Lady Gaga is not an ally to the LGBT community. She is an out bisexual, and therefore is a member of the community. And yet, time and time again, I see her described in the (LGBT) press as an “ally” or “friend”, whenever she does her activist thing. Elton John does a lot of activism too, but I have never once seen him described as “an ally to the LGBT community”. He’s gay, and he gets full credit as a community member.
Membership has its privileges. This “ally” versus “member” way of describing bisexual people is an example of biphobia in our community, and it privileges certain parts of the community, specifically gays and lesbians. Gays and lesbians like Elton John get to be called members, but bisexuals are often relegated to ally status.
There’s nothing wrong with being an ally. We need our allies, and allies are often, and rightly, treated with respect and admiration. But a bisexual person, whether she’s Lady Gaga or just Average Joe Bi, is a member, not an ally. There’s a difference, and that needs to be respected, too.
And in fact, sometimes bisexuals are treated worse than allies, or even treated as enemies. For example, after a talk I recently gave at a major corporation on bisexual health, a bi employee in a relationship with a man privately told me that she was mocked and humiliated at an event held by the company’s LGBT employee group. A gay co-worker yelled at her for being in a different-sex relationship (P.S., her boyfriend wasn’t even at the event with her) and told her she didn’t belong there.
Would he have said the same to a straight ally? Maybe. Maybe he’s a raging heterophobe who indiscriminately yells at anyone in a different-sex relationship. But maybe not. Maybe, and most likely, this is just another example of discrimination against bi people.
Allies have a place in our fight. But bisexuals have a place in our community. And biphobia does not.
So. Right. On.