Up Front by Emma Hart


Or It's Who We're Drinking With...

It's always nice to feel, as an activist, that things are changing. Progress is being made. Things will be easier for the next generation than it has been for mine. That is a great feeling. 

Which is what makes this research so depressing. It's nothing I haven't said before. The sample size is tiny, but it agrees with overseas research: bisexuals have higher rates of alcohol and drug abuse than other sexualities. What also isn't in the least surprising is that Stuff will headline their article like this: Binge Drinking a Problem for Young Bisexuals. 

Here's a clue, guys: it's not the drinking, it's the why they're drinking. Take a lesson from gaynz.com, and maybe work out why I link to so many stories there instead of at your place: Exclusion Leading Some Bi Youth to Binge Drink. The drinking is not the problem, it's one of the symptoms of the problem. This shit just isn't that hard. 

A quick read of that Stuff article raises some problems with the research. There's no definition of 'binge drinking', and n=32. How could you tell if a group of 32 mostly female mostly students are really 'binge drinking' more than anyone else that age? 

Well, if you found the article at gaynz, there's a link to the research itself, and what you find there is a bunch of people talking honestly, openly, and sometimes quite heart-breakingly about their own experiences. This is a qualitative study. 

I drink more when I’m under high stress, when I’m stressed out, and maybe sometimes at parties when, after conversations with people, where they want to know, no one gets the bi thing. It’s really hard to explain. Quite a bit because you get people who want to know why you are not lesbian, why you are not straight, and I kind of feel that, it’s slightly easier to be one or the other, like I envy some of my friends who are gay, I’m like you know who, you know you’re there and no one questions it. But I get questioned all the time, and I find that frustrating sometimes.


Arahia: You kind of drink more so you can say the next day: “Oh, I was just drunk, you know. It didn’t mean anything really.” Sometimes it does, sometimes. But if you wake up the next morning with a huge hangover, you can say to the person: “Oh god, it didn’t mean anything. I was just so wasted.”

Fiona: “Didn’t mean to grope you. I was just drunk.”

Arahia: It is such a good excuse.

Fiona: And I think bi people definitely use it as more of an excuse than any other sexual orientation.


Yeah, I know. Our behaviours play into our stereotypes. There's no space in our stereotypes for our actual motivations, though. So maybe those bi girls getting trashed and snogging girls at parties aren't doing it because they're Happy Boozy Sluts, but because they're too scared to approach women when they're sober. I mean, she's probably straight, right? What are the odds of her being same-sex-attracted and being attracted to me? Practically fucking nil. But. If we have a few more cocktails, we can snog, and she has plausible deniability the next day. Even if we sleep together. That? No, I'm straight. I was just drunk. 

You know what? Fuck this is depressing. These people are nearly twenty years younger than I am. It should be better by now. This kind of shit? 

Almost all participants reported situations in which they or other  more-than-one-gender attracted young people had experienced negative stereotyping from lesbians and gays. The three stereotypes most commonly quoted were that sexual attraction to more than one gender was a stage of sexual orientation confusion; that it was a phase on the way towards sexual attraction exclusively to the same gender; and that more-than-one-gender attracted young people  were “greedy” (Oli, 18, New Zealand European). Several participants also reported that lesbians and gays constructed sexual orientation as binary (e.g.,  same-sex attracted versus opposite-sex attracted), which did not conform with the participants’ understanding of their own sexual orientation as fluid along a continuum. A small number of participants reported biphobic behaviour from gays and lesbians.

 Why is this still happening? This is why stuff like this really matters. It's not a stupid nit-picky language-policing political debate. If you call your event "Wellington's Gay and Lesbian Fair", how the fuck are young bisexuals supposed to know they're welcome to go? At that age I always, always assumed that if an event was for "lesbians", I wasn't welcome. I'm not a lesbian. Yes, bisexuals who are involved with LGBT organisations are going to know, but all this research shows that young bi people aren't making those connections. They feel excluded. (I really want to say, if your event is for female-identified female-attracted people, call it that. And then we could have a FIFA Window. Because I'm that pathetic.) 

There were a couple of notes of optimism in all this for me. Personally, this makes me very happy: 

Several of these participants argued that having other family members who were sexual minority persons was the reason for the positive reception of their coming-out to their families.

 Just hanging about being me makes it easier for my children to come out. So no, Mummy won't be stopping saying those things about Alex Kingston in a hurry. It's for your own good. I'd hope, too, that some portion of that effect also applies to having family friends who are Out. Our friends are our families for many of us, after all.

And then there's this. Hope. Or a giant "Y'all can go fuck yourselves." Let's call it hope. 

We note that the above participants, while discussing the way in which their more-than-onegender sexual attraction was socially excluded by lesbian and gay as well as heterosexual communities, were relatively secure and confident in their sexuality and their right to be integrated members of New Zealand society.  That  more-than-one-gender attracted young people are able to acknowledge the normality of their sexuality within an adverse environment and are identifying strategies that can modify adverse environments demonstrates this community’s significant resiliency.

      Emma Hart is the author of the book 'Not Safe For Work'. (Click here to find out more)

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