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April 21, 2010

When it gets dark, Thunder rolls

The way I see it, sexuality in general is a lot like Thunder Over Louisville. A massive amount of preparation goes into the hair-raising and mind-numbing 28-minute (or so) display of booming fireworks, which is certainly a sight to behold for those who take part. Often heard from miles away, Thunder brings all types of people together. Approximately 700,000 of your closest neighbors and friends are doing it. And, more often than not, it is accompanied by radio hits from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.

Much like sexuality, the festivities are enjoyed through a number of ways, depending on your own personal preference, or the preferences of the people around you. Some people show up early for the air show with lawn chairs and a packed cooler, while others prefer to hunker down at the Chow Wagon. Meanwhile, some choose to remain safely at home, enjoying the display via television or a rooftop outside of downtown.

There also is, on some level, a need to rewrite what has happened in the past in order to fully enjoy the event. Thunder’s “Salute To Our Nation” features helicopters displaying two enormous American flags over the crowd to the tune of “America the Beautiful,” along with roaring fighter jets and the all too bomb-like explosions of pyrotechnics. During such a spectacular celebration, however, the political actions of our country (and their affect on other countries) mostly get overlooked. To truly “ooh” and “ahh” at the patriotic ceremonies, we must mentally edit out the details of history that make us feel uncomfortable.

It’s the same thing many people do with sex:

“A lot of people write out moments in their lives that don’t seem to make sense in terms of the erotic person they are right now,” says Marjorie Garber, a professor at Harvard University and author of the book “Vice Versa: Bisexuality and the Eroticism of Everyday Life.” “We tell our sexual biographies backwards from where we are.”

There is at least one group of people, Garber says, who don’t necessarily feel the need to rewrite their past sexual experiences in an effort to fit into society’s categories: self-proclaimed bisexuals. And while many of us who don’t identify as bisexual make up a number of definitions for the preference (it is often seen as “being on the fence” between gay and straight, or some state of sexual confusion), when I say bisexuals, I mean people who recognize their own potential for sexual and emotional attraction to more than one gender. A bisexual person may be attracted to one sex more than the other, attracted to both sexes equally, or may find gender unimportant altogether. At the same time, many people who exhibit bisexual behavior do not identify as bisexual. Similarly, just because you enjoy Thunder Over Lousville, that doesn’t make you a patriot, or someone who cares about Derby, for that matter.

I talked to a lot of Louisvillians about bisexuality during this Thunder week and was surprised by the amount of judgments placed on the B in LGBT, especially from lesbians and gays. “I feel like, when one of my lesbian friends begins to date men, we have lost one to the other team,” one woman told me.

But who is really keeping score?

“I know bisexuality exists, but it seems like people should choose to be one thing or the other,” was the sentiment of one homosexual male. “It seems like a trend, or just another way to get attention.” Then there’s the old joke that bisexuals have a 50 percent better chance of getting a date on Saturday night, which, if you do the math, turns out to have some truth to it. But, because of such judgments, many bisexual individuals have adopted their own labels, such as “non-gender specific,” or, my favorite, “hetero/homo-flexible.”

“I think it’s petty that people are so concerned with who I am sleeping with,” said a woman who describes herself as bi. “Gays don’t want me. Straight people don’t want me. Where do I go? What difference does it make to other people what I do anyway? It seems that it’s not really about bisexuality, but about other people’s insecurities.”

In my opinion, we can learn a lot about bisexuality from our own Thunder. No matter how you do it, at the end of the night, it’s really just all about the fireworks.