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The Winds of Change are Blowing in Utah – Join Us!

October 5, 2015

When the Supreme Court ruled in support of marriage equality last spring, many of us felt a huge sigh of relief blow through the LGBTQ and Progressive communities. That decision left many of us with the sense that our goals of justice and equal rights had been achieved.

But in the few months since then, a torrent of religious refusals has blown away any temporary sigh of relief. Individuals and organizations refuse to abide by the law, and cite faith and religious freedom as their reason.

Rodney crop v2

Rev. Rodney McKenzie, Jr., Director of our Academy for Leadership & Action

We all saw media coverage of Rowan County Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis lauded as a hero of religious freedom. Compared to President Lincoln, Davis was heralded by her supporters as another Rosa Parks and a new Martin Luther King, Jr.. It is important that we see this disheartening episode for what it is: a calculated and dangerous re-framing of history. It is a sophisticated kind of depravity that is willing to plunder the legacy of Civil Rights icons, robbing descendants of their inherited birthright, in an attempt to suppress equal protection under federal law.

The constitutional rights of LGBTQ individuals and their families are at risk. The perpetrators of inequality are shrouding themselves behind a mantle of faith. America is plagued with a history of hucksters crying religious freedom to justify and maintain the status quo: the buying, selling, and ownership of human flesh, the subjugation of the female body, and separate and unequal for the LGBTQ community.

Now is the time for the Winds of Change. It is the time to transform a limited, stifling faith narrative – one rigidly framed in judgment and condemnation – into a conversation that reflects and engages reality: millions of  LGBTQ people, as well as their allies, are also people of faith; we are members of families, and have families of our own, which are whole and enduring.

This is the purpose of the Faith and Family LGBTQ Power Summit, which is scheduled for Salt Lake City, Utah, this coming October 20 – 23.

The Power Summit is being held to train and mobilize people of faith and secular progressives to create positive change, to organize against this latest affront to equality, and to shine a light on the global exportation of homophobia and transphobia.

I am also very excited to share the news that renowned welcoming and affirming faith leader Bishop Yvette Flunder will provide our keynote address.

The Summit is also just a few days before the anti-LGBTQ World Congress of Families holds their first meeting in the U.S. Their intention is to promote their understanding of a “natural family,” defined by them as excluding LGBTQ families, as well as thousands of other families that do not meet their limited vision. The Faith and Family LGBTQ Power Summit will be the counterpoint to their discriminatory views of family, love, and faith.

We encourage you to be part of the Winds of Change by joining us in Salt Lake City in October. You can find more details and registration information at

We look forward to seeing you there!

By Rev. Rodney McKenzie, Jr., Director of the Academy for Leadership and Action, The National LGBTQ Task Force



Why the LGBTQ Community Should Support EACH Woman Act

September 29, 2015

As we prepare to observe LGBT History Month in October and celebrate our achievements, we must also recognize that our movement is about much more than same-sex marriage. True equality also means the fundamental right to sexual health and freedom, and the right to decide whether or when to become a parent. That is why the National LGBTQ Task Force is joining All* Above All in support of the EACH Woman Act (H.R. 2972 – Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act). This important bill would restore public insurance coverage so that anyone who needs it can get affordable, safe abortion care. When it comes to such important life decisions, it is vital that a person is able to consider all the options available to them, regardless of income or insurance.


Why should the LGBTQ community care about the EACH Woman Act? Because the movements for LGBTQ rights and reproductive justice are inseparable: we are all working for the right to live our lives fully and the right to choose how we use our bodies—without government abuse and intrusion.  The opposition to comprehensive and affordable reproductive healthcare are often the same forces that want to control what we, as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender non-conforming, and queer people, do with our bodies and our access to health care. In the aftermath of the Hobby Lobby decision, it is more important than ever that we build strong, inclusive coalitions to win progressive change. Reproductive rights is an LGBTQ issue.

The EACH Woman Act creates two important standards for reproductive health. First, it ensures that everyone who receives care or insurance through the federal government, such as through Medicaid or a federal employee health plan, will have coverage for all pregnancy-related care, including abortion. Second, it prevents political interference with decisions by private health insurance companies to offer coverage for abortion care.

