Write as Rain

I Lost A Partner …

Posted on April 22nd, 2015 by Loraine Hutchins

For Nancy Logsdon Mandelkorn, R.I.P., April 5, 2015

I lost a partner.
She told people she “fell in love” with me before she knew me.
She meant she fell in love with my work in the world,
how I gave her courage to be.
We took care of each other, that’s what mattered, still does.
Refugees from rockier shores,
Who found safe harbor with each other for awhile.
I lost a partner.
Which people don’t understand, seeing as our relationship didn’t fit their boxes.
We weren’t a married couple,
nor did we want to be, yet our love has just as much right to be.
I lost the melody to my harmony.
There was no question when she got ill that I would take care of her, that’s the values we share.
I lost a partner in our love of nature as alive being
Lost our political dialogue
Our sardonic game of cultural crit
Our home-making
Our community-building.
We weren’t a merged being, we treasured our separateness.
I lost a common language
Not centered in procreation or a couple fulcrum at all.
More about cooperating at small and many-sized connecting levels
The way humanity needs to adapt
As we go on
losing individual partners …….
and still …
keeping our center whole.

EmailFacebookTwitterPrintTumblrRedditPinterestShare

On World AIDS Day 2014 . . . I remember

Posted on December 4th, 2014 by Loraine Hutchins

I read something about it in 1981.  A newspaper report about a mysterious rare cancer found in 41 gay men.

I’d returned to DC in August 1980 from the International Black Hills Survival Gathering outside Rapid City, SD, where we—the environmental activists, American Indian Movement leaders, ranchers, and concerned scientists, academics and clergy—were trying to stop the rape of uranium mining of the sacred Black Hills.  I’d been listening to all the tribal prophecies about the coming shift and hard times.  It was the beginning of the Reagan reign.  Republicans were invading and occupying DC.

We were fighting a tenant ownership battle in Adams-Morgan (during a prior gentrification wave) and losing our low-income, cooperatively-structured apartment homes. Yes, our building was multi-lingual, multi-cultural, and low-income.  And yes, we’d made the neighborhood too groovy.  It was a strange privileged place to be. Even though I’d seen my friend’s family pushed out as the rents rose and watched as all their  belongings were thrown out onto the curb on 18th Street, I didn’t understand race and class privilege as deeply then as I do now.

I had to get out of DC.  The grief and conflict bursting out of it was killing me.  It took another two years of paying the bills; working on multi-media educational film packets about women and work;  covering the Seneca Women’s Peace Camp effort in upstate New York; hugging the edge of the army depot where cruise missiles crouched, ready for shipping overseas.  Insane! I had to get out of DC.

In the summer of 1983, Lisa Yost and I (she later became a contributor in Bi Any Other Name) drove north to the very end of Cape Cod to live with other women writers and artists, at Freehand Women’s Writers School, which was run by lesbian poets Rita Speicher and Olga Broumas.  One of the biggest TERF (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist) leaders today, also an eco-feminist, was in our class then, but that’s a whole other story.

In 1984, I worked as a typesetter at the P’town weekly newspaper, The Advocate, and it was obvious that our obituary pages were full of the names of the town drag queens.  But, I still didn’t understand what was happening.

I took refuge in Provincetown, Massachusetts, in women’s community, in women’s spaces, in women’s arms. It was a soft landing by the sea, and mother ocean soothed me.  I finally began to  peel away my armor, lose weight, work out, and write all day long. I was having the time of my life, but it was only a looking glass world. I couldn’t handle it in the summer when the tourists invaded.

So I went back to where I was born, to Washington DC.  By the time I returned to the city, to civilization, to crazy over-heated frenzied DC, it was 1985, and I’d just met Lani Ka’ahumanu.  A phenomenal woman in my life who became my collaborator, confident and co-editor of Bi Any Other Name.  When we began working on our book, many of our leading male bisexual activists were dying of AIDS.  In the mid-1980s, Newsweek magazine was characterizing bi men (not gay men) as “the ultimate pariahs” of the AIDS epidemic.  Other news outlets labeled bi men “Typhoid Mary,” scapegoating bisexual men for the growing public health crisis.  The heartbreaking devastation of this disease had become personal.

The bi movement politicized me in so many ways.  Even while I wavered back and forth between the fierce women artists of the Cape and the mad politicians and dirty deals in the Capital, I started connecting with other bisexuals, out in California, up and down the east coast, eventually in the Midwest and the South.  I first tried to write about bisexuality in the off our backs women’s newspaper, which was published by a bunch of radical feminists in the best possible sense, except they were a little wacky and sometimes scary too.

