1st place: Katie Dube, Chronicles of Ruby: Excerpts of Radiant Dysfunctionaliry and Vulnerability
I imagine myself in a mason jar on our coffee table. The tulips look like mandarins dangling over the edge — strong, firm leaves accompanying their petals. The roots reach the bottom, as if they’ve never left this glass. I imagine myself swimming around this lukewarm abyss, twisting between the roots like seaweed parading grounds of a lake. Content for awhile, but hopeful for my head to reach the top.
The measurements on the side are akin to a ladder – fast pass to the top. What’s the fun? Look at this bulging seaweed matter, practically begging me to take the harder leap. I make my way to the bushels at the top, waiting for me like a gentle hammock.
Kaleidoscope above me
blood, blood orange, beaming sun rays
My spine is aligned with this summer daze
If I want a quick swim, make my way like a legume
Down the shoot, slide down roots
Reside in misty beauty
My throat is clear in Citrusland.
The pollen is sweet,
My head is no longer a volcano,
But an airy valley
Dusty particles loom like ameobas, I’m in a microscope
Nostalgic to the front hall of our house, watching bits dance in cohesion with the colorful enigma of the door window
I’m six years old, arms short
Propelling like rows on a canoe
Bring me back to water, anatomical proportions shrink
Naked, eyelids, body, heavy softness
Blurred in oblivion
This is Citrusland
Still [Rambunctious] Air
I’m feeling alive today. Treating myself to a slow pace across campus because I have time. I’m much more aware of my surroundings today; I just had lunch and now sitting in the greenhouse. Listening to the mist hiss with peaceful conviction. The air is moist and rejuvenates my skin. All of my follicles are seemingly replenished; my membranes calm. I can’t complain today. I appreciate the soft drops of water plopping on this piece of paper. I’ve learned that the small things do matter. There’s a glow in my eye, a smile on my face. I could’ve stormed out, in utter distress over the terrible WiFi, but stillness overpowered.
It really is ironic:
the free-flowing atoms and kinetics rushing around me just as they would in the busiest hour of the campus center. Yet, we are in equilibrium.
These energies are synonymous,
despite change of pace.
Balanced silence embraces self-actualization.
I can hear me.
Beautiful, everlasting me.
Wednesday, October 21st (1 pill) @ night
Hollow and dead. I am grey, feeling worst I’ve ever felt. I can’t trust, I can’t be happy. As anxiety has calmed, depression settles in to it’s new home.
Spring 2016: “Don’t forget to breathe”
Why can’t he see
That’s she not a ‘permanent fixture’
She’s bound to nobody but loves everybody
All-consuming, cold hard sheet metal
Sliced through her like a machete
Deeply jaded but [luckily] a thin line
She renovates the furniture to reinvent the memory
She breathes shallow but
finally [not final], you blessed her with your light
Like sweet willows shading away bleek snowy shores
You stand true and I know it’s hard
But remember her baby, remember her free, remember this is all of me
A glimpse of Tuesday
He would approach me, but I was only a skeleton. My eyes were not hidden by eyelids. My skin was not there to give me protection. I was defenseless in front of this crazy powerful fucking machine: my mind.
It’s like a library index with too many cards shoved in there, waiting to fall out once open.
Mixing reality with imagination
Hypothetical with evidence
And most of all,
Love with resentment.
Resentment to the times that I wasn’t taken seriously. Or the voids of empathy that so many people possess. Maybe I just didn’t want anyone to hear my stories, because I wouldn’t trust them upon listening without judgment, or even to listen. I don’t really think people listen.
I think this year marked the engine as depleted. My mind stalls, then rams up to 200 mph, flat tires smacking up against pavement.
This was a year of dissonance and what ifs,
connecting lines and “that makes sense.”
This year was “you’re a huge abomination to womanhood”
“her name is there, in fine print, it’s done. You’ve sent him over the edge. He doesn’t want you.”
“look at how fucking amazing your life is. Egocentrism has suffocated you. You’ve officially placed yourself in victimhood.”
Anxiety and depression are tied together into a knot that cannot be undone. One tells you to list out all the possible cons, and assume they’re true. The other one validates they’re true and tell you to kill yourself for:
- A) not living up to potential
- B) for actually thinking that.
The “what if” overshadows the “whats there.”
This dualistic entity will always remind you how fucked up you are.
You I don’t want to talk to anyone because you I truly believe air could be used for a better purpose.
I watch myself write this. It is so hard to place those feelings under my ownership.
I forget that I’m a person with complexities. I forget that being strong doesn’t mean suppression or detaching from my “demons.” Strength means giving your ear and your eyes while letting someone be the eyes and ears for you. It means being able to say “I can’t make it.” and doing something you actually want to do, like napping or crying, or both. It means pleasing yourself and not being ashamed of that act.
I know I will get through this.
I know I will get through this.
I know I will get through this.
I sat, perforated
I ripped out my innards
Soul feeding you
Trying to mend my disdain
To message you for a smoke and possibly receive
An afternoon treat
To feel your soft stomach and flawless cheeks
But what does flawless really mean
When I’m crying on the floor
And you’re nowhere to be seen
Scavenging my humanity
Waiting for a ‘dream’
Well no, none of that, darling
Dreams reflect inner grief
It’s funny (but really not) that we excel in seemingly minute ways through misery. Reflecting (but definitely not revisting) on past traumas is one thing, but the time spent coping and forming into a new being is another. My uncle quoted John Lennon the other day [not verbatim]: “life is what happens between the milestones or tragedies.” It is the errands for my mother, pouring milk into coffee, smoking a quick bowl before the gym. When you have depression, these daily sequences are merely distractions, but your mind never really leaves the plight of the grey cloud. One of those things at the height of the merciless cloud is writing
when spoken words create a new reality, lay their concrete into your (the) world and mold a deeper level of conclusion, that is what I live for. i think the beauty of conclusions is the loss of seemingly conclusive, defined, and dismissed feelings from the past. new ideas, thoughts, feelings start to churn. [certain not always]. otherwise thankful. manipulation molds minds. you know you way more than you think you do. they don’t. their molds are not your molds, although they have an insidious way of making the differences indecipherable. u got this. know those conclusions may always reside in concrete, but this slab is undefinable, expansive. there is room for more. life will bring more. hopefully beautiful ones, just like you
After School Special
She stares at her reflection,
A broken beautiful façade
Meandering through brimming, burning fragments
A sea of you
Fleshing through remains of what’s left to prove
Tongues take a leave of absence
So words are detained in memory
Beauty in pain, pain in beauty
Decoding a Mantra, a Trajectory
Unwilling mindsets become a sanction of the heart
And when she feels, fuck boys go tart
Do you possess a strain of strife?
