Can Men and Women Ever Really Be Friends? (And Can Bisexuals Have Friends At All Then?)

A lot of casual homophobia tends to be predicated on this fear of queer people flirting with straight people.

This whole idea of, “I don’t mind you being gay, just so long as you don’t hit on me.”

And, you know what, I understand that nobody enjoys having someone that they aren’t attracted to flirt with them. Straight people don’t enjoy being hit on by queer people. Lesbians don’t enjoy being hit on by men. Bisexual people don’t enjoy being hit on by someone who isn’t their type.

But, that being said, there is a larger issue here as well. This idea that queer men are attracted to all men, and queer women are attracted to all women.

A lot has been said on this already. It is a prevalent problem in our society, and it is a problem that lends itself to many harmful ideas and stereotypes.

Queer men can easily be excluded from such male-centric activities as, say, sports – because what would happen in the locker room? We all know that queer men can’t control themselves around any naked man – really, any at all. It doesn’t matter what he looks like or how he acts.

Queer women also tend to be stereotyped as the ‘predatory lesbian’ – the aggressive woman who won’t take no for an answer, and is out there to hunt down and ‘turn’ any unsuspecting straight woman.

And, sometimes, straight people become really awkward and uncomfortable around queer people, on the simple basis that they’re afraid that they might get checked out or flirted with.

Because, as we all know, when you’re attracted to a gender, you’re attracted to every member of that gender. Right?

Now, as a bisexual person myself, I have walked in both straight and LGBT communities, and while this isn’t a perspective that comes up often in the LGBT community (I can tell another queer woman that I’m queer without her immediately assuming that I’m hitting on her. Unless I am actually hitting on her), this perspective does come up quite frequently in the straight community.

And it doesn’t even exclusively come up in terms of queer people: it’s actually a sort of common perspective. Growing up, I remember frequently hearing the adage: “can men and women ever really be friends?” the presumed answer to this always being: no, because sex will always get in the way.

And if this were true, then I couldn’t have any friends. Ever. I’m attracted to every gender, so obviously I’m trying to sleep with everyone.

If this were true, then dear god, my life would be a nightmare.

But I’ve had male friends (both heterosexual and not) who managed to remain platonic. I’ve had female friends (both heterosexual and not) who managed to remain platonic. So where does this assumption come from in straight culture?

Well, in this particular scenario, I feel that the best way to explore why heterosexual people feel this way about queer people is by looking at heterosexual culture.

When it comes to young boys, we treat sex as a sort of conquest. It is the way that men can prove their masculinity; we turn it into a sort of goal for them. And we also teach men that every single woman is a potential conquest.

And, similarly, we teach women that every single man is ‘just after one thing’.

This tends to be in the background of many male/female relationships in heterosexual culture: a sort of chase. And it is so prevalent that many men feel entitled to sex with essentially any woman – even if she is ‘just a friend’. Look at the term ‘friendzoned’ for evidence: although this term has (hopefully) been mocked out of general usage, it was initially created by men who felt cheated because a female friend dared to say ‘no’ to sex.

And this idea of ‘the chase’ has created many, many problems in and of itself: most obviously, it has created rape culture. It has created this society where many heterosexual relationships are expected to follow a script where men pursue sex and women withhold it – and if a man pushes beyond her comfort zone, well then, he was just following the script. It has created this society where women are shamed for expressing any sexual agency or desire.

But it has also created this general confusion about how straight people can interact with queer people. Because many (obviously, not all) straight people automatically assume that if someone is attracted to a gender, then they will engage in ‘the chase’ with that gender.

But queer people do not grow up in quite the same way that straight people do, and the simple fact that many queer relationships involve two people of the same gender means that we cannot engage in the same conventions that straight people simply take for granted. For us, there were no lessons growing up about how we should view (at least one of) the genders that we were going to date. Lesbian women were not told by their mothers that they need to actively go out there and have sex with as many women as possible.

So for us, it’s just natural to know that we aren’t attracted to every single member of a gender. And, trust me: if we’re not attracted to you, we aren’t going to hit on you. Chances are, you’re safe.

