Academic Musings, Life Musings

Bisexual Awareness Day!

Today, September 23rd, is Bisexual Awareness Day–a day that I, a bi-sexually identified person, didn’t even know existed until a few weeks ago.  In honor of this occasion, I’m sharing a few reflections on a post I wrote last year, “On Being Openly Bisexual in Academia”.

Looking back, it’s clear to me that I should have contextualized my personal narrative in the data we have on the experiences (and considerable disadvantages) of bisexual people more broadly.  While it is indeed true that being open about my sexuality has mostly been met by colleagues with a collective yawn, I also realize that I possess a number of privileges that may protect me from some of the more pernicious dangers and dilemmas that many bisexual people face in coming out in their own work spaces. And even for me, it has not always been easy. I know that acknowledging my sexuality comes with a cost, even within the so-called “liberal” enclaves of academe.

As this informative article published by GLAAD makes clear, bisexual people are not only less likely to be out at work (and to health care providers) than lesbian women and gay men, but they also experience higher rates of poverty and poorer physical and mental health.

  • Approximately 25% of bisexual men and 30% of bisexual women live in poverty, compared to 15% and 21% of non-LGB men and women respectively and 20% and 23% of gay man and lesbians”
  • Nearly half of bisexual people report that they are not out to any of their coworkers (49%), compared to just 24% of lesbian and gay people.”
  • 20% of bisexuals report experiencing a negative employment decision based on their identity, and almost 60% of bisexual people report hearing anti-bisexual jokes and comments on the job.”

And this, from the Bisexual Resource Center:

Bi health disparities BHAM

More than half of the United States 9 million LGBT people identify as bisexual — but many do not feel comfortable or safe acknowledging their sexuality to people in their lives. This discomfort should not be minimized. Many people do not understand bisexuality and bisexual people are often targets of stigma even (and perhaps especially) within the queer “community”. Further, people who are bisexual but in relationships with people of the “opposite” sex are almost always rendered invisible and find it very difficult to challenge that invisibility. It is important that we-individually and collectively-raise awareness about these issues and affirm the moral principle that people should be valued and cared for no matter the gender(s) of the person(s) they love.

In the ten months that have passed since I wrote my post, strangers have written me long emails to thank me for being open about myself and others have sent private messages on social media, admitting how difficult it is being bi. Colleagues have thanked me personally, at conferences, for sharing a story that resonated with them, a story they sometimes do not feel comfortable expressing themselves– for all the reasons I’ve outlined here. I also heard from a group for Bisexual Women of Color who build community on Facebook. I feel honored and grateful that folks have reached out to me in this way, as it allows me to know that I, too, am not alone.

Over the last year, I’ve also had an opportunity to re-think the politics of bisexual identity.  Being in my first long term relationship with a lesbian-identified woman — and being perceived as lesbian by people who see us together — means that I have developed a deeper understanding of the fact that bisexuality can co-mingle with queer and lesbian identities. Most people see me as a lesbian because I’m in a visible relationship with a woman — and this has reshaped the contours of my own identity. Sometimes I see my sexual identity as queer, as lesbian and bi-sexual — these things coexist for me — yet I continue to find it politically and personally important to highlight my bisexual identity, if for no other reason than the fact that if I don’t, this important aspect of my identity will be ignored.

But the contextual recognition of my bisexuality has raised odd questions, sometimes from intimates and sometimes from perfect strangers. I usually don’t mind the (earnest, respectfully phrased) questions, as it sort of comes with the territory for one who engages in the politics of identity, but I’ve occasionally been taken aback. There’s the time, for example, that I was queried – by a straight friend – as to why I would ever talk about being bisexual when I’m currently in a serious relationship. Does recognizing my bi-sexuality suggest that I am not really committed to my partner? This question surprised me – although it should not have – because it implied that people’s sexuality in fact depends on their relationship status.  The reality, too, is that same sex relationships are very often trivialized and seen as less serious than heterosexual unions–perhaps especially when one or both partners are bi. I asked my friend whether his sexuality changes depending on whether he’s single or partnered. It was in that moment, I think, that he understood that my sexuality is my sexuality no matter who I’m with (or not with), just as his sexuality continues to be his sexuality whether single or partnered. It is obvious to me that my sexuality is not just (or even mainly) about who I relate to in my romantic life. My bi(sexuality) is, in a fundamental way, part of the lens through which I see myself, the world, and my place within it. This more expansive understanding of sexuality (as more than just who you are with at the time) is more or less tacitly accepted for heterosexuals, even if it is not explicitly acknowledged. The truth, however, for people like me is that when we are silent about our sexuality, it is rendered invisible by the assumptions people make regarding the gender of the person we have chosen to love.

