Bi out

May. 18th, 2009 12:00 am
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An acquaintance recently came out to his mother as a bisexual man.  According to him, she all but disowned him.  She didn’t really, but that’s how he felt.

I thought back to my own coming out experience sixteen years ago.  I know going into it I feared the worst--that my family would cut me off.  I was prepared to be financially cut off, and even a bit socially ostracized.  What I didn’t think I could handle was to be emotionally shut out, disowned, abandoned. 

I called my aunt, someone I (and everyone in my family) knew to be a lesbian, to ask her advice on coming out.  When I asked how my family, and particularly my mother, responded when she came out, she surprised me by asking, “What do you mean ‘came out?’”  I suppose I got to “out” the family to her.

That call gave me some confidence.  I knew that my family loved her and supported her even when she thought wrongly that she was hiding herself.

I called my Mom.  I explained that I had dated women and I had dated men.  I wasn’t comfortable claiming the bisexual label at that point.  I waited for a response, but there wasn’t much of one.  I wasn’t expecting what I heard:

“Oh, your dad and I have been talking about this for years.”  Really?  I suppose there were all sorts of possible indicators, but my own process of discovery had only taken months, not years.  Not only was I queer, but I was oblivious to my own queerness. 

“I’ve always thought that you just liked *people* regardless of whether they were men or women.”  Okay.  My mom was not only more tuned into me than I was, but she understood the essence of bisexuality, that it wasn’t about liking men because they were men and women because they were women—it wasn’t about the dichotomy, the binary, the sex.

Fast forward to a few months later.  Life was in disarray because I was 19 years old.  I’d gone to a military recruiter, taken the ASVAB and essentially signed up to join.  I called my dad, a retired veteran, with the good news.  Aside from telling me I’d need to get in shape so that basic training didn’t kill me, he warned me, ominously, “If they ask, you will need to lie.”  Being a naïve 19 year old, the thought that my mom might continue having discussions about me with my dad hadn’t entered my mind.  “If they ask me what?”  “You know.”  “Ohhhh, you talked with mom?”

I didn’t join the military, in large part because of a surprise visit my dad made shortly after the phone call with a wonderful heart to heart conversation, and in larger part because I knew I didn’t want to join anything on the pretense of a lie.

In retrospect, I see that my parents couldn’t have responded any other way.  That’s got to make me luckier than a lot of people out there.  My parents acted with love, tolerance, acceptance and sound guidance, the way they always have. 
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Beth Sheeran is an absolutely delightful woman I've met on a couple of occasions while I volunteered time in the Student Government office at Spokane Falls Community College.  She is apparently preparing to be a nurse.  She is also a leader in the student group Spokane Falls Christian Fellowship, which applied for space in the display boards of the student union building to put up a "Pro-Life" display for the benefit of students.

Now, I'm of the opinion, as I said before, that almost everyone is pro-life and anti-abortion.  Nobody really thinks abortion is a good idea.  I'm guessing that there is not a lot of agreement between Beth and I on the issue of abortion, except that we should work to reduce the number of abortions performed throughout the U.S. and the world.  I don't want to put words in her mouth because I haven't actually spoken to her about abortion (or much else, to be fair), but I'd guess she would advocate for greater legal restrictions on access to the abortion procedure.  I would not.

Beth and SFCF were denied their right, as a student group or student, to equal access to the display boards.  The administration, which really means Heather McKenzie, who rules student government as her own fiefdom, claimed that posting SFCF's display without an opposing view would constitute bias and discrimination.  They even put it on SFCF to come up with the opposing view. 

Subsequently, Heather McKenzie and the VP of Student Services ambushed the group at their planning meeting to threaten that there would be adverse action if SFCF continued with some form of their display.  They handed out Anti-Bias policy pamphlets, focusing on a "Stop the Hate" theme. 

With no other real recourse, Beth filed a lawsuit (*.pdf) against the school's trustees, president, vice-president of student services, and Heather McKenzie for violating her and other students' free speech rights.

This is the part where, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" comes in.  In looking at the exhibit, I think it conjures a lot of great questions about the relationships between poverty, race, and abortion.  I might question the validity of some of the statistics and the bias of some data sources.  Even if I didn't find some food for thought in the display, there is no reason in all of fairness for such a display to be denied, especially in an academic environment.

