Strange Bedfellows or Natural Partners?
Editorial by Nancy Nangeroni, Transgender Tapestry magazine, 1998
I grew up in a household where we were taught to have compassion for all people, whatever their origin, beliefs, attributes, or behavior. As I passed through puberty and became sexually active, I conceived of myself as more bisexual than anything else. My feeling was and is simply that to declare myself either hetero- or homosexual would be to declare myself prejudiced against half the population. Admittedly, some types of bodies and activities appealed much more than others, but to presume that such would always be the case seemed (and proved to be) wrong. Instead, I expected that, over the course of a lifetime, I would try a lot of different things. Life is like a banquet, with each new flavor bringing fresh delight. The prospect of settling for a life of meat and potatoes, or any other staple diet, however healthy, leaves me thoroughly disinterested.
Likewise with sexuality.
Let me assure those of you who are reading this and thinking, “That’s not how I feel!”, I am not intending to speak for you or anyone else in this matter. Orientation, preference, taste, and priorities are all a matter of personal choice. What might seem wrong to me, for me, does not necessarily seem wrong to me for others. Perhaps it is because I am, at heart, truly bisexual that I think of it in such terms. Were I homo- or heterosexual, I might think differently, and I expect so for many of you who are reading this.
The point is, bisexuality has always seemed ordinary and desirable to me. The idea that someone might be stigmatized for it didn’t occur to me until recently. Yet I am finding out that there are substantial numbers of those who feel the heat of stigma for their bisexuality.
I seem to be meeting more and more of these people lately.
As a transgender person, I incorporate strong elements of both masculinity and femininity into my daily life. I like to think of it as taking the best of both worlds. While I generally represent “as a woman” and encourage people to see me as such, in truth I am something in between. While I seem to be unattractive – as far as intimacy is concerned – to most people who self-identify as strictly hetero- or homosexual, I am making more intimate connections with those who think of themselves as bisexual. And that makes sense to me. People who find both masculinity and femininity attractive — those who appreciate and enjoy intimacy with other people irrespective of gender — are those who will not find my transgenderism daunting. Those who care for the qualities of an individual without worrying about whether those qualities are masculine or feminine are not put off by a penis on someone who appears and acts like a woman, or vice versa.
So it seems that people who see themselves as bisexual are those most likely to be attracted to someone who is trans- or bi-gendered. It makes sense. If you are TG, you probably exhibit some traits of both masculinity and femininity. To people who like some of each, you could be the cat’s meow.
In my activism work, I find myself often working in partnership with bisexual people, without any overt attempt on my part to do so. It just seems to keep happening. The bisexual community, like the TG community, has been struggling for inclusion by the gay and feminist movements. Bisexual political purpose is (at least in part) compatible with ours: freedom of self-determination in issues of sex and gender. Moreover, many bisexuals are supportive of our issues around gender identity and presentation.
Here in the Boston area, there has been a substantial “coming out” of bisexuality among the transgender community. As some of you know, it is not at all unusual for crossdressers to find themselves attracted to other crossdressers, especially the young and pretty or handsome ones. At my first transgender convention, the Fantasia Fair in 1990, I was quite taken aback by the number of older, avowedly heterosexual crossdressers, who made unmistakably sexual overtures to me.
There are many crossdressers and transsexuals who are purely hetero or homo in their orientation. But there are many in our community who have come to a point of appreciation for other people, and an interest in experiencing intimacy, that transcends the polarity of anatomy. Likewise, there are many in the bisexual community whose appetites transcend gender and any linkage between anatomy and gender. People who are bi — people whose orientation is open — seem less likely to have a problem with transgenderism than people who are decidedly homo or hetero. Likewise, people whose gender is transgressive — who are open to gender diversity within themselves — seem more likely to be accepting of bisexuality than those whose gender aligns exclusively with one of the two binary extremes.
You don’t have to be bisexual to support non-discrimination against bisexuality, any more than one has to be transgender to support an end to transphobia. For our communities to work together, all we need to be is smart strategists. Together, we are stronger then we are separately. Together, we can be and do more. Together, we can be more visible, raise more money, exert more influence, and effect greater change to our society’s view of sex and gender. And, while we’re at it, maybe even have a good time.
Together. Not identical, not united in a single vision, not homogenous. But seeking and actively working together towards ever greater mutual appreciation of our strengths, respect for our differences, and cooperation towards meeting our individual needs.