Jayne B Shea

Bisexual, Poly, and LGBT Friendly Apparel, Products, and Stories

bisexual pride

Bisexual Visibility Requires Bravery

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I have a confession to make. Sometimes I'm not brave enough to wear my own bisexual pride t-shirts. As I've mentioned before, I'm not out to everyone in my life. I firmly believe in bisexual visiblity and representation, but for me coming out is not something that happens just once and then it's done. It's a decision I make day-by-day, interaction-by-interaction.

Those moments I decide to be out with new people are incredibly inspiring. I find people are more free to be themselves when I model that behavior. I develop deeper connections with people and I love it. Even something as simple as wearing a bi pride t-shirt can spark a conversation and a connection that would not have existed otherwise. 

But some days, or in some contexts, I choose not to make my sexuality visible. And as frustrating as that may be to some champions of our cause, myself included, I am here to tell you and to remind myself: THAT IS OKAY!

Because here's the thing: selective visibility is self-care. The moments where I give myself permission to not be out make it more likely that I will do so when I'm feeling more comfortable. And I know from my experiences over the past few years that when I do let my bisexual pride shine, it is a beacon of hope and comfort for others in this community. And that is the best feeling of all.
 

Preparing for Hibernation: Not Being Out to Family for the Holidays

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It might seem odd that a bisexual advocate would not be 100% out to family and friends, but that's my truth. As I've said before, being out is a choice and a process you make every day, not a one-time, bam-you're-done, kind of thing. So for me, going "home for the holidays" means mentally preparing to be around people to whom I'm not out as bisexual and polyamorous.

Now, I've had people try to tell me that if I'm not 100% out, I shouldn't be living a queer lifestyle. Everyone from a straight ally to a fierce bisexual champion has held that hard line. Fuck that. Here's the thing: family is important. Community is important. Because I value my relationships with my family and my husband's family, and because my bisexuality and our polyamory are not a necessary part of those relationships, I am not out to most of them. And I'm okay with that. Sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner and saying what I'm grateful for doesn't need to include the amazing threesome I had last week. Yes, things would be different if we were in a serious long-term relationship with a third partner and wanted to bring her home for Christmas, but we will cross that bridge when we come to it. For now, not being out to most family members works for me, and for us.

That's my own story, and my point for you is this; being out is a personal decision. Don't let anyone (including me!) make it for you. If you're not out to your family, be comforted by the knowledge that there is an amazing community out there (whether it's in a support group, or on social media) who does know and love you for your queer identity. You may need to come out to them if not being out to your family is negatively impacting you or others, (as it has for me in the past - one of the reasons I fully came out to my parents.) Whether you're out to them or not, cherish your family and your relationships with them. Because in the end, that's what the holiday season is all about.

Acceptance through Visibility: the Vital Importance of Identifying as Bisexual

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One of the most popular bisexual t-shirts I’ve seen (not one of mine) features the words “Nobody knows I’m bisexual.” The design, and its popularity, speak to a crucial issue for the bisexual community: lack of visibility. I’ve written about it before, and with Pride 2017 coming up I wanted to draw attention to it again. When people are able to identity as bisexual, both to themselves and to others, it has a significant impact on their own emotional health and on the community as a whole.

When we distance ourselves from our sexual identity, we’re hiding a valuable piece of ourselves and that takes a toll on us. In one of the most powerful TED talks I’ve seen, Ash Beckham likens it to holding a grenade. Self-erasure is a disease in the bi community, metaphorically, and I am 100% confident that it contributes to the real physical and mental health issues that are sadly so common to people of our sexuality. Add in the bisexual erasure we face from people of other sexualities, and the results are catastrophic. So what can you do to help fix this?

The first step is owning your own sexuality. Yes, bisexuality is “normal.” No, you don’t have to pick a side. No, it’s not just a phase. (Although for some people it might be, as sexuality can be fluid over time.) No, you don’t have to have had sexual experiences with any gender to know you’re bisexual! It helps to learn about bisexuality and do some self-exploration to determine how you identify. Are you bisexual/heteroromantic? Or biromantic/heterosexual? Or maybe biromantic/asexual? The more you know, the better communication you can have with your sexual and romantic partners. (Some of this will come over time as you have more sexual and romantic partners.) Overall, the more you understand accept your own identity, the more others can understand it and join you in celebrating it.