As heterosexual wo/men can still appreciate the beauty of the “opposite” sex while partnered, so do bisexual people continue being bisexual when partnered. And there is nothing about this reality that makes it impossible for bisexual people to be committed.  It is evidently clear that heterosexuality itself does not imply that people involved in heterosexual relationships are committed to each other.

I love the fact that I am partnered with a woman who is rooted and secure enough in her sexuality to allow me to be who I am without being threatened by my identity. With her, I can laugh and joke about how attractive other people are, regardless of their gender. I can talk about my experiences dating men and women in the past without fear of judgment. It doesn’t mean she always understands those experiences — but she allows them, just as I allow her the integrity of her own reality and her past, even when doing so is challenging or stretches the bounds of what I personally understand. We can do this because we allow each other to be human–and more specifically, to be the kind of humans that we feel we are.  Knowing that identities can and do change, it is nonetheless reassuring to know that we can comfortably affirm the identities that feel right for us today.

All of this to say, my relationship to bisexuality — as an identity and social reality — is changing. But what has not changed for me, is the importance of raising awareness that people like me exist and are as valuable and beautiful and lovable and fly as anyone else.

So today, and everyday, show some love to bisexual people — those you know and those you don’t yet know that you know. Do not make assumptions about someone’s sexuality based on the gender of the person they are in a relationship with. Understand that bisexuality is very often hidden — that it is not easy to come out — and that coming out for bi-sexual people is often something that must be repeatedly performed in function of the gender of the person they are dating at the time. Try to compassionately accept, even if you might not personally understand, that some of us love across gender. Having the warm support of friends and family has helped enormously during times when I experienced rejection, judgment and stigmatization from people who could not (yet) and may never accept me as I am. Every bit of compassion we share can and does make a difference.

PS: check out the hashtags #biawarenessday as well as #bilookslike on Twitter .. Here are some of my visual contributions..

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Vegan Recipes

This Week’s Veganish Gluten-freeish Menu

7 Weeks in. Still going strong. Meat cravings have been on the rise, however. Driving home from work the other day I was this close to going to my old wings place. The only thing that stopped me was imagining the suffering of those exploited and tortured chickens. Came home and ate my mac ‘n cheese instead. Yesterday I was overcome with an intense desire to consume lobster tail with lots of butter and fresh lemon juice. Today, I was nearly seduced by the wafting odor of grilled meat from a restaurant while on my way to an Indian spot for lunch. I held firm and stuck to a vegetarian dish, though I did break down and eat copious amounts of naan. Cheese naan. Yum. I also passed out afterwards. It was the most wheat I’ve had since I started this transition. Body couldn’t handle it..

In other news, I’ve tried to get Zora on board by introducing raw cat food (lamb to be precise) into her diet. I try to sweeten the pot by stirring in some Kit ‘n Kaboodle, her favorite go-to-junkfood. She’s very, very skeptical so far. But she’s nibbling. Progress!

Anyway, here’s the game plan I’ve been working with this week:

Main Courses:

  • Brussels sprouts, grilled onions & tomatoes in peanut sauce over red quinoa
  • Kale, candied carrots & cranberries over red quinoa
  • Mac ‘n cheese with broccoli or kale
  • Gluten free penne pasta with black olive tomato sauce
  • Butternut squash soup
  • Carrot/broccoli slaw w/ sweet potato pancakes & spicy Korean sauce
  • Eggplant “cheeseburger” w/ extra pickles, vegan mayo, ketchup & mustard, gluten free bread
  • BBQ eggplant burger w/ grilled onions, gluten free bread
  • Miso soup w/ gluten free penne & cilantro
  • Cream of broccoli soup

Snacks:

  • Fresh Guacamole & gluten free tortilla chips
  • Cherry kefir
  • Banana nut muffins
  • Cranberry nut muffins
  • Banana ice cream
  • Green smoothies (some variation of kale, broccoli, banana, apple, mint)