Millions of people—including cisgender lesbians, bisexual women, queer and gender non-conforming women, and transgender men—are denied access to safe, affordable, and life-saving abortions. Since 1976, the federal government has withheld funds for abortion coverage in most circumstances, which impacts people who are insured through Medicaid, as well as those who receive insurance or care through other federal health plans and programs. The LGBTQ community is more vulnerable to being poor and therefore more likely to rely on such programs. In fact, poverty rates on average are higher among lesbian and bisexual women, young people, and African Americans within our community, with more than one-quarter (28%) of lesbian and bisexual women living in poverty. In addition, several states also prohibit abortion coverage in private insurance plans within or beyond health insurance marketplaces under Obamacare.

The impact of these bans is far-reaching, especially for individuals struggling to make ends meet. Studies show that when policymakers put severe restrictions on Medicaid coverage of abortion services, it forces one in four poor cisgender women to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. When people are living paycheck to paycheck, denying coverage for an abortion can push them deeper into poverty. In fact, when an individual seeks abortion services but is denied, they are three times more likely to fall into poverty than one who can get an abortion. Lesbian and bisexual women in particular already experience an increased risk for adverse health conditions, especially those with low incomes; denying access to abortion care only exacerbates existing health disparities.

Zsea Beaumonis of the National LGBTQ Task Force and Law Students for Reproductive Justice

Zsea Beaumonis

These challenges make it all the more important for the LGBTQ community to support the EACH Woman Act. We must ensure that all people can make the best decisions for themselves and their families, no matter how little money they have or however they are insured. The Task Force is proud to be part of All* Above All. Join us and show that you, too, are “All In” for lifting the ban on abortion coverage.

by Zsea Beaumonis, National LGBTQ Task Force Reproductive Justice Fellow 

Rabbi Debra Kolodny Reflects on White House Bisexual Community Policy Briefing

September 25, 2015

As I sat in the Eisenhower Office Building next to the White House, I was reduced to tears three times even before the White House Bisexual Community Policy Briefing began. Reconnecting with friends I hadn’t seen in 25 years; watching dozens of veteran and emerging activists converge for this moment; all I could think was, “Wow.”

Rabbi Deb

Alexei Guren with Rabbi Debra R. Kolodny

This second-ever White House event was a long time coming, and was the product of four decades of activism from the bi+ community. (I use the term “bi+ to be inclusive of all non-monosexual identified and behaving people, including those who identify as bisexual, pansexual, fluid, etc.).

For me, it’s been three decades. In 1984 I co-founded the first bi+ support group in Philadelphia. I was tired of friends meeting my bisexuality with everything from discomfort, to downright hostility, to objectifying me as exotic. It turns out I was not alone in that experience. Today I am sorry to say that while recent studies put the bi+ population at over 50% of the LGBTQ community, many bi+ people continue to have the same negative experiences I had 30 years ago.

Yet at the same time, so much has changed. Incredible terrain has been covered, bringing us to this moment.

My activist trajectory took me to Washington, DC, where I continued bi+ social and support group leadership. I soon moved on to political action work, co-founding AMBI/the alliance of Multicultural Bisexuals and its direct action arm, AMBUSH, the Alliance of Multicultural Bisexuals United to Stop Heterosexism, Homophobia, Hate Crimes and everything else toxic that starts with “H”.

For five years I served on the team of National Coordinators for BiNet USA. I represented us at the National Policy Roundtable, a semi-annual meeting of the leaders of all the national LGBTQ policy-oriented organizations. I lobbied Congress on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, taught about the bi+ community in hundreds of venues, published a newsletter, created an ally campaign, and facilitated meetings. You know, like you do.

As I eased out of volunteer organizational leadership, I published the anthology “Blessed Bi Spirit, Bisexual People of Faith” in 2000. I also continued public speaking, and along the way, something shifted. I became a professional in both the LGBTQ and Jewish worlds who just happened to be bisexual. I continued to advocate, educate and represent, but in a different way. I watched with delight as some of my colleagues worked with an astounding next generation of bi+ activists who picked up the mantle and made huge strides.

Though there is always room for improvement, today there is much more research capturing the realities of bi+ people’s lives. LGBTQ organizations, publications and conferences continue to address our stories and issues, and many finally have out bi+ staff. New policy mavens have emerged, bringing together brilliant analyses on a multiplicity of issues. They are influencing state and federal policy on matters related to employment discrimination, immigration rights, violence against bi+ folks, mental and physical health issues specific to our population, youth needs, HIV concerns and more.