The next hurdle is being open about your bisexual identity with others. The tricky thing with bisexuality is that it can be easy for others to automatically, incorrectly identify you as gay or straight. I personally fight this by finding ways to reveal my identity. Sometimes I come straight out and tell people I’m bisexual (yes, sometimes it just comes up in conversation.) Other times I find ways to mention an ex and use female pronouns when talking about her. And of course I can always wear one of my shirts – they are always conversation starters and some are more subtle than others.

I choose my battles. I don’t reveal my identity to people who I know might have issues with it. Maybe someday I will, but not yet. But here’s the cool thing: when people figure out or find out that I’m bisexual, an amazing thing often happens. They reveal their own sexual identity to me, or share some experiences they have had. Straight people often ask the best questions about my bisexuality and polyamory and how my relationships work. When I learn that friends and acquaintances are bisexual, I always come out to them in return. It helps to know that you are not alone, and that you have a community to rely on for support.

Some people aren’t able to be out as bisexual, and that’s ok. Others don’t like the label bisexual. That’s fine too. What I’m asking is this: if you’re able, embrace your bisexual identity.

Don’t do it for LGTQA folks. Don’t do it for straight folks. Do it for the young bi kid who has never known a bisexual person. Do it to benefit the bisexual community as a whole. And most importantly, do it for yourself and embrace your bisexual identity.

A Message of Bisexual and LGBT Love for Valentine's Day

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Valentine's Day is a tough one for queer people and single people alike. For those who can't be open about who they love, it hurts to have to stay silent. Those who are alone may be hurting as well. I posted this message on my social media channels and I wanted to share it here too:

You are beautiful. You are loved. You are enough.

- Jayne

PS - I published a new erotica short story ebook. I put a lot of work into making the bisexual/polyamorous relationship in it realistic, so I hope you'll take a look and give me feedback if you have any. Thanks!

Pride 2016: Scared, but Showing Up Anyway

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Queer communities around the world are having an interesting and important discussion right now: what's next? How do we move forward in the face of so much hate and celebrate Pride when we're also in mourning? How do we manage the fear and anxiety that the events in Orlando have brought up for us again? I say again because the fear of being attacked and killed because of who we love is something that queer people face every day. Orlando was a brutal reminder of that ongoing threat. The question is this: given the current environment, should we still attend upcoming Pride festivals, despite this fear and anxiety?

Several communities have held Pride celebrations in the wake of the shooting so far. For me as well, the answer is yes. I've already booked my booths at Pride Northwest in Portland, PrideFest Capitol Hill, and PrideFest 2016 at Seattle Center, so I can't not go, but I also can't help but feel anxious. I've cried and worried and discussed it with my partner. My parents have expressed their concern for my safety as well. I take some comfort in the fact that if something happened, he and I would both be "the helpers" Fred Rogers was talking about - we both have first aid and leadership training and would not hesitate to get people to safety and provide aid. But beyond that, we have also discussed our duty to represent the bi community at these events, to show everyone that we do exist and we won't be silenced by acts of hate. Last year we were the only bi booth at both festivals. We have the honor and the responsibility of being a strong, supportive source of bisexual pride. If you're nervous about attending Pride Northwest Portland and Seattle PrideFest, as I will be, please know that you'll find a kindred spirit and a safe place at my booth. Come by for a chat or a hug and know that you are among friends and that our bisexual pride can not be silenced.

5 Ways Parents Can Be Good Allies for their Bisexual Children

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I am very blessed to have fantastic LGBTQ allies for parents. Although I wasn't sure if they remembered that I came out to them in 8th grade, of course they did, and they found ways to support my developing identity from that point on, while still allowing me to explore it myself. My mother has always been especially thoughtful and caring, especially now that I am fully out to her and my dad as both bi and poly. Besides my partner, they are the biggest fans and supporters of the Jayne B Shea brand! The other day, my mom was showing me some food ideas she had collected on Pinterest, including the awesome rainbow kebab tray above, which she had saved because she knew I'd love it as a representation of the Pride Flag. It's little touches like that moment that let me know she and my dad support me in my bisexual and polyamorous identity, and always will.

