A lot gets done in my name as a trans non-binary person. I choose to label as Bisexual, despite the many different clamoring voices all insisting I shouldn’t. Most often this takes the form of biphobia masking as “complexity of language” and” trans inclusion”. The idea that the word bisexual somehow reinforces the western gender binary, and thus is harmful to trans people like myself, is such a common way biphobia is expressed that it currently is next to “Photograph” by Nickelback on my personal list of things I can’t stand to hear any more.
This idea isn’t rooted in the idea of complex language but biphobia. When people talk about how words reinforce the binary it is ONLY ever in regards to bisexuality. I have been to many LGBT spaces where this has come up. “We need to drop the B” or in a personal context “Oh I don’t use bisexual because it reinforces the binary.”
You know what never ever comes up after? How words like “gay” and “lesbian” are also reinforcing a gender binary. Nobody ever says “We need to change our name from “The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to something more inclusive because gay and lesbian reinforce the gender binary” or “I don’t call myself a lesbian because it isn’t trans inclusive”
That is how I know this is just biphobia masquerading as “inclusive language”. Only bisexuals have to change, only our words are bad. Even though the bisexual community defines itself as “attraction to same/different genders or more than one gender” this binary, cis only men and women definition biphobia is constantly imposed from outside the community by cis people doing it in the name of people like me.
If you feel the need to pick apart, ditch or otherwise get rid of the word bisexual you are harming transgender, genderqueer and non binary people who identify as bisexual. In the bisexual trans community this has become such a toxic poison that it causes people to become depressed, anxious or to self harm. Imagine being told that how you define yourself is harmful. That you are, like your label, bad and unworthy. I know seeing such arguments and statements have brought me back to a place of immense pain and internalized biphobia and transphobia. As a bisexual this is just another form of pain that I have to deal with. It hits the same open bleeding area that is from lesbian and gay biphobia–harmed self-righteously by those who should help us.
I’m never surprised that the same people who advocate for the elimination of bisexual and for ABB (Anything But Bi) terms to replace them in the name of trans inclusion rarely do actual work with the transgender and genderqueer/ non binary communities. The Transgender Violence Tracking Project was created by a bisexual transgender woman and is run and staffed by many bisexuals, including myself. I can nearly always count on support from the bi community as a trans person. The history of friendship between the Bi and Trans communities goes back decades, back past Stonewall even.
If you want to support trans people like me don’t erase me or speak over me or cause me harm out of self-righteous biphobia. Look into yourself and deal with that internalized biphobia and then help others get over theirs. Don’t advocate for the destruction of a community in the name of “saving” it.
And, especially don’t do it in my name.
Aud Traher is a gender non conforming transgender bisexual identified person who lives in Pennsylvania and prefers they, them, their personal pronouns. In 2013, Aud was honored to be an attendee at the LGBT Pride Month Reception at the White House. A prolific writer, Aud operates evenaud.wordpress.org and is currently working on a coming out book for bi teens and young adults while also interning at Quist, a mobile app that displays events from this day in LGBTQ history.
It’s 3:49am. Gabriel, my four-month-old, is crying in his nursery. My partner and I roll over, look at each other, groan. What does it mean to be the best parents we can be in this moment? Allow Gabriel to learn how to soothe himself because we know he is safe, warm, and has a full belly? Or follow our instincts by going up and rocking him back to sleep? We have no guide book. As parents of two children under the age of three, my partner and I are constantly making decisions like this that collectively will shape our children’s lives.
In my role as National Program Director of Keshet, I help Jewish congregations every day make decisions that will shape the lives of their LGBT members. And while, like parenting, these decisions must always first come from a sense of love and trust in each other, I am proud to announce that there is now a guide book to support Jewish congregations in their efforts to create inclusive institutions for LGBT people and their families:
“Kol B’mishpachat Elohim / All in God’s Family: A Jewish Guide for Creating Allies for Our LGBT Families,” is a multimedia curriculum created by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Institute for Welcoming Resources, Keshet, COLAGE, and Family Equality Council.
