Friday, June 29, 2012

The Bisexual Invisibility Field

So ya'll know I'm a geek and an activist, sometimes it's hard to say what comes first.  The importance of the word bisexual being blocked by Google's Instant Search has slowly become a slight obsession of mine.  Much like the ironies in a Douglas Adams book, "the block" has begun to take on more and more meaning as I see how deep it goes.  I recall being told by a White House staffer in 2010, "We don't know about any bi organizations", was that due to "the block"?  GLAAD doesn't list bisexual as one of the many issues it works on, is that also because they forgot to press Enter?  If one of the biggest companies in the world decides to erase your identity, will anyone notice?   
An S.E.P or 'Somebody Else's Problem field'...utilizes a person's natural tendency to ignore things they don't easily accept, like, for example, aliens at a cricket match. Any object around which an S.E.P is applied will cease to be noticed, because any problems one may have understanding it (and therefore accepting its existence) become Somebody Else's. - Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Awhile back I signed on to write for's "Gay Voices" section, and since birthing the Storm (04/10/2012, 8lb, 1oz and 19.5 inches) I just haven't had time to write a piece.  This issue is so important that I pulled myself away from baby boy patrol to write.  I'm hoping to get some comments from Google, GLAAD, and the Trevor Project since they've worked with Google in the past to decrease LGBT self-harm and suicide.  It would be nice to get a comment from Mitt Romney as well, but I can't imagine he passed along his ban to Google.  That would be impossible right?
If you've been affected by "the block", and want to share your experience please email me at

SENT TO on 06/29/2012, 7:35pm PST

Hi, I'm Faith Cheltenham.  You can read all about me, my work and writing here:

I'm currently writing an article tentatively titled called "What Mitt Romney, GLAAD and Google Have In Common".  The story deals in part with the Instant Search block of the word bisexual along with other elements of bisexual erasure. If you type in gay, lesbian or transgender into a Google search box, Google Instant Search begins to auto-complete the search and makes relevant suggestions.  When you begin to type in bisexual, there are no suggestions provided which lead many to believe there are no search results.  However, when you press Enter you do see millions of results for terms including bisexual.  You can see Google Help Desk response's to questions on this matter here:!topic/websearch/RCNmNQxOCKo.  I'm hoping for a more official comment for my article.

A brief history of this issue:
2010 - Block goes into place, lesbian and bisexual are included in the block.  Google Help states that the block is due to offensive content even though the top results for the term bisexual are for Wikipedia, the Human Rights Campaign, BiNet USA, the Bisexual Resource Center, the New York Times, and countless support resources.
2011 - Block is removed for the term lesbian; bisexual remains blocked
2011-2012 - During the launch of Google Plus+, the term "bisexual" is blocked from appearing in Google Plus+ "Personal Results" even after hitting Enter.
2012 - Google states its proud support for the "LGBT community",

On this page, Google says Instant Search "helps you formulate a better search term by providing instant feedback".  If that's the case, why would Google block the nearly 12 million results for the terms bisexual suicide from appearing Instantly? 

Is Google aware that according to research cited by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, bisexual people have higher rates of depression and suicide attempts than gay and lesbians?  How does Google reconcile making it HARDER for bi people to find resources with its support of the LGBT community and organizations like the Trevor Project?

In 2010, Kelly Fee, Google Search Community Manager said, "Our algorithms look not only at specific words, but also at compound queries based on those words, and across all languages. So, for example, if there's a bad word in Russian, we may filter a compound word including the transliteration of the Russian word into English. Importantly, we also consider the search results themselves for given queries."  Since 2010, the word lesbian which was blocked from Instant Search has been unblocked.  Why does Google still consider bisexual to be a bad word?

Google's philosophy states, "We try to anticipate needs not yet articulated by our global audience, and meet them with products and services that set new standards."  Since the bisexual identity and community represents a majority of the LGBT community, how does Google reconcile it's philosophy of "Great just isn't good enough" with the Bisexual block?

Google's philosophy also states, "Even if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, finding an answer on the web is our problem, not yours."  At this time one might argue that Google has made finding an answer on the web much more difficult for any bisexual person.  Does Google intend to rectify this pressing and damaging issue?  If so, when?  Along with a fix, does Google intend to mitigate the harm it has caused by working with any bi organizations in the future?

Lesbian - 641,000,000 - Unblocked
Gay - 1,160,000,00 - Unblocked
Bisexual - 51,500,000 - BLOCKED
Transgender - 19,800,000 - Unblocked
LGBT - 29,300,000 - Unblocked
Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender - 31,200,000 - BLOCKED

Thanks for your prompt response,
Faith Cheltenham
Huffington Post, Gay Voices Contributor
BiNet USA President
One of Advocate's magazine's 2012 "40 under 40"