Bisexual or Pansexual?

bisexual_triangleI’ve been pondering the question of whether I should keep using the word “bisexual” to describe myself, or whether I should start using “pansexual” instead. I wanted to run the pros and cons by y’all and get feedback.

On the one hand: The word “bisexual” feeds into the gender binary, in a way that I don’t feel comfortable with. It implies that either (a) there are only two genders, or (b) there are more than two genders, but I’m only attracted to two of them. Neither of these is correct. I accept the existence of people who don’t identify on a gender binary — and there are non-gender-binary-identifying people who I think are hot. “Pansexual” would be a more respectful word, and it would be more accurate.

On the other hand: Most people more or less know know what the word “bisexual” means. Far fewer people know what “pansexual” means. I’m very much a pragmatist when it comes to language: given a choice between (a) a word that means exactly what I want to say but that only ten people will understand without looking it up, and (b) a word that doesn’t quite mean what I want to say but that comes close and that almost everyone who speaks English will understand, I’ll almost always choose (b). It’s part of being an accessible, conversational writer. (It’s one of the reasons I tend to avoid words like “humanist” and “freethinker” unless I’m talking with other godless folks: there are contexts where “humanist” is a slightly more accurate description of the particular facet of godlessness I’m expressing at that particular moment, but I don’t always want to derail the conversation with a ten-minute explanation of what exactly “humanism” is.)

On the other other hand: The only way people are going to learn about pansexuality is if people use the word. Using the word is what will make it more widely understood.

On the other other other hand: I’ve self-identified as bisexual for a long time, and it’s become a political and cultural identity as well as a personal one, having to do with my particular relationship with the LGBT community. I have a longish history of being one of the people pushing for recognition and respect of bisexual people, both outside the LGBT community and within it. And I think bisexual visibility is important — again, both in and out of the LGBT community. That matters to me, and I’m somewhat reluctant to let it go.

pansexual symbolOn the other other other other hand: There’s no reason I can’t become one of the people pushing for recognition and respect of pansexual people, both outside the LGBT community and within it. Who knows — in twenty years, that might be an important part of my personal, political, and cultural identity.

On the other other other other other… okay, enough.

I’m toying with the idea of saying “Bisexual — well, pansexual, actually,” which opens the door to at least a short discussion of what pansexuality is and the rejection of the gender binary. Again, I don’t always want to derail the conversation with a ten-minute explanation of what exactly “pansexual” means… but at least sometimes, that might be worth it.

Thoughts?

(Oh, for the record: I’m not hugely interested in the “Why do you even need labels?” argument. I’m a writer. I care about language. We need language to talk about who we are.)

Godless Perverts Story Hour This Saturday June 14 — And a Godless Perverts Social Club Thursday June 19!

Godless Perverts Banner

We have a couple of awesome Godless Perverts events coming up soon! We’re having one of our infamous performance events, the Godless Perverts Story Hour, on Saturday June 14. And this month, we’re expanding the Godless Perverts Social Club, the social/ community arm of the Godless Perverts empire, to twice a month — third Thursdays, as well as first Tuesdays — and our third Thursday Social Club will be Thursday June 19!

Saturday June 14: We’re having a Godless Perverts Story Hour on Saturday June 14! The Godless Perverts Story Hour is the performance/ entertainment branch of the Godless Perverts empire. It’s an evening about how to have good sex without having any gods, goddesses, spirits, or their earthly representatives hanging over your shoulder and telling you that you’re doing it wrong. We’ll be bringing you depictions, explorations, and celebrations of godless sexualities, as well as critical, mocking, and blasphemous views of sex and religion. The evening’s entertainment will have a range of voices — sexy and serious, passionate and funny, and all of the above — talking about how our sexualities can not only exist, but even thrive, without the supernatural.

