Giving Up Men is a Slippery Slope

Know-if-You-Are-Heterosexual-Step-10The bi-osphere (geddit!) has reacted angrily to the suggestion from one of our own that we ought to ‘give up men’. Arguments have been made on the basis of gender diversity, self-actualisation and repression.

Our Ed Libby thinks they’re missing one vital point.

Since the Gay Liberation movement first found its feet way back in the 1970s it has been asking bi women to call themselves lesbian, seek only relationships with women, and generally refuse to acknowledge their attraction to anyone else. It was, we were told, not fair to muddy the waters with multi-gender attraction. Better to stick to one and make things easy. It was an act of solidarity, they said. Attraction to one gender is just easier for people to understand. After all, weren’t we all working towards the same goal?

Similarly within the feminist movement, both bi- and heterosexuality were, in some quarters, roundly rejected. We must, we were told, choose for the sake of the sisterhood to embrace lesbianism as the only ethical choice. The proponents of this so-called Political Lesbianism – Sheila Jeffreys and Julie Bindel to name just two – posit that sexuality is a choice (a claim that is strongly debated), and that any other choice than lesbianism is a betrayal of women as a class.

Liberation won under a different flag is no liberation at all.

Ultimately, both the Gay – and Women’s Libbers were asking the same thing: make your sexuality palatable. Alienate yourself from your own identity in order to be useful to us. Bisexuality is distasteful. It’s got the word ‘sex’ in it. It confuses people.  Better to just assimilate.

Many of us did just that.

Believing it was the right thing to do for the cause, we eschewed bisexuality and claimed a label that did not truly reflect who we were. It had an effect on us. As individuals, who lost friends when we gave into our different gender desires, and as a group, who sat back and watched while only gayness became socially acceptable, we suffered from the demand that we silence our voices to serve the greater good.

Today, many gay and lesbian people believe that bisexuals have never been part of the LGBT movement. They never heard the word bi attached to community leaders, activists and change-makers, so why should they? It doesn’t matter that bi participation in the movement is as old as the movement itself if every activist you’ve heard of is labelled gay.


For a period in the 1980s, the London Lesbian and Gay Centre refused to allow bisexual men on the premises, claiming they were by nature predatory and that women would be unsafe in their presence. In 1990, when one annual Gay Pride march in Massachusetts amended its name to include the word bisexual, lesbians picketed the event. Similar fights happened in countless locations – San Francisco, New England, Manchester, Leeds.

Such overt biphobia is significantly less acceptable now than it was in decades passed, but when Barton says that bi women are “looked at as the black sheep of the women-loving community” she is unfortunately dead on.

Is the solution here to ‘give up men’? Absolutely not. To do so would be to pander to the comfort of those who have sought to oppress us, to actively participate in our own maltreatment. If the “woman-loving” community exhibits biphobia, call it out. Bigotry is bigotry, even if it comes from a queer person.

As bisexuals, we need to demand equality as we are, not in a sanitised, neutered, and made acceptable form. We are who we are, in all its beautiful binary-smashing messiness. Liberation won under a different flag is no liberation at all.

When Barton asks us to reject men, regardless of her reasons for doing so, she is upholding, and participating in, a long tradition of the suppression of bi voices in the LGBT community. That’s not ok.




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Libby Baxter-Williams

Libby is a 30-something Londoner, who spends more time reading picture books than is seemly. She became a bi activist entirely by accident, but now she can't imagine living any other way. In the event of an emergency, she'll have a large gin and tonic, thanks.

One Response to Giving Up Men is a Slippery Slope

  • Jules says:

    Briliiant article! I particularly love the part about L&G needing bisexuals to closet themselves in order to be ‘respectable’. I’m going to take the Mel and Kim on that 🙂

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