My activism shifted gears as amazing new opportunities opened to me. I facilitated the National Religious Leadership Roundtable, became the first out bisexual Executive Director of a religious movement’s headquarters (ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal), became ordained—becoming one of only a handful of out bi+ rabbis—, and most recently, became the first out bisexual Executive Director of an LGBTQ organization, Nehirim. I kvell; I glory in being able to sink into the leadership of the next generation.

One of my greatest delights in being a bisexual leader is the commitment the bi+ movement has always had to intersectional activism. That was quite evident at the White House Bisexual Community Policy Briefing. Attendance at the meeting helped ensure no one felt tokenized—at least 25% of those attending, and over 50% of the speakers, were people of color. Many were trans* activists. The issues we addressed took into account the complexities of the intersections of class, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, and all aspects of our communities.


As the meeting came to a close, I pondered with gratitude having met and developed a deep and abiding friendship with Sheikh Ibrahim baba in DC over 25 years ago, as two of several co-founders of AMBI and AMBUSH. Though he was not present at the White House, he will be with me in Portland at Nehirim’s Inter spiritual Queer Clergy Conference. Together with Rev. Tara Wilkins, we will lead the group in activating queer clergy and our constituents around the U.S. to take part in the Black Lives Matter movement.

So much has changed in the 30 years I’ve been a bi+ activist. Yet there is still so much work to be done. What a blessing to be here now.


by Rabbi Debra Kolodny, Executive Director, Nehirim


Dear Pope Francis: Is the Church Door Half Open or Half Shut?

September 24, 2015

Over the years there have been numerous metaphors about the doors to the Vatican – are they open or shut? Is the Catholic Church ready for renewal or closing in upon itself again?

Earlier today, Pope Francis became the first-ever Pope to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress. Next week, as part of his first visit to the US as Pope, he will speak at the 2015 World Congress of Families in Philadelphia. And while his calls today for better environmental stewardship, fair and comprehensive immigration reform, and an end to war and poverty were heard loud and clear, there is still much speculation about the future direction of the Catholic Church.

In 1959, Pope John XXIII was credited with throwing open the Catholic Church’s doors when he called for a gathering of all theologians and faith leaders in what became known as Vatican Council II—which eventually gave birth to significant changes within a moribund Catholic Church. The popes that followed–Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI–slowly started to walk back the progress from Vatican II and the doors of the Church began to close, and in the eyes of many observers, the Catholic Church moved back on a path towards decline and irrelevancy.

In 1959, Pope John XXIII was credited with throwing open the Catholic Church’s doors when he called for a gathering of all theologians and faith leaders in what became known as Vatican Council II—which eventually gave birth to significant changes within a moribund Catholic Church. The popes that followed–Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI–slowly started to walk back the progress from Vatican II and the doors of the Church began to close, and in the eyes of many observers, the Catholic Church moved back on a path towards decline and irrelevancy.

Then came Pope Francis—the first pope elected to the post originating from either North or South America. With little fanfare, and even less pomp and ceremony, he began to shake the church by challenging many of the Catholic Church’s dogmas and long-held convictions. Some of his changes have been substantive and structural, others have been cultural and symbolic and more to do with the tone of the church; few have been doctrinal.

The rub is, how does one read the direction that Pope Francis is leading the Catholic Church—are the doors just slightly ajar or is it the beginning of a real opening up of the Catholic Church? For LGBTQ people of faith – some of us cradle Catholics – the messages have been truly mixed.

During today’s speech in front of Congress, Pope Francis called on everyone to exercise the Golden Rule and to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Yet for every similar remark and “who am I to judge?” moment of affirmation, in the same breath the Vatican continues pushing for discrimination against LGBTQ people, the rejecting of trans people as Godparents, the belittling of LGBTQ families, and the trashing of children adopted by gay and lesbian parents. It is the continued mistreatment and rejection of LGBTQ people that overshadow well-intentioned gestures by the Pope, such as meeting with trans and gay activists, washing the feet of a person with living with AIDS, and a report released by Catholic Bishops in Rome suggesting that the Church create a more inclusive space for LGBT Catholics. And while these are simply just gestures, these actions would not have taken place under previous Popes.

As I continue to listen to Pope Francis’ remarks during his historic visit to the US with mixed emotions and expectations, I share with him the following exhortation: Pope Francis, you have opened a crack in the Church door around a number of significant issues – but we need you to swing that door wide so that actions will follow words.

 by Barbara Satin, Assistant Faith Work Director, The National LGBTQ Task Force

Bi Mental Health Tips For New Activists

September 24, 2015

Research has revealed that bisexual people are more likely to experience serious and long-lasting mental health challenges when compared to their the gay or straight peers. So it is vital for bisexual people, especially activists, to treat themselves well and do what they can for their mental health. Here are some tips my personal tips that will hopefully help.