And I think that the fact that so many straight people are afraid that queer people will start ‘chasing’ them really reveals something about ‘the chase’: it isn’t pleasant, and it isn’t healthy. We need to stop measuring our worth by the number of partners that we have had – whether we’re calling a man a ‘stud’ for sleeping with many women, or we’re calling a woman a ‘slut’ for sleeping with many men. We need to think again about the way that we’re teaching our youth about sex, or about the ways in which they should view the other gender. And a big part of this involves talking more about consent, but it also involves questioning our own gender biases. Because they are so deeply ingrained that I think we sometimes have a hard time recognizing them.


How Millennials Are Changing Relationships

“Millennials don’t want relationships,” I read this morning on social media.

And, admittedly, my first response to this was something akin to: oh great, is this another thing millennials are killing, along with diamonds, golf, and napkins? Are millennials responsible for the death of relationships as well?

Once my initial reaction was out of the way, I started to think about this claim a little deeper. I mean, in this culture of Tinder and social media dating, you are more apt to hearing people wonder about what the future of dating is. So is there some validity to this claim that millennials don’t want romantic relationships, in a society where social contact is established through a screen?

As a millennial myself, do I want a relationship?

Well, yes. Someday. It just isn’t high on my list of priorities right now.

I am twenty-three years old, and right now, my life is a little bit rocky. I’m in the process of figuring out how I can move to another city. I’m trying to decide what I want to do with my life. My career and my pursuit of my dreams have sort of taken priority for the past few years, as I learn to navigate through this crazy, little world that I inherited. And, yeah, I would eventually like a relationship, but I don’t necessarily see myself settling into an image of domesticity, at least not any time soon. Right now, I’m still trying to find myself.

And so are the majority of my fellow-millennial friends. I have friends who have jumped from relationship to relationship, not because they don’t want to stay in one, but because they’re still learning and figuring themselves out. I have friends whose every romantic encounter is a Tinder hookup, because they aren’t emotionally prepared to settle down yet. I have friends who settle into happy, serious relationships, and then a few months later, break up and post all about the whole experience on social media.

And, personally, I don’t see any of this as a sign that millennials don’t want a relationship. It’s just that many of us are still very young. And a lot of this is pretty par for the course of young people, social media or no social media.

So then why do I keep hearing people say that millennials don’t want relationships, or that millennials don’t know how to make lasting connections with people?

Well, 1 – I think that this a pretty common complaint for every new generation of youths. Let’s face it: elders just like to complain about us. And, considering young people are consistently trying to find themselves and explore their environment, whether it’s the 1960’s or the age of Tinder, this is probably going to continue being a complaint for many, many years to come. The baby boomers will say it about us. The millennials will say it about the next generation. It’s just the circle of life.

But I also think that there’s another side to all this, and it’s something that I touched on briefly earlier: the definition of what a relationship is is, slowly but surely, changing.

Divorce rates in America peaked at about 40 percent in 1980, and although this number has been declining ever since, this does mean that many millennials grew up in households where their biological parents were split up. We are the generation of step-parents and single parents, and we are also the generation that grew up with both parents working outside of the house.

Perhaps (at least partly) because of this, it is estimated that the marriage rate might drop to 70 percent in millennials (compared to 91 percent of baby boomers).

Yep, that’s right. We’re killing the wedding industry too. Take that, heteronormative marriage ideals.

But it isn’t just the divorce rate that might make millennials wonder about marriage. As we talk more and more about the role of women in our society, women are encouraged toward pursuing careers and building lives outside of the home. More and more, we’re moving away from this idea that the only thing a woman can be is a wife and mother.

As Time put it, “millennials want jobs and education, not marriage and kids”. In fact, according to them, 55 percent of millennials said that marriage and kids aren’t important.

This goes back to what I was saying before: relationships just aren’t a priority for me right now. I want a satisfying career and education, and as a woman in 2018, I have more freedom than ever to get that. A satisfying relationship can come later, when I’m a little bit more adjusted and sure of myself.

