Amanda Kennedy: Still a Fan, Without the Brigade

Photo | Danilo Santana David. Danilophoto.com
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One half of Fan Brigade, Amanda Kennedy, is on hiatus from her genius comedy duo. Ahead of her solo material debut at the International Comedy Festival with her show Bumbshell, she tells express about her personal experience with bi-erasure.

I’m bi-slash-pan. I just like whoever I like. I’ll talk a little bit about experiences being bisexual in my show, Bumbshell, but it’s amazing how little time you have in an hour. Plus I’m super lazy.

I wish it was boring to be bisexual. I want nothing more than for nobody to give a shit about it. It feels instantly intrusive for cis straights to learn that about me and want to discuss it. But I absolutely refuse to feel weird, even when the driest, most unappealing people find it curious. 

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I hear colleagues say ignorant shit like “all that PC-LGBT-ABC stuff” and I’ll bluntly go “I’m bi, knock it off” and they openly say things like “Ew, really? Wow, I wouldn’t have picked that. So how many people do you have sex with then?” Like, let’s discuss how your husband treats you like unpaid staff, Linda, that’s more interesting than the fact that I get my pussy eaten properly!

I’ve never felt the need to have a big coming-out moment or sit everyone down for an announcement. This is just who I am. But the way straight people react when you mention it is interesting. A lot of older straight people seem to think you’re overly sexual like you have double the libido or something. Over the years I’ve heard quite a few people commenting that we don’t need to shove it down their throats. Meanwhile, every TV programme is crawling with heterosexual couples and glorified cis romance.

People will do anything to label you as either straight or gay instead of bi. If you’re a woman with a man, you’re straight. If you’re a woman with a woman, you’re a lesbian or providing titillation for straight men. Or you’re ‘experimenting.’

It’s infuriating.

Part of me doesn’t give half a turd what other people think of me, but the other part of me is irritated as hell by the erasure, which even comes from some in the LGBTQ community.

“Oh, you’re bi? But you’re with a man!? OK, sure sweetie!”

Yes. Being open to being with a man is literally one part of being bi. I didn’t think it was that difficult to understand but here we are. Most other LGBTQ people I meet are more insightful and non-judgemental. It seems to come with the territory. 

I personally sense that stigma against bi people is disappearing. I think this is partly to do with the increasing inclusion of bi people in pop culture, the bravery of young people today sharing their stories over social media. Not to mention, the decades of hard slog from the community for rights and recognition, especially from our trans whānau.

My worst experience with bi-erasure was when I lived in rural Japan for 3 years I had to pretty much stay in the closet. I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone I had a girlfriend. It’s just not socially acceptable to talk openly about private relationships and at the time same-sex relationships weren’t legally recognised. My area was conservative and as the only foreigner for miles around I had a public profile; it might have been seen as rude or disrespectful and would definitely get her in trouble with her family. 

Luckily I haven’t experienced outright hostility. The first time I remember anyone making a fuss was when I was feeling up my girlfriend at the time, in Parnell watching some crappy Shakespeare in the Park thing, and this Remuera-looking lady stopped her kids and pointed at us and yelled “See that? That’s normal. Girls are allowed to kiss and get married. It’s normal, okay?” I was like, “bless, thank you for pointing and shouting so all two thousand people here all know I’m normal!”

Bumbshell plays from Tuesday 11 to Saturday 15 May at Auckland’s Sweat Shop Bew Kitchen.

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