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8 - Splitting hairs: Michel Foucault’s ‘heterotopia’ and bisexuality in later life

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 December 2021

Trish Hafford-Letchfield
Affiliation:
Middlesex University
Paul Simpson
Affiliation:
Edge Hill University, Ormskirk
Paul Reynolds
Affiliation:
Edge Hill University, Ormskirk
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Summary

This chapter reflects on both the sexual intimacies of the ageing bisexual and the limited research on such lived experiences of bisexuality in later life. Here I consider these two areas as an example of Michel Foucault's ‘heterotopia’; as a space that is, paradoxically, both connected to, and disconnected from, the ageing gay and lesbian imaginary (Foucault, 1967, p 3). This chapter also demonstrates how the ‘dynamic and fluid’ complexities of lived bisexuality in later life, within mononormative care practices, ensure that older bisexual intimacies have historically existed (and continue to exist) as a ‘bitopia’ (Beemyn and Eliason, 1996, p 7). This ‘bitopia’ is defined here, within the conceptual framework of Foucault's ‘heterotopia’, as the simultaneous inclusion and exclusion of older bisexual intimacies and sexual practices from cultural, institutionalised and socio-historical discourses. I posit here that such practices and discourses are sustained by ideologies informed by long-established paradigms of what many bisexual scholars describe as ‘mononormativity’ and ‘monosexual subjectivity’, which describe assumptions that a person is exclusively hetero-or homosexual, indicated by the gender of their current partner (Garber, 1995, p 5; Monro, 2015, p 3). A central focus here is to utilise a literature review to identify how this lived ‘bitopia’ of older bisexuals in later life continues to be repressed, policed and sustained within a ‘landscape of compulsory monosexuality’ and how this repressive bi/heterotopia affects sexual practices and intimacies for older bisexuals (James, 1996, p 220). Furthermore, this chapter interrogates the reasons why older bisexual intimacies remain both part of, and excluded from, the sexual intimacies of the ageing lesbian and gay communities.

Foucault's ‘heterotopia’ and bisexual intimacies in later life

Bisexuality is often added as a footnote or at the end of a list of sexual minority groups. The B in LGBT is both an invisible and a silent letter, yet, paradoxically, also the largest letter. Consequently, it has long been contended that bisexual identities and sexual acts of intimacy exist, operate and are regulated as a silenced majority within an existing minority (Wolff, 1979; Klein, 1993; Garber, 1995; Ault, 1996; Hemmings, 1997; Angelides, 2001; Lingel, 2012; Barker and Langdridge, 2014; Monro, 2015). As of 2017 in the UK, 0.7 per cent of people identify as bisexual compared with 1.3 per cent of people who identify as either gay or lesbian (Guy, 2019).

Type
Chapter
Information
Sex and Diversity in Later Life
Critical Perspectives
, pp. 139 - 162
Publisher: Bristol University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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