I have recently seen examples of bi people standing accused of being called greedy and those people suffering distress because of it. My previous posts have outlined the light-hearted and “reclaiming” nature of the club night we run in Bristol called Greedy (it went quite well, by the way!) but now I feel it might be time to help people who are troubled when someone makes the biphobic statement that they are greedy.
The statement is biphobic because it is so often expressed thus: “you’re just greedy”. The “just” is significant. It implies the unspoken first half of the sentence: “you’re not bisexual… you’re just greedy”. Or, “you have not made a statement about your sexuality… you’re just greedy”. It means that the speaker of the statement has refused to acknowledge your sexuality as a description of which gender(s) you may consider dating. The speaker has instead made a stereotypical judgement of your character or your dating/sexual practices based on no evidence whatsoever to do with you as a person, but rather on misguided assumptions forced through a world-view framework that only allows binary genders and sexualities, with some prejudice dolloped on top for good measure. The speaker has been an unthinking douchebag. This really hurts when strangers say it, but is so much worse when it is a partner or friend or family member. They have been incredibly hurtful, not to mention unspeakably rude and have outed themselves as a dick. And now they’re looking at you with no notion of their douchebaggery expecting you to explain yourself. If you’re very unlucky they are also looking triumphant, or mocking.
At this point, it is perfectly acceptable, perhaps even useful, to exit the conversation. No-one debates persuasively when they are upset. Remember also that there is no onus on you to defend yourself to douchbags, the onus is on them to learn, even if they never take it up. Some of us feel we must fight on behalf of other bisexuals, but it is much better that you are happy and safe. You are not letting the side down if you walk away. Getting all up in a douchebag’s face on a regular basis is what people like me are for. Anyway, if the conversation is with someone that you care about, it may speak volumes that you are so upset by what they have said that you simply have to walk away. They will probably start fawning around saying “I didn’t mean it, it’s a joke etc.” which is good because it has put them where they should be, in the ‘bad guy’ seat. Continuing to do nothing, walk away or changing the subject will only make your position become stronger. Then later, when you have had time to pick up your feelings, gather your thoughts and maybe re-read this blog post or other advice, you can spring the topic on them when they least expect it.
Now the key to all prejudice is that people have no idea what it is like to be the other person. They have no empathy for your life, your experiences or your feelings. Bisexuality is a particularly murky, dangerous and opaque thing for some monosexuals to contemplate, especially the ones who have tied the exclusivity of their gender preferences to their identity. The poor things are actually frightened by the implications of your sexuality, if they are not simply being thoughtless. This is useful to know when dealing with prejudice. It somewhat explains the outrageous nature of their reactions, since fear makes people kick out much harder than most other things.
Now, a route explaining that you are not “just greedy” involves unpacking their assumptions and one of the best ways to do that is by questions. Things like,
“what exactly do you mean by ‘greedy’?”
“how does me being bisexual relate to me being greedy?”
“what is your sexuality?”
“does that mean you are attracted to all men/women in the world?”
“oh, it doesn’t? So what are you attracted to?”
“How do you think it made me feel when you denied my sexuality?”
(if you want to) “do you think being greedy is a bad thing?”
Asking someone exactly what they mean by a thing is a really good way to not have to say anything and gives you loads of information about where their ideas are coming from. Don’t stop asking questions until the speaker is exhausted. Try to keep yourself neutral, and react to their answers as if it is a very interesting opinion, but one which you may or may not share. Ask in a spirit of genuinely trying to understand. This makes people realise that they are espousing exactly that, opinions, and in fact the whole world is not on their side. It makes them think about what they have said. I think in most cases that will be enough.
If, after this grilling they want to ask you questions, an amazing tactic I read about in The Ethical Slut (about polyamory) is to answer their questions as simply as possible, then let the speaker ask another one. This will help you navigate through what their particular confusions are without having to do a giant speech about the whole of bisexual experience, hoping to hit on something they can understand. For example:
“so, you’re bisexual?”
“so you’re greedy?”
“so, you fancy men?”
“well, some of them”
“and you fancy women”
“but you need to have them both in your life?”
“I have loads of girl friends and guy friends”
“no! I mean you have to have more than one relationship!”
“but you said you fancy both!”
“‘fancy’ and being in a relationship are different. I’m monogamous.”
“but you look at women when you’re with a man, though, right?”
… you get the idea. Speak as few words as possible and the nature of the person’s questions will let you know where their hang-ups lie. You have hopefully not lost control of the situation and have not had to reveal anything that is too hard/emotional to say.
There are some key things that monos get all confused about. They think your sexuality means you fancy all men and all women in the world. Just get them to realise ‘hetero/homo sexual” does not mean you fancy all men or all women in the world. After this, they think that in a given room you are going to have more options than monos. Firstly, you fancy blue eyes, so you actually have far fewer options, secondly it is nothing to do with you if they self-limit to vaginas. Non-bi people also think you have to have “one of each” to be satisfied. Just relate your attraction to genders to something they find attractive, like hair colour. Ask them, if they have a blonde girlfriend, are they pining after brunettes all day? Do they cheat with brunettes? No, because finding something attractive does not mean you have to have it in your life or else you’re only half a person. Being bi is not heroin! Good quote. Oh yeah, the monos are obsessed with halves. Half gay, half straight, that sort of thing. Try to make them understand that you are a whole person, all of the time. When you are eating icecream, you’re not secretly weeping inside over a lack of cake.
In conclusion, take yourself away until you feel less emotional, ask them questions until they squirm, let them ask you but give simple answers, know thy enemy and remember that you do not have to defend yourself – you know what you are and how you feel and they are just a fucker. Also, try your hardest to find some bi folks, online first and then in real life. It is so much easier with an army at your back. We’re with you!
And now, some further, more flippant ideas:
“you’re just greedy!”
“you’re just jealous!”
“you’re just greedy!”
“are you bi? Then you have no right to comment.”
“you’re just greedy!”
“so I fancy 7 billion, you fancy 3.5 billion, I think we’re in a pot, kettle, black situation here”
“yeah, but you have more options none the less”
“actually, I don’t, I have far fewer, because hardly anyone accepts my sexuality, including you.” BOOM!