Well then take a seat and let me tell you what’s it like
Because whose to teach the
Pedagogy of Grief,
The Vernacular of Death,
The Politics of Emotion
A stagnant set of cycles in motion
No words to describe a cold, hard body? A beckoning cry?
But can language even justify?
Pace is a necessity and time is not to waste
Keep those tears in a locked case
Or so they say, right?
Why you wanna take any Plight?
He say things like “your logic, logically, does not make sense to me”
Well let me step out boy, let me be free
Cause your true colors and lack of eloquence is seeping into my jeans
She’s still staring at her reflection
Reliant on her father’s nuances
Dope jawlines, oral fixations, vicing all the way to alleviation
The toughness of her matriarchy is what ultimately gets her through
Mama telling her wise words through the telephone,
“just tell em to screw!”
You ask why she’s so “bitchy,”
but maybe you should redefine Bitch
Because what she sees is a Badass who doesn’t flinch
She’s been on the assembly belt junctioned with malfunction
But never think she ain’t thriving through Dysfunction
Her queer body is synonymous
with “a phase”
But y’all are just in a docile daze
So Hear her go n breathe in her quo:
When she yells, when she cries, it’s pure affection
She can generate radiance without reciprocation
Attempt an adventure through the forest of her eyes
But do not take the shortcut to her thighs
She doesn’t fuck keyboard heroes
So don’t show up if you a weirdo
She’s outerspace but don’t call her spacey
And listen to her before calling her crazy
Seek through her infrastructure, sift into blueprints
But love softly, tread slowly, and don’t call her when you’re lonely
She’s her own permanent fixture
A figment of light
When she walks into a room,
faces flame in delight
She will love you dearly and remember it well
There are still brimming, burning fragments left to dwell
Because lovers pass and people go
grab the pipe of peace and cease an ego
Don’t save her from the remnants
Don’t wash away her eas
Because the Conscious mind is all she needs
Feel her mental rhythm and sink in the flow
Hope y’all learned something and enjoy the show
2nd place: Stephanie George, Forgetting Philoxenia: National Identity in the U.S. Hellenic Diaspora
“Give me a word, any word, and I show you that the root of that word is Greek”, so goes the logic of Gus Portokalos, prideful, Greece-loving father from the 2002 film My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Many Greek-Americans can laugh at this scene, recalling memories of Yiayias and Pappous (grandmothers and grandfathers) spouting similar sentiments and over the top Greek pride, to which most of us chuckle and shake our heads. This is what many know to be Greek-American identity; an intense love for a country many have seldom traveled to, and obsession with a language spoken by a small population, shameless ethnic pride. Does Greek-American identity have meaning beyond this?
Φιλοξενία (philoxenia) is a Greek word that didn’t manage to cross the Atlantic with Greek immigrants. It is a term used in Greece to refer to a mindset of neighborly love. Φίλος (philos), meaning “friend”, and Ζενος (xenos), meaning “stranger”, combine to literally mean “love of the stranger”. In building a solid communal identity in America, Greek-Americans seem to have forgotten the other, focusing instead on issues only pertaining to Greece and Greek identity. The Greek-American community has grown more and more conservative in this respect, having been long absorbed into white America, and seemingly forgetting the days when Archbishop Iakovos marched alongside Dr. King in the march to Selma, or when our grandfathers’ confectionaries and flower shops were torched by the Ku Klux Klan. Though perhaps the luxury of not having to hold on to such histories is precisely what keeps us from remembering them.
Greek-Americans have become distanced from our past and our neighbors’ present in harmful ways. In titling this paper, the stranger, or ζενος, is both the early immigrant whose past we have forgotten, and those living in the U.S. who are currently facing racism and xenophobic oppression who the Greek-American community at large shows little love for. Throughout this paper, I create a timeline of Greek immigration to the U.S., and trace the development of the Greek-American political mindset alongside it.
The Early Immigrants
While there was some immigration in the early 19th century from Greece to the United States in the wake of the Greek War of Independence, the first major wave immigration did not come until the 1880s. Greece’s main crop, currants, had seen a massive decline, and many Greek farmers who were struggling to get by immigrated to the United States to look for work. Most immigrants at this time had no intention to stay in the U.S. long term. Their goal was to make a respectable sum of money to send home, and, eventually, return to their families in Greece. In fact, many of them did- between 1908 and 1930, nearly 60% of Greek migrants had returned to Greece, if only for short periods of time (Laliotou). This drive to return to Greece highlights a defining characteristic of Greek-Americans that has remained to present day. Many Greek-Americans, irrespective of generation, regard themselves as Greeks living in the United States, their Hellenic heritage ranking as high or higher than their legal national belonging.
Despite the large numbers of Greek immigrants who did return home, the majority ultimately ended up staying. During this early wave of immigration, nearly 95% of Greek immigrants were male (Greek Immigrants). Once they realized that they were going to stay, these men began to build up dowries for their sisters back in Greece in order to bring them to the U.S. to marry. Additionally, many of them, due to the lack of Greek immigrant women in the U.S., sent for wives back home. Thus, the majority of women who immigrated from Greece to the United States in this early wave did not necessarily come on their own convictions. They were the other half of an arranged marriage, forced to leave not only their homes, but their country in order to build a Greek community abroad.
As in many immigrant communities, the responsibility to preserve culture and tradition fell on women. While men went out to establish businesses and work in mills, women primarily stayed at home to continue cooking Greek food, teaching their children Greek songs and customs, and carrying on traditions from home. This gendered experience of immigration and adaptations speaks both to notions of cultural adaptability, as well as the feminine/masculine narratives of diasporic spaces (Dragoumis; Kindinger). This divided experience in immigration and assimilation mirrors the fractured sense of identity that seems to permeate Greek-American being today.
In these early days of immigration, Greeks, among other undesired non-Northern European immigrants, were despised and faced significant hardship in the late 19th and early 20th century in the U.S. In 1904, unaware of labor laws and relations, Greek plant workers were tricked into serving as strikebreakers, fueling anti-Greek sentiment among laborers. In 1908, several Greek immigrants were killed in a riot in McGill, Nevada (LeMay). In South Omaha, Nebraska, 1909, an entire community of Greek immigrants was forced to flee after their homes were set ablaze during an anti-Greek riot. A New York Times piece reporting on the incident justified the exodus of the Greeks, writing, “their quarters have been unsanitary; they have insulted women…Herded together in lodging houses and living cheaply, Greeks are a menace to the American laboring man” (Pappas). Businesses would routinely boast “pure” American ownership, and hang signs barring Greeks and other undesired groups from working or bringing their business there.