Heina annalee-newitz jon ginoli Juba Kalamka

SImon Sheppard Chris Hall Greta Christina

Our June 14 event is part of LGBT Pride Month, and for the occasion, we’ll be emphasizing queer readers and sexualities. Our readers and performers include: renowned Skepchick contributor Heina; Jon Ginoli, co-founder of queercore band Pansy Division; local tech geek and editor-in-chief of io9, Annalee Newitz; poet and co-founder of homohop group Deep Dickollective, Juba Kalamka; and erotica writer and activist Simon Sheppard. Not to mention co-hosts and co-organizers Chris Hall and me me me! Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission St. in San Francisco (near Civic Center BART). Festivities start at 7:00 pm. $10-20 sliding scale donation; no-one turned away for lack of funds; benefit for the Center for Sex and Culture.

Thursday June 19: Starting in June, the Godless Perverts Social Club will now be meeting twice a month — first Tuesday, and third Thursday! This is the socializing/ hanging out branch of Godless Perverts. Community is one of the reasons we started Godless Perverts. There are few enough places to land when you decide that you’re an atheist; far fewer if you’re also LGBT, queer, kinky, poly, trans, or are just interested in sexuality. And the sex-positive/ alt-sex/ whatever- you- want- to- call- it community isn’t always the most welcoming place for non-believers. So please join us — on Thursday June 19, and on Tuesday July 1.

We’re going to do slightly different formats for the two clubs. Our Third Thursday Social Clubs will be a little more structured — we’ll pick a topic, let people know what it is ahead of time, have a moderator/ host who leads the discussion, maybe even get in special guests to guide discussions on particular topics. In June, that’ll be Thursday June 19.

Our topic for June 19: Sex-Positivity and Secularism in Schools: The New Frontier of Tolerance Education. We’ll be talking about promoting sex-positive sex education, supporting non-religious youth, ending peer-to-peer and institutionalized slut-shaming in schools, and anything else related to secularity, sexuality and education.

The first Tuesday Social Clubs will continue to be more loosely-structured, casual affairs: we typically start with a check-in question and do a little moderating to make sure everyone gets to talk who wants to, but mostly we just nosh and sit around schmoozing about whatever topics happen to come up. On First Tuesdays, we’ll keep doing that. In July, Tuesday July 1.

All Social Clubs are at Wicked Grounds, San Francisco’s renowned BDSM-themed coffee house — 289 8th St in San Francisco, near Civic Center BART — for an evening of conversation and socializing. All orientations, genders, and kinks (or lack thereof) welcome. 7:00 – 9:00 pm. There’s no admission, but we ask that you buy food and drink at the counter, and/or make a donation to the venue. (Their food is quite yummy, with both full dinners and lighter snacks/ beverages, and they have the best milkshakes in town.)

If you want to be notified about all our Godless Perverts events, sign up for our email mailing list, or follow us on Twitter at @GodlessPerverts. You can also sign up for the Bay Area Atheists/ Agnostics/ Humanists/ Freethinkers/ Skeptics Meetup page, and be notified of all sorts of godless Bay Area events — including the Godless Perverts. And of course, you can always visit our Website to find out what we’re up to, godlessperverts.com. Hope to see you soon!

Godless Perverts Social Club Tuesday June 3 – And Thursday June 19! Plus Godless Perverts Story Hour June 14!

Godless Perverts Banner

Two great pieces of Godless Perverts news! Starting in June, the Godless Perverts Social Club, the social/ community arm of the Godless Perverts empire, will be meeting twice a month — first Tuesdays, and third Thursdays. Yes, first Tuesday is tomorrow, June 3. And we’re having one of our infamous performance events, the Godless Perverts Story Hour, on Saturday June 14!

Tuesday June 3 AND Thursday June 19: Starting in June, the Godless Perverts Social Club will now be meeting twice a month — first Tuesday, and third Thursday! This is the socializing/ hanging out branch of Godless Perverts. Community is one of the reasons we started Godless Perverts. There are few enough places to land when you decide that you’re an atheist; far fewer if you’re also LGBT, queer, kinky, poly, trans, or are just interested in sexuality. And the sex-positive/ alt-sex/ whatever- you- want- to- call- it community isn’t always the most welcoming place for non-believers. So please join us — on Tuesday June 3, AND on Thursday June 19!

We’re going to do slightly different formats for the two clubs. The first Tuesday Social Clubs have been loosely-structured casual affairs: we typically start with a check-in question and do a little moderating to make sure everyone gets to talk who wants to, but mostly we just nosh and sit around schmoozing about whatever topics happen to come up. On First Tuesdays, we’ll keep doing that. In June, that’ll be Tuesday June 3.