To Beth Sheeran, I say, Go Girl!  Except that I think the lawyers from Alliance Defense Fund and the lawyers for ACLU might get in each others' way, I'd advocate for the ACLU's involvement on her behalf.  Maybe they'd be willing to file an amicus brief.  Hmmmm....

I don't think the administration of the school intended the Anti-Bias policy to be used in this manner.  I think Heather McKenzie felt threatened when Beth and the SFCF didn't back down and abused the policy, using it to bash the rights of the students and attempting to intimidate them.

Unfortunately, the obvious and most basic (and correct) response to McKenzie's threats is to point out the controversial exhibits and speakers sponsored by student groups and the student government.  This means pointing to sex-positive, LGBT-friendly, and generally progressive events and displays which have not been required by McKenzie to get an opposing viewpoint.  What McKenzie doesn't seem to understand is that you can't contain speech based on content.  Student events and displays are going to be controversial to draw an audience.  It's called free speech--and students have an especially strong right to it, especially when we disagree with the content.

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 Celebrate Bisexuality Day was September 23.  January was Bisexuality Awareness Month.  And 2010, according to me, will be the Year of the Bisexual.

 

Why should you care?  Because we are everywhere.  And we don’t mind if you know it.  As a matter of fact, we are often unrecognized on the front lines and the trenches.  Sadly, sometimes we are in the closet, daring not to move outside the boxes of gay and straight.  Sometimes, we get put in those boxes in spite of modest efforts to be ‘out.’  And sometimes we are screaming at the tops of our lungs and are still misinterpreted.

 

Robin Ochs, for instance, became the first woman in Massachusetts to marry her same sex partner (okay, her spouse shares the distinction).  She is the founder of the Bisexuality Resource Center in Boston.  She was identified as a lesbian in the media in spite of repeatedly drawing reporters’ attention to her bisexuality.  By definition, the marriage couldn’t be gay or lesbian. Only one of the spouses was a lesbian.

 

Sometimes, we are placed in those boxes through omission or error.  We are easy to overlook as our agendas are similar to yours.  But, sometimes, we are squeezed into those boxes for better marketing (‘gay’ marriage plays better to the Joe and Jane America than ‘same-sex’ marriage). 

 

“Homosexual” people get cool names like ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ that leave thoughts of sex on the cutting room floor.  Oh, sure, we’ve tried on omnisexual (really?  omni? everything?), pansexual, ambisexual and bi-affectional, but the first three still point primarily to sex (and apparently a good variety of it) and the last makes us sound like we can be really good friends.  The ‘bi’ in bisexual (Hey Microsoft Spellchecker—there is no hyphen in the term “bisexual”) still points back to those two boxes, gay and straight, male and female.   Unfortunately, we aren’t so uncomplicated.  Even ‘queer’, while seemingly ideal, is overly broad.

 

So, we are stuck with ‘bisexual.’  Fine.  So what do bisexual people do?  Well, I wondered that too.  So I found some.  We got together at Coffee Social (new, organic, eco-friendly, queer/poly-friendly).  We drank some great Doma coffee and played dominoes.  Apparently bisexual people are easy to please after all.

 

What I really found was that we were an eclectic group with varied ages and interests.  And it wasn’t the coffee or the dominoes.  It was a vague sense of togetherness.  While we didn’t talk much about bisexuality, it was amazing and wonderful to be able to look around the group and realize that everyone in the group was like me.  One participant wrote to me to say he finally felt comfortable in a public group.  While it is great to be one letter in the alphabet soup of our movement for equality and dignity, it is a little breathtaking to be a ‘B’ in a veritable sea of ‘B’s. 

 

If you would like to join us, meet at Coffee Social, 113 W Indiana Ave, on Wednesday May 13 and May 27 from 6-8pm.  Dress in a smile and loudly ask where the bisexual people are.   

 

“A normal person is just someone you don’t know real well yet.”

--Robin Ochs, Bisexual Activist and Author www.robinochs.com

jreilly4261: (Default)

Wednesday April 15, 2009
6:00pm-8:00pm

Join a diverse group of bi-identified friends to shoot the breeze and plan social activities which might include dinners, coffees, picnics, kiddy play dates or group outings (no pun intended). We'll break the ice with Totally 80s Trivial Pursuit.

