Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Continuing the Work of Bisexual Pioneer Dr. Fritz Klein
by MARK GABRISH CONLAN
Copyright © 2007 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved
When Carlos Legazpi came to San Diego in the mid-1990’s, it was because the investment broker he worked for assigned him here — not to explore his growing awareness that he was Bisexual. It turned out, however, that San Diego was perhaps the best place he could have come to address his Bi identity, mainly because from 1982 to 2006 San Diego was the home of Dr. Fritz Klein, author of The Bisexual Option: A Guide to One Hundred Percent Intimacy and the man who, more than any other individual, could claim to have “invented” bisexuality.
Not literally, of course. Ever since the human species has existed, a small but statistically significant number of its members have been having sex with partners of their own gender, and many if not most of those have also had sex with opposite-gender partners. But it was Dr. Klein who started the modern-day movement not only for the rights of Bisexuals in the overall population but for their recognition alongside Lesbians and Gay men in the broader Queer movement.
Dr. Klein drew on the pioneering research of Dr. Alfred Kinsey, whose landmark studies on human sexuality in 1948 (men) and 1953 (women) included a zero-to-six scale to measure one’s sexual orientation, with zero being exclusively heterosexual, six being exclusively homosexual and the other numbers representing the continuum in between. Dr. Klein expanded this into the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid, through which you can score yourself on the continuum not only based on actual behavior but also on attractions, fantasies, lifestyle, emotional and social preferences and self-identification.
But Dr. Klein wasn’t just an academic who wrote books and started the Journal of Bisexuality, which he edited until his death. He was also a boots-on-the-ground organizer who founded the original Bisexual Forum in New York in 1974 and started another group with the same name in San Diego when he moved here. (It’s still going and meets the second Tuesday of every month, 7:30 p.m., at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center, 3909 Centre Street in Hillcrest.) Dr. Klein organized conferences on bisexuality and worked tirelessly to make not only the broader community but specifically the Gay and Lesbian community aware of bisexuality, challenging the biphobic stereotypes held by many Lesbians and Gay men.
Dr. Klein’s death on May 24, 2006 at age 73 was a blow from which the Bi community generally, and the Bi community in San Diego specifically, is still recovering. As one of the five current board members of the American Institute of Bisexuality, which Dr. Klein founded in 1998, Carlos Legazpi is instrumental in continuing his work. As a special feature for our last issue before San Diego’s 2007 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride events, Zenger’s interviewed Legazpi one Saturday afternoon at Café One Three, the restaurant at 4207 Park Boulevard he co-owns with his partner, Jason Dean. We talked about the Institute and about Legazpi’s own life as a Bisexual, and also what Bisexuals want out of the broader Queer (“LGBT”) community.
Zenger’s: I’d like you to start just by talking about yourself, your background, how you came out as Bisexual and how you got involved with the Institute.
Carlos Legazpi: I’m originally from Mexico. I came to the States in 1990, first to New York City, and for most of my life, I had not seen myself as anything other than heterosexual. I had always had relationships with women. I had a strong attraction to women, and it wasn’t until my mid-20’s that I started to explore this other side of my sexuality. After that, I fell in love with a woman. We were together for five years. My career took me to Texas and then brought me here to San Diego. After five years the relationship ended and I was, obviously, in a very bad space, questioning everything about myself, including my sexuality.
I talked to several people who said, “All you have to do is come out as Gay, and be happy,” but that didn’t really feel right. In the mid-1990’s, I did an Internet search on bisexuality, and Fritz [Klein]’s was the only entry. Coincidentally, he lived here in San Diego. I called him and met with him, and, on top of supporting me in whatever I was going through, he introduced me to the Bisexual Forum, which he founded in 1983. It felt right. It was great to see that I was not alone, that I wasn’t crazy, in denial, or any of those other judgments that I had been hearing. And ever since, Fritz and I, until his passing, were very close friends.
Zenger’s: That’s not quite the story that I’ve heard from a lot of my Bi friends that they went, first through a straight orientation, then to a Gay or Lesbian one, and then realized that neither fit what they were. But it’s close.