The High Holidays are the perfect occasion for the release of a new resource. At this time of the Jewish year, during the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we enter into a period of reckoning for all the choices we have made over the past year. We do the work of teshuvah, commonly translated as repentance and literally meaning “returning” – returning to our best and purest selves. We struggle to return to the people we want to be, the people we know we can be. We reflect on how whether or not we have shown up for others, whether or not we retreated from ourselves, and whether or not we did the right thing rather than the easy thing whenever we could.
Doing the work of LGBT inclusion in our congregations is doing the work of teshuvah – it’s an ongoing process of reflection, reckoning, and making change to better meet the mark. We can honor our accomplishments even as we strive for improvement. LGBT inclusion is not a box to simply check, not something that is achieved in a single training session. We may have developed an inclusion statement for our website. But did we train our staff in how to be more inclusive in their work? Did we create opportunities for community conversations about inclusion and LGBT themes? Did we make bathrooms available for people of all genders? Did we do enough?
There are no quick fixes. Rather, coming together to enact our values for a more inclusive community is a process, a practice that we carry over time. It involves reflection, teshuvah, consistently returning to the values that characterize our communities at their best.
This is not only a job for me — it’s also personal. As part of a queer family, I want my children to grow up knowing that the essential components of family are love and respect, not one mom and one dad; I want them to know that they have the spaciousness to experience and express their gender and sexual orientation however it evolves over their lifetime. And as part of a Jewish family, I want my children to participate in Jewish community that celebrates and teaches about embracing all people, all families, all genders, all kinds of love.
It’s our hope that Kol B’mishpachat Elohim will support Jewish congregations in pursuing the holy work of LGBT inclusion in Jewish congregations, and will ultimately help all Jewish families – LGBT and straight – experience the richness of a truly inclusive community.
And although there is no guidebook for us as parents, my partner and I will continue our own struggle to make the right choices — time and time again — for our children. But hopefully it won’t always have to be at Four in the morning.
by Catherine Bell, National Program Director of Keshet
Last September, I attended the first ever White House Roundtable on bisexuality. Aside from the abysmal statistics about the prevalence of health disparities, discrimination and violence, I was most personally moved by hearing a speaker talk about the need to continually come out. Their words struck a chord and resonated with me because I too had the same experience every time I changed partners and they were the opposite gender of the person I’d been with most recently.
If I was in a relationship with a man, and it ended, my loved ones and associates appeared confused when next I dated a woman. If I was in a relationship with a woman, and it ended, and my next partner was a man, folks were truly baffled. No matter how many times I told them I was bisexual, they apparently just didn’t believe me. It was as if I’d challenged their conventional understanding of the world and they didn’t have any space between their ears to grasp the concept of bisexuality. I have to admit that sometimes when they’d ask the usual, “but I thought you were a lesbian/straight,” I’d be internally screaming at them, “I AM BISEXUAL!!! What part of that don’t you understand???” But of course I never do scream at them. (Just like I never scream at the well-intended white person who makes an ear curdling remark about black people or race.) I just calmly respond with my usual even-toned expressionless (and at times bemused) face, “I am bisexual. I am attracted to and have relationships with both men and women – but since I am in a monogamous relationship, that translates into only one gender at a time.”
But I wasn’t always so confident about openly identifying as bisexual. There were times when while dating a man, it was easier for me to be silent about my dating history with women. And when I was with women, it was easier to leave out the fact that men were part of my history as well. I thought I’d found my true self when I began referring to myself as a “lesbian-identified bisexual woman.” Aside from being way too long and cumbersome, it was also just a way to curry favor with the lesbian community. It was my preemptive strike against the inevitable questioning I had learned to endure. I knew that identifying as just bisexual meant risking that I could not be trusted. In fact, if I said it in just the right way, it was a way to lead with the word “lesbian” and mumble through the word “bisexual.” I told myself that I felt more at home in the lesbian community and that I felt more comfortable having relationships with women than with men but that wasn’t it. It was just my way of belonging in a world that was (and still is) quick to shun and isolate bisexual people.
