Jayne B Shea

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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.

How can I celebrate Bisexual Health Awareness Month?

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The powers that be (mainly the Bisexual Resource Center) have decided that March is when we celebrate Bisexual Health Awareness Month, in addition to St. Patrick's Day (my third favorite holiday.) Let's dig in to some of the facts on bisexual health:

The list goes on and on...

Given these staggering, often tragic statistics, why is bisexual health awareness cause for celebration? And how exactly can we go about celebrating it? The answer lies in some of the more positive, encouraging facts, including that bisexual people make up more than half of the LGBT population, that the percentage of people who identify as bisexual is increasing, and that studies are proving the benefits of coming out as bisexual.

When we as a community are aware of the unique mental and physical health challenges that bisexual people face, we can work together to address them. As individuals, bisexual health awareness can help us get and stay healthy.

Bisexual Health Awareness Month is ending soon, so here are six practical ways you can celebrate it this week, or any time throughout the year:

  1. Get the facts: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Knowledge is power. You can start by scrolling #BHAM2017 on Twitter.
  2. Help educate others about bisexual health, including both straight and queer people.
  3. Help your healthcare provider learn how to be a good bisexual health ally. (Or find one who's open to doing so.) Here's a great visual summary of how they can do that, taken from BiNet's excellent Bisexual Community Issues Presentation.
  4. Come out to your doctor and get tested for the full spectrum of STDs. Personally, I have found, and my partners have as well, that telling doctors that I have multiple partners of multiple genders makes them more willing to provide full STD screenings.
  5. If it is safe for you to do so, come out in general, especially to those who are closest to you. (In case it doesn't go so well, here's a great resource from the BRC.)
  6. Connect with the bisexual community. Given the lack of visibility and acceptance of bisexuality, being bisexual is often a lonely and isolating experience. Connecting with fellow bisexual people can help! BiNet has put together a great map of bi groups and even something as simple as connecting with bi advocates and activists like me on Twitter can help as well.

If you have questions about bisexuality or bisexual health, or if you just need to talk, please reach out to me. Be safe, be happy and be well.

Love & Pride,

Jayne

Writing Erotica When You Don't Feel Erotic

Jayne's EroticaJayne SheaComment

Lately it has been a struggle to sit down and finish one of the several bisexual and polyamory themed erotica novelettes and novellas I have sketched out or started, let alone start a new one. I'm about to get pretty personal here as I contemplate why, and what I can do about it.

Reason 1 - The Pill: I was on a low-dose birth control pill for 11 years. The good: it prevented pregnancy, decreased my period and PMS symptoms and helped with acne. The bad: it absolutely murdered my libido. It's a wonder I even started writing erotica at all, given my actual desire for sex. Being able to express the full spectrum of my sexuality with my stable male partner and our female partners helped, but after 11 years I decided enough was enough and talked to my doctor about an alternative last fall.

Reason 2 - The IUD: Last October I decided to get an IUD (before everyone started talking about getting them because of the election results.) I was absolutely terrified, as I've had a few friends who had issues with them. I knew other women who had no problems at all, so I went ahead with it. My nervousness now seems like a premonition, as I've had a rough go. A pelvic inflammatory infection made me think the thing had perforated me, and while the pain has subsided since then, it still feels like I have cramps every single day. I'm probably getting the darn thing out next week. My worry and the pain have kept me away from any kind of penetration and made me feel decidedly unsexy.

Here are some of the questions that run through my head as I think about how all of this has affected my motivation and ability to write my erotica. I've answered them for myself as well, and if you have any thoughts in response, I'd love to hear them!

  • Do I need to be having sex to write about it? Probably not - after all, some of the scenarios I write are based off of real-life events, but others are not.
  • Do I need to feel sexy to write erotica? This is trickier. Clearly not feeling sexually motivated has been keeping me from writing, so in theory the answer is yes.
  • How can I motivate myself to write? a) Put myself in situations and places that make me feel sexy, even if I'm not going to have sex. A night of clubbing has always been a boost to my sexuality! b) Write non-sexual content when I'm not feeling sexy. This could definitely benefit the length of my pieces! c) Make writing a habit. Schedule a regular time to write, once a day or once a week, so that even if I'm not feeling it, I sit down and do it anyway. d) Give myself incentives. If I'm binge-watching a show, make myself write 500 words before starting the next episode. Go out for frozen yogurt after I hit a goal word count. e) Read my own work! Unless I'm working with my editor, I tend not to re-read my content. Reading through it more often may give me a fresh spark of inspiration.

At the moment, I have two novel-length pieces about half finished, and four short stories in various stages of progress. I'm going to commit to you, my amazing fans, right now that no matter how sexy or unsexy I fee, I will have one of those erotica short stories finished by the end of the month and published on Amazon! Wish me luck...

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

Internalized Bisexual Erasure

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Bisexual erasure becomes especially harmful when a bisexual person has internalized it. I'm going to get personal for a second and talk about the hardest breakup I've ever been through. After dating for several months, I was falling head over heels in love with a gorgeous young woman. Our male partner was as well. The three of us were great together! Then I went on a trip with my parents and started feeling all kinds of guilt that I wasn't fully out to them about my sexuality and polyamorous lifestyle. (More on my coming out experience later.) I was so happy with our girlfriend and sad that I couldn't share that happiness with my folks. Unfortunately, those feelings made me pull away from her a bit when I got home. I was also scared of being the first person in our triad to say "I love you" because I didn't want to scare her away.

Here comes the erasure part. We broke up. It was terrible. Then later we got to talking and it turned out she was in love too, but thought I was only committed to our relationship for my male partner's sake. Despite the fact that both she and I and the three of us had been having mind-blowing sex for six months, she thought I was just in it for him. This is bisexual erasure at its worst in a polyamorous relationship: the nagging idea that someone might be just a straight girl in it to please her man. This is something straight guys perpetuate every time they approach bisexual and lesbian women, hoping for a threesome. This is also perpetuated by anyone who tells a person "Oh hun, you're not bi, it's just a phase you're going through." (Yes, I personally heard this growing up from both queer and straight friends.) This is why I fight so hard for bisexual visibility and polyamory acceptance - so that we as a community can affect social change and erase these harmful internalized attitudes.

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!