And not only that, relationships are becoming increasingly less weirdly Stepford with time. We are talking more and more about such issues as heteronormativity, and how harmful that can become. Same sex relationships are becoming more and more accepted within society, meaning that today’s youth are more open minded than ever. Only 65 percent of millennials identify as exclusively heterosexual, and already, this is becoming an outdated statistic, as only 48 percent of Americans between the ages of 13 to 20 identify as exclusively heterosexual. According to the survey conducted by the J Walter Thompson Innovation Group, a significant amount of today’s youth identify as bisexual.

I also don’t think that such societal conversations as the role of polyamory or sex positivity should be ignored, as these are changing the way that we, as today’s youth, view relationships.

And I’m really not trying to say that any of this is a negative thing. On the contrary, I think it’s amazing. I think that millennials these days have more freedoms when it comes to relationships than any generation has ever had before, and I’m really curious to see where we’ll take these freedoms as more of us grow older and more mature and more prepared to settle into relationships (or not settle into relationships, whatever makes each individual person happy).

I think that, for too long, relationships have had a solid structure that each and every person is expected to follow, or at least pretend to follow. And I think that this structure works for some people, but not for everyone. And right now, millennials are creating the freedom to build new relationships that work better for each individual person. And is this a trend that will continue? Or are we destined to become the stubborn, old curmudgeons, complaining about the next generation and their inability to form healthy, normal relationships? That, I suppose, only time will tell.

What A Bisexual Person Wants Straight And Gay People To Know

The other day, I was scrolling through social media, minding my own business, when I innocently stumbled upon a video, edited together using clips of celebrities discussing their experience with bisexuality, including Halsey, Kristen Stewart, Drew Barrymore, and many others.

I enjoyed this video. As a bisexual woman myself, it made me feel good. It made me proud to be who I am. And, yes, I know that the rule of thumb for the internet is that, every time you feel that way, don’t look at the comments. But I looked at the comments anyway. And, reading through them, my stomach sank.

It isn’t that the majority of comments were outwardly intending to be cruel or anything like that. In fact, I’m pretty sure that they were trying to be accepting. But they all pretty much read the same: “I don’t care”.

There were a few comments from actual bisexual people, trying to defend the validity of the video, but the vast majority were from straight people or gay people (who went out of their way to identify themselves as gay), clogging up the comments with repeated assertions that they didn’t care. They didn’t care so much, in fact, that it very quickly proved that they did. They cared a lot, or else they would have just moved on without making a comment.

And I think I understand where these comments come from, at least on the surface. The idea behind it is not to make me, a bisexual woman, feel bad. Quite the opposite in fact – when straight and gay people make these comments, they think that they’re making me feel validated and normalized. I’m so validated and normalized, in fact, that I shouldn’t even have to say that I’m bisexual. I shouldn’t say it at all. I should just stay quiet, really, and allow them to continue pretending that I don’t exist.

Because the way that these comments appear, whenever a celebrity or a fictional character is outed as bisexual, this idea of, “I don’t care who they sleep with, just as long as they perform well” – it feels less like they’re saying, “be who you want to be”, and more like they’re saying, “please stop talking about this, I don’t want to hear about it”.

And maybe straight people and gay people don’t care. Maybe it doesn’t affect you. But I care, and, personally, I wish they would too.

Because silencing bisexual people is not something that’s unique to the comment section of social media posts. In fact, it’s common enough that it actually has a name – bi erasure.

And bi erasure affects me. Bi erasure affects how straight and gay people view and treat me. And bi erasure is a huge problem.

Bi erasure affects me when I come out to a straight or gay person, and they automatically assume that I’m confused, or a straight woman looking to experiment, or a lesbian who’s afraid to come ‘all the way’ out of the closet (the idea that I’m only half out of the closet is also seriously problematic – I am all the way of of the closet).