But that was then and this is now. Today, I don’t feel defensive about my bisexual identity. Duality is my friend; bisexuality is as natural to me as the fact that I’m neither left handed nor right handed – I’m ambidextrous and there’s nothing wrong with being so. I’ve grown a lot over the years and with age has come not only wisdom but also compassion and patience. In June when I married the woman of my dreams, I was prepared for the countless people who by now have heard me say I’m bisexual and now are asking, “Since you’re married to a woman, you’re not bisexual anymore, right?” Like a merry-go-round, here we go again: I am still bisexual because I am attracted to men and women. I married a woman but I still identify as bisexual. I am in a monogamous relationship with a woman but that doesn’t mean I’m no longer bisexual.
The simple truth has liberated me from the clumsy long title that I’d used to cloak my true self within. What a tremendous gift to be able to celebrate and acknowledge our existence for a glorious week in October. I affirm everyone’s right to define themselves according to their own definition – because I believe defining one’s sexuality is an intensely private matter. It is not for the peering eyes of strangers to observe and whisper about. It’s not for the dictatorial voices of the judgmental to snidely attack or loudly comment upon. It should not be the subject of ridicule or painful jokes.
It is for me to decide and define, however I choose.
by Stacey Long, Director of Public Policy & Government Affairs at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
Three years ago, when a genderqueer person at a bisexual caucus suggested to the group that we rename ourselves the “pansexual caucus,” I had what I presume is a typical and unfortunate reaction: “Oh jeez, this language thing is just out of control!” I reacted out of my own exhaustion navigating social identities every hour of every day. In the all too rare space of the bisexual caucus, unencumbered by the limits of monosexuality (i.e. gay or straight), I wanted to be able to play, connect and flirt. And I wanted to be left alone in my happy, proud, content privilege-don’t rain on my warm fuzzy feelings with your language policing!
Well it’s been a while. And I’m starting to see the inadequacy of language, and I’m disappointed in myself. My gender non-conforming, queer and/or genderqueer lovers, colleagues, and friends often feel trapped by the prison of the binary way our language designates gender. So I’ve made a decision. I’m no longer going to lift up and claim a concept painful to others as part of my identity. Especially because, as it turns out, bisexuality is not an accurate description of my sexual orientation. After countless good conversations, a brief period of mourning and a hard look at being 47 years young in a moment when language is changing quickly in the LGBTQ movement, I’m ready to say bye bye to the word bisexuality.
In 1983, at age 15, I came out in the white middle class suburbs of NYC as a person and sexual being attracted to men and women and I’ve been out and joyfully bisexual ever since. In college and afterwards, I dated men and women, and enjoyed recounting to my friends how I was mystified by monosexuality, which I often describe as a gender fetish. And like some queers, I chose to love and live non-monogamously, adding to the “Q” in my queer.
Part of my own activist journey has been informed by my genderqueer and transgender friends and colleagues, who have blossomed bravely into themselves in spite of the limits imposed by others. When I think about the impact that a rigid gender binary has had on them, where identity is measured in terms of man or woman, masculine or feminine, I recognize the same binary measuring tape used to try to place me in a box – are you attracted to men or women? My queerness (what I used to think of as my bisexuality) is about refuting that measuring tape. I hope humans are ready for erotic experiences outside the confines of such a limiting binary scale.
For me, bisexuality is essentially linked to gender. Because the fluidity of desire is outside the confines of gender for me, I believe bisexuality is about being oriented outside gender. Which may be a reason why my love, respect and closeness to trans people and to transgender justice work has been so intense, personal and instrumental to my own liberation. I am always amazed by the diversity of how my transgender friends think about and embody their identities, often in defiance of any kind of established order.