There will be children and I'll make sure there are some kids games, crayons, paper, neutronium, etc.

I'll provide some treat's from Coffee Social's terrific menu.

Coffee Social http://www.coffeesocial.net
113 W Indiana Ave
Spokane, WA 99205
Open Daily 7am-10pm
(509) 327-7127

Contact Joe Reilly for questions re: this event
509-536-7518 jreilly4261@gmail.com

This may put it on your calendar for you:

jreilly4261: (Default)
 
Come out, come out, wherever you are!
The monthly potluck is on!
 
Join friends and family and meet new folks at the monthly potluck co-hosted by The Inland Northwest LGBT Center and Westminster Congregational UCC.
 
Saturday, April 4, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm in the Social Hall
Westminster Congregational UCC
4th and Washington
downtown Spokane
 
Accessible building and space for all!
 
And yes! ALL are welcome!
 
 
Questions?  Reply to this email or call me at 624-1366, ext. 12.
 
 
Hope to see YOU there! 
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I had the great fortune to see k.d. lang's Watershed concert last night at the restored and appropriately gaudy Fox Theater with my wife last night.    [livejournal.com profile] hippybear has a great review.  I agree 100% with his assessment and add only that I was laughing and crying throughout the night.

Before the concert, the wife and I shared a leg of lamb, a goat cheese mashed potato dish, and a mushroom sauce that were delicious, thanks to the skilled chef at Vin Rouge.  We attended the Watershed pre-event party hosted by The Inland NW LGBT Center, Inland Northwest Business Association, Odyssey Youth Center, and OutSpokane.  It was a lovely gathering with many familiar faces and some that were new to me.  A lovely gentleman named Steve, who previously found and returned my indispensable thumbdrive, and Bridget Potter, Diva of OutSpokane and other ventures, greeted us to check in.  Representatives from the four organizations, Cat Carrel, Marvo Reguinden, Sandy Williams, and Christopher Lawrence, respectively, made impassioned pitches for shared donations.  It was a very pleasant event.  They auctioned a signed Watershed CD for $500 and announced they'd received another $500 from the Pride Foundation.

Once we were seated for the concert, we found ourselves next to another male/female couple.  At a point in the conversation, the woman in the couple commented that she thought we and they were the only heterosexual couples at the pre-event party.  I was stunned and stupified.  It reminded me how invisible an important part of me is in my own community.  I know that. technically, heterosexual is an accurate term to describe our relationship as we embody different sexes.  But I'm pretty sure her comment was meant to communicate that the people in the relationships are heterosexual.  Hmmmm....

I saw a special on k.d. lang once in which she told that she had decided to not reveal her sexual orientation in order to support her stage/character presence.  Her act as an artist is to entice everyone in the audience regarless of gender.  A revelation of her personal life, could cause some of her audience to become disinterested or put off.  She engages each of us of every gender and sexual orientation.

I saw a shirt today online displaying "100% Bisexual."  This dispels several myths:
Bisexual people don't exist.
Bisexual people are part gay and part straight.
Bisexual people divide their attention between men and women in a measurable fashion.
Bisexual people are confused and don't understand their true sexual orienation.

In truth,:
We exist.
We are not partially or wholly gay or straight.  Bisexuality is a unique and valid sexual orientation.
Bisexuality is complex and not easily described by using ratios and percentages of attraction toward various genders.
We are certain about our sexuality, our social lives, and our attractions.  No need for confusion on our part.

I hate to wear labels, but I may wear this shirt, especially to lgbtqa events, in the future.  It may alleviate some confusion on the part of onlookers and save me some frustration.  It is, after all, a better brand than Wal*mart.
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Dave Burdick's piece, "What if water from the sky didn't belong to everyone?", on the Huffington Post today piqued my interest.  It covers the story of a woman who "stole" rainwater, thus diverting it from the local streams and creeks so she could irrigate her small garden.  Ignoring the fact that she will be returning the water to the same ground it would have fallen to, I think it is important to note that the rain she collected was not the rain falling directly to the ground, but rolling off of her home's roof.  It begs the question, If she built her roof to slope only to the North, could her neighbor to the South sue her and the Northerly neighbor to reclaim the diverted water even if she didn't collect the water?