Our Third Thursday Social Clubs will be a little more structured — we’ll pick a topic, let people know what it is ahead of time, have a moderator/ host who leads the discussion, maybe even get in special guests to guide discussions on particular topics. In June, that’ll be Thursday June 19. (We haven’t yet picked a topic — we’ll announce when we do.)

All Social Clubs are at Wicked Grounds, San Francisco’s renowned BDSM-themed coffee house — 289 8th St in San Francisco, near Civic Center BART — for an evening of conversation and socializing. All orientations, genders, and kinks (or lack thereof) welcome. 7:00 – 9:00 pm. There’s no admission, but we ask that you buy food and drink at the counter, and/or make a donation to the venue. (Their food is quite yummy, with both full dinners and lighter snacks/ beverages, and they have the best milkshakes in town.)

Saturday June 14: We’re having a Godless Perverts Story Hour on Saturday June 14! The Godless Perverts Story Hour is the performance/ entertainment branch of the Godless Perverts empire. It’s an evening about how to have good sex without having any gods, goddesses, spirits, or their earthly representatives hanging over your shoulder and telling you that you’re doing it wrong. We’ll be bringing you depictions, explorations, and celebrations of godless sexualities, as well as critical, mocking, and blasphemous views of sex and religion. The evening’s entertainment will have a range of voices — sexy and serious, passionate and funny, and all of the above — talking about how our sexualities can not only exist, but even thrive, without the supernatural.

Heina annalee-newitz jon ginoli Juba Kalamka

SImon Sheppard Chris Hall Greta Christina

Our June 14 event is part of LGBT Pride Month, and for the occasion, we’ll be emphasizing queer readers and sexualities. Our readers and performers include: renowned Skepchick contributor Heina; Jon Ginoli, co-founder of queercore band Pansy Division; local tech geek and editor-in-chief of io9, Annalee Newitz; poet and co-founder of homohop group Deep Dickollective, Juba Kalamka; and erotica writer and activist Simon Sheppard. Not to mention co-hosts and co-organizers Chris Hall and me me me! We’re hoping to add more names to that list — further bulletins as events warrant. Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission St. in San Francisco (near Civic Center BART). Festivities start at 7:00 pm. $10-20 sliding scale donation; no-one turned away for lack of funds; benefit for the Center for Sex and Culture. Hope to see you there!

If you want to be notified about all our Godless Perverts events, sign up for our email mailing list, or follow us on Twitter at @GodlessPerverts. You can also sign up for the Bay Area Atheists/ Agnostics/ Humanists/ Freethinkers/ Skeptics Meetup page, and be notified of all sorts of godless Bay Area events — including the Godless Perverts. And of course, you can always visit our Website to find out what we’re up to, godlessperverts.com. Hope to see you soon!

Greta Christina and Alex Gabriel Yak About Sexual Identity, Secularity, and Politics

Alex Gabriel: I’ve tended to observe that people who march under the banner of humanism in the states lean somewhat more strongly to the left than humanists in Britain. I’m not sure why that is, but – in my experience, anyway – it’s more of a countercultural identity, [with] more immediate openness to class concerns in politics, feminism and that kind of thing.

I’ve found that humanists in the UK are first of all a little less well defined. You find people under the humanist banner everywhere politically, but as far as major organisations, I think that the British Humanist Association – the people that run it, and I’ve met quite a few of them, I would place more in the political centre than people I know at African Americans for Humanism or the American Humanist Association.

Greta Christina: I’m not sure why that is, but it’s interesting.

That’s a good question. Because this is me, and this is what I do, I’m going to speculate and pull speculative conclusions totally out of my ass – so, therefore, this is a provisional guess – but I think that to some extent [it’s] because being a nonbeliever in Britain is more normal, it’s more ordinary, it’s more common anyway.

Being a nonbeliever in the states is oppositional, and there’s no way around that. It’s a little different if you live in New York City or some place like that, but even then you have to contend with the rest of the country. And so I wonder if because of that, right now at least in the United States, we have a situation where in order to reject religion you have to be willing to question the religious right, for one thing.