Even the Ku Klux Klan considered Greeks as one of their biggest racial targets. A card passed out by Klansmen at a U.S. election polling station read:
When cotton grows on the fig tree
And alfalfa hangs on the rose
When the aliens run the United States
And the Jews grow a straight nose
When the Pope is praised by every one
In the land of Uncle Sam
And a Greek is elected President
THEN–the Ku Klux won’t be worth a damn.
In 1907, the Immigration Commission (also known as the Dillingham Commission) formed to address the “Immigration problem”, namely the increase in immigration from Southern and Eastern European countries. The Commission launched a lengthy investigation to “discern the physical, mental, and moral characteristics of the migrants and to classify them in the system of established relations between peoples and racial groups” (Laliotou). To create a new system of racial categorization, the Commission relied on an “evolution of white supremacy into a comprehensive philosophy of life” that established human traits as innate in nature (Higham). It was in this way that Greeks and other immigrants groups found themselves marked inferior, and, subsequently, non-white.
To determine hierarchies of physical characteristics, the Commission put its focus on the cleanliness and sanitary habits of immigrant groups. A scale was put into place, ranging from “very poor” to “good”. For reference, 58.3 per cent of native white homes were ranked good and native blacks with 34.5 per cent. Southern European immigrants did not fare well on this scale. Among the lowest were the Greeks, who ranked at 12.2 per cent (Jenks et al). This and other pronouncements made by the Commission only added to the growing sense of nativism in the U.S., and fear of immigrants, particularly those from Southern and Eastern Europe.
In response to these fears, several pieces of legislation were passed to deter immigration from undesired racial groups. The first was the Immigration Act of 1917, which imposed literacy tests and created new categories on unwelcome groups. Four years later, the Immigration Act of 1921 was passed, which established caps on the number of immigrants from each country that could be admitted into the U.S. After 1921, only 3,063 Greek immigrants were granted entry annually, and after the Immigration Act of 1924, only 100 annually, a cap that lasted for nearly 30 years.
The Rise and fall of Greek Institutions in America
Soon after the first major wave of immigration, Greek immigrants began to establish organizations and institutions that helped to create a concrete Greek-American identity, and solidify political leanings within the community. Activist groups, fraternal societies, cultural groups, unions, and churches were rapidly established. As of 1911, in New York City alone, there were nearly 25 such organizations, including the Association of Confectioners, the Charitable Adelphoty of Ladies, and the Pan Hellenic Union (Burgess). Perhaps one of the most notable and influential Greek-American institutions formed during these early years is the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA). AHEPA was formed in 1922 in direct response to the hateful sentiments, and violent actions of the Ku Klux Klan. It is one of few organizations forms during this period still active today. However, their focus and political interests have changed, reflecting changes within the Greek-American community overall.
Greek newspapers also played a particularly significant role in the development of Greek-American communities. Written in Greek, these newspapers allowed immigrants to keep up on the news of their flourishing communities in the U.S., as well as in Greece. In 1913, there were at least sixteen regularly circulated Greek newspapers (Burgess). By the mid-20th century, though, few Greek newspapers remained in the U.S. One of the few that survived was The Atlantis, which strongly supported the monarchy in Greece, and endorsed the U.S. Republican party, drawing much criticism from Greek-Americans (Felsten). Keeping in line with political leanings back home, many Greek-Americans found themselves aligning with communist and socialist parties in the U.S. However, in the midst of the McCarthyism, and the U.S.’s financial stakes in the Greek Civil War, political activity among Greek Americans slowed.
As most of the institutions that appeared in the early years slowly died out, and the number of newspapers declined dramatically, the Greek Orthodox Church became the de facto source of community. Archbishop Iakovos was well known for his left-leaning convictions, stating that when he came to the United States, he was a “third category citizen”. “So when Martin Luther King Jr. had his walk at the courthouse of Selma, Alabama”, he is quoted as saying, “I decided to join him because this is my time to take revenge against all those who oppress people.” (Pappas). Despite Archbishop Iakovos’ ideals, the Orthodox Church did not serve as a politicizing force in the Greek-American community. Its function became largely cultural, attending to Greek music, dancing, food, and traditions, with little to no regard for political concerns in the U.S. or in Greece. With the Church being the main source of Greek identity and community, Greek-Americans became more and more distant from their deeply politicized immigrant past.
Fixation on Greece and Reverse Migration
Greek immigration had slowed in the middle of the century, but surged after the strict quota was lifted. From 1966 to 1979, roughly 160,000 Greeks immigrated to the United States (Moskos). This marked the last major wave of Greek immigration. Since then, immigration has declined drastically, and, interestingly, there has been a surge in return migration. High numbers of Greek-Americans, primarily second-generation, are migrating “back” to Greece (Christou). This is regarded largely as the result of a construction of Greek identity that became divorced from politics and history. Furthermore, at the time of the last wave of Greek immigration, Greek-American identity had become one that was primarily cultural. New immigrants did not face the same oppression and discrimination that previous immigrants did, and thus were less entrenched in political happenings.
The same can be said for the prominent Greek-American associations and organizations. In the past decade, despite a history of giving aid to communities in the U.S., AHEPA has almost exclusively attended to issues Greece. Their most recent U.S. based philanthropy consists of fundraising for the rebuilding of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, which was destroyed in the 9/11 attacks in New York City (AHEPA Philanthropy). The AHEPA website recognizes its legacy that is based in fighting racism and xenophobia, yet continues to show little concern for instances of the former happening currently in the U.S.
In congress, AHEPA has repeatedly voiced concern about the Cyprus Issue as the top issue among the Greek-American community. The American Hellenic Institute (AHI), which is unique in its lobbying power, also puts its focus solely on the Cyprus Issue and U.S.-Greece relations. While the liberation of Cyprus is a noble issue, particularly for Greek-Americans of Cypriot descent, it is a far away issue, one that only feeds the notion that Greek-Americans are more connected to Greece than they are to the country their families have lived in for generations. What does this say about not only the Greek-American sense of national belonging and identity, but about Greek-American responsibility?
While polls continue to show the Greek-American community as one primarily affiliated with the Democratic Party, the concern and organizational advocacy for oppression in the U.S. is low. Recently, AHEPA released a letter of congratulations to president elect Donald Trump, blatantly ignoring his racist and xenophobic sentiments (News Releases). It seems that the Greek-American community has forgotten its history as a hated race in America. By distancing itself from that history and focusing on the apolitical cultural aspects of identity, the Greek-American community has left new immigrants and other currently oppressed groups in the U.S. to fend for themselves.