This got me thinking.  In addition to water rights, we apparently own rights to "views."  My grandparents couldn't build a small porch at their beach house 20 years ago because the neighbors to the South felt it would block a small portion of their view of the sand dunes and wetlands.  But in Spokane, we have an anomaly called "Mary's House" that is in the center of the Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center campus.  It is owned by a family that opted not to sell their property to Providence oh, so many years ago.  It is a large house, but is dwarfed by the main hospital, the Women's Center and the Doctor's building.  They apparently weren't able to preserve a right to their view of the city and surrounding mountainous area.  Their view is the medical menagerie in all directions.  This right to a view is apparently subjective and dependent on local building codes and neighborly whim.

But what if the owners of "Mary's House" had solar panels on its roof way back before the hospital engulfed it?  Could the family have blocked Providence from its ambitions based on a right to solar rays.  Obviously, if Providence effectively shut off the sun on "Mary's House" for a good portion of the day, the homeowners would suffer a financial loss because of the lost energy capture.  Maybe a suitable remedy would be to force Providence to place the homeowners solar panels atop the medical center roofs.

If a neighbor's tree grows to shadow my solar panels, can I have it topped.  If a neighbors new bedroom addition catches the rays "meant" for me, will he have to pay me every month to offset my loss?  If my neighbor's addition makes me want to elevate my solar panels, is that enough to earn an exception to building codes?  And what if my local power company figures out how to charge me for my solar panel use instead of buying the energy from me.  It's not far fetched considering they can charge me $5.00 per month for a gas line I don't have, just in case I opt for natural gas someday.

When corporate satellites someday collect and transmit energy to the Earth in satellites so massive in number or size that they blot out the sun, will we have any recourse?  When a thief steals jewelry from my home, I might have cause to shoot the intruder.  But what can I do when someone steals my sunshine away?
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The following message was sent to Senator Mark Schoesler (R) of the 9th district.

















TO:  

Senator Mark Schoesler

FROM:  

Mr. Joe Reilly

BILL:  

5688 (For)

SUBJECT:  

Disappointed

MESSAGE:  

Dear Senator Schoesler,

SB 5688 is a bill to compromise with those who believe that marriage should be reserved for different-sex couples. The bill offers marital-equivalent benefits to those committed couple who are denied the right to marry by our state DOMA law in a complex and confusing way, while denying them a simple legal marriage license endowed with hundreds of years of common law rights and responsibilities. You voted against this bill even though it threatens no marriages. In case you aren't aware, those affected live right here in the 9th LD. On the plus side, when 50-60% of these couples break up, the lawyers will make a lot more money dissecting the domestic partner laws than if it were a marriage dissolution. That'll stimulate the economy.

If you think there is a culture war, you are woefully misinformed. There are simply people trying to live their lives who refuse to accept 2nd-class citizenship anymore. I hope you will change your mind and offer a public endorsement of this bill.

Your constituent,

Joe Reilly

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I took the girls down to Journey's future school, toured it, and filled out some paperwork for her Kindergarten start in the fall.  I paid my wife's union dues.  I paid a past due bill with the community college and left a message with their accounting office in an attempt to get my registration block removed.  I'm taking the girls to my folks' house this afternoon so the morning is less hectic.  I'm seeing my therapist tomorrow and going to an information session for a new co-op.  I'm also going to try to make it to Coffee Social tomorrow.
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I don't usually put much stock in my dreams since I don't usually remember them. 

Last night I dreamed I was attending a college English class.  At the end of class a man entered the room and told us that anyone who was married didn't need to pay attention and announced that all unmarried students were invited to the auditorium where the current President, George W. Bush would be speaking.  Somehow I figured out that the President would be encouraging students to consider getting married.  I don't think I figured out how this was part of a dastardly right-wing scheme, I just assumed it was.

So I ran around to my fellow single and married coeds basically begging them to help me protest this government intrusion into our private lives.  I tried to convince them that the government, and especially the President, had no business trying to convince people they should get married. 

Nobody listened.  Now I think about the government-funded "Marriage is Healthy" campaign.  These are the billboards and classes put out by abstinence-champion Teen-Aid (headquartered right here in lovely Spokane).  I love the billboards.  I think they are an excellent marriage equality campaign.  We just need to swap out the pictures with same-sex couples. 