Certainly in the United States, religion and conservative politics are very much welded together. One of the reasons why I’m engaged in atheist activism is that I do see it as a crowbar: when people become atheists, they do tend to become more liberal, more progressive. I think that may not always be true. I think that if atheism does become more common in the United States, then in a few decades that tendency of atheists, humanists, just any nonbeliever…

So I don’t think that humanists are more progressive: just ‘nonbelievers’ in the States tend to be more progressive, because the kind of personality that gets you questioning religion is also perhaps the kind of personality that gets you questioning other conventions about politics and society and so on. I think it’s possible that in a few decades that won’t be true.

*****

In which Alex Gabriel and I have a conversation about sexual identity, secularity, and politics.

Here’s the deal. When I was writing Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Alex Gabriel (of the Godlessness In Theory blog) was deeply involved in the process. He did two rounds of very thorough copy editing on the book, and I made numerous changes both small and large based on our conversations. (He’s a first-rate copy editor, by the way: I don’t know if he’s hiring himself out for that, but if he is, I can’t recommend him highly enough. UPDATE: Yes, Alex is hiring himself out as a copy editor. And I can’t recommend him highly enough. Seriously. Hire him.)

Anyway, when we were going over the book together, a number of topics came up where we said, “That’s an interesting topic, we should really talk about that more sometime.” How non-religious people name ourselves; whether sexual orientation is fluid depending on culture and awareness of possibilities; political differences between humanism and atheism; whether the phrase “coming out” was a cultural appropriation of LGBT language; whether the “born this way” narrative of the LGBT movement makes bisexuals even more invisible; and more.

This is that conversation. (Or the first of those conversations, anyway. Next time we’ll get into assimilationism and the Oxford comma.)

If you prefer to read than to watch the video, Alex has the conversation transcribed on his blog. Enjoy!

*****

Oh, and once again, here is ordering information for Coming Out Atheist in all three formats — print, ebook, and audiobook.

Coming Out Atheist cover 150Ebook edition:

The Kindle edition is available on Amazon. (That’s the link for Amazon US, btw — it’s available in other regions as well.)

The Nook edition is available at Barnes & Noble.

The Smashwords edition is available on Smashwords. Right now, it’s only available on Smashwords in epub format: I’m working to make it available in other formats.

All ebook editions and formats cost just $9.99.

Print edition:

The print edition is now available through Powell’s Books.

The print edition is also available at Amazon. However, be advised (if you haven’t been already) that seriously abusive labor practices have been reported at Amazon warehouses. Please bear that in mind when you’re deciding where to buy my book — or indeed, where to buy anything. (For the records: Powell’s employees are unionized.) Again, that’s the link for Amazon US — it’s available in other regions as well.

The print edition is $17.95 USD. It is being published by Pitchstone Publishing.

Wholesale sales of the print edition:

Bookstores and other retailers can get the book from Ingram, Baker & Taylor, and other standard wholesale distributors. It can also be purchased directly from the publisher, Pitchstone Publishing.

Audiobook edition:

The audiobook version is available on Audible.

The audiobook is also available through Amazon.

The audiobook is also available through iTunes.

And yes, I did the recording for it!

Godless Perverts Story Hour on YouTube!

The Godless Perverts Story Hour that was livestreamed as part of the Freethought Blogs Con online conference was also recorded, and is available on YouTube!

You can watch and hear readings and performances from Greta Christina (“To Give Itself Pleasure”), Virgie Tovar (“Brother David”), Simon Sheppard (“The Tibetan Book of the Fag”), Juba Kalamka (“Jubilee Showcase (for Aaron Muhammad)”), David Fitzgerald (“There’s Something About Paul”), Dana Fredsti (excerpt from “Champagne!”), and Kate Sirls (“One of Those Girls”). We also had Q&A after the performances, and that’s on the video as well.

The video quality isn’t super-mega-awesome, what with it being a recording of a livestream and all. But it’s not bad, and you get a good sense of the flavor and energy of the show.

We hope to be posting all the individual performances as their own short YouTube videos soon, in case there’s one particular one you want to link to (or want to watch over and over and over again…) In the meantime — enjoy!