Bi erasure affects me when 47 percent of people say that they would never date a bisexual person. And, no, I’m not asking for 100 percent of the population to be looking to date me specifically, that would be… quite frankly, exhausting. But the reasons that people cite to avoid getting involved with any bisexual are actually disgusting. I’ve heard many people say that they would never date a bisexual because they’re afraid they might cheat on them (as though straight and gay people don’t cheat on their partners). I’ve heard many people say that it’s actually unfair for a bisexual person to try to enter into a committed relationship, because we all know that they’re eventually going to stray for penis or vagina or whatever. Actress Megan Fox even made the comment once that, though she identifies as a bisexual woman, she “would never date a girl who was bisexual, because that means they also sleep with men, and men are so dirty that [she’d] never want to sleep with a girl who had slept with a man.” Before people even get to know me, bi erasure has already created this image of me as some sort of dirty, promiscuous whore, out to harm straight and gay people by entering into committed relationships with them.

And, lastly, bi erasure affects me when 44 percent of bisexual youth have reported experiencing suicidal thoughts in the last year (compared to 33 percent LGBTQ youth en masse). Bisexuals make up the largest single population in the LGBTQ community, and yet we are woefully underrepresented – by our own community.

So to the straight and gay people who want to make sure we know that you don’t care about us – we know. You’ve proven that to us again and again, trust me. You can stop saying it.

But, like I said, I think that the majority of these comments do not come from an intentionally harmful place. I think that these are people who want to live in a society where nobody has to say what they are, they can just be what they are. But the problem with that is that we don’t live in that society. We live in a society where the label that you put on your sexual orientation affects the way that people treat you – whether you be straight, gay or lesbian, or bisexual. And when you are treated differently and ignored for the label that you identify as, then, trust me, it feels good to see a celebrity or fictional character that you look up to identifying under the same label. It feels liberating. It is what truly makes you feel validated and normalized.

So, to all the straight and gay people reading this (and I sincerely hope you are reading this; you are who I wrote this for, after all), I want to ask a few things from you.

I want you to let us speak when we have something to say. Before you rush off to tell us that you don’t care, that you don’t want to hear it – listen. Please. We might even open your mind to possibilities that you did not know existed.

And when it comes to stereotypes that you have developed in the absence of actual bisexual representation, I want to ask you to think about them critically. Because the thing about bisexual people is that we… people! We are a relatively large group of people too, and growing larger (1 in 3 American young adults identify themselves on the bisexual spectrum, after all). And what this means is that we are full of variety that one might not expect, if they never saw or heard from us. Some bisexual people are promiscuous, some aren’t. Some bisexual people feel best in polyamorous relationships, some in monogamous relationships. Some bisexual people experience a preference for one gender over another, and some find that their interest is split 50/50, down the middle. Some bisexual people are incredibly romantic and love to be loved, some aren’t. It all depends on the person – and I, for one, am tired of living with stereotypes that may or may not even apply to me.


Genitalia Does Not Determine Gender

On January 20, 2018, the second women’s march was held.

Strong, beautiful, capable women filled the streets, wearing their cute, pink pussyhats and wielding signs like, “Anything you can do, I can do bleeding” and “pussy power”. And I’m proud of these women. I am. But looking through these pictures online, there is one question that keeps coming to my mind:

Since when is my vagina (or the colour of it, or the fact that it occasionally bleeds) what makes me a woman?

Because there are a lot of women in this world. And amongst these women, a lot of variety. Some women don’t bleed from their vaginas, for one reason or another. Some vaginas aren’t pink. Some women don’t even have vaginas, because some women were born with penises, and some women chose to keep their penises. And yet, despite all of this variety, these are still women, and these women deserve recognition and validation and basic human rights, as much as any of us.

And, I know, I know; there are a lot of women in the world. It’s difficult and, in some cases, impossible to constantly be inclusive to every single one of them, especially when some issues that the women’s march are trying to gain attention to are specific to certain women (like, say, women’s rights to reproductive health). And the vagina is, to a certain extent, an image to be reclaimed by some.

But if we’re going to move forward with this whole equal rights thing that we’re all hoping for, we need to make sure that we’re being inclusive toward all women. And this idea of equating femininity with vaginas and masculinity with penises is a slippery slope.