Pansexuality is a term I am exploring. I’m not sure is right for me; I keep imaging a sexual orientation focused on Peter Pan, which is not entirely unappealing, although somewhat limiting. Queer sits happily in my heart for now—the “Q” makes me laugh, feels right and is like an ocean of mystery. My desire is boundless, not determined by any specific gender identity or expression. I am attracted to minds, dreams, arms and eyes, the sound of laughter, the energy of touch, the way a person smells, a kiss. These attributes exist in our world, wearing shoes and combing hair (or not!) and I accept the gendered ways we play, perform and seduce each other. Gender expressions often fluctuate, leaning one way then another. Ultimately I want the freedom and possibility of all loves, all the time.
Whether or not I adopt the term pansexuality, I believe it’s time to say no to the word “bisexuality” because it reinforces and reifies the gender binary, which is problematic for a lot of reasons. The binary idea that humans are either/or, that we are either/or man or woman and hold either/or masculine or feminine attributes, is misguided. Binary attributions of gender hurt our children, our creativity and our society. When we grasp at this fiction, we serve power structures and patriarchy in awful and violent ways. We limit our notions of self, of who we can love or who will love us, and we justify endlessly problematic labels and stereotypes.
Bisexuality has embedded in it the bi of binary and essentially, as a person who loves and respects genderqueer people and other people living outside the gender binary, I can’t abide claiming an identity that erases others. It’s implied that bisexuals love both, love all, but the term is insufficient, not clear enough. And I want to be immaculate with my words.
by Evangeline Weiss, Leadership Programs Director at The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
On August 28, 2014, Andrew Cray, a leading expert in transgender health policy and former Holley Law Fellow at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, passed away at the age of 28. Andrew was a fierce advocate for transgender health policy, including being one of the leading advocates to secure transgender-inclusive health insurance policies in numerous states across the country and in the District of Columbia. This week the movement lost on of the most smart, kind, and effective people we have, and we at the Task Force mourn his loss and celebrate the contributions Andrew made during his short life.
Andrew began working on LGBT health policy as a Holley Law Fellow at the Task Force in 2009, where he was tasked with writing recommendations for inclusion in the various versions of the health reform law then being debated in Congress. His research in this area only deepened an interest he already held for ensuring that LGBT people, particularly transgender people, have full access to the range of health care they need. Following his time at the Task Force, Andrew worked on veterans health policy at the National Coalition for LGBT health, transgender health policy at the National Center for Transgender Equality, and the full range of LGBT health policy as it relates to implementation of the Affordable Care Act while at the Center for American Progress’s LGBT Research and Communications Project.
Andrew’s work on transgender health policy was truly transformative – he was involved in securing life-saving policies that expand access to health care for transgender people in nearly every state that has recently updated their policies to ban exclusion of transgender people from health insurance policies. Indeed, in most of these states he was the leading legal expert and architect of the policy language ultimately adopted. Thousands of transgender people that never knew Andrew can thank him for ensuring that they have access to health insurance policies that recognize their gender identity. And for that, we all owe Andrew a great deal of gratitude.
Andrew was also a founding member of Trans Legal Advocates of Washington (TransLAW), an organization that serves the legal needs of the transgender community in the Washington DC area by training attorneys on transgender legal issues and operating legal clinics for transgender clients. Indeed, Andrew led the group that conducted outreach to the local transgender community to identify needs and inform low-income transgender people about the services offered by TransLAW. Andrew committed his entire life, both personal and professional, to LGBT equality. In fact, Andrew was so committed to LGBT health access that while fighting the cancer that ultimately took his life, he used his experience with the health care system to encourage others to get covered for affordable health insurance access through the Affordable Care Act by writing an op-ed titled “No One is Invincible.”
For us at the Task Force, losing Andrew really hurts. He was a friend, colleague, and true leader creating the change we want to see in the world – and he was really good at it too. As we celebrate his life, we must also remember to continue working toward achieving his dream of seeing a country in which LGBT people have access to the full range of health care they need. The only way Andrew would have us honor his memory is to keep working tirelessly to achieve that dream and make the world a better place. Rest in peace, friend. Andrew Cray 1986-2014.