  1. It is ok to say “no” on social media: Especially when you first come out, it seems like it is imperative to attend every biphobic “debate” that crops up on your Facebook and Twitter feeds. It really, really isn’t. You can say no.
  2. Bring reinforcements: If you do get involved, on social media or in person try and bring back up. It is much easier to affect meaningful change when you and others have a united front. Also if things get too stressful and draining for you, it’s nice to be able to tag someone in.
  1. It is O.K.  to enjoy things: I made this mistake when I first started doing activism. I dove in head first, off the deep end. I was very much all-activism all the time. I felt that everything I watched, listened, read, ate and thought had to be 100% free of problematic elements. This very shortly lead to me having nothing left. This inability to have a separation, to still enjoy and share with others was a huge blow to my mental health. No media, especially mass media, is ever going to be problem free. Our job as activists is to acknowledge these problematic, even oppressive things and  work to fix them. But while doing that we can enjoy things. So you love “Teen Wolf,” but maybe you are frustrated by queer – baiting plot lines and scenes. You can work with other fans to create change, while still tuning in every week to get your werewolf fix.
  1. Don’t let your identity become a weight. Coming out, being able to be ourselves authentically, is vital to our mental health. But at times being out can bring on new stresses. From suddenly becoming everyone’s personal bi educator, to direct biphobia our once liberating identity can feel like a weight. If you feel that way it is ok to refer to #1 on this list and say no. You can pass on educating cousin Sammy at the family BBQ, they can easily conduct research online using Google. You can choose to only participate in affirming fun activities that celebrate who you are. And if it’s still too much, you can take a break.
  1. You, healthy, happy and alive is the most important thing. You being you, healthy and happy as best you can be, is the ultimate triumph against biphobia and oppression. Living, breathing bi people are what create change and triumph. Take care of yourself and you are already winning.

By Aud Traher, Vice President, BiNet USA

bi health outcomes


Ending Biphobia in LGBTQ Spaces is Not the Job of Bisexuals

September 21, 2015

When I first came out as bi, I eagerly sought out the LGBTQ community. Seeing that lovely shiny “B” right there in the acronym, I waited to be embraced by this new, wonderful rainbow of a community. I was taken aback that my first forays into this community space actually made me feel worse than I did before. The spaces I entered were very monosexual (experiencing attraction only to one gender, unlike bi, which is an attraction to two or more genders) focused. I felt awkward going to events with my partner, fearing I wasn’t “queer enough” and that I didn’t “deserve” to be included. At some events emcees regularly derided bipeople, either knowing we were in the room and simply not caring or they believed that we simply didn’t exist.

Aud Traher at Bisexual Week Rally at White House

Aud Traher at Bisexual Week Rally at White House September 21, 2015

Around the time it was the bullying and discrimination got to its worst, and while I was thinking about simply going back into the closet, I discovered the online bi+ community. I learned that what was going on in those spaces was something called “monosexism”, the belief that only monosexual identities are valid. While this monosexism is often done unconsciously (I very much doubt that any of the people I was interacting with at that time sat at home rubbing their hands evily, and muttering “good, good, cry you bisexuals! Only monosexuals are worthy mwahahha!”) but it was still hurtful, and it definitely did make me feel like I wasn’t “bi enough” or “queer enough” to be there.

The greatest, and most hard won realization I made was that not only did I belong but those feelings of exclusion, of isolation were not my fault in any way. It was not because my identity was difficult to grasp, it did not need changed, this was not just “how things are” in these spaces and I would have to deal with it. It was also not my burden to single-handedly make every space that claimed to be “LGBTQ” into a bi safe space.

It is NOT our responsibility to do so it is not the responsibility of bi individuals to make what should be a safe inclusive LGBTQ space into what it advertises itself as. The onus, the burden is on those who fund, organize and run those events.

So here are some things that you, as an organizer and bi ally can do to make your your bi members, attendees or guests feel like they belong.