If you want to be notified about all our Godless Perverts events, sign up for our email mailing list, or follow us on Twitter at @GodlessPerverts. You can also sign up for the Bay Area Atheists/ Agnostics/ Humanists/ Freethinkers/ Skeptics Meetup page, and be notified of all sorts of godless Bay Area events — including the Godless Perverts. Our next Godless Perverts Social Club will be on Tuesday, March 4 at 7:00 pm at Wicked Grounds, 289 8th Street in San Francisco (near Civic Center BART). Hope to see you there!

“Is He Gay or Straight?” Bisexual Eradication in “Modern Family”

modern family posterIn the last few weeks, I’ve started intermittently watching the TV show “Modern Family.” There’s a certain amount that I like about it, as well as a certain amount that I don’t. (Often the case with fluffy mainstream-ish pop-culture entertainment. I want it to divert and distract me, but it often winds up annoying me and tying my brain into knots. Fluffy mainstream-ish pop-culture entertainment largely exists to reinforce cultural norms — that’s what makes it fluffy and comforting and mainstream — and I generally don’t find cultural norms comforting, they generally annoy me and tie my brain into knots.)

So I was watching the “Yard Sale” episode (I’m watching the show out of order in syndicated re-runs) — and I wanted to throw my drink at the screen. And I’m not even drinking these days. I wanted to mix myself a drink, just so I could throw it at the screen.

The plot line that was making me mad: Teenage daughter Alex has a new boyfriend, Michael, who she brings to the extended family’s yard sale. Her mom Claire is worried that Michael is gay, and she calls in the gay uncles Cam and Mitchell for a consultation on the matter: the three of them observe Michael’s stereotypically gay behavior, and agree that he’s gay. We see a scene in which Michael is alone with Alex, continuing to act stereotypically gay, but getting very defensive when she asks him point-blank if he’s gay or not.

And for the 787,266,456th time in my pop-culture viewing life, I wanted to scream, “Did anyone consider the possibility that he might be bisexual?”

Why are “gay” and “straight” the only options here? When the grownups decided that Michael was probably queer, why did that automatically rule out the possibility that he might be genuinely into their daughter/niece? Why did nobody consider the possibility that he might be a queeny queer guy who likes girls?

I have known some very queeny bisexual men. I have known some very dykey bisexual women. I know some very queeny bisexual men in serious or primary relationships with women, and some very dykey bisexual women in serious or primary relationships with men. (I’ve also known some queeny straight men and some dykey straight women, but that’s a post for a different day.) Why does tagging someone as “probably queer” automatically mean that if they’re dating someone of the opposite gender, they’re deceiving themselves or flat-out lying?

For the record, I do think gaydar is a thing. It’s not a magical thing, it’s not like some psychic connection queers have with each other: it’s more of an unconscious adding-up of lots of personal and cultural signifiers, it’s very culturally determined and it does go wrong. But yes, I think queers probably are, in general, better at figuring out who is and isn’t queer. (Although I’d be very interested to see research testing this theory.)

But queer guys can like girls. Queer girls can like guys. Even very classically queer girls and guys can like girls and guys. And we’re not even getting into people who are gender-queer, gender-fluid, or don’t identify on a gender binary… and who have all sorts of orientations in terms of what genders or lack thereof they’re attracted to. Not to mention people who are traditionally gendered, but who can be attracted to people who aren’t. Queerness comes in lots of different flavors: simple homosexuality is only one of many.

I think this bugged me even more than it might have because “Modern Family” is supposedly all about breaking down standard gender and family expectations. It’s supposedly all about how modern American families aren’t Ozzie and Harriet any more (not that they ever were): they’re commonly blended, multi-racial, mixed-generational, adoptive, and/or same-sex. And yet here it is, reinforcing the tired old notion that everyone is neatly divided into two groups, gay and straight, and never the twain shall meet. Eradicating even the possibility of bisexuality along the way.

One of the things that sucks most about being bisexual is not being recognized by either straight or gay people. It sucks having it assumed that having sex with both women and men means, at best, that you’re confused or experimenting or trying to find yourself. It sucks having it assumed that if you’re in an opposite-sex relationship, you’ve sown your wild oats (and have renounced any right to be part of the queer community; that if you’re in a same-sex relationship, you’ve finally found your true gay self. It sucks having past relationships seen as false, depending on whether they were with the same gender you’re with right now.