I often hear it joked about amongst cis-gendered male company. This idea that having a big penis means that you’re somehow a bigger and better man. This idea that, without a penis, you aren’t a man, that even if a cis-gendered man lost his penis for one reason or another, then – poof! suddenly, he’s a woman, just like that.

Heck, another word for penis is literally ‘manhood’.

And part of striving for equal rights should involve spreading this message that, just because you were born with a penis, that doesn’t mean that you’re a man. And just because you don’t have a penis, that doesn’t mean that you aren’t a man. Some feminists are legitimately trying to do this. And some feminists seem to be taking a page from the same book that all of those men bragging about their big dicks are reading.

Which, you know, would be cool if it weren’t for the fact that transgender individuals really should not be ignored right now. Like, they really, really shouldn’t.

Trans people are four times more likely to live in poverty than the general population due to several workplace issues – including violence and discrimination (trans people also experience homelessness at twice the rate of the general population).

41 percent of trans or gender non-conforming individuals have attempted suicide (compared to 4.6 percent of the general population).

One in two transgender people are raped, and some have even speculated that the statistic might be as high as 66 percent.

In 2017, 28 transgender individuals were murdered in the U.S. – meaning that violence against trans people has actually been increasing (in 2016, 23 trans people were murdered). Nearly all of them were women of colour.

This is the reality of living as a transgender person in North America. This is something that feminists should be talking about – and talking about prominently. I understand that we have other concerns to deal with as well, but we need to make space for this at our marches. Because this matters. This is important. We can’t just ignore it, because it doesn’t fit into our pussy-centric narrative.

And I see your little pussyhats, and they’re very cute. I do not for a second believe that they were made with ill intent, or to exclude anybody from the march. But when we put them on and agree that what unites us as women is the vagina, then we aren’t really being fair or true. What unites us as women is that we all call ourselves women, and we all have to deal with the hardships that comes with that. And it’s a different hardship for everybody. Some women only have to deal with sexism. Some women have to deal with sexism as well as racism. Some women have to deal with sexism, racism, and transphobia, all at once. Some women have to deal with more. And I understand if you don’t relate to that experience because it isn’t your own – but that doesn’t mean that those women aren’t your sisters. That doesn’t mean that those women aren’t suffering, and that doesn’t mean that you can’t learn about their experience so that you can help them.

And, really, all you need to do is learn. Learn, and make sure that you are opening up our marches and our movement to every women out there.

If I lost my vagina tomorrow in some sort of awful vagina-losing accident, I’d still be a woman. Because, end of day, my vagina has absolutely nothing to do with my identity. I identify as a woman because I feel like a woman – end of story. Not because of what’s between my legs (or the fact that it bleeds, or the colour of it, etc., etc.). Genitalia does not define us as much as we have allowed society to make it define us. End of day, it is society that tries to make us think that you can’t be a man with a vagina, or a woman with a penis. And if feminism believes in anything, it is that society can be changed.


What is Sex Positivity?

As a society, we have pretty complicated opinions when it comes to sex.

We want to see it constantly – in our advertising, in our movies, in our music – but we want to see it subtle, full of euphemisms, and on our own terms. We don’t like it when it’s too explicit. We don’t like it when it challenges our preconceived notions of heteronormativity. And we don’t like it when it forces us to think of people who we do not personally find sexually attractive as sexual beings.

In other words, we like to find individuals sexy, but we do not necessarily like to think of them as sexual.

Is it any wonder that we have a difficult time understanding the concept of sex positivity?

I’ve often seen sex positive individuals mocked as being aggressively sexual nymphomaniacs who just want to have non-monogamous, kinky, pansexual sex with everything that moves. I’ve heard it said that, not only do sex positive individuals fall into this stereotype, but they want you to fall into this stereotype as well; if you aren’t comfortable having sex with everyone, if you aren’t comfortable talking about sex in great, almost disgusting detail with every individual you ever come across, then you aren’t sex positive enough.