Greek-Americans often praise ourselves as champions of democracy based on our impressive ancient history. But if Greek-Americans truly want to uphold the values of Hellenism and cling to our “Greekness”, we must reconnect with our immigrant and diasporic history. In part, this means abandoning the conviction of Greece as “home”, as a place that we will go “back” to. This is not to say that we ought to forget our heritage, but rather that we come to terms with the entirety of our history, not just the parts that take place in the Mediterranean. To reclaim the capacity of philoxenia, this love of the stranger, it is imperative that the stranger is truly that, not just another Greek.
“AHEPA PHILANTHROPY.” AHEPA Philanthropy. Web. 17 Dec. 2016
Burgess, Thomas. Greeks in America: An Account of Their Coming, Progress, Customs, Living, and Aspirations. Boston: Sherman, French, 1913. Print.
Christou, Anatasia. Deciphering Diaspora – Translating Transnationalism: Family Dynamics, Identity Constructions, and the Legacy of ‘home’ in Second-Generation Greek-American Return Migration. Ethnic and Racial Studies. November 2006.
Felsten, Judith. Atlantis, National Daily Newspaper 1894-1973. The Research Library of the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies, December 1982
“Greek Immigrants.” Immigration to the United States. Web. 14 Dec. 2016.
Higham, John. Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American Nativism, 1860-1925. New York: Atheneum, 1963. Print.
Jenks, Jeremiah Whipple, W. Jett Lauck, and Rufus Daniel Smith. The Immigration Problem; a Study of American Immigration Conditions and Needs. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1926. Print.
Kindinger, Evangelia. Homebound: Diaspora Spaces and Selves in Greek American Return Narratives. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter, 2015. Print.
Laliotou, Ioanna. Transatlantic Subjects: Acts of Migration and Cultures of Transnationalism between Greece and America. Chicago: U of Chicago, 2004. Print.
LeMay, Michael C. Guarding the Gates: Immigration and National Security. Westpoint, CT: Praeger Security International, 2006.
Moskos, Charles. Greek Americans: Struggle and Success. 1980.
Pappas, Gregory. Trump’s ‘Undesirable’ Muslims of Today were Yesteryear’s Greeks: ‘Pure American. No Rats, No Greeks’. December 9, 2015. Web.
Pappas, Gregory. (Video) Turkish-born Archbishop Iakovos: Marching with Martin Luther King Jr. was “Duty of a Man Who Was Born a Slave”. January 18, 2016. Web.
“News Releases.” AHEPA News Releases. Web. 17 Dec. 2016.
3rd place: Katy Rieber, 21 Years: Pain x Passion
the poems which have saved me and
the angels who wrote them through me
jagged edges of
overlap into abysses of infinity
in thought, action,
harshly drawn personalities, line
stomach and mouth;
forcing rigid language from wicked lips
cutting hearts cold with the edge of a trapezoid.
a line segment is just a scar
- shape up or ship out
stringing words together like lights on a tree
forcing sense down throats allergic to rational and sensibility
deranged and torn up,
unadorned, beating back against current
fighting moonrise to moontide
– east river waves hello to a rising sun
highways to homes
newborn hearts beating quick to the open areas of livelihood
a place full of angelic smiling eyes
who, without choice
climb the rungs of corporate complacency
– manufactured love
people keep telling me
that i am young
but i do not feel it
i do not feel those words
i have lived the life of a 67 year old widower
divorced more times than fingers can count
a multitude of children surround me
yet they do not call
they circulate territories afar
they too must deal with the plight of ageism
boarding schools and state lines divide my children and i
my age is descriptively young
people smirk and cackle
denoting undertones, insinuating a lack of wisdom
but i am wise.
wiser than most my age. wiser than some much older than i.
if you would like to come under my spell for a minute or three,
sit and talk for a while, i could show you, too.
i am not meak
my bite is fierce
my demeanor is ferociously kind,
– do not underestimate the power of an only female child born in the city of fatal insanity
are a continuous string of honorable bows
blessing the most intricate,
interiorly ornate workings of our inner walls.
surrendering to the truest,
most raw segments of the souls demons.
in the night,
i call on her.
i search for sanctuary within you.
feeling all that she is inside of me.
- internal mother of all heavens
mistaking white roofs for ice over open waters, hungry to engulf
my psyche cries
strained within it’s own crater
deeper than the lowest of the lower east side
deeper than the thick roots of the eldest redwood
deeper than that time we got into it
talking about your uncle and his hands
how they imposed along your body’s edge
going places you had even yet to discover yourself
he pursued you
you grasping for a last breath
trauma is the shadowy demon we wish to deny;
hesitantly lurking in the wings of our marginalized realities
– familial expectation
sometimes i walk to m79 bus route,
looking deep into your streets of a soul
which claim to have seen something at
and i think
how did i even grow up here
a raging, loud,
hell that feeds its young and
spits out tormented
gorgeous glowing zombies
wandering through the world with
holes in their hearts and much on their
battened down third eye placed
between brows, situated on frontal lobe
this city isn’t built for childhood,
but for transplants searching for parts of them that do not exist
– fatal flaws live within the sidewalk cracks
hangs from my limbs like
oil drips from
mother oceans mouth
– nature surrendering to man
fragmented letters seep into pores,
absorbing the toxic
hitting the spot which levitates
between back and rib
heart rising to center
falling in love with
earth’s gravitational pull
i do not know what a life
– sad little rich girl
your love occasionally takes a wrong turn down mercer
and gets lost somewhere in alphabet city
– we were just city kids after all
laughing within a heart
that hasn’t felt a beat
this strong in years
i am thankful for us,
who we are and where i can maybe see us going
our fierce intensity and our loyalty.
we have remained, yet that does not leave us as the remainder
for we are dynamic and charged,
an uninterrupted force never halting
i put you at the forefront of my mind,
whether you ever realized it
felt my love over the years –
– for c
most unexpected of moments
these are the ones
that tilt the universal journey
– i was always meant for los angeles
storage boxes full of life
and past lives
haunt me like pandoras empty box i opened so many years ago
from it i let free all the evils of world
just to watch them play with each other,
for my own entertainment.
they circle the room and taunt me
they dance through dantes inferno
fire burning through their soles, tiring never
dancing along my blood streams which curdle at
the very thought of their existence
they will forever roam my room
my very body
it was at my hand
sucking my color from a straw
giggling over the latest gossip about their very keeper
of any ability to continue along this path
i submit in awe
– childhood rooms never grow up
a forever wandering mind
relinquishes in the abyss of uncertainty
– freedom from myself
the salty rim
pulls me to your mouth
flooding each pore with rich sweat;
each hormone producer becoming an overrun dam
succumbing to floods of phenomenal harmony
the gates cannot hold up
against such relentless persistence
until satisfaction can be granted
amongst each party
– pure euphoria
along my journey
it was i
who ended up offering the clarity
i found my path
to their insides
and i ate them whole
from the inside,
– the faces which pave the journey
pounding on the hood of your frigid eyelids.
