Valarie Clark-Neff

10 bi-fabulous things to do instead of going to Pride

800px-Dykes_on_bykesWith pride season well and truly upon us, Biscuit regular Valarie Clark-Neff talks us through some ways to honour your badass bi* self without putting up with the crowds…

I don’t know about you, but every year during Pride month I struggle with the thought of participating in our local parade. I love the people, the dazzle of rainbow colors, the dykes on bikes, the in-your-face queerness, and the sense of feeling comfortable with people who share my struggles.

What I don’t like are the crowds, noise, and heat. It’s all a little too much for this socially anxious person. I’m certain many of us struggle with similar issues whether it is anxiety, depression, disability, or any number of factors that keep us from participating. Pride is fantastic, but it’s not the only thing we can do to show pride in our community. So in the spirit of reaching… Continue reading

Bi, Poly, Parent, Anti-christ: Parenting while bi in a straight, straight world.

identity-683963_1280What do you get when you combine two mums, a dad, fourteen children and a conservative society? Why, a super villain of course! Valarie Clark-Neff takes wry look at the pitfalls of parenting while polyamorous and bi…

Dear children,

Please be advised: Your mom is a supervillain, hell-bent on destroying the patriarchy. She sometimes assumes civilian form and tries to blend into mainstream (straight) society, but much of her time is spent as a misandrist miscreant, fighting against biphobia, homophobia, misogyny, and other forms of bigotry.

You see the society you are inheriting is full of power hungry people who believe there is only one right way to have a family – with the man as the head of the household and the woman and children supporting him in his endeavors. The structure of this ideal family in our society is rigid and doesn’t allow for variation. It divides society… Continue reading

Ten Kick-Ass Bi Female SF/Fantasy Characters You Need to Know

cophine

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Bessie Smith: Bisexual Icon

Besse posterHBO is in post-production on Bessie (dir Dee Rees, teleplay Christopher Cleveland), the Bessie Smith biopic and the LGBT community have fired up their pens to begin writing commentary. With Queen Latifah in the title role,  Mo’Nique playing Ma Rainey and Michael Kenneth Williams as Jack Gee there’s a lot to be excited about, especially as Bessie provides a fine opportunity to raise Bessie Smith to her rightful place as a keystone in our collective history. Autostraddle recently described her as a ‘queer pioneer’;  I say, that’s not good enough. She was not just queer. She was bisexual in every sense of the word. This is our opportunity as the bisexual community to speak up and claim her as our bisexual icon. She is a part of our legacy and in many ways was the original, bisexual, black feminist.

Bessie Smith was someone whose life and lyrics presented a challenge to the established order.  She was a rebel before rebelliousness became popular in mainstream America and she was most definitely bisexual.

Shiri Eisner tells us in Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution, ‘bisexuality holds an enormous potential for subversion and disruption of the patriarchy’. Bessie Smith was the embodiment of this ‘enormous potential’. She performed songs about men, she married men, and still she chose to be with women as well. In her songs one can hear her deep distrust of the worst parts of normative in the early 20th century masculinity. Masculinity, as it has been defined in our patriarchal society, has always worked to uphold the dominance of men; Bessie Smith undermined that dominance both in her songs and in her personal life.
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Activating our Bi-dar: a future for the bisexual community

Radar

Most of us are familiar with the term gaydar.  It is the ‘intuitive’ ability to assess if someone is not straight.  But then, there you have it.  It implies that you can only be gay or straight.  What about all of us bisexuals?  What happens to us when someone erroneously assumes we are straight or gay?  As Shiri Eisner points out in Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution: “Since our bisexuality is not ‘known’ to have any visual markers, we are routinely accused of fraudulence, perceived as invisible, and forced to deal with others’ doubts regarding our identities and our oppression.”

The terms ‘gay’ and ‘straight’ present a simplified and more palatable understanding of how the world works.  In fact, the Western, minority world has a long-standing affinity for binaries – so much so that binarist ways of thinking and acting go unquestioned.  Anthropologists have a term for this: ‘Doxa’ – the stuff that goes without saying.  Good /bad; male/female; child/adult; life/death; straight/gay: are all binarist, seldom questioned, ways of making sense of the world.  Anything in between, that doesn’t fall neatly into one or the other category, is feared and sometimes reviled.

As part of our Judeo-Christian heritage, we tend to divide everything into rigid categories of good and bad so often, we don’t give it much critical thought.  For example, the male/female binary is left unquestioned, and it is assumed to be natural and inherent.  Any person who falls outside that binary is a social outcast.  Puberty, is another example of a liminal state of existence between childhood and adulthood, and as such is often scorned.  Teenagers are depicted in Western culture as individuals who are caught between childhood and adulthood and are therefore unstable and dangerous.  Those stages between life and death are rejected as unnatural and even repulsive because they defy our strict separation between those categories: life and death.  States of being like depression and chronic illness that are between being fully alive and dead, are considered to be something to avoid at all costs.
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