On Monday, Nov. 9, Dr. Paz Galupo spoke in Cole Cinema about the definition and role of bisexuality in our culture and how bisexuals are involved in the same-sex marriage debate.
Her talk, entitled “Bisexual Visibility and Same-Sex Marriage: Expanding Perspectives on Marriage Equality,” began with Galupo stepping onto stage and asking the audience the difference between sex and gender. After a short pause and various overlapping responses, it was generally agreed upon that sex was based on an individual’s biology and that gender was a socially defined means of expression.
“We are always looking out there and trying to make sense of [sex differences],” said Galupo.
She continued by teasing out the differences between gender expression, how an individual expresses masculinity or femininity to others, and gender identity, an individual’s private experience of whether they are masculine or feminine.
This was followed by an exploration of sexual orientation, which Galupo defined as being who an individual is attracted to based on the individual’s private gender identity and the gender identity of the object of affection.
Galupo lauded the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid, which includes many variables of sexual orientation, showing its fluidity. Galupo said, “For most people it’s really hard to pin down sexual orientation to one number.”
This grid contained variables such as sexual attraction, sexual behavior, sexual fantasies, social preference, and political identity in the past, present and ideal time states which are related to a similar continuum in the Kinsey scale. Galupo pointed out that many people find the numbers are different across the grid.
Before moving into the idea of bisexuality and its role in same-sex marriage, Galupo explained how society reinforces having one gender identity and the sexual orientation is almost always exclusively defined by behavior, “Behavior becomes a litmus test for identity.”
As the talk turned to bisexuality, Galupo asked the audience to identify stereotypes and myths about a bisexual identity. Galupo said there is a “question of legitimacy of bisexuality as an identity” and that she has chosen to study bisexuality because of this fact.
She found that there was little inclusion of bisexual perspectives in the same-sex marriage debate and gave several possible reasons why: because bisexuals are seen as not interested in monogamy, because cross-sex marriages have rights that same-sex marriages do not, or because people believe bisexuality can go away if there is a certain relationship.
Galupo ended the lecture by saying that we need to take “sexual orientation back to the individual level,” and by asking, “what can taking a different perspective add to the debate?”
A few audience members gave their thoughts on the lecture after its conclusion.
“The lecture was great!” said junior Rachel Buffington. “She discussed a lot of things that I could relate to, as well as some things that I had never before considered. She talked about how a lot of people who don’t identify as gay or straight, or even bisexual, feel pressure to conform to society’s narrow conception of sexuality, which I thought was really important.”
Junior Courtney Teed said, “I enjoyed it. I felt like she presented the topic in an interesting and informative way for people that might not know much about the topic and it made me want to be more LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender] active.”