Teas

  • Fresh ginger root tea
  • Fresh mint tea
Academic Musings, Life Musings, Spiritual Musings

The Nondual Academic: Revolutionary Self Love

This is the 3rd post in a 12 week series of essays on doing academic work from a nondual, spiritual perspective.  The idea is to open up a new conversation about academia, social responsibility, compassion and the ego.  Most Sundays, I’ll share my reflections on a variety of topics related to writing, researching, teaching and mentoring in the light of teachings from Hinduism, Buddhism and Christian mysticism as well as my own experiences

* * *

Today’s post is about self care and self love.  It’s inspired, in part, by the FeministWire’s recent forum on Black Academic Women’s Health.  This isn’t a side issue without academic relevance: it’s fundamental.  Loving, accepting and caring for the Self is a prerequisite for my being able to show up in the world (and in my classrooms) with equanimity, peace of mind and strength.

To love one’s Self beyond the ego is a revolutionary act.  In the video, I share some of my tools and techniques for self-care as well as the nondual spiritual perspective that informs these “rituals of love”.  I cover everything from skin-care, hair-care, aromatherapy, body image, exfoliation, self-massage, make-up, meditation, supplements, working out, the whole nine yards.  I also touch on a common (and serious) physical ailment among many academics and working professionals: Repetitive Strain Injury.

I’m not so happy about how often my eyes roll back in my head, looking like I need a close encounter with the Exorcist, but hey, it is what it is. The really cool thing? You get to see me in a do-rag. (If you want to skip the beauty segment and hear my rant reflections on body image, spirituality and well-being, jump to 20:52.)

Some takeaways:

  • SELF LOVE BEGINS WITH SELF ACCEPTANCE: “Your body is the cloak God slipped into in order to know Itself.”
  • SELF MASSAGE IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT – I cannot recommend the Theracane more highly.  I’ve used it since graduate school to help with daily aches and pains from typing when getting a massage from a professional, or a lover/friend isn’t possible.  Yes, it looks like a sex toy and/or a torture device, but your back, neck and shoulders will be forever grateful.
  • SELF CARE DOES NOT HAVE TO BE EXPENSIVE OR TIME INTENSIVE: Many products I use cost $1-$5.  It takes me about 30 seconds to do my hair everyday and another 30 seconds to do my makeup.  ONE MINUTE.
  • SELF LOVE IS THE BUILDING BLOCK FOR LOVING OTHERS: “You find that there’s a beauty and a Godliness and a divinity and a sexiness and a sensuality and a gorgeousness about every kind of body.  Disabled bodies, broken bodies, big bodies, skinny bodies, big bellied bodies, flat chested bodies.  Look at the diversity of how God likes to cloak Herself.  It’s fucking awesome.  It’s amazing.  And so if you can show up in the world having laid the foundations of self acceptance, self love — projecting that same level of acceptance and okayness to everyone you encounter . . . can you imagine the kind of love we can all make together?”


As I say in the video, I feel pretty strongly that it’s absolutely pointless to go to the gym unless you fucking love yourself first.  Before you love yourself  you have to accept yourself.  In order to accept yourself, you must see yourself. So here’s a practice I developed to experience increased body acceptance, awareness and appreciation.

Body Love Ritual 

  1. Find a quiet, private, safe place.
  2. Take a chair and put it in front of a full length mirror.
  3. Get naked.
  4. Stand in front of the mirror.  Pay attention to your breath.  Without forcing, simply focus your attention on the inhale and exhale.
  5. Look at yourself.  Behold every inch of your body.  Observe the thoughts, critical and kind, that come to mind.  Let them be.  Don’t try to change them.  Just pay attention.
  6. Now sit down in the chair.  Keep looking.  How do you feel now?  Let your eyes roam from your toes to the top of your head.
  7. Now imagine your body is the Buddha’s body.  Or the Christ’s.  Keep breathing.
  8. Imagine God decided to craft flesh that looks exactly like yours. Let yourself absorb the reality that your body is already divine.
  9. Sit and breathe in the realization of your own divine perfection.  Revel in the awe at the fact that every atom in your body originated in the Big Bang.  Imagine everything in the universe that had to happen in order for this body to exist.
  10. When you’re ready, do something nice for your body (moisturize, stretch/yoga, self-massage) and put your clothes back on (or not . . .)