broken down limbs
i swerve into the empty lane
drenched in darkness of the night
attempting to restart this
broken down body
– you were never mine to ride
her darkness matched mine
black mirror looking back at
both our empty vessels
– together but alone
i am here; i am there
forever wandering this contrived grid
the exquisite mix
of deplorable wall streeters
and those who roam the subway
tunnels late at night
we all attempt to reconcile our lives
denying the struggle of
the city himself
an all encompassing mess.
i am within you
and forever without
– commuting against tsunami catastrophes
come or go
stay or leave
do as you please
just do not go with ease
- when a chapter ends
venus sits perched upon her lotus flower of a bed. powerful in spirit, brutally resilient in physicality. venus of urbino especially. she lays comfortably on her bed in the uffizi, bound up my sheet and contractual obligation to her keeper. she was just a prostitute after all. but we’ve all been there, haven’t we. isn’t it how we’re conditioned to be in this wicked world. we are cruel to the producers of life itself. we are taught to exist only as heavenly creatures to be drawn, or painted forced complacency in unwanted gropes. built to endure abuse. rode hard. put away for infinity, stored in citadels of painful isolation.
i am but a venus of my own kind in search of my own lotus flower
a resting place drenched in me
and just i
judging no one
– the pudica
as long as the sun is still awake, i have time left. i am still breathing this air.
absence is my friend
from the heavens upon my tongue
i allow their showers
nourishing as they are
moisturizing my soul
mortal to messiah
reality to ritual
holy gods live among us
the love i crave
lives within you
– gods natural love
i unpack these sorrowful eyes
not in my hotel room
but along the perimeter of the empire state
– helplessly lost in a city of falsity
and even transplants
have the choice to decide when to respect and disregard the obscene walk
and do not walk
put to us in
each new york minute.
do not tell me how to move my body
i come to the 72nd street subway
metro card in hand ready to fight
no one mentally in front or
i stay first place
every walk to the subway is a competition
who swipes it quicker
who struts down the runway with the most elegant, catastrophic poise
known to man
catching tear filled, subway breeze affected eyes as she glides
who is the one to flip the turn style better than they flip their own hair
heels and head held high
– the lifelines which connect us; borough to borough, heart to heart.
a withered rose
for her blood runs partially throughout
the excavated layer of epidermis which protects the very organs within
our theatrically different ways of being in this world separate
cell to cell
membrane to heart pound.
she, is a tricky performer
– born for the stage
limbs squeeze you
obedient around me
turning my faucet from stream
to babbling brook
– the root chakra
one god divides true love
i pluck the severe talons from
the open wounds he has struck
upon my fragile vessel of a frame
scratch marks grind down my
like chalk along a teachers board
my chest bends forward
bowing to the horrific moment which
engulfs this broken body
i must succumb
to the devastation of it all
– he had broken me as i always knew he would
eyes offer so much to those who dare
stare into them
i know i will have a difficult time
all i saw within your.
– cat eyes never tell lies
i am at once
do not mistake my aloneness for
i am not isolated
simply preoccupied with listening to
– i enjoy my silence
when my mind lags
and your headache burns temple to temple
the whiskey glass has come to close
water billows down from the gates of
rushing down the cheeks of a cherub
– i do not break i shatter
minnow specks in the
seams of our united galaxies
suddenly you reach for me
a cosmic collision
i am lola viola
silver screen mistress
continuing on my rock star tour
of our collided interspace
– powerful universal exchanges
tonight we grieve
for i know tomorrow
we will collect righteous sentiments
and piece together a cathartic resistance
– collectivism will heal societal trauma
brick by brick
caulk and motar
pillars and capitals adorned with grecian leaves;
i began to lay the foundation of our dreams
deep in the trenches of your love;
while you held a gun to my heart
– trenches of your love
i knew you were a time bomb
but i continued my pursuit
i patiently awaited our slow demise
knowing i was never meant for
the fruits of your
at the mercy of your expiration date
– i was collateral damage of your explosion
i be blinking heavy
mescal smoked out
like my under eye
– drunk serenity
his riffs force my soul to surrender
to the sound
my lips quiver
each syllable that slips from his tainted tongue
breaks the wrinkle in my heart
– encino, ca.
i seriously cannot be
walking around new york like a wet
depressed cat anymore
it is honestly
too much of a cliche at this point
- and now presenting the drama queen of the upper west side
when the boil
turns to a simmer
do you go
– reveal your everything
what you see in me
is the difference between people who
and those who
- when we are young, they do not teach us how to taste the air
i could not help but to outgrow you
it was my nature
to flush you from my womanliness entirely
- your manhood never fit
may this whiskey wet
your tongue with the promise of
- 2:48 am
licks of you linger upon my skin.
whispers of us
haunt my future
but you’re so beautiful
and i love your soul
and it is all i have ever
– walk along
sore from life,
my body surrenders
- weak knees
i shed the dead
of those who
no longer serve me
he told me he saw no future of his
within mine. he says:
you were the one who said what i should have
i hurt you enough
so i did not have to be the one
to end it
i am sorry for hurting you. you are a powerful and strong woman. and i conveyed myself to you as a man. but my actions were not in line with that. and you ultimately revealed the falsity which lay just millimeters beyond my facade. my actions were immature. i was not real with you. you need someone real.
the way you felt about me made me feel confident. the way you felt it without holding back. katy, you never hold back. i always loved this about you, though i never knew what to do with it. you lived in the future. by 22 you had outlived us all. it was intimidating. but it made me feel good.
i was selfish the whole time.
because i did not tell you that i was not as invested as you were.
so i lied to you. it was easier to play you like a fiddle then to speak to you like a man.
because i was not as woman enough as you
to be honest and tell you my thoughts. i kept you around for my own benefit. i was selfish.
fuck you fuckhead
this is the reason i am unsure of myself. i kept you around me at the expense of your pain.
i never saw us
in the long run
because katy rieber deserves an honest man. and a communicative man. and a dope fucking dude. i am none of those things. it is not who i am. that is not the world i live within.
i never saw our union.
you became a connection i respect and appreciate
i never saw myself
committing my life to
your heart was in my hands but
i dropped it.
that is what it came down to.
maybe now you all can understand
that he was the one
responsible for hurting
to make her end it
pull blood from her eyes
because he was not as
woman as she
to be so
things that shake me as
allow my mind to feel the light
and the dark
we are not as sterile
as our surroundings make us feel
- not the 80’s anymore
our baggage is a combination
of the love we never received
and the love we never felt we
you look at me and read the distant ache in my
you acknowledge our struggles, different yet parallel in structure
into my eyes you peaked, wandering past
cat greens and peacock yellows
right through the peephole
of my pupil’s star
he relentlessly trudged
straight to the core of it all
you are always laughing. but all deeply disturbed comedians are.
