a guy, ?Just because you get
married doesn?t mean that your queerdom evaporates like water or
was never there in the first place.?

Perhaps it shouldn?t be surprising that the ?defection? of a
lesbian to a straight relationship might be viewed, by a community
that often feels embattled, as tantamount to betrayal. Still, as
Athena Douris and Diane Anderson-Minshall report in
Bitch (Fall 2002), the punishment often meted
out?banishment?can be severe. Such was the fate that befell JoAnn
Loulan, who for 20 years was the world?s leading lesbian sex
therapist and a renowned lesbian author?until she fell in love with
a man. Now she?s branded a ?hasbian.? Her best friend stopped
talking to her, speaking engagements disappeared, and book sales
declined.

So why is a woman who is open to having same-sex, opposite-sex,
and transgender partners viewed as such a threat? According to
Douris and Anderson-Minshall, an argument long used in support of
gay rights?that you?re either ?born gay? or you?re not?may be
partly to blame. Think about it: To say that queers can?t help but
love who they love because their sexuality is biologically
determined pretty much removes choice from the equation. And
bisexuals (or, if you prefer, ?pansexuals? or ?polysexuals?) bring
the question of free will?of participating in creating and defining
one?s own sexual orientation?right to the forefront.

That love regularly spills out of the neat categories in which
we try to contain it really shouldn?t be a revelation. We could
decide that folks whose ways of loving don?t fit inside our
predetermined notions present us with a gift?the opportunity to
broaden our thinking about who we love and why.

The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide (formerly The
Harvard Gay & Lesbian Review) is a bimonthly magazine ‘for
enlightened discussion of issues and ideas of importance to
lesbians and gay men.’ Subscriptions: $29.70 from Box 180300,
Boston, MA 02118;
www.glreview.com.

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