Oddly enough, I’ve only ever heard this opinion raised by people who do not identify as sex positive.

So what does it mean to be sex positive? I mean, it’s totally possible in our hush-hush-wink-wink society of closed doors and whispered euphemisms that you might have heard this word before, but were too embarrassed to ask what it meant.

Well, acting as a sex positive individual looks different for everybody, but what this essentially boils down to is a few common beliefs.

Sex positivity is a subsection of feminism. That isn’t to say that every feminist is sex positive. That isn’t to say that feminism is only about sex positivity. But, generally speaking, sex positivity tends to be regarded as falling under that same umbrella of liberating women or other marginalized people.

Because, historically speaking, it’s been women who are both uncomfortably sexualized and denied the opportunity to so much as speak about sex (I mean, 66% of women aged 18 to 24 don’t even feel comfortable saying the word ‘vagina’, even to a doctor; whereas the ‘penis game’ is fun for the whole family).

But that isn’t to say that women are the only people who would benefit from a sex positive society. In fact, we all would.

What sex positivity essentially means is that we, as a society, need to get more comfortable with the idea of sex – in all of its forms.

We need to become comfortable talking about sex. We need to become comfortable teaching our children about sex – because too few children are. 71% of Americans will have sex by the time that they are 19 years of age, but only twenty states require sex education to be taught at all. And, hell, even when it is taught, the actual information tends to be lacking. Only thirteen states require the sex ed that is taught to be medically accurate, meaning that in thirty-seven American states, people are walking around with either no education in sexuality, or medically inaccurate education in sexuality.

What I remember most from my own sex ed class is my teacher laughing uncomfortably until she was red in the face (I got an A in that class).

This means that children are going out and having sex without fully understanding what they are doing or the possible repercussions that could come from it (like STIs or pregnancy).

In fact, education on sexuality is so poor that, to this day, there are many people who are still confused about what consent is, or how to ask for it from a partner. And this is a huge problem.

But sex positivity is about more than simply educating children. It’s about allowing people to express their sexuality in whichever way they feel comfortable.

Do you want your every sexual experience to be a kinky, pansexual orgy? That’s totally fine; go out and do that.

Do you want to have vanilla sex with one individual for your entire life? Cool. Do that.

Do you want to never, ever, ever have sex because the very thought makes your stomach curl? Great. Don’t feel pressured to have sex. You’re cool the way you are.

As I mentioned before, in our current climate, we are weird about sex. We don’t want to hear about it, but we at least want to know that you’re doing it, and doing it ‘correctly’. If you’re sleeping with multiple partners, then you run the risk of being labelled a ‘slut’, a ‘whore’, ‘cheap’, ‘easy’, ‘frivolous’ – and as such, you are dismissed as a person. If you identify as asexual, then you’re constantly assaulted with comments such as, “oh, you just haven’t found the right person yet”.

But true sex positivity does not uphold any of that. True sex positivity is about allowing people the information that they need to decide how they feel about sex, and then the freedom that they need to explore it however they choose.

You should feel allowed to explore your sexuality. You should feel like it’s okay to have many sexual experiences, with many different people, and you should also feel like it’s okay to not have sex. Whatever you want to do should be accepted as totally fine.

End of day, sex positivity is about creating a world where sex is not a shameful thing. Where being a sex worker is a valid way to make money, if that’s what you genuinely want to do. Where women are allowed to wear a hijab or a mini, mini, mini skirt, and feel the same level of confidence and acceptance. Where men are allowed to wear pants or a mini, mini, mini skirt, and feel the same level of confidence and acceptance. Where being monogamous and non-monogamous and asexual is all totally fine.

End of day, sex positivity is about being allowed to explore who you are sexually, and feeling okay in that. Feeling like you won’t be judged. Feeling like you have the right information to do it safely. And sex positivity is for everyone – male, female, transgender, gender non-conforming, straight, gay, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, demi-sexual, or whatever-kind-of-sexual-you-want-to-identify-as.

End of day, that is all sex positivity is.