Legazpi: It’s close. I never went through the “Gay” phase.
Zenger’s: You mentioned you’re currently in a relationship with a man.
Legazpi: That’s correct. We’ve been together for three years, and one of the first things I did was come out to him as Bisexual. He was supportive of it, and it’s wonderful. No judgment there.
Zenger’s: Do you date other people?
Legazpi: Not currently, no. A lot of Gay people are monogamous, a lot of people are straight and monogamous. A Bisexual is no different. I retain the capacity to be attracted to people of either gender. I decide my behavior, like everybody else. It’s fun going to the beach, being Bisexual. It doubles your eye candy.
Zenger’s: One thing that’s come up often when I’ve attended meetings of the Bisexual Forum is the treatment of Bisexuals in the broader Queer community. Despite the tremendous effort made to put “B” and “T’ initials into the name of just about every Queer organization, I still hear a lot of complaints from Bisexuals about how they’re treated by Lesbian and Gay people. Have you experienced that yourself, and what would you say some of the prejudices are?
Legazpi: I think sometimes it’s residual pain from the coming-out process. Some people go through a so-called “Bisexual” phase on their journey to come out as Gay or Lesbian. In a way, the whole idea of people staying in what they would see as a “phase” is somewhat threatening. It’s easier to see the world as “us” against “them,” as two extremes opposite to each other. One of the purposes of the Institute is to educate the whole community, both the straight community and the Lesbian and Gay community, about bisexuality. Ultimately, the goal of the Institute is no different from that of any other LGBT organization. We’re all trying to create a safe environment for people to be themselves, whatever that may be.
There’s a project we are considering that is quite promising. Michael Bailey is a highly controversial researcher from the University of Chicago who a couple of years ago did some research on the arousal patterns of men. He concluded that the arousal patterns of Gay and Bisexual men were materially the same. That prompted the New York Times to publish its article, “Gay, Straight or Lying?” (July 5, 2005), which pretty much attacked the concept of bisexuality, and has been quoted a lot as “proof” that bisexuality does not exist.
Upon conversations with Michael Bailey, we found that the study was based on penile dilation, you know. They measure the diameter of the penis when they show images. He wanted to do the research with brain scans, to try to see the patterns of arousal in the brain. He did a preliminary study with only Gay and straight men, and saw that the areas of the brain that were stimulated by the preferred gender were the same in Gay and straight men. That means that with Gay men, those areas fired up with male pictures; and with straight men, that same area fired up with female pictures.
We wanted to see if we could do the same thing with Bisexuals, and as a test we sent one of our board members to do that same test. To his (Bailey’s) surprise, he saw that that area of the brain was equally stimulated by female and male images, which was something he was not expecting. If that project comes to fruition, I think that will come a long way to turn a researcher who has been quoted to deny bisexuality into one of the strongest voices proving that bisexuality actually exists. That’s great!
Zenger’s: What do you personally want people who are exclusively Gay or Lesbian to understand about Bisexuals and bisexuality?
Legazpi: First of all, that we are not confused, nor lying, nor in transition. That’s who we are, and our aspirations and desires are no different from yours. As Bisexuals, we want to have the same from the Gay and Lesbian community that we expect from the broader community.
Zenger’s: I understand also that there are some Bisexuals who don’t really like the idea of being called Bisexuals and don’t like the idea of a Bisexual movement, precisely because they think that even a Bi identity is too limiting. They say things like, “That takes away from what I’m interested in, which is simply the other person.”
Legazpi: That’s correct. If we were living in a world where everybody was accepted for who they are, then the need for a Bi movement would disappear. But so long as the issues that pertain to the people of this community exist, then there is indeed a need for a Bi movement. It’s not an imposition of an identity or anything like that, it’s just something that helps explain it to people, so they can understand it even if it’s not part of their own experience.
Zenger’s: What do you think is standing in the way of the greater acceptance of Bisexuals, both by straight people and by Lesbian and Gay people?
