UPDATED: Helping the WSJ Understand the LGBT

It appears James Taranto and the folks at the Wall Street Journal opinion page didn’t find our stylebook very helpful after yesterday’s post, so it’s time to lend a hand.

The confusion is over how can you have an LGBT couple, as Pres. Obama referred to in his statement on the Defense of Marriage Act brief.

I have long held that DOMA prevents LGBT couples from being granted equal rights and benefits. While we work with Congress to repeal DOMA, my administration will continue to examine and implement measures that will help extend rights and benefits to LGBT couples under existing law.

The WSJ folks understand what a “lesbian” couple looks like, and what a “gay” couple looks like, but is having trouble with the “B” and the “T.”

First, LGBT has become a “collective” way of referring to everyone under the sexual orientation/gender identity umbrella. It’s an imperfect compromise, and the press statement would have been better if it said “same-sex” couples, although even that has limits. Here’s what our stylebook says

For the times in which a distinction is necessary, ‘marriage for same-sex couples’ is preferable in stories. When there is a need for shorthand description (such as in headline writing), ‘same-sex marriage’ is preferred because it is more inclusive and more accurate than ‘gay.'”

But the acronym or collective isn’t completely bad. It explains that couples wanting marriage equality aren’t just limited to gay men and lesbians. This gets to the “B” and the “T.”

Two people identify as “bisexual,” have the same sex, and want to get married. They would be a “bisexual” couple, in the sense they are a couple of bisexuals. They also happen to be the same sex.

Two people who are “transgender” can also be the same sex. They would be a same-sex couple. Because of how they are classified by the people handing out the marriage licenses, a same-sex couple may not “look” like a same-sex couple if someone (or both) are transgender, but they are still a same-sex couple. Or a “T” couple could include just one of the partners being “transgender.”

In both of these examples, it reinforces that bisexuals and transgender people don’t necessarily identify as “gay” or “lesbian,” thus the broader acronym “LGBT.”

UPDATE: What’s in a name?

9 Responses

  1. So a bisexual couple could also be a man and a woman who are both bisexual (in other words, any two people in a relationship of that sort where both people are interested in both sexes)?

  2. Sure. But an opposite-sex bisexual couple can already get married in every state. A transgender couple may also be able to marry. As I said, LGBT couple is imperfect, but not wrong.

    • I see. That’s what I thought, but then after I read the discussion I got confused. Thanks for the reply.

    • I agree with Michael that LGBT couples covers all the bases and may not be fully gramatical, but is not wrong.

      I know bisexual people who are same-sex married or partnered and cant get married, and I know bi people who have genderqueer partners who dont narrow themselves down to any one gender.

      There are also lesbians partnered with genderqueer people and ditto with gay men. Transgender people partnered with each other. Trans people who may be considered legally a male in one state but legally female in another, depending on state rules or a particular judges ruling.

      And obviously, there are lesbian couples and gay couples.

      But unless you want to reprint the above statement every time, “LGBT couples” is a good way of putting it…even better than “same-sex couples” which doesnt always apply when transgender people are involved.

  3. I’m a bisexual male married to a woman.

    By definition sex between a man and a woman is heterosexual. If I was with another male that’s properly called a gay relationship.

    I identify as “bisexual,” because I am sexual attracted to both sexes, not because I am a partner in a gay or straight couple, which as Taranto logical points out can only physically perform gay or straight sexual acts (assuming various fetishes, toys and/or remote accessing technologies are excluded.)

    I understand that your agenda is to create a cultural narrative where sexual orientation is rated as a political entitlement on par with gender and racial equality and that’s fine.

    But isn’t it a kind of rhetorical oppression to closet the reality of bisexual sex to conform to the political concept of gay marriage, which implies monogamy? And that’s the key problem, isn’t it? The common law instrument of marriage is a strictly monogamous institution, as a century of divorce law precedents makes painfully clear.

    Yet, bisexually explicit involves at least the desire to have sex with men and women, which normally requires coupling with more than one partner. Monogamy is antithetical to the bisexual paradigm. In fact, the only truly bisexual sexual acts must physically involve, at the least, three partners. Ipso facto, your definition of a bisexual couple is a politically fabricated oxymoron that makes you appear logically dissonant and sexually naïve.

    Obviously, “bisexual couple” is a real category of sexual orientation, which by definition engages in sexual activities (literally or metaphorically) involving third parties.

    Apparently, this is as problematic for your politics as it is for the defenders of traditional marriage.

    • I completely disagree with most of your premises, George.

      I am a bisexual woman and I am never in either a “heterosexual relationship” or a “gay relationship.” That would be defining myself by the gender of my partner. In fact, since I have dated mostly other bisexual people for the last 18 years, the realationships I have been in were bisexual relationships.

      But even when I have dated a straight guy, I am still queer and that fact permeates the relationship. It might be an opposite sex relationship but it would never be a heterosexual one. Not while I’m reading LGBT books, going to LGBT film fests and plays, writing a bisexual column, going to events at the LGBT Center, emailing my Senators to vote for LGBT rights, marching in Pride etc and thinking like a bisexual person.

      I am bi 100% of the time, so even if my other activities were curtailed, the fact that my mind is bisexual would be enough.

      Also, there are plenty of bisexual people who are very monogamous. What makes someone bisexual is the capacity to be attracted to people of more than one gender. It just means they have more categories of people to choose from when seeking a partner. Once chosen, they can be completely monogamous with that partner.

      There are other bisexual people who prefer open relationships that allow for having more than one relationship, assuming they find someone else they like who is also agreeable to dating someone in an open relationship agreement.

      Some bisexual people are even celibate for long periods of time. I lived in a Yoga Ashram for five years where celibacy was the rule because I was focused on meditation and spirituality at that time. Personally, I only want to date someone if it feels right and I would rather be celibate than date someone just because I happen to be single.

      Bisexuality is an identity, a community, a culture…it’s not all about having sex.

  4. Taranto is feigning confusion solely for a laugh (see his running gags about the metric system), but you just keep providing him with fodder. Don’t take yourself so seriously.

  5. If the married bisexual couple cannot be satisfied sexually (since the one spouse cannot be, both, male and female), then the assumption would be that at least one, and maybe both, would seek sexual satisfaction outside of the relationship.

    Let me ask these questions in the hope that you or the reader will not be offended: Isn’t seeking this sexual satisfaction outside of the marriage just as disappointing – and maybe, repulsive – to a bisexual individual?

    Apparently, they marry for some type of fiscal benefits and some benefit in the companionship, while sexual faithfulness is not really valued in this kind of relationship?

  6. There are plenty of bisexual people who are very monogamous. What makes someone bisexual is the capacity to be attracted to people of more than one gender. It just means they have more categories of people to choose from when seeking a partner. Once chosen, they can be completely monogamous with that partner.

    There are other bisexual people who prefer open relationships that allow for having more than one relationship, assuming they find someone else they like who is also agreeable to the situation.

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