In other news, my three-year old daughter just announced, "I cooked my wedgie."
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  • 13:35 is hanging out with family from the coast #

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  • 12:02 @moonfrye Yes. Don't send your kid to school sick--it'll get all the other sick kids sick. :) #
  • 14:15 @paulapoundstone Do you charge extra for the 7-11 cup? #
  • 14:52 @biznickman a twitterer (I know you probably weren't looking for a literal answer) #
  • 14:55 RT: @SpokaneDave: Senior admin official says Obama's likely for Commerce is fmr WA Gov. Gary Locke--first Asian Governor. #
  • 15:19 @roguecnidarian @benpop Orange Juice + sprite/7-up/sierra mist is also delicious --You left out the vodka! #
  • 15:34 @womanistmusings Brand new offer. You can have Obama if you take the USA also. #
  • 15:45 is off to visit with his old grandma (old=great /=ancient) #
  • 15:46 Oops. She's my kids' old grandma. :) #
  • 22:34 @moonfrye I sleep on the side closest to the door--paranoia about home invaders, I think. #
  • 03:26 @paulapoundstone Our family goal is to make enough money that we can have a give to charity pile and a remove tags pile and skip laundry #
  • 11:05 RT @tonypeterson u can buy a share of $GE 4 less than the cost of a light blb, $GM 4 less than a gal of gas, $NYT 4 less than a sun paper $$ #
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  • 19:12 is enjoying tasty wraps with red cabbage, avocado, chicken, mozzarella, and olive oil mayonnaise. Yum. #
  • 22:02 is not so interested in the oscars. The fake suspense, like on WWtbaM, or Deal or No Deal is obnoxious. #
  • 08:37 I'm looking for my friends...I'm looking for you. #
  • 09:43 is watching Clifford by himself. Aren't the kids suppose to be watching too? #
  • 10:12 is hopping in the shower. #
  • 10:25 announces, "Now showing in the bathroom on the tiny screen, Monsters Inc." #
  • 11:02 @grantium You've probably found this one tinyurl.com/c8q4mk #fem2 #
  • 11:34 loves the term "normalizing" to mean making something into a norm, rather than to make things/people abide by norm. #
  • 11:46 @chriscurrie What if confusion is the norm I seek? #
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  • 13:24 RT @DieLaughing Please don't retweet this. #
  • 15:11 encourages Spokanites on the lower end of the economic spectrum to get heating help at snapwa.org #
  • 15:35 is going to play at a park while the weather is nice. #
  • 17:51 Oh, my achy hips... #
  • 07:05 just completed about 12 hours of sleep. yum. #
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  • 15:45 is playing with gedcom files #
  • 00:05 is watching "My best friend's girl" and laughing my ass off. #
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  • 14:10 feels funky today--anxious, depressed. #
  • 14:59 @moniguzman Don't mean to be crass, but why is PI doing social media training if they are shutting down? #
  • 16:43 is cooking soup while the girls are eating other soup. Had meds-feel lil better. #
  • 18:31 @womanistmusings try chaning the words to "Goodnight moon to see if 3yo notices. :) #
  • 19:49 @blushresponse Mike doesn't twit, does he? #
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  • 00:34 @paulapoundstone Your son could be exec director of the ADHD Center for....Did you hear Ken Griffey Jr. is coming to Seattle? Hmm, coookies. #
  • 00:44 RT @wasaam Did you know Sexual Assault Awareness Month was first observed nationally in 2001? Yeah. It's true. #
  • 01:23 "Cursebird Report: @jreilly4261 swears like a Mute. Ranked: Bottom. - cursebird.com/jreilly4261" Ranked me right. :) #
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  • 09:16 @paulapoundstone Do you think I can get my psychotherapist to work with me on range of motion? #
  • 10:28 is getting little things done. #
  • 11:31 wonders about the infusion of conscience in the human species. #
  • 11:34 is tired of infomercials and wants a converter box. #
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  • 22:03 @paulapoundstone Be careful! If you get all the dirt out of Chicago, we might not recognize the politics! #
  • 22:10 is trying out ping.fm to see if it makes a big mess. #
  • 23:28 is posting via ping.fm via Yahoo! Messenger #
  • 23:56 @jeremydeutsch Welcome to Spokane, the Seattle of the Inland Northwest. #
  • 09:52 Trying to kill a killer headache. Maybe if the voices in my head stopped yelling... #
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