it was with him when
i discovered joyous rage
and begin to feel the deep and pleasurable addiction
i have not since experienced such a dark mess of emotion; for no one has
immersed me moments like the ones he planted,
deep in the banks of my monochrome memory.
it was he who set the precedent of what
passion shall look like
within the context of my life.
it felt like fate
to see you again
just like us
the us i always knew we would be
you’re torn from the same kitchen rag
grew up on the same fucked up page
writing and rewriting the same words
over and over again.
we learned how to
grow up as
– syntax isn’t everything
he was the man before men
an exhilaratingly dark soul
who’s seduction was inevitably
– you + me
it was written all over his face
he was the only book i ever wanted to stay up all night
the late teenage adolescent years of my life
were dedicated to finding you.
searching for your name in stop signs
never yielding to your pleas
looking for you in
the corners of the universe
in the folds of my furrowed brow
i could not find you
it was the day i stood upon the very doormat – nay
the portal of entry
which would somehow transport
me into your cold arms
we sit feet away
separated by this table.
i thought we had been separated
for far too long as it was
i needed to close
in on you
be close to you
the serpent greens of your eyes remain the same
the way they focus in on me
has changed however
around us stand the business men of affairs past
when was the right moment to discuss
the tragedy that was us
you cannot conference call in healing
the answering machine offers
leave your fucking message
at the fucking tone.
fuck if i call you back.
i stand on the brink of your receiving end.
you never even listened to that message
i am at once alone to face an empty space
the voicemail i leave upon your doormat is intentional
strategic and calculated annihilation is invited
not for the faint of heart
for the day i called you i was faint of heart
my thoughts reach you
but not in the way i want them to
they don’t hit you like the brick
on my end, there is no one.
i hold silence in my hands like an offering
time slips away and i pretend it is you
falling through the cracks in my tender
one fiery hell eats me whole
as i sip gin with the demons.
they tell me that
all the devils are here
and they are asking for me.
he’s different now
but not in the way i can’t talk to him anymore
like i used to
it may even be better than it once was
we lack carrier pigeons to push our points and physical messages forward
but that’s alright because our voices are working better now
our bodies finally talking
syllables intertwined like a contractual obligation
finding their way to the profound surface upon
which you lay
holding me hard when i mention
that i literally haven’t
stopped thinking about you for six years.
i feel him
his heart beats for the same cause,
it is to he
i am led.
he who stands at the end of my dark tunnel
summoning my weary steps forward
after the conversations we had
dispersed throughout the different hell realms
the words exchanged between devil and demon…
i find my myself begging for
forgiveness at the heels of
a multitude of whites paint our cries
it was i
who guided the knife down the
bridge of your back
at the mercy of your necks bulge
as you summoned me to stop
i search for your eyes in the flora of
my minds back yard
listening for your sighs
in the fauna who run free
- the rediscovery of you
i was never looking for a foundation
i am my own strength;
i was never searching for another soul
i am soulful enough for me.
- god is hidden in the folds of topanga canyon
fuck you mother fucker
i rested within his somber and still heart.
in the days and moments
we spent aligned within each other’s universe,
his moon revolving around my
mirroring the most
frothy milky ways
we had yet to taste.
ravenous mobility awakens in my tongue
as you drive out an unknown beast
the one who called seventeen times just to hear your voice
on the machine eighteen more
you were always that predictable
– voicemail love letters
how i will address the crowd at his wedding when the rabbi asks if anyone has anything to say or shall forever hold their peace:
i am not a religious woman, but when a man who has devoted his life to honoring the word of god asks me to share my peace or forever silence it, i am of course going to speak thoroughly. that is to surrender all to the heart and brain,
honestly, after all and everything.
the devotion i have felt towards this man, for however many months, is a religion within itself. one i could have subscribed to for a lifetime.
that must be known to this crowd.
i am a jew; but not the jewish woman for him. i was a god all along, but his body rejected entry into my temple. our energies ebbed,
forever flowing; glowing like tides in the sun;
it is sad but true
that he was blind to my heavenly rays.
he does not listen to the desperate cries of god within his own body.
he has been blinded by the
shoulds, coulds, confusion, and familial expectation.
instead of searching for an external god, i urge him to turn his focus inward and listen to the god that has always lived within his powerful being. by turning inward, the real results, desires, and passions surface. how does it feel? to know you disregarded the realist thing for something contrived and simple. turn to face her now.
put that spotlight on her face and watch her glow.
i glow now in spite of you.
- this came to me in a dream
complexity of family structure
is notable yet devastatingly deniable.
while they thrive
– triangles crumble too
we drank jameson
and laughed at the stars
- beverly glen
everyone has free will
to fight for whatever they feel
necessary to hold on to
push comes to shove
and they do not fight for
or who the fuck ever,
it becomes apparent
that they never wanted it from the start
– exactly who you always were
she reads vintage patterns like a newspaper
- my dearest mother
i remember when i would stay up all night, waiting for my life to begin at the tick of midnight. hoping that in the morning, the front lawn would be covered with opportunity and bountiful joy galore. and all i would have to do was run and go and just grab it.
alas, the morning light brought no new developments, only mounds of flowers.
they were pretty i guess, but not as promising as the gold cups kings sip out of.
what i would give to feel a love as deep as the bond between ocean and moon.
- somethings, we will never know
i crave the chaos
which ensues upon our
3rd place: Nicole Welliver, Representation Bi Any Means Necessary
Bisexuality is an invisible sexual orientation in terms of its media representation and acceptance. The identity struggles to find characters in television and film that provide a realistic and non-stereotypical perception of what it means to be bisexual. This lack of representation reinforces the straight and gay communities’ efforts to dismiss the orientation because it fails to fulfill the gay binary. By having very limited bisexual characters on television programs, the idea that an individual must be only straight or gay is consistently enforced. Nonetheless, two television programs Orange is the New Black and Chasing Life are rare in the sense that they have a bisexual main character, and thus are able to greatly impact the orientation. The use of bisexuality in traditional media can help legitimize the sexual orientation, and therefore gain acceptance from society as a whole. However, this can only effectively occur when the terms “bi” or “bisexual” are present.
In our heteronormative society, gays, lesbians, transgender people, and bisexuals are all trying to be accepted into a straight world. Bisexuality, however, is not easily written into this world because of the line it blurs between gay and straight. Bisexuality can be defined as the sexual and/or romantic attraction an individual feels towards both cis-males and cis-females. In the majority of television programs and film, bisexuals are portrayed as middle class, white, cis-females and are most often young adults or teenagers. Young bisexuals on television are given the role of confused teenagers who could not possibly know what they identify as (Off the Straight
- Narrow). It is a network tradition to have bisexuality presented as experimenting teenagers to intrigue the audience, but can only be used within narrow social standards involving class, race, and gender codes (Further off the Straight & Narrow). By casting very limited bisexual characters into stereotypical roles, it becomes impossible for bisexuality to be fully accepted into a straight world.
