Bisexual people make up more than 50 percent of the LGB community,
but media, the mainstream, and even LGBT groups often erase our
experiences and specific needs or fold them into lesbian and gay
programs and statistics. BiNet USA, GLAAD and other organizations hope
the first ever Bisexual Awareness Week will be a step toward making more
space for for the B in LGBT.
September 23, 1999 was the first Celebrate Bisexuality Day, and in
that tradition a big part of the week aims to celebrate what makes
bisexuality and bisexuals great, and honor our accomplishments
throughout history and today. Organizers also want to make people aware
of the stark realities non-monosexual people face, like poorer health,
higher rates of sexual assault and relatively low rates of being out as
bisexual — only 28 percent of bi people say they are out to the most
important people in their lives, compared to more than 70 percent of gay
and lesbian people.
“Bisexuals are coming together to say we can’t live with this
anymore,” said Faith Cheltenham, the president of BiNet USA. “Because we
haven’t been living with it — there have been a lot of suicides. I’ve
lost three friends in this work since I started doing it because they
had no hope.”
Bisexuals have successfully worked together to gain more visibility
and pursue proactive policies and services in recent years. There are
many ways to celebrate and honor Bisexual Awareness Week. Here are a
few! Add your own in the comments.
1. Educate yourself about the specific challenges of bisexual people and support efforts to improve our lives.
A new report
from the LGBT Movement Advancement Project uses data to demonstrate the
ways in which bisexual people face specific challenges and thus require
targeted solutions. The report collates a lot of data that has been
widely shared and discussed on this website and many other places — and
that’s because there simply isn’t much reliable data on bisexuals, said
Heron Greenesmith, a movement and policy analyst for LGBT MAP. It’s
startling and important to see so much data collected in one place. The
report highlights poor physical and mental health among bisexuals
compared to heterosexual, lesbian and gay people; higher levels of
poverty; and higher rates of intimate partner and sexual violence among
via LGBT Movement Advancement Project
This report gives the media, service providers and bi people a
comprehensive place to go to look for information and statistics about
bi people. Says Greenesmith:
I’m hoping that media will use it and all the resources
collected during the week to speak more competently about the LGBT
movement and understand that even the LGB part is not a monolith. I’m
hoping LGBT organizations will see it as an invitation to showcase their
bi-specific programming and for those who don’t have any to understand
the necessity and the importance of having bi-specific programming. I’m
hoping that bi folks will see it and know that not only are they not
alone but other people are going through the same challenges they are
facing in their lives and folks are out there who are supporting them.
I’m hoping that service providers and researchers will take it as an
invitation to be more culturally competent and precise in their language
around LGBT people and in their work.
The research presented demonstrates why it’s harmful to fold
bisexuals in with gays and lesbians or heterosexual people when doing
research and providing services. For example, Cheltenham noted that many
LGBT-oriented health centers can’t or won’t provide bi-specific health
care and may even turn away bisexual patients. The lack of information
and awareness has very real consequences. As Greenesmith said, there is a
dearth of research on bisexuals, and not much of what does exist
accounts for the intersections of oppression that put some bisexual
people, like those who are transgender, gender nonconforming or
non-binary, of color or low-income at greater risk. With more knowledge,
policymakers and service providers can better target their work to
reach the most people and improve outcomes for bisexuals and everyone in
the larger LGBTQ community.
2. Read and share books about bisexuality.
I semi-regret getting the incredible Bi: Notes From A Bisexual Revolution
Shiri Eisner on Kindle because it makes it harder to foist it upon
people and make them read it. Before I read it, I was timid about
identifying as bi because I felt like it carried baggage I wasn’t
prepared to handle. After reading Eisner’s book, I became excited and
proud to call myself bi (in addition to queer) and quote it at anyone
who will listen. Now I’m making my way through Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around The World
an anthology of more than 200 essays from bisexual people from 42
countries who speak from many different experiences of gender, race,
class and more. Its editors, Robyn Ochs and Sarah Rowley, are among the
most trusted and active bi women in the U.S. and internationally. Next
up on my list is Bisexuality and Transgenderism: Intersexions of the Other.
a textbook, so it’s expensive and hard to track down, but it is an
important resource for people interested in the ways bisexual and
transgender identities, movements and oppressions overlap and diverge.
Because bisexuals are often erased in mainstream works about lesbian and
gay people, bisexuals are creating our own texts, with many awesome
3. Donate to organizations that support bisexuals.
Although bisexual people make up a very large portion of the LGBT
community, funding for bi-specific work makes up a small part of funding
for LGBT programs. If you’ve got extra dollars floating around, put
them toward the work of improving quality of life for bisexual people.
National organizations like BiNet USA
and Bisexual Resource Center
collecting resources, energizing communities and working directly with
LGBT and mainstream leaders to promote bisexual causes and get
information into the public. Find out if your local LGBT resource center
provides bi-specific programming and give a donation marked for that
program. Become an A+ member
to help financially support the bisexuals who work at this website, and so you can read our staff emails
where we finally explain bisexual orgasms (hint: they involve ghosts).
4. Engage with people online and in real life about bisexuality.
Cats are like “I always knew I was different but didn’t have the words to express it before.” via bidyke.tumblr.com
BiNet has a series of hashtags for the week to highlight different aspects of the bisexual movement, which you can find on their site.
hashtags so far — #bihistory and #bifacts — have provided some amazing
insights and resources, so check them out on the twitters and
contribute! There are also a ton of official events
, like meetups, trainings and concerts, plus online activities like a Google Hangout
bisexual Christian heartthrob Eliel Cruz hosted by Campus Pride. If
none of that is your bag, just paint your face blue, purple and pink and
go to brunch.
5. Acknowledge and celebrate bisexuals and bisexuality.
It seems so simple, but it often doesn’t happen. Bisexuals are often
an afterthought, lumped in with bigger headings like gay, queer and LGBT
without being named as our own community with specific needs. Subtle
changes to daily language — the simple act of naming bisexuality and
actively including bisexual people and concerns in activism, policy
language and service provision will make an impact. The fight is so much
bigger than visibility, but reversing the damaging impact of erasure
and silencing is an important first step toward caring for bisexual
people and communities. Some people aren’t comfortable with using the
term bisexual for themselves or as an umbrella term, and
all these suggestions apply to people of many non-monosexual identities.
Bisexual Awareness Week is about more than awareness — it’s a chance
to loudly declare our presence in the LGBT community and the world and
work for the rights, respect and services that will keep us alive and
help our community become healthy and vibrant.