I’d acquired a wonderful foundation in civil rights organizing as a child, and a grounding in feminist process and task accomplishments that stretched across the peace, anti-war, environmental, gay, tenants rights, and third world solidarity movements.  But it was the bi movement that brought it all together for me.  Totally made me feel at home.  Except I haven’t completely relaxed, even in the here and now.  Still, our bisexual community is a precious gift.

So for all those who we’ve lost to AIDS, those who are still dying much too young and those who are over-pharmaceuticalized and preserved alive for now, I raise my voice.  In this crazy city of my birth, my bones aching with the struggle and my blood aflame with rage against injustice, I remember.

Discovering my bisexuality

Posted on November 16th, 2014 by The Invisible Bisexual

The Invisible Bisexual is a contributor on my blog.  She is a real person, sharing honest comments about her experiences as a closeted bisexual.  ~Loraine Hutchins

The Invisible Bisexual

My sensual awakening happened long before I understood that there were strict rules attached to one’s apparent gender and discovered that a lot of creepy stigma was directed at “queers.”

Among my earliest memories are feelings of attraction to both boys and girls.  Perhaps my innocence was lost too early? It happened when I was four during a game called “mommy and daddy” that was initiated by a couple of slightly older boys. They convinced their little sister, another girl and me to participate in this secret reenactment in a neighbor’s field where we were hidden by tall grass.  Our activities were pretty harmless, but the powerful, sensuous charge our play evoked in me was a revelation.  I recall feeling amazed that our bodies could create such pleasurable energy.  But I was unaware of the acceptable practices of this adult activity.

I remained naive about most things until puberty arrived. When I was around 12-years-old, it occurred to me that I might be a lesbian because I “liked” girls as well as boys.  If I was a lesbian, I reasoned, I’d have to give up the freedom of the larger world and live separately in the shadowy, maligned “queer” world away from boys and my family. People would call me queer and make fun of me.  Just thinking of the stigma filled me with dread.  If I was a lesbian my family and everyone else I knew would not like me.

When I confessed my fears to my mother I was crying hysterically, and she comforted me.  She said, “Don’t worry, honey.  You’re not a lesbian.”  I wanted to believe her, but the nagging doubt stayed with me throughout my teen years.  By the time I was around 18, I’d had enough experience with boys to sour me on them.  I figured that this must mean I was a lesbian.  So I decided to find out.

I continued my search for the mysterious lesbian world.  I knew the truth was out there, and if a girl set her mind to it she could find it.  I found the bars, the women and the truth.  But it was not what I expected.

But where could I find any lesbians? A friend told me that her mother had once been involved with a lesbian and that lesbians hung out in certain bars.  So the first thing I decided was to get myself some fake ID.  This was easy enough for an enterprising and determined girl.  With a birth certificate proving that I was 21, I got a very convincing driver’s license with my picture on it.  Drag shows were easy enough to find in my big city hometown.  They were entertaining and, as it turned out, a good place to find out where the lesbian bars were located.

I continued my search for the mysterious lesbian world.  I knew the truth was out there, and if a girl set her mind to it she could find it.  I found the bars, the women and the truth.  But it was not what I expected.

After a year of dating lesbians, I was really bummed out. The women I’d met seemed no different than the men I’d known.  They even dressed and acted like men.  Most of them willingly took advantage of my inexperience for their own pleasure with no concern about my enjoyment.  To my horror, I realized that I disliked women as much as I disliked and resented men!  How could this be?  I had to choose, right?

How could I spend my life alone and loveless? What kind of person does that?  Good thing my panic didn’t last long.  An epiphany illuminated my quandary.  It wasn’t one or the other. Nor was it none of the above.  My orientation was to both men and women.  I really don’t know how the concept of bisexuality entered my consciousness.  But I remember how relieved I felt when it did. “Oh that’s what it is,” I thought, laughing and shaking my head.  I didn’t have to choose.  I was so happy.  One of my life’s big dilemmas resolved.

Of course, I didn’t know about the stigma that I was going to face as a bisexual from both the “straight” and “gay” worlds.  It didn’t take long to find out.  I soon learned it was easier to pass as straight and stepped inside the bisexual closet.  But that’s another story—many other stories.

Courageous Bi Men Dare to Be Visible

Posted on October 19th, 2014 by Loraine Hutchins

Bi men tell their stories in two new books.

Two books about male bisexuality were recently published, and I encourage everyone to read them.

“Fire Shut Up in My Bones” by Charles Blow

Charles Blow

Thank you for making bisexuality visible, Charles Blow.  Your memoir has sparked a more enlightened conversation about bi men.  It has the potential to open the minds of many.  Too often, men like you are rendered invisible by a society that only sees gay or straight.  Thank you, Mr. Blow, for coloring in the immense middle ground between those polarities.  Your prose sings.  There are so many who have stories like this but rarely see their experiences represented in print.  I especially like how you show the reader that there is no one way to be bi, that there is no one definition; that there are many different ways to understand oneself, express oneself and explore oneself in relationship to others, regardless of the labels we use.  I want to read more of your work.  And I will recommend your book to all my students, mentors, colleagues, and friends.