In honor of my parents, and to provide support for families in similar situations, here are some ways that parents can show their support for their bisexual (or LGBTQ in general) children:

  1. Learn: Study as much as your can about sexual identity, gender identity, queer rights issues and other topics that might be relevant to your child. Be a resource if your child has questions about these subjects (without trying to teach them - allow them to explore the issues on their own.)
  2. Watch Your Pronouns/Gender Assumptions: It's easy to fall into heteronormative habits when checking in with your child about love interests. Stick with the gender-neutral "they" to show that you know and accept that your child may be interested in either same-gender or opposite-gender partners.
  3. Take them to Pride Festivals: Last summer, I was so proud, pleased and excited to see so many parents with their kids at Seattle and Portland Pride. Attending these events with your kids is a major demonstration of your support for their identity. It can also make them feel more comfortable in their new community and help them make smart choices as they celebrate Pride.
  4. Be a Good Wingwoman/Wingman: This is a bit tricky, since for some kids it might be weird to have mom or dad as a wingwoman or wingman, but I can't tell you how much it meant to me over the years to hear my mom comment on women I thought were cute. You don't necessarily have to help them find dates, but showing your support in this area is a thoughtful touch.
  5. Give them Space & Love: Sexual and gender identity is a tricky issue that your child needs to navigate for themselves. Allow your child the freedom to explore and define their own identity over time. Show them you love them who they are, including (not despite) their sexual identity. 

The meta subtitle to this Keke Palmer article made me biFurious!

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Back in December, People published an article about Keke Palmer and her statements on her sexuality related to a recently released music video. When the article went out on social media, this was the meta subtitle:

"the Grease: Live star opens up about the bi-curious buzz surrounding her new music video"

eyeroll

First of all, I take issue with the automatic label "bi-curious." As in "Oh she's not bisexual, she's just bi-curious." This word, whether it's used by others to define someone, or by the person himself or herself, is dripping with bisexual erasure.

Then there's this:

"The video was to represent the young woman today – it's not the traditional woman anymore – and not the specifics of 'Am I gay? Am I straight? Am I bi?'" the actress-singer, 22, says in the new issue of PEOPLE. "I'm making the rules for myself, and I don't have to be stuck down to one label."

Her statement, like many others by the new crop of starlets refusing to define their sexual identities, made my proud bisexual self cringe. Of course I support her in however she wants to represent herself. I certainly don't want to label anyone who doesn't want to be labeled. But can we PLEASE have more bisexual role models defining and owning their identities?!? Pretty please with rainbow sprinkles?

Yes, I believe that sexuality is a spectrum and words like bisexual, lesbian and gay are often too rigid of a definition for many people, but how can we fight for rights for something that we refuse to name?


http://www.people.com/article/keke-palmer-sexuality-dont-label-bisexual-music-video

Lessons Learned in my Bisexual & Polyamorous Relationships

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  1. Overshare! Overcommunication is better than a breakup. (Lack of communication and internalized bisexual erasure caused the worst breakup of my life.)
  2. Say "I love you." Being afraid to be the first person to say it in your triad/group/relationship may mean that you say it too late or don't get to say it at all.
  3. Check your assumptions. If you find yourself internally defining how a person might be feeling or why they might be acting a certain way, ask them instead!
  4. Share your love! If at all possible, be out about your sexuality and your relationships with the people you love and who love you the most. (This video helped me a lot!) 
  5. If you're bisexual and/or polyamorous, be out and proud if you can so that we can raise awareness of ourselves as a community and fight harmful attitudes and stereotypes.
  6. Being bi/poly is still hard, not everyone is going to be out without consequences, but the more we fight the easier it will get

Good News on Increasing Bisexual Self-Identification!

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Despite more young starlets self-identifying as "queer" or "not wanting to be labeled," according to new research, the number of Americans who identify as bisexual is on the rise.  A new CDC study showed that from 2011 to 2013, an increased number of people, particularly women, self-identified as bisexual. With the trend towards avoiding labels continuing in the past year or so, I'll be curious to see how these numbers are affected when the 2014-2015 edition of the study is released this fall.

Bisexual Unicorn - Yes!


The Unicorn is My Bisexual Patronus

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Both my logo and my very first bisexual pride t-shirt design feature a unicorn silhouette and my personal take on the bisexual flag. Why? I've decided to name the unicorn as my patronus and reclaim it for all bisexual men and women, to prove that we do exist and combat bisexual erasure. This is in part because "unicorn" is often used in the swinger community as a euphemism for a single bisexual female willing to sleep with a couple.  It's primarily because of the bisexual community's fight to make ourselves known. and to make sure that the B in lgBt is not silent.

Note: this post has been updated to remove the term "spirit animal." Unfortunately, the URL can not be updated and the original title may appear in some older indexed versions of the page. When I first wrote it I was unaware of the appropriative nature of that term. I apologize for that.