  • If your event or group is supposed to be represent “LGBTQ” make sure it really is. Go online to websites like Binet USA or The Bisexual Resource Center and educate yourself on bi issues. Do this before anyone points out that you are not being inclusive. The goal is to be proactive!
  • Make sure power and responsibility is distributed equally. If you are creating an event that will have hierarchy, such as a board of directors, GSA, charity fundraiser, etc., make sure that bisexual people are included in the process and in positions of power. Something that often happens in LGBTQ spaces is that gay and lesbian people are too often in the position of power, while bi (and transgender) people take on a role of a supporter or ally.
  • Avoid alienating language. If you are talking about marriage equality, use that phrase, not “gay marriage.” Also, make sure that all emcees, DJ’s and performers know that bi bashing is not tolerated in anyway.
  • Don’t perpetuate the “Anything But Bi” (ABB). This refers to a situation when someone openly identifies as bi, but is pressured to change their identifying label to, “anything but bi.”
  • Often furthered by well meaning folks, this most commonly takes the form of people perpetuating the false notion that “bi” refers to only 2 genders, which is then used to accuse people who use the “bi” label as transphobic or perpetuating the “gender binary.” Then there are people who perpetuate the idea that labels are not important–i.e. “labels are for soup cans.” While well meaning on the surfaces, these reinforce biphobic attitudes and bi invisibility and are harmful. If you see this happening in your group, step in and affirm that all identities are valid.

Be proactive. Bisexual people make up over half the LGBTQ community. We are not a small slice. Research and coordinate with the larger bi community. Ending biphobia isn’t the job of bisexuals.

By Aud Traher, BiNet USA Vice President

Let’s Talk About the “B” in LGBTQ

September 20, 2015

With this year’s landmark Supreme Court decision upholding marriage equality all across the country, many have wondered: what’s next for the LGBTQ movement? Yet despite the significant gains in the work to secure full equality for LGBTQ people, many continue to overlook the “B” in “LGBTQ” — bisexual people. This month, from September 20-26, bisexual people all across the country are coming together to celebrate Bisexual Awareness Week with the goal of elevating the voices of bisexual people and addressing the unique obstacles that bisexual people face. At this point, there are some who might be asking themselves, “wait exactly how people living in the US identify as bisexual?” More than you think.

Participants at the Bisexual Pride March at Creating Change 2015: Denver

Accurate numbers on LGBTQ populations in the US are not collected by the Census Bureau, yet the Williams Institute estimates that there are over 9 million LGBTQ people in the U.S. Of those, more than half (51 percent) or almost 5 million people, identify as bisexual. But if more people throughout the country identify as bisexual than they do as lesbian or gay, why don’t we hear from them or talk about them more consistently?

bi family and friends

Bisexual invisibility Coming out as bisexual can be more challenging than coming out as gay or lesbian. Part of that challenge is the pervasive negative stereotypes and lack of inclusion. Bisexual people often report feeling excluded from the LGBTQ community—an unfortunate reality further perpetuated by the lack of representation of bisexual people in media, film and television. A common misconception about bisexual people that further feeds into the bisexual invisibility is the negative stereotype of “bi now, gay later,” or the erroneous belief that people who initially come out as “bisexual” will later come to identify as “gay” or “lesbian.” The assumption is sometimes based on who the person is currently dating; if the person is dating someone who is of the same-sex, the identity of gay or lesbian is imposed on them; if the person is dating someone of the opposite sex, then they are labeled as a straight person. The fear of this stereotype can make it more difficult for people who actually are bisexual to come out. Because of the lack of understanding and acceptance they experience, bisexual people are six times more likely than gay men and lesbians to hide their sexual orientation. Furthermore, BiNet USA reports that these myths not only contribute to the erasure of bisexual people but also leads to discrimination, harassment, mistreatment, and a myriad of disparities.

Inequalities bisexual people experience.
Multiple studies have shown that being stereotyped negatively can have real life consequences. Even though bisexual people make up the largest number of people in the LGBTQ community, they experience a disproportionate level of poverty as well as mental health issues when compared to their lesbian and gay peers. Over all, while LGBTQ people are more likely to face higher rates of poverty, unemployment, and negative health outcomes than straight people, bisexual people face even more disparate treatment in many arenas. Among the most prominent issues include poverty and health disparities.MAP bi Poverty

Bisexual people living in poverty
Bisexual people face a greater risk of living below the poverty line. A report from the National Survey Of Family Growth (2006-2010) found that approximately 25% of bisexual men and 30% of bisexual women live below the Federal Poverty Level, compared to 15% of heterosexual men, 21% of heterosexual women, and 23% of lesbian women. Looking at