“Recognize: The Voices of Bisexual Men” edited by Robyn Ochs and H. Sharif Williams

co-editors Williams & Ochs

What an inspirational and stimulating collection!  Bisexual men are beautiful.  Since the mid-90s when some of the most wonderful people in my life (often bi men) were dying much too early, I’ve longed for them to be able to tell their stories.  As I tell my students, even though it’s rough being an out bi woman, being out of the closet as a bi man is twice as hard.  Why?  Because bi men have less societal support, and they have to constantly prove themselves and defend their masculinity.  I’m grateful for bi men who have the courage to speak their truth.  I especially enjoyed reading about the brave, funny, smart, thoughtful, caring, and fascinating men in this book.  Their incredible diversity of voices is one of this book’s many charms.  There’s something here for everyone.  If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a bi man, read this book.  If you are a bi man or someone who loves one, you’ll love this book too.  I guarantee it.

On Coming Out Day, I stayed inside

Posted on October 13th, 2014 by The Invisible Bisexual

The Invisible Bisexual is a new contributor on my blog.  She is a real person, sharing honest comments about her experiences as a closeted bisexual.  ~Loraine Hutchins

The Invisible Bisexual

I’m so confused, but it’s not because I’m bisexual.

It’s this heated debate among the LGBTQ demographic about the use of the word “bisexual” that makes my head hurt.  This is supposed to be my “community” of allies, yet the stigma against bisexuality is still so strong that many continue to shun the Bi “label” (even many bisexuals) while trying to justify it with twisted logic and semantic gymnastics.

“It’s too binary,” they insist.  What kind of criticism is that?  We live in a binary world: female/male, yin/yang, gay/straight or the numbers 1/0 used for computing, for example.  They claim the word “bisexual” offends and excludes those who want to define themselves with some other label like queer, fluid or pansexual, and that it erases transgender people.  Never mind that transgender and bisexuality mean two different things: gender identity and sexual orientation.  And many trans people identify as bisexual.

If these Bi re-branders were honest, they’d have to admit that they don’t want to identify as bisexual because they don’t want to attract the painful stigma attached to bisexuals by both gay and straight people.  Could this be internalized biphobia? 

 If these Bi re-branders were honest, they’d have to admit that they don’t want to identify as bisexual because they don’t want to attract the painful stigma attached to bisexuals by both gay and straight people.

Statistically, bisexuals represent about half of the LGBTQ demographic.  But instead supporting bisexual pride with the majority of members among our LGBTQ cohort, many of our queer community continue to erase, conflate, obfuscate and denigrate bisexuality.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is a good example with its 40 years of Bi erasure.  This year on the 15th Annual Celebrate Bisexuality Day (September 23, 2014), NGLTF posted an anti-bi blog by Evangeline Weiss, their Leadership Programs Director.  Could this be institutional biphobia?

Weiss wrote, “…My gender non-conforming, queer and/or genderqueer lovers, colleagues, and friends often feel trapped by the prison of the binary way our language designates gender.  So I’ve made a decision. I’m no longer going to lift up and claim a concept painful to others as part of my identity…I’m ready to say bye bye to the word bisexuality.”  Please stop conflating gender identity and sexual orientation, I want to scream!  Even worse, her comments were illustrated by an image of a button that lists “Gay, Straight or Wibbly-Wobbly Sexy-Wexy” as choices.  WTF? 

I’d like to feel respected and supported as a bisexual by all queer rights organizations.

What in these comments supports bisexual awareness or celebrates Bi pride? The button certainly conveys the stigma directed at bisexuals as being lascivious, over-sexed and confused. I’m so offended!  This is why I choose to remain invisible and stay in the closet.  Sadly, this kind of warped reasoning is not surprising coming from an employee of a 40-year-old gay rights organization that had yet to change its name to reflect approximately 50% of the people it purports to represent.

However, after this recent slap in our face, NGLTF has made some progress.  The Task Force waited until after Celebrate Bisexuality Day to announce it had changed its name to “National LGBTQ Task Force.”  Well, isn’t that nice?  But I have to ask, ‘How about owning your years of Bi erasure and your biphobia?  How about an apology?’  Hell, I’d be happy to see some advocacy and articles about bisexuality on the Task Force homepage.  I’d like to feel respected and supported as a bisexual by all queer rights organizations.

« Older Entries

Buy My Books!

Bi Any Other Name:
Bisexual People
Speak Out

Sexuality, Religion
and the Sacred

Click here for information about these and other publications by Loraine Hutchins.

Stay in Touch!

If you'd like to subscribe to my blog, please enter your email address.

Categories

Connect