Dan Savage on the Existence of Bisexuality

3 May

I stumbled across this video the other day and I find it intriguing. I’m a fan of Dan Savage, a longtime reader of his column and books and a devotee of his Seattle newspaper The Stranger. That said, I’ve recently come into contact with some criticism of his views as being informed by his privilege as a white, affluent male who lives in the city and grew up in the suburbs. Despite this, however, I greatly appreciate his honest and frank opinions and also the rationality with which he always explains himself. These qualities are especially apparent in this video in which he discusses the topic of bisexuality in a rather controversial way.

Much of the resentment from the bisexual community towards both the general population as well as the gay and lesbian population revolves around a common misconception of their identity as a phase. Savage makes a good point when he says “it is for many people a phase as a chosen identity.” It was for him, it was for me. Is there a place in queer studies for a discussion of bisexuality as a transitional identity? Is it possible to acknowledge this without neglecting the concerns and needs of bisexuals like Kelsey who stand firm in their identity?

Also, I hope y’all enjoy the Tony Perkins bit at the end – it sure brightened my day.

Posted by: Anthony.


8 Responses to “Dan Savage on the Existence of Bisexuality”

  1. Anna May 3, 2011 at 11:09 pm #

    Really good points you bring up Anthony! I wonder if discussion of bisexuality as transitional for some would be more acceptable if it was brought up in a way that recognized the percent of which do and make it more of a representative sample. So say 15% identify as bisexual for transitional purposes and 85% identify as bisexual for the purpose of being bisexual. If we wanted to discuss that 15% I feel like that is a completely justifiable as long as we recognize that those individuals are only part of the larger group of bisexuals we are talking about. If things are put in perspective I don’t see what’s wrong with it. If this means we might need some more research done, then we need more research done.

  2. Miss E May 5, 2011 at 6:27 pm #

    “Is there a place in queer studies for a discussion of bisexuality as a transitional identity? Is it possible to acknowledge this without neglecting the concerns and needs of bisexuals like Kelsey who stand firm in their identity?”

    Really interesting and valid questions, Anthony! I suppose my initial reaction is that “bisexuality as transitional identity” already exists in many queer circles…hopefully academic/queer studies has a bit more respect for bisexuality as a sexual identity free of homo/hetero-sexuality.

    My inclination, I suppose, would be to identify why “bisexuality as a transitional identity” is an important one to claim (particularly for those who now fully identify as hetero or homosexual). In what ways do you talk about that transitional period? Do you look back and laugh? Do you brush it off? Do you de-legitimate those who claim that identity now (but you’re sure they’re really gay)? Or do you really respect that time in your life? Part of me feels like the answers to those questions will kind of speak to the possibility of bisexual as transition to co-exist with bisexuality, but…

    Maybe not. I’m just thinking on my feet right now.

  3. Maria L. May 7, 2011 at 5:31 pm #

    This is really interesting. I think it also dives into the whole issue of the fluidity of identities and how we as individuals use them/identify with different identities during our entire lifetime. For other individuals, other identities may be used or seen as a transitional phases as well. The debate over transitional v. identity I think shows the struggles between competing definitions of certain identities and how our language can complicate our own perceptions of ourselves A LOT.

  4. _RyanPatrick May 12, 2011 at 11:34 pm #

    Ok, Maria needs to stop reading my mind!

    Bisexuality as a phase? Yeah, I argue that all sexuality is a phase – it shouldn’t be limited by words. Sexuality is fluid – never the same, always flowing and growing just like a human being.

    I say, down with the assumption that gay/straight/bi should have some notion of permanence attached to them. Fearing that bisexuality might be viewed as a phase, or the need to clarify that being bi might not be a phase for all people who identify as bi, is a tell – speaking to our own issue, a need for, and a belief in, categories. Offense should not be taken.

    Should we not advocate for people to discover what makes them happy? Are we not able to grow, elaborate, and change our perspectives throughout our life? Why should sexuality be any different?

    Can’t someone be asexual but then later find there are sexual and vice versa? For me it’s all about truth versus Truth.

    When politicians change their minds, some may suggest that something is wrong with them, like they are weak – i.e. Kerry being termed a flip-flopper. But, I think politicians who are dogmatic rarely serve the greater good.

    So, isn’t one’s ability to keep in touch with what resonates with them, living in the moment, what life is all about?

    A happy person isn’t permanently happy… happiness is a journey…

    In many ways, we’re all on different paths.

  5. Jaroslaw June 30, 2011 at 11:44 am #

    There were many comments on this subject on a blog I read starting with the letter “Q”, at the time he made these remarks. So I don’t remember if he actually made them, in print or on youtube or if they were reader comments. Human variation is diverse, so it is not my place to question if someone is straight, bi or gay. However, it seems logical to me, as a male, brought up to think that all males like girls, that it would be for me (and was) a long process to accept being Gay. I never said I was bisexual, but it certainly would have appeal to parents who could hold out hope that their bi son/daughter would find the appropriate opposite sex partner. And I know some disagree, but I still think there is more stigma attached to admitting being 100% gay vs. bi.

  6. Jaroslaw June 30, 2011 at 11:45 am #

    sorry, what I meant to say is if MY recollections immediately following were his comments or reader of the “Q” blog comments.

  7. Matthew December 12, 2011 at 3:03 am #

    My first sexual feelings were for girls, my second sexual feelings emerged a few years later for boys. I then started fantasizing about girls and boys at the same time. I am now 40 it never felt like a phase. I don’t understand “the phase” experience. do gay men “think” they are bisexual when they are not? The most painful aspect of this is when gay men have thought of my 5 year relationship with a woman as denial or when straight guys think of my relationship with my past boyfriend as an experiment. I have dated many men and women. I am now with a bisexual woman who allows me to have another partner if I want. I chose another bi girl for now but before it was a guy. For many like myself this needs to be viewed as a unique orientation, it has not gone away.

  8. Matthew December 12, 2011 at 3:17 am #

    In regards to stigma, I am now of the opinion that I have received more harassment and negative comments from labeling myself bisexual than my gay friends for labeling themselves gay. Mostly because a lot of the harassment comes from some gay men and straight women informed by gay men. It is very difficult to find the right partners too, actually tedious. My father told me to leave after coming out, both parents have passed I had full option to live whatever life I wanted and chose a bisexual life because I naturally entered spontaneously into same sex and opposite sex relationships and still recently my last employer called me a liar coward and that I don’t deserve respect.

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