It sucks to be treated as invisible. It sucks worse to have even the possibility of who you are be eradicated.

(And yes, I know. This is fluffy mainstream-ish pop-culture entertainment. It’s just replacing an old set of cultural norms with a new one. It still bugged me.)

Atheists at the LGBT Pride Parade 2013 – Pictures! — UPDATED!

UPDATE: There are now pictures of me and Ingrid! They’re appended at the end of the post.

This was definitely the most fun I’ve ever had sitting around in the sun for hours waiting to walk down the street.

Last Sunday’s LGBT Pride Parade in San Francisco was the largest ever, by a considerable margin — estimated at about 1.5 million people. I’m not surprised — I’ve been to a lot pf Pride Parades in my time, and I’ve never been to one this ginormous. Clearly, the whole same-sex marriage thing had everyone who cared even remotely about LGBT rights and pride and stuff turning out to celebrate.

I was marching with the atheist contingent — and I would not have missed it for the world. Even with the whole “waiting for the entire San Francisco Bay Area queer and queer-supportive community to march down Market Street until it was our turn” thing. Here are some pictures of the fun. Hope to see you there next year!

atheists in pride parade 01

So happy to see Heina from Skepchick at the parade, sporting a “Happy Heathen” sign! And she looked mega-awesome. This picture does not do her justice. (There are better pictures of her in the Meetup page photo gallery, along with some other great shots.)

atheists in pride parade 02

David Byars, with his ever-popular “Leviticus Says… Crazy Shit” sign. Always a crowd-pleaser.

atheists in pride parade 03

Amanda, with her “Make Love Not Bibles” sign, sporting a T-shirt with a Godzilla-like dinosaur breathing rainbow-colored fire. Because, why not?

atheists in pride parade 04

“Gay and Good Without God.” Yup, that pretty much sums it up. [Read more...]

Fashion Friday on Saturday: Deena and Gunner’s Wedding

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Fashion Friday post, and this one seemed especially pertinent right now, what with it being LGBT Pride Weekend and the same-sex marriage and all.

Ingrid and I went to a wedding a few weeks ago that was a fashion extravaganza. Our friend and hairdresser Deena married her sweetie Gunner at Lake Merritt in Oakland… and the guests turned out in splendid form. The fashion struck this note that resonates strongly with me: a blend/ balance of dressiness and formality with joyous, giddy, non-conformist exuberance. It’s a hard balance to strike — dressiness and formality pretty much by definition mean “conformity to certain social norms.” But they managed it… and then some. These are theater people, and hairdressing people, and long-time participants in the queer community, and they totally get it about using fashion and style to celebrate, to communicate, and to express both yourself and your awareness of the occasion. I think the guests wanted to recognize the specialness of the occasion with the dressiness… and also wanted to recognize the specialness and uniqueness of this couple and their vivid, vibrant, outrageous styles and lives.

So without further ado — Deena and Gunner’s wedding!

Deena and Gunnar wedding 18

Jordan and his husband. Lots of amazing menswear at this wedding. As I’ve written before, menswear is really hard to be exuberant and joyful in. It’s especially hard to be be exuberant and joyful and at the same time dressy and formal in. But lots of guys at this wedding hit it out of the park. I think the whole “being openly queer, and therefore not being worried about people thinking you’re queer” thing helps.

Deena and Gunnar wedding 30

Color-coordinated butch-femme realness!

Deena and Gunnar wedding 29

Pink hair and leopard print jacket. Always appropriate. [Read more...]

SCOTUS, Same-Sex Marriage, and Admitting When I’m Wrong

Since I’m a big proponent of admitting when you’re wrong, I feel that I should say this today:

I was one of the people objecting to bringing same-sex marriage to SCOTUS. I was one of the people saying, “It’s too soon, this court sucks, we have to wait until we have a better court, this will set a bad precedent that we’ll have to live with for years.”

I was wrong.

And I have rarely been more happy to be wrong.