Legazpi: There are a couple of things. One is a head start. The Gay movement started significantly before the Bi movement, and in a way it paved the way for Lesbians, for Bisexuals, for Transgender people, to say, “Yes, we’re around, we’re supportive, but there are issues that are particular to our identity that need to be recognized.” Also, unfortunately, there’s a lot of fear. There’s a fair amount of ignorance that we’re trying to address through the Institute. So we’re not a threat. This is what we’re about. We’re no different, and there are actually many things we could do together.
Zenger’s: One thing that might be perceived as a threat by some Gays and Lesbians is that, while I was preparing for this interview, I read a quote from Dr. Klein which said that he believed that people’s sexual orientations could change over time. The Gay and Lesbian movements are very heavily invested in the idea that they can’t: that you’re either Gay, Lesbian or straight. That is what you are, and your history of a five-year relationship with a woman and then a three-year one with a man is simply a progression from straight to Gay. How do you answer that, particularly given the extent to which the Gay and Lesbian movements have staked so much of their claim for equality on the idea that this is an inbred characteristic?
Legazpi: First of all, what prevents it from being inbred that you like both? You can be genetically conditioned, if that’s the origin of your orientation, to like both. You’re just manifesting it in different ways as you go through life, and that explains that fluidity. Also, you have a fair amount of people that, as you described, have gone from a relationship with one gender to identifying as Gay, and suddenly they fell in love with someone of the opposite gender and thought maybe they’re not as Gay, maybe they’re not as rigid, as they’d thought before.
One of the issues where we could work together if people dropped that notion of absolute rigidity is conversion therapy. You have some individuals that claim they have successfully “converted” from Gay to straight, and people from the Gay and Lesbian movements say that they’re lying. Then you have some people that have tried to “convert” and it hasn’t worked, and Gay and Lesbian people use them to prove that conversion isn’t possible.
I would say that the people who claim to have “converted” probably were Bisexual to begin with. By denying that option, the Gay and Lesbian movement is doing itself a disfavor. People have to accept that sometimes people liked one gender and then the other. They didn’t convert; they were Bisexual to begin with. That would end that argument.
Zenger’s: I sometimes think we will know we’ve achieved equality when a man can marry a woman, divorce her, marry a man, divorce him, marry another woman, and no one will think this is strange.
Legazpi: That’s right. I agree. At that point, mission accomplished and no more need for an Institute. Maybe one day.
Zenger’s: I’m glad you brought up the question of conversion, because when someone who’s been living in a Gay relationship and lifestyle for a while, and then falls in love with an opposite-sex partner, there are a lot of Gays and Lesbians who will read that as betrayal. They will get very emotional and say, “Oh, that’s not possible,” whereas if you go from a straight partner to a Gay one, they’ll say that he or she is just coming to terms with who they “really” are.
Legazpi: That’s right. They have the idea that it doesn’t work the other way. The more that we are able to get people comfortable with different orientations, the more and more it will be a non-event, a non-issue. That’s what we all hope: that being Gay or Bisexual will be like being left-handed, you know. Oh, yeah. Big deal.
Zenger’s: One thing that strikes me as odd is we’ve got the Gay Pride celebrations coming up. This article will run in my last issue before Pride. And there does seem to be a contradiction there: on the one hand you’re saying this is something inborn, and on the other hand you’re saying it’s something you should be proud of. Isn’t the term “pride” usually associated with something you’ve achieved, rather than something you’re born with?
Legazpi: I think it means “pride” as the opposite of “shame.” Then it makes sense. I’m proud of my heritage, my ethnicity, and things like that. I think this is the same way. We successfully lobbied Pride here in San Diego to change its name to “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride,” to be inclusive. I think we will get one day to where it’s just “Pride,” be proud of who you are, whatever it may be. You can be whatever you are, and everything will be mainstream, because there’ll be nothing to rebel against. Everyone will be accepted for who and what they are. One day, you know. I’m an optimist.
Zenger’s: You mentioned your connection with Dr. Klein? What is the American Institute of Bisexuality?