The sexual orientation is practically invisible in the media because of the preexisting gay binary, in which an individual must be straight or gay, not wavering in between (Off the Straight
- Narrow). By having constant reinforcement that bisexuality is illegitimate, those who identify as bisexual are thrown into society’s pressures to pick one gender to show attraction towards. Additionally, same sex relationships are depicted as morally acceptable in terms of media representation, contingent on the couple following two conditions. The partners in the relationship must both be gender conforming and follow monogamy in order to be portrayed in a moral persona. Bisexual characters are often labelled as non-monogamists and gender nonconforming therefore becoming morally suspect (Gamson, 1998). The presence of bisexuality in traditional media is often seen as a moral defense for gays and lesbians, rather than defending bisexuality as a legitimate orientation. By crafting negative stereotypes and pushing them upon characters, gay and lesbian relationships relate closer to heteronormative morals in comparison to bisexuality.
The television programs were chosen for their bisexual main characters, an incredibly rare occurrence in traditional media. Due to the lack of bisexual visibility in television programs, it was necessary to select specific shows in order to analyze the interaction between bisexual characters and the rest of the cast. Orange is the New Black and Chasing Life are both aimed at young adult demographics, and are considered successful series in their own rights. The shows were originally presented on different networks, Netflix Original and Freeform, and for this research I accessed both programs on Netflix. Since the programs have different episode lengths (fifty-five minutes and forty-five minutes), I chose to watch season one of each series to provide a fair sample. The sample totaled twenty-eight hours of content that has been analyzed for bisexual legitimacy.
In order to fully understand the analysis conducted, a short description of each program is necessary. Orange is the New Black (Netflix Original, 2013) follows the life of Piper Chapman as she is forced to leave her upper-middle class lifestyle to enter federal prison for a year long sentence. The series dives into her realities of prison, and also develops the lives of her fellow inmates before and during their imprisonment. In great contrast, Chasing Life (Freeform, 2014) follows the life of April Carver who has been diagnosed with leukemia, and shows the struggles she faces with her career and relationships. For this research, I focused on Brenna Carver, April’s little sister, who aids in the family crisis while enduring the struggles of being a teenager and handling love.
Results: Orange is the New Black
Within the first thirty seconds of Orange is the New Black’s pilot episode, Piper Chapman is introduced as a bisexual woman, a characteristic so crucial to her character that it is the first idea the audience learns about the entire series. Piper is immediately seen intimate with both a man and a woman, and yet the term “bi” or “bisexual” is never mentioned in season one. The juxtaposition of having bisexuality as an overarching theme throughout the series, but never using the term itself has sparked great confusion in the bisexual community. Orange is the New Black follows the ideology that an individual must be gay or straight, enabling the characters to consistently apply different labels to Piper. Within the pilot episode alone, Piper is asked if she is a lesbian three times, once by her own fiancé. Throughout the season, Piper is labelled “lesbian” ten times, “gay” six times, “straight” twice, and even “ex-lesbian” once. With each label used, the invisibility of bisexuality is reinforced. When referring to Piper, the cast does not come to terms with the idea that she could be attracted to both men and women, and they instead thrust labels onto her.
For the majority of situations, Piper does not respond to the labels given to her and she instead quickly changes the conversation. In two instances, however, Piper alludes to her bisexuality. Piper claims, in episode five, that people don’t just turn gay, rather they fall somewhere on the Kinsey Scale. The Kinsey Scale refers to the idea that individuals can be exclusively heterosexual, exclusively homosexual, or varying degrees of both heterosexual and homosexual. This state of being in between heterosexual and homosexual is referred to as bisexuality. Although the Kinsey scale supports bisexual legitimacy, unless the viewers had prior LGBT and/or psychological knowledge, it is unlikely that they would connect the reference to Piper’s sexuality. Additionally, in episode ten Piper explains to a friend that she likes “hot girls and I like hot boys. I like hot people. What can I say, I’m shallow,” calling herself bisexual without using the term itself. Piper associates her sexuality with selfishness, hinting a negative connotation towards the entire orientation. By having the bisexual representative claim she is shallow for her attractions, bisexuality is equated with morally unacceptable behaviors, and can be seen as a flaw rather than an identity. Season one demonstrates that the writers and producers clearly understand the concepts of bisexuality, but they may not consider it a valid orientation thus leading to the absence of the term itself.
Although Piper Chapman is never officially labeled as bisexual, she exemplifies the bisexual image that is consistently portrayed across media platforms. Having an affair and acting as a relationship troublemaker are two of the most prominent stereotypes projected onto bisexuals, and Piper is guilty of both (Gamson, 1998). Throughout season one, Piper is faced with the dilemma of maintaining her relationship with Larry, her fiancé, as she’s behind bars, while simultaneously rekindling her past love with Alex, her ex-girlfriend. Piper justified her intimate relationship with Alex because it was necessary to survive in prison, but that idea soon wavers as Piper begins to fall in love with her again. Piper’s affair in prison, and ruined both her relationship with Larry and Alex within days of each other. Although the situation was productive for ratings and views, the image casted upon Piper harms the bisexual community.
The reinforcement of the idea that bisexuals are unable to maintain faithful relationships leads to the orientation being considered illegitimate and a negative influence on society. In becoming accepted by the straight and gay communities, bisexuality cannot be portrayed as non-monogamous on television. The unmoral images created could sweep into reality, damaging bisexual perception. However, viewers without previous LGBT knowledge may not know that Piper is bisexual, thus the transfer of negative stereotypes to the bisexual community may not occur. The lack of the term itself could allow the bisexual community to escape unwanted depictions, but Piper’s actions still associate unmoral behaviors with the attraction of both men and women. Thus it is unclear the effects Piper’s sexuality has made on the bisexual community.
The writers and producers of Orange is the New Black have missed a great opportunity for representation. Orange is the New Black, in comparison to Chasing Life, is much more widespread in audience and success. As the most watched Netflix show in history, the writers and producers have responsibilities to engage their audience and keep Netflix satisfied. Yet, the series itself is progressive and controversial in its discussion of gay and transgender rights, making it confusing as to why bisexuals are not allowed representation. As the series breaks down countless stereotypical conventions, it does the opposite for bisexuality by limiting Piper’s discussion on sexuality especially in terms of the gay binary. The enforcement of the gay binary demonstrates the fear that writers and producers have towards representing the orientation, even though the series is currently one of the most controversial shows. With such a powerful following, Orange is the New Black could have made great strides towards legitimizing the bisexual orientation, but instead the series supported the very ideologies the community has been trying to break.
