I am not Mandy Slade, but thanks for the sweeping generalization.

July 22, 2010 § 10 Comments

by ELENA

This morning, I went to my local Health Department in order to get tested for HIV. It was free, quick, and I tested negative. I also managed to curb-check the family station wagon on my way there, and so explaining to my parents why the steering was messed up wasn’t fun.

There was one thing that irritated me, though.

The nurse who administerd my test reacted very negatively when I explained that my boyfriend was bisexual. She said that it was very plausible that he was lying to me about his sexual history, and that he should get tested for HIV right away.

I was a little dumbstruck, but in no mood to piss off the person responsible for performing an accurate test.

When will we get it through our heads that gay/bisexual man does not equal “lying asshole who has every single STD known to humanity”? The main reason why I decided to get tested was not because I suspected that my boyfriend was lying to me, but because I was concered that any of my straight exes may have had an STD they had not told me about. In middle school, my health teacher stressed that HIV/AIDS wasn’t a “gay disease.” In high school, my gym teacher said we shouldn’t worry about HIV because only men who have sex with men are at risk. I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only person who received mixed messages about HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases while they were growing up, and these mixed messages are what lead to people making inaccurate assumptions.

I’m lucky that my parents and friends are very supportive of my relationship, but I also have to wonder if there more people like my nurse out there: Well-meaning people that are convinced that my health is at risk because of who I am dating, or that I am kidding myself because bisexual men don’t really exist and I’m just dating a closet case, or that because of who I’m dating I am somehow “unclean” and unfit to give blood, despite the whole being HIV negative thing.

In 2005, researchers at Northwestern University did a study on male bisexuality, and came to the conclusion that male bisexuality didn’t exist. Their justification was that the men they study only reacted to images of gay porn, and they didn’t find any men who were a “3” on the Kinsey scale (ie, equally attracted to men and women). So evidently I’m dating someone who doesn’t really exist.

There aren’t a whole lot of examples of bisexual males in pop culture. David Bowie is currently married to Iman, but I am as much of a supermodel as my boyfriend is a rock legend. Bryan Safi did a hilarious “That’s Gay” segment on how TV shows like to have a stereotypical “gay best friend,” whose gayness is suddenly cured when he falls in love with an (unrealistically hot) woman. The only woman in TV/film who dated a bisexual man that I’ve ever seen was Velvet Goldmine‘s Mandy Slade, who was portrayed as a coke-snorting basket case. The film is quite good, albeit campy, but it’s sad that the only example of a woman dating a bi man in film winds up “paying” for it by ending up divorced, lonely, and miserable.

Network and cable news shows like to occasionally bring up the “down low lifestyle” as their “scandal of the week,” which is 500 different kinds of irritating, because it combines racial panic with gay panic: “Oh noes! Look at all of these black men! That have girlfriends! And occaisonally have sex with other men!” PANIC TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Society likes to categorize women by their relationships with men. Realizing that people can make sweeping judgements about me just because I’m dating a bi man only reinforces my belief that such categorization has got to stop. Plus, it would be nice to be able to give blood again.

§ 10 Responses to I am not Mandy Slade, but thanks for the sweeping generalization.

  • mirandanyc says:

    Excellent post.

    “When will we get it through our heads that gay/bisexual man does not equal ‘lying asshole who has every single STD known to humanity’?” …and that having an STD indicates a lack of moral fiber? Sexually transmitted infections are so unfortunately mired in shame, and seeking treatment often requires facing a lot of negative assumptions, like you explain here.

  • doctorcrankenstein says:

    It’s equally likely that your straight partners were lying about their sexual history… That would have irritated me too.

    I do however think you are focusing too much on yourself. I think you would be better off focusing on how these assumptions and stereotypes negatively impact upon bisexuals rather than how they reflect upon you because you are dating one. Your message would have a lot more impact that way. As it stands at the moment it comes across as “me, me, me, me, me”.

    • mirandanyc says:

      Well, us ladybloggers do loooove to talk about ourselves. I’m sort of not being facetious.

    • Elena says:

      Dr Crank, I’m writing about my perspective, becaue I figured other people could have an experience similar to mine, and because writing form this personal experience makes what I’m saying more relevant. And trust me, my boyfriend is very good at spotting (and then destroying) gay and bi stereotypes. I mentioned other negative perspectives on bisexuality in the piece to show that this wasn’t just about me: other people have made negative assumptions about bisexuals (and I ddi focus on bisexual men–a post on bisexual women could garner even more stereotypes).

  • katiee says:

    When will people learn that creating a judgemental environment like that will extremely negatively impact who goes in for STD testing? Too many people aren’t getting tested in the first place, and when a clinic spreads false information and hatred about a segment of the population, they won’t go in to get tested, and neither will their partners.

    The thing about your teacher pissed me off too. Way to put the sexual health of a vulnerable group in serious jeopardy, dude.

    • Elena says:

      What’s even worse was at the beginning, my nurse was very jovial, nice, etc. She explained the procedure very well, and then when she read my paperwork, and saw that my boyfriend was bisexual, she told me that he was probably lying to me, and that he should get tested right away. And then, after that, she coninued to make small talk/compliment my outfit/etc. Her comments took me completely off guard.

  • doctorcrankenstein says:

    Yeah I think that plays a large role in why people are hesitant to get things like this done. You walk in and right from the get-go they make you feel like a guilty perverted freak.

    Not a very pleasant environment to be in.

  • The Raisin Girl says:

    Health professionals can sometimes be really judgmental in any case, and I don’t think they realize how potentially damaging this is. When I went in to get on birth control for the first time, I made the mistake of going to the teen center at my local health department. The woman there treated me like an irresponsible idiot. She asked me if my boyfriend and I had both been tested for STDs, and I replied that I had known the boy in question since I was, like, nine, and that we were each other’s first. She leaned forward, tented her fingers, and said ominously, “Would you stake your life on that?”

    To which my reply should have been, “Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t make it a habit to sleep with people I think would lie to me. Despite your obvious assumptions, the fact that I’m a teenager doesn’t mean that I’m stupid, uninformed, naive, or unprepared for what I’m getting into. I happen to have done research on birth control options and I’m coming to you to get on birth control, so obviously I’m not irresponsible.”

    I guess my point is that health professionals sometimes make all KINDS of assumptions about people, based on their age, based on their sexuality…based on their partner’s sexuality. And it’s really dangerous to do that, because honestly that made me not want to go back, ever. Driving teenagers away from birth control? Talk about irresponsible. Fortunately, I didn’t stop getting my shots, I just refused to ever go to the teen center again, and eventually switched to another health department all together.

    There should be some way to report problems like these. And PS, I did get tested just for kicks and giggles later, just to say I had and because they asked me if I wanted to be when I got my first shot. And I’m negative for everything they tested for. Which makes the statistics on my boyfriend having anything highly unlikely. Booya, judgmental health department woman. Booya.

  • Marilou says:

    That study from Northwestern is ridiculous. Did they really think that sexual attraction is nothing more than seeing naked bodies? Or that the most important part of a relationship is sex? Or even that people often become more attractive as we get to know them? It proves absolutely nothing. I’d be embarrassed to publish that study.

    I don’t know much about Northwestern, but I have heard that’s it’s pretty conservative. Which might explain something.

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