The Man Behind the “Geek’s Guide to the Bisexual Universe”

0

Patrick_picture
Type the word “bisexual” into any search engine and you will get numerous helpful links to local and national resources amid eyebrow raising articles about one celebrity’s “bisexual past” or another “refusing the bisexual label.” However, you will not find a link to a blog by an “Angry Bisexual With a Keyboard”, self-confessed “label warrior”, activist, thinker, writer, husband and father. From passionate treatises on bisexual identity development to evocative arguments on labels and Venn diagrams explaining sexual orientation, this blog is where one gets to geek out on all things bisexual. Who is the man behind this blog?

Meet Patrick RichardsFink.

Patrick grew up in a suburb of Sacramento, California, left high school at age 17, completed a semester of college and then dropped out. At 22, after the collapse of his first marriage, he met Janine and found himself in a situation that he likes to recall as, “I was chasing the guy that she was dating at the time.” That chase led nowhere and, instead, Patrick and Janine became best of friends and lovers. They moved to her native Minnesota a year later and married shortly afterward. Janine, he states, was the first person to embrace his bisexuality as part of what makes him who he is.

They lived in small towns where Patrick began a series of odd jobs working in factories, the fast food industry, or doing telemarketing. These were not the safest places to be out and so he stayed in the closet. He wasn’t hiding from himself and he wasn’t hiding from his wife. But he still felt completely isolated because there was no community to go to and nothing to guide him about sexuality. A disastrous visit to a therapist, who refused to acknowledge Patrick’s bisexuality, further elevated the stress that he was feeling behind the closet doors.

“This is where I could be safely out as bisexual”

In 2000, Patrick and his wife moved to St. Cloud, the third largest metropolitan city in Minnesota. It was here that he discovered an online community of bisexuals. In those days, online communities mostly took the form of private message boards or forums in progressive publications like the Utne Reader. “Then there was a site called Everything 2, which was the geek’s version of Wikipedia,” says Patrick. “This is where I could be safely out as bisexual.”

Nearly twenty years of bouncing around from job to job came to an abrupt end when the economy crashed and Patrick found himself laid off, and overlooked for jobs that favored younger men willing to accept lower wages. “At that point I finally realized I could not function in the world working these jobs anymore,” he recalls. “I just could not keep working my way up and get kicked back to the bottom of the ladder. So, I thought about what I really wanted to do that I never thought I could do, and that was to be a therapist.” This wasn’t just because of his disappointing experiences with therapists. From the confines of the closet in small towns, Patrick had become fascinated by, and something of an expert at, observing and discerning human behavior.

At age 41, Patrick went back to college. St. Cloud State University proved to be the optimal environment to be out, become engaged in their LGBT Resource Center, and devour everything he could find on queer theory, psychology, gender variations and sexual orientation. He remembers his first diversity class. “It blew open every preconceived notion I had about race relations,” he says, “but also prompted me to not remain silent about my bisexuality anymore.” Watching the film Color of Fear (dir. Lee Mun Wah, 1994) was another such experience. “That’s when I realized how important community is to coming out,” he says. “You can’t come out in a vacuum. You don’t develop a stable identity in a vacuum. There has to be community.”

True to his own word, Patrick has been providing a community for bisexuals in the space that he knows and operates best: online, through his blog. Whether it’s because of his Asperger’s or his insatiable hunger for an evidence-based body of knowledge, his blog posts are a loquacious tumble of words—or “wall-o-text” as he calls it—never short on facts and references to scientific journals, academic papers, and opinions of bisexual activists like Robyn Ochs and Lorraine Hutchins, both of whom he greatly admires.

Fresh from achieving a Master of Science in Community Counseling, Patrick confesses that he couldn’t have become a therapist in his 20s because he just didn’t have the wisdom that comes from lived experiences. Still, he reserves his strongest criticism for the mental health profession and academic study of mental health. He wasn’t entirely shocked to discover that academic discourse on bisexuality, including research and study materials, is limited at best. Even in LGBT literature and queer theory classes, bisexuality is often erased or made invisible. Then there are the duplicitous references to bisexuality only in the context of conversion therapy. “I once read a book on stress management,” Patrick says, “that contained three paragraphs about the non-straight experience with stress and it focused on lesbian, gay, and transgender people; it didn’t even mention bisexuals. You can go through an entire two-year program on counseling and spend at most one week on queer issues. This simply doesn’t correlate to the number of LGBT clients these would-be therapists are going to encounter after they graduate.”

He hopes that mental health services are getting better for bisexuals.

“It hasn’t been that long since same-gender attractions were considered pathological, a reason to be institutionalized”

“It hasn’t been that long since same-gender attractions were considered pathological, a reason to be institutionalized,” he observes. “So, in that sense we are making progress but not fast enough if we consider that bisexuals are half of the population. Recent material, like this article in the William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law, exposes how bisexuals are being discriminated against for their bisexuality. It’s the next chapter in the story that Kenji Yoshino started telling in his article about the epistemic contract of bisexual invisibility.”

Patrick may be at ease rattling off the names of authors who have inspired him; he can tell you to follow researchers, bloggers, and authors like Beth Firestein, Aud Traher, and Clare Hemmings. But he’s at a loss to name a male bisexual celebrity who inspires him. He admits that it is still very difficult for Bi men to come out and says that Bi men have the added burden that, if they use the word “gay” to identify themselves even once—never mind if it’s during their own period of reconciliation with their identity—then they are forever pegged as gay or indecisive. “We need to do what Harvey Milk said,” he offers. “We need to stand up and be counted. We need to be un-ignorable. We need to be loud, proud and in your face.”

When asked about the current state of the bisexual movement, he says, “We’re making some steps ahead but every time we start to do so, the resistance increases. There is a meme that is kind of a truism for gamers: All of a sudden the enemies are harder, there are more of them and the rewards seem to get smaller. The increased pushback on bisexuality is a measure of the fact that we are making progress.” He is disturbed by a growing trend that prefers the terms “gay, lesbian and transgender” as the unpacking of “LGBT”. He feels the reason that’s happening is because bisexuals are getting loud and visible. To him it’s becoming “so obvious that people are twisting themselves into verbal tangles to avoid uttering the dreaded B word.”

One of the reasons Patrick became a therapist is because he recognized the need in the community for a bi aware therapist and he wanted to be the therapist that he needed 25 years ago and couldn’t have. “I can’t change the past but what I can do is be the person who is there for the next guy,” he says. A statement from one of his blog posts summarizes it best: “I can be most effective if I focus, work towards understanding the deep issues that drive the problems that affect people who identify the same way that I have ever since I started to understand who I am.” Now pour yourself a glass of your favorite beverage, click here and immerse yourself in the wise, wonderful and proudly bisexual world of Patrick.

Share.

About Author

Anil Vora

Anil Vora is based in Seattle, Washington and is a regular contributor to Bi Magazine. As a result of his series of articles about bisexuality in India, written exclusively for Bi Magazine, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs included bisexual content in their development of a global charter on LGBT rights. He has been a queer activist for more than three decades starting with HIV prevention, treatment, and advocacy issues and is now focusing on the health and wellness of LGBTQ elders.

Comments are closed.