By Patrick Paschall, Senior Policy Counsel, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
I remember my grandfather as both a brilliant intellectual and a humble, caring man. He grew up in Puerto Rico, and served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army during World War II. After the war he moved to New York City where he found work as an electroplater at a factory making Goody hair products. He handled toxic chemicals with little to no safety protections. Because of these working conditions, he started attending labor organizing meetings in secret. He was afraid of being branded as a socialist and facing even more discrimination. However, he did find a way to publicly advocate for his fellow workers when he became the head of the local electroplating society.
My grandfather lived at a time when a hard day’s work was rewarded with a fair wage, and he was able to rent a house in Queens, provide for my Grandmother and put my mother through college. He also helped my grandmother, who emigrated from Guatemala, through the arduous process of becoming a U.S. citizen. Over the years my grandfather’s health deteriorated due to industrial toxins in his liver and complications from the malaria that he contracted while serving in the Philippines during WWII. However, he stayed with Goody for 35 years, eventually becoming a respected supervisor. At his retirement he was given an engraved company watch, which was later passed down to me.
After retirement, he used his savings to buy a small plot of land in Huehuetenango, Guatemala. He taught himself everything he needed to design a house, from architecture to plumbing, then worked alongside local Mayan builders to construct it. My grandfather had always demonstrated a compassion for others no matter their differences and wasn’t afraid to cross racial lines, such as his involvement in improving sanitary systems in nearby communities. When my family visited we were always welcomed into houses in nearby villages with open arms. My grandparents’ house was open to all, including LGBTQ individuals, and was a gathering place for local artists and intellectuals. My grandfather inspired me to seek wisdom and justice, and that knowledge must also be accompanied by hard work and tempered with compassion.
Kayley Whalen, Digital Strategies and Social Media Manager, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
*This blog post was written as part of the Jobs With Justice #TheWayTheyWorked story-telling campaign in honor of Labor Day and Grandparents Day. You can read more stories about how our grandparents worked at thewaytheyworked.org
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has announced that early bird registration is now open for the 27th Annual National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change. We are expecting more than 3,800 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community leaders and activists from across the country to assemble in Denver, Colorado, on February 4-8, 2015 for the nation’s premier annual organizing and skills-building event for the LGBTQ community and their allies.
“Creating Change offers attendees the chance to engage on a multitude of issues and action – from changing laws to improving lives. For more than a quarter century, the conference has trained over 40,000 activists and community leaders from across the country and elsewhere in the world,” said Sue Hyde, Creating Change Conference director. “The conference brings together pioneers and emerging leaders from diverse communities of the LGBTQ equality movement by cultivating a unique space that enables innovative ideas to be shared, critical skills to be taught, and new friendships to be formed. We’ve made significant gains in our work to secure basic rights for LGBTQ people, but our nation’s promise of full equality is yet to be fulfilled. Our work to create change continues, and along with our coalition partners we’re excited to open registration for 2015’s conference in Denver.”
Creating Change’s Early Bird Registration Rate ($300) is available for all attendees registering before the October 31 deadline. A Presenter rate of $225 is offered to anyone who submits a Request for Proposal (RFP) by the September 30th deadline and a special complimentary rate of $0 is offered for those under 16 and those over 65. A Limited Income and Student rate of $165 is also available for anyone for whom the cost of attendance may be prohibitive.
Included in the cost of registration is admittance to any of our many pre-conference daylong institutes, welcome reception, four dynamic plenary sessions, and over 350 skills-building workshops, presentations, and trainings. Attendees may also choose to engage in the Task Force’s Academy for Leadership and Action sessions, in which our team of Task Force organizers offer trainings and strategy sessions on a range of issues. In addition to its plethora of programming the conference offers attendees the chance to attend receptions, caucuses, film screenings, networking sessions, hospitality suites, interfaith services and much more.
For more information about the conference and to register, please visit www.CreatingChange.org
For media credentials, please contact Jorge Amaro at jamaro@theTaskForce.org