“At [the Pride Festival], we had a great time,” said Ellyn Ruthstrom, President of the Bisexual Resource Center in Boston. “But to wake up on Sunday and see the paper say that Pride was about the ‘lesbian and gay community’… [is] to have those experiences erased.”
Last week, presidential candidate Mitt Romney received renewed criticism about a 120-page anti-bullying guide for schools that was apparently blocked in 2006 by his administration while he was governor of Massachusetts for containing entries on “bisexual” and “transgender” youth.
Unfortunately, it seems that the actions taken by Romney’s administration six years ago are symptomatic of a larger problem that persists even today—the erasure and misrepresentation of the bisexual and transgender communities from our political and cultural histories.
“At [the Pride Festival], we had a great time,” said Ellyn Ruthstrom, President of the Bisexual Resource Center in Boston.
“But to wake up on Sunday and see the paper say that Pride was about the ‘lesbian, gay and transgender community’… [is] to have those experiences erased.”
Ruthstrom, whose work at the BRC includes raising awareness about bisexuality as well as providing support to the bisexual community, says that the “B” in LGBT is the least understood and least acknowledged.
“There is a great deal of biphobia from the straight and from the lesbian and gay community,” said Ruthstrom. This biphobia “builds up stereotypes about people who are promiscuous. Behavior is promiscuous, not identity. The bisexual community is just as diverse as any other community.”
Ruthstrom said that she believes these misunderstandings are rooted in a societal desire to fit everything in “either/or” classifications.
“Just look at our political system,” she said. “We live in a binary culture. We really like these dichotomies and want to believe people fit into them.”
Those dichotomies can serve as a road block towards understanding a community, and so is the case for transgender or transsexual individuals. Like homosexuality once was, transgender identity is listed as a mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, although it comes under the title of “Gender Identity Disorder” and is characterized by the distress of being a different sex than the one assigned at birth.
“Not surprisingly, the medical community places primacy on the body as defining transgender experience–for example, the incongruence between body and mind,” said Dr. M. Paz Galupo, a professor of psychology at Towson University. “[In the LGBT community,] there is more sensitivity to the fact that not all trans individuals want to change their bodies. Likewise, there is a better recognition that among trans individuals, not everyone will relate solely with male or female labels.”
Both bisexual and transgender communities bump up against a social norm of dichotomous rather than spectral classification, and until society excludes the binary and embraces the rainbow of identities that truly exist in the world, we will be ignoring and hurting our brothers and sisters (and everything in between).
No one has the right to tell anyone who to be or how to love and whom, even if that love or identity conflicts with the ideas of sexuality and gender we’ve always had.
Stop letting society tell you what to do; it’s accepted far too well as an excuse for bigotry. Plus, it’s boring. Don’t be boring.