Legazpi: Well, let me mention first of all Fritz’s involvement with the Bi community. In the 1970’s he researched bisexuality and published The Bisexual Option. The book expanded on the Kinsey scale. The Kinsey scale only measures behavior, and Fritz expanded it into a grid that encompasses, in addition to behavior, fantasy, self-identity, emotional attraction and physical attraction. When I saw the Klein grid for the first time, it was a “Eureka!” moment because it allowed me to understand myself better. It wasn’t as simple as either “Gay,” “Bisexual” or “straight.” It was more complicated than that.
He started a support group for Bisexuals in New York, and when he moved to San Diego in 1982, shortly thereafter he started a Bisexual Forum here in San Diego. Over the years, there were several conferences organized, the North American Conferences on Bisexuality, one in 1993, one in 1998, and the latest one was in 2003. But after the one in 1998, Fritz saw the necessity of forming an institute that would support several aspects of bisexuality as it relates to the broader society: in research, community building, support to youth, different aspects. So he started the American Institute of Bisexuality in 1998 as a 501 ( c ) (3) [nonprofit] organization.
The American Institute of Bisexuality was affectionately known in the community as the Bisexual foundation. It’s something that’s still going on. A lot of people refer to it as the “Bisexual Foundation.” Its official name is the American Institute of Bisexuality. It started publishing the Journal of Bisexuality which, no pun intended, is a bi-monthly publication that publishes research and articles related to bisexuality. Fritz presided over the institute until his passing on May 24, 2006.
Zenger’s: What’s been happening to it since?
Legazpi: The Institute has a board, a five-member board, and he bequested a significant percentage of his estate to the Institute. The estate is not in liquid assets, so as the assets get liquidated, the Institute is becoming endowed.
Zenger’s: How many programs are continuing? I noticed that the Web site is down for “remodeling.”
Legazpi: Yes, that’s right. We wanted to continue the existing programs, so one of them was the Journal of Bisexuality. We extended our contract with Haworth Press, the publisher, so that keeps going. We hired an editor for the Journal. Fritz used to be the editor, and now we have an editor. We divided our jobs, so I’m not involved with that part. Regina Reiinhardt is the liaison on the journal side. We have another board member, Denise Penn, who’s the one who is working on revamping our Web site.
One of the things that we wanted to do was, first of all, address the confusion that existed between AIB and “Bisexual Foundation.” We decided to set up the Bisexual Foundation as a division of AIB. AIB will be focused primarily on academia. It’s going to be writing grants in support of projects that are consistent with the mission of the Institute. We will continue to publish the Journal. And Bisexual Foundation will focus more on the Bi community: supporting conference, supporting community-building, running the Web site.
What we are in the process of doing is moving away from the 1990’s-style Web site and making it more of a portal, in which you could go to bisexual.org and go either to the AIB side or the Bisexual Foundation side, depending on what your interests are. Bisexual Foundation is where you’re going to find the personals. Probably in a month or so we’ll be having it operate again.
Zenger’s: What exactly is your role at the Institute?
Legazpi: I’m one of five board members. I’m normally in charge of the financial side of the Institute.
Zenger’s: Does that mean raising the money, accounting for it, or both?
Legazpi: It will be both. Right now we’re mostly dealing with the estate, unwinding the estate. Once that is completed, we’ll probably start doing fundraising and developing our funding cycle for grants, and having a budget of whatever causes we want to support, saying, “Here is our cycle. Here is our process. Here are the logistics of it.”
Zenger’s: Aside from whatever you get from Dr. Klein’s estate, what are your sources of funding? Where does a Bisexual organization go for money?
Legazpi: Right now it’s been primarily private donations. Most Bi organizations in different cities are grass-roots, member-supported. That’s also how our conferences are organized. Individuals here and there pump in a little seed money, but it’s still tiny compared to Gay organizations. I think the point is that Fritz’s work continues and it doesn’t end. Through careful planning and commitments from like-minded people, we’re continuing his work.