Results: Chasing Life
Chasing Life exemplifies a positive bisexual representation thanks to its real life depictions of what it means to be bisexual, and most importantly by using the terms “bi” and “bisexual”. Unlike Piper Chapman, Brenna Carver verbally identifies as bisexual, an event in itself that provides the bisexual community with great exposure. Brenna officially came out as bisexual in episode eleven not in a proclaim of self discovery, but because of the frustration she felt towards being mislabeled. Throughout season one, Brenna was labelled a “lesbian” twice, “gay” twice, and “straight” once. When incorrect labels are used in reference to bisexuality, it can greatly harm the community by presenting the orientation as invisible. However, Brenna would often correct a character if they had mislabeled her by either saying she’s “bi” or simply stating that she did not identify with whichever label had been casted upon her. The acknowledgement of incorrect labels reinforces the idea that bisexuality is its own identity rather than being a mixture of both straight and gay. Bisexuality as a legitimate identity is a highly beneficial idea to expose audiences to, and also effective in challenging the gay binary.
Unlike Orange is the New Black and most appearances of bisexual characters, Brenna was never expected to decide whether she was straight or gay. Neither the cast, nor Brenna herself forced the idea that she had to choose one side of the gay binary. Throughout season one, Brenna dates two individuals, a male co-worker named Kieran, and a female classmate named Greer. The unofficial relationships are not considered mutually exclusive, and therefore they do not support the affair stereotype. In episode nine, Brenna tells Kieran she had also been dating Greer, and his first reaction was to ask, “Wait, are you with me as like a cover? Because you don’t want to be a full-on lesbian?”. Kieran presents the reoccurring idea in traditional media that bisexual women only date men as a cover and bisexual men only date women for the same reason. The idea of needing a cover to hide one’s sexuality demonstrates how heteronormative society reasons with the idea that an individual could be attracted to both men and women. This narrow perception of bisexuality would be negative to the legitimacy movement, but Brenna made his claim seem unreasonable. Initially Kieran represented society’s confusion, but he never forced Brenna to decide if she were straight or gay. He accepted the idea almost immediately, an uncommon occurrence in television. Demonstrating an individual’s misunderstanding followed by their acceptance is a positive reinforcement because it shows that bisexual acceptance is possible even in romantic relationships.
At first glance, Brenna’s developing relationships with both a man and a woman seems to fit into the traditional teenage experimenting stereotype. The stereotype describes a naïve young person who has relationships with the same sex as a form of rebellion (Further off the Straight & Narrow). Season one quickly demonstrates that Brenna does not fit into the stereotypical role. Although Brenna often found herself resisting her education, she never used her sexuality as a source of rebellion. In a way, Brenna’s bisexuality decreased her rebellion because of Kieran and Greer’s positive impact on her life. At sixteen years old, Brenna appears substantially aware of her sexuality, and the viewer is watching her fall in love rather than following her journey of self discovery. During the first season, Brenna does not go through a great internal struggle in terms of her sexuality. She learns she prefers to not use labels, but will use the term “bisexual” to identify herself when she feels is necessary. Brenna does go through moments in which she becomes confused about her sexuality, but that signifies growing as an individual not a confused teenager, incapable of knowing her sexuality. By challenging stereotypes and ideologies created by traditional media, Chasing Life has effectively impacted the perception of the bisexual community. The use of the terms “bi” and “bisexual” creates a direct link between the sexual orientation and the realistic depiction of bisexuality that Brenna Carver presents, thus legitimizing the identity.
LGBT representation in traditional media has slowly increased over time especially in the past three years. The television samples analyzed are from 2013 (Orange is the New Black) and 2014 (Chasing Life). In 2013-2014, only 3% of characters on primetime television were identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, equally twenty-five LGBT characters in comparison to seven hundred and seventy-one straight characters (Townsend). Within this staggeringly low LGBT representation, 17% were bisexual women and only 4% were bisexual men. This extreme lack of bisexual characters, however, did slightly improve over the years. In 2016, 4.8% of characters on television were LGBT identified, and within this, 23% were bisexual woman and 7% were bisexual men (Stokes). Although the representation is incredibly low, strides have been made towards increasing bisexual exposure, partly in thanks to shows like Chasing Life and to a certain extent also Orange is the New Black.
The positive representation of bisexuality that Chasing Life provides can be influential in teaching young adults about the sexual orientation whether they do or do not have previous LGBT knowledge. Showing a realistic depiction of what it means to bisexual is practically unheard of, but the writers and producers did an effective job in demonstrating that her sexuality is an identity, but not her entire character. By using the terms “bi” and “bisexual”, Chasing Life was able to help legitimize the orientation by associating positive reinforcements directly with the identity. In contrast, Orange is the New Black does not help legitimize or increase bisexual representation on television. Season one challenged many issues of race, class, and sexuality, but never explored bisexuality. The reoccurrence of different negative associations including Piper’s affair and her constant need to be a relationship troublemaker, damages the bisexual community’s image. Especially because the series never uses the term “bi” or “bisexual”, it is apparent that Orange is the New Black is not as positively influential as it could have been.
Bisexuals in our society are consistently isolated from both sides of the gay binary. In majority, heteronormative culture diminishes bisexuality as an experimenting, rebellious faze that will pass when the individual grows up. While the LGBT community often thinks of bisexuals as an individual who doesn’t want to fully accept being gay, and instead is wavering in between. The difficulties that bisexuals face in society in terms of being accepted demonstrates why the increase in representation is so crucial to the bisexual community. Television is responsible for inspiring acceptance and providing viewers with knowledge they may not have been able to gain in their everyday lives. The presence of bisexual characters and the use of bisexual terms in traditional media is necessary to evoke acceptance across the nation, and create legitimacy both in the LGBT community and the rest of society.
Gamson, Joshua. 1998. Freaks Talk Back: Tabloid Talk Shows and Sexual Nonconformity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Chapter 4 (p. 106-137).
Further off the Straight & Narrow. Dir. Katherine Sender and Sut Jhally. Media Education Foundation, 2006. Film.
Off the Straight & Narrow. Dir. Katherine Sender, Sut Jhally, and Jeremy Smith. Media Education Foundation, 1998. Film.
Stokes, Zeke, Ray Bradford, and Megan Townsend. Where We Are On TV ’16-’17. New York City: GLAAD, n.d. PDF.
Townsend, Megan, Matt Kane, and Max Gouttebroze. Where We Are On TV 2013. New York City: GLAAD, n.d. PDF.