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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Book on bisexual men aims to fill a long-held void
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Sarah Toce
2015-02-10

This article shared 3525 times since Tue Feb 10, 2015
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Recognize: The Voices of Bisexual Men is an anthology featuring the voices and stories of 61 cisgender and transgender bisexual, pansexual, polysexual and fluid men. The authors range in age from 20 to 77, with multiple contributors in each decade. The two steadfast editors behind the compilation are a white woman ( Robyn Ochs ) and an African-American man ( H. Sharif Williams ).

Ochs is an educator, activist and public speaker working to increase awareness and understanding of complex identities. Williams is an activist, researcher, artist, and founder of the Center for Culture, Sexuality and Spirituality. The result of their two worlds combining to create Recognize: The Voices of Bisexual Men is encouraging.

"This book will serve for some as a life preserver, and for others as a survival guide," Ochs shared.

How did this project manifest?

"There are few resources available for people who identify as bisexual, and bi* voices—particularly the voices of bisexual men—are largely unheard. Non-binary or non-monosexual men are a population under stress, and this is especially true for non-binary or non-monosexual men of color who live at the intersection of multiple oppressions," Ochs said. "[The editors] have met too many bisexual men who feel isolated and unsupported. This book is an attempt to fill a void. There's a slogan out of the disability rights movement: 'Nothing about us without us.' This book allows bi men to speak for themselves."

The range of men who could possibly be positively affected by Ochs' and Williams' work is not lost on the pair.

"This book is for men of all ages beginning to question their sexualities or opening themselves up to new sexual possibilities in their lives; for educators of sex and sexuality to use with their students; for bi* folks who are in search of a resource to share with their friends and loved ones; and for bi* men who want to see more diverse examples of their lives," Ochs said.

With an expansive amount of work come its own challenges.

"One challenge was to achieve the level of diversity of background and experience to which we had committed ourselves from the beginning. We wanted diversities of nationalities, ethnicities, generations, socioeconomic classes, gender expressions, and [all different] kinds of submissions. It was no small feat. We extended the deadline a few times. We crowdsourced submissions. We contacted specific individuals for submissions. We used multiple strategies to accomplish our goal. We hope readers will find that we were successful," Ochs explained.

Whether a challenge is a hindrance or an opportunity is in the eye of the beholder.

"Another challenge—and perhaps also opportunity—was the grassroots nature of the project. We depended entirely on volunteers to circulate the calls for writing, help us recruit contributors, proofread the manuscript and—now that the book has been published—spread the word about its existence," Ochs remembered. "This book came from and belongs to the bi* community and our allies."

Recognize: The Voices of Bisexual Men offers various degrees of reflection, due unequivocally to its hodgepodge makeup.

"Our strength is in our complexity—in the complex nature of bisexuality; its challenge to simplistic approaches to gender, love, desire, family, and relationships. The root of hatred of bisexuals and bisexuality is intolerance of complexity and obsession with simplicity," Ochs ruminated.

With so many differences between pages, what are some of the similarities?

"Common threads in this anthology include the complex nature of bisexuality and a challenge to simplistic approaches to gender, love, desire, family, and relationships. The men in this book push back against a culture with an obsession with simplicity. Also widespread throughout this book are love, kindness and a desire to be recognized," Ochs said.

On the flip side, there are also some major differences.

"Each contributor has a unique story. Some men are comfortable with their bi* identities and have embraced them for many years; others are new to the conversation. Some men are public, loud and proud; others keep their bisexual identities private, telling only a chosen few," said Ochs. "Some are deeply involved in LGBTQ+ communities; others are not. Age seems to be a factor, with younger men—on average—more comfortable being public. That said, some of the older men in the anthology—such as Billy S. Jones-Hennin who has been a bi* activist for several decades - are as public as a person can be!"

There is a resource section in Recognize: The Voices of Bisexual Men in an effort to further offer assistance to readers post-literary engagement.

"We wanted this book to be useful on multiple levels. In addition to sharing stories, we wanted to provide tools to help men understand and articulate their own positions and to identify resources beyond this anthology," Ochs added. "Articles in the resources section range from 'Mapping Sexual Orientation' to 'Understanding Biphobia' to 'Resources for Mixed Orientation Marriages.'"

The profound impact of Recognize: The Voices of Bisexual Men has been rewarding for Ochs and Williams.

"Many bisexuals, particularly many bisexual men, are not connected to what people call LGBT community, not even to other bisexuals. What has been really moving, and quite frankly we're still coming to terms with this ourselves, is how bisexual men of all ages who had no words to describe their experience, no one who understood their story, no resource readily available to them as they attempt to fully embrace all of who they are, how those men have found the anthology and are embracing it as life-affirming, necessary," Ochs said. "To have contributed to someone's journey, without knowing them personally, has been truly humbling."

It would be impossible to cover every identity along the spectrum, but Ochs took a stab at it.

"Bi* men face a sea of negative stereotypes, almost too numerous to name. Perhaps the most common misconception about bi* men is that they don't exist. And this anthology proves that bi* men most certainly do exist!" Ochs said.

A follow-up to Recognize: The Voices of Bisexual Men is already being tossed around, in fact.

"There will certainly be a follow-up to this book at some point. Not only is it impossible to represent all experiences within the pages of one book; but individual narratives are not fixed—they change over time. Hence there is need to re-visit our stories. We may be the ones to do this work, or perhaps others may take up the challenge. Time will tell," Ochs said.

Purchase Recognize on Amazon or www.biresource.net/recognizebimensbook.shtml.


This article shared 3525 times since Tue Feb 10, 2015
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