LES ECHOS

Bisexual? Pansexual? The Non-Binary Caught In Between

People who have romantic relationships with both men and women are often the target of prejudice and discrimination — from all sides.

At the Paris Pride Parade on June 30
At the Paris Pride Parade on June 30
Gaelle Dupont

PARIS — Men, women, heterosexuals, gays, lesbians. Forget all of those "old" categories. Last month, the results of a national survey in France of biphobia and panphobia — discrimination faced by those who identify as bisexual or pansexual — turned some heads.

If the term "biphobia" is not yet widely accepted, it is because of a paradox. While those who identify as lesbian or gay live more and more openly, and those who identify as transgender have obtained the beginnings of acceptance, those who identify as bisexual – those who are attracted to people of more than one gender – remain largely invisible. The term "pansexual" has even less standing. Used by a few figures in the entertainment world, it is increasingly preferred by the younger generation instead of "bisexual" because it allows for more fluid identification. This is how Jacquie (everyone requested at least partial anonymity), a blue-haired 19-year-old, explained the difference: "The word ‘bisexual" no longer corresponds to the perception certain people have," Jacquie said. "To be pansexual is to say you could be attracted to someone no matter their gender."

Male, female or any of the other many options which have emerged to measure the evolution of the fluidity of identity and sexuality: transgender (when the gender with which someone identifies does not match the sex they were assigned at birth), intersex (someone born with sex chromosomes, genitalia, or reproductive systems not considered to be standard for male or female), or non-binary (someone who does not identify either as male or as female) are some of the most common.

"At the beginning of middle school, I had boyfriends and I also had very, very, very close friendships with girls," says Jacquie. "First, I identified as bisexual, then as pansexual which is more inclusive, then as queer, which is a generic term to say you're not in the binary, because I was tired of using ten different words!"

Today, we have the vocabulary.

Biphobia or panphobia, whichever term is used, Jacquie has experienced it. "We get told it's just a phase, that we're going to choose," Jacquie says. "And also, that we're going to be more unfaithful, because of a stupid reasoning that we could cheat on our partner with twice as many people. Even gays and lesbians say it."

This is also what Laura, 42, saw during her first relationship with a woman when she was 18. "She was very afraid that I was going to cheat on her at the same time with both men and women," Laura says, "even though there was no one more monogamous than me."

One-third of the 3,624 people who responded to the biphobia survey said that they had been rejected by a potential partner because of their sexual orientation. Ninety-three percent said they had already heard biphobic or panphobic remarks. For 66% of them, these remarks had influenced their visibility or made them speak more freely about their orientation.

In a sign that things are beginning to change, celebrities are beginning to identify as bisexual or pansexual in the United States and also in France — including Héloïse Letissier, the singer for Christine and The Queens.

"It's not bad for YouTubers to do this," Laura says. "The internet has changed many things. When I was young, the only bisexual person I could relate to was the heroine of Basic Instinct, a criminal!"

"People have said to me ‘pansexual, does that mean that you like animals too?"" says Morgane, an 18-year-old with blue eyes and short hair, who has identified as pansexual for two years. "I began to go out with a girl without asking myself any questions, it was enough evidence for me. But I am not a lesbian because I am still attracted to men."

Among her family and friends, her coming out has been well-received. "I have the impression that today people are more open-minded," Morgane says. "In high school people would come out as gay or lesbian from time to time, and there were also people who would come out as transgender."

Coming out is a neverending task when one is bisexual, says Alexandre, 25. "If you're with a person of the same gender, you're categorized as gay. But if their gender is different, then you're straight. You have to start over again each time."

He was in a relationship with a young woman when he met his first boyfriend, who was transgender. "So, for me it's not that important how my partner identifies." He needed to explain to his grandmother that no, he was not with two people at one time.

And is bisexuality more common today?

"Many people in the past were bisexual, but they didn't have a name for it," says Alexandre, who is working on a history PhD. "Today, we have the vocabulary to describe how we live."

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Pro-life and Pro-abortion Rights Protests in Washington

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Håfa adai!*

Welcome to Thursday, where new Omicron findings arrive from South Africa, abortion rights are at risk at the U.S. Supreme Court and Tyrannosaurus rex has got some new competition. From Germany, we share the story of a landmark pharmacy turned sex toy museum.

[*Chamorro - Guam]

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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• COVID update: South Africa reports a higher rate of reinfections from the Omicron variant than has been registered with the Beta and Delta variants, though researchers await further findings on the effects of the new strain. Meanwhile, the UK approves the use of a monoclonal therapy, known as sotrovimab, to treat those at high risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms.The approval comes as the British pharmaceutical company, GSK, separately announced the treatment has shown to “retain activity” against the Omicron variant. Down under, New Zealand’s reopening, slated for tomorrow is being criticized as posing risks to its under-vaccinated indigenous Maori.

• Supreme Court poised to gut abortion rights: The U.S. Supreme Court signaled a willingness to accept a Republican-backed Mississippi law that would bar abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, even in cases of rape or incest. A ruling, expected in June, may see millions of women lose abortion access, 50 years after it was recognized as a constitutional right in the landmark Roe v. Wade case.

• Macri charged in Argentine spying case: Argentina’s former president Mauricio Macri has been charged with ordering the secret services to spy on the family members of 44 sailors who died in a navy submarine sinking in 2017. The charge carries a sentence of three to ten years in prison. Macri, now an opposition leader, says the charges are politically motivated.

• WTA suspends China tournaments over Peng Shuai: The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) announced the immediate suspension of all tournaments in China due to concerns about the well-being of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, and the safety of other players. Peng disappeared from public view after accusing a top Chinese official of sexual assault.

• Michigan school shooting suspect to be charged as an adult: The 15-year-old student accused of killing four of his classmates and wounding seven other people in a Michigan High School will face charges of terrorism and first-degree murder. Authorities say the suspect had described wanting to attack the school in cellphone videos and a journal.

• Turkey replaces finance minister amid economic turmoil: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan appointed a strong supporter of his low-interest rate drive, Nureddin Nebati, as Turkey’s new finance minister.

• A battle axe for a tail: Chilean researchers announced the discovery of a newly identified dinosaur species with a completely unique feature from any other creatures that lived at that time: a flat, weaponized tail resembling a battle axe.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

South Korean daily Joong-ang Ilbo reports on the discovery of five Omicron cases in South Korea. The Asian nation has broken its daily record for overall coronavirus infections for a second day in a row with more than 5,200 new cases. The variant cases were linked to arrivals from Nigeria and prompted the government to tighten border controls.


#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

¥10,000

In the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin, a reward of 10,000 yuan ($1,570) will be given to anyone who volunteers to take a COVID-19 test and get a positive result, local authorities announced on Thursday on the social network app WeChat.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Why an iconic pharmacy is turning into a sex toy museum

The "New Pharmacy" was famous throughout the St. Pauli district of Hamburg for its history and its long-serving owner. Now the owner’s daughter is transforming it into a museum dedicated to the history of sex toys, linking it with the past "curing" purpose of the shop, reports Eva Eusterhus in German daily Die Welt.

💊 The story begins in autumn 2018, when 83-year-old Regis Genger stood at the counter of her pharmacy and realized that the time had come for her to retire. At least that is the first thing her daughter Anna Genger tells us when we meet, describing the turning point that has also shaped her life and that of her business partner Bianca Müllner. The two women want to create something new here, something that reflects the pharmacy's history and Hamburg's eclectic St. Pauli quarter (it houses both a red light district and the iconic Reeperbahn entertainment area) as well as their own interests.

🚨 Over the last few months, the pharmacy has been transformed into L'Apotheque, a venture that brings together art and business in St. Pauli's red light district. The back rooms will be used for art exhibitions, while the old pharmacy space will house a museum dedicated to the history of sex toys. Genger and Müllner want to show that desire has always existed and that people have always found inventive ways of maximizing pleasure, even in times when self-gratification was seen as unnatural and immoral, as a cause of deformities.

🏩 Genger and Müllner want the museum to show how the history of desire has changed over time. The art exhibitions, which will also center on the themes of physicality and sexuality, are intended to complement the exhibits. They are planning to put on window displays to give passers-by a taste of what is to come, for example, British artist Bronwen Parker-Rhodes's film Lovers, which offers a portrait of sex workers during lockdown.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them. Never."

— U.S. actor Alec Baldwin spoke to ABC News, his first interview since the accident that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the movie Rust last October. The actor said that although he was holding the gun he didn’t pull the trigger, adding that the bullet “wasn't even supposed to be on the property.”

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin

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