Having been neck-deep in writing, editing and now promoting my new novel, I must admit I have gotten behind on my reading in the last few months. This being the case, I was quite surprised to get a Facebook message from a high school friend that read:
"Are you the A.J. Walkley that's mentioned in Dan Savage's new book? Thought it might be you..."
I immediately did a Google search and found this excerpt from Dan Savage's American Savage.
Immediately after reading this, I went onto The Huffington Post to pull up the blog Savage is quoting from. Entitled "Bi the Bi: Are Closeted Bisexuals the Reason for Bi Invisibility?" I immediately recalled how careful my co-writer, Lauren Michelle Kinsey, and I were when writing this piece. We knew the title would make people pause and we also knew that this was a fraught subject matter for the bisexual community. Savage himself tends to be a polarizing figure for many bisexuals due to his well-known biphobic stances; it was our intention, however, to make an effort to listen to him and take his position seriously in order to have an intelligent discussion about the issue at hand.
Savage's quote reads:
More out bisexuals would mean less of that bisexual invisibility that bisexuals are always complaining about. If more bisexuals were out, more straight people would know they actually know and love sexual minorities, which would lead to less anti-LGBT bigotry generally, which would be better for everyone. But people get to make their own choices, and lots of bisexuals choose not to be out. While I'm willing to recognize that the reluctance of many bisexuals to be out may be a reaction to the hostility they face from non-bisexuals, gay and straight, bisexuals need to recognize that their being closeted is a huge contributing factor to the hostility they face.
Going back to the original piece, I wanted to take a look at the part in which Savage says I am "trashing" him and that he calls "butt-covering." This is what I say:
...to say that being in the closet as bi is 'a huge contributing factor to the hostility they face,' in Savage's words, is not something I could see him saying to any other part of the LGBT community. In fact, if his words were changed and the term 'bisexual' became 'gay men' ... I think he would get a lot of heat for that stance... What if he had said, 'More out gay men would mean less of that gay invisibility that gay men are always complaining about.' Instead of putting the onus on society to be more accepting of more sexualities, he's putting it on the discriminated group. Because bisexuals continue to receive significantly more bias within the LGBT community... Savage can get away with this stance on bisexuals, but I guarantee that if that same quotation had been directed to the L and the G components, the reaction would have been much more vitriolic. [emphasis mine]
Since when is having a discussion based off of a quote "trashing" the person being quoted? I fail to see how the above is either an example of me "trashing" Savage, or covering my butt in any way. I am simply offering an opposing opinion.
My co-blogger also attests to the varied reasons many bisexuals are still closeted, including a wide array of economic, emotional and intellectual discrimination -- similar to that a gay man, lesbian or trans* person might experience when coming out in any given situation. But Savage leaves those specifics out.
Savage also fails to note that many bisexuals may not be out as bisexual, but pass as gay or lesbian within the queer community, through no fault of their own. Unless a bisexual is in a visible polyamorous relationship, for instance, with partners of differing gender identities, we are often presumed to be a sexuality related to the gender of our significant other.
In the piece Savage picked apart for his needs, we rebutted the statement that bisexual invisibility is the direct fault of bisexuals ourselves, pointing out that some bisexuals cannot or choose not to come out for safety and financial reasons. We used Savage's quote as a jumping off point, not as a means to call out Savage himself. It seems, nonetheless, that Savage has taken what we have written as a personal attack, confusing himself with his beliefs - which happen to be the beliefs of far more people than Savage alone.
In my opinion, I feel that due to Savage's historical stances on bisexuality in the past, he is ready to jump up and criticize any bisexual he perceives to be attacking him, perhaps without digging deeper to find out if the attack is actually an attack, or simply an opening to further conversation. Since he outrightly admits to having a phobia for bisexuals who consider him to be biphobic, how can bisexuals and activists ever hope to have a well-intentioned discussion with him?
We need to be building bisexuals up, not tearing them down before they're ready to come out. So, Mr. Savage, I'd like to leave you with this message: Nobody prefers to be in the closet, but there are many in the entire LGBT+ community that are forced to live there for varied lengths of time for multiple reasons, all of which are valid. Bisexual activists are open to further discussion with you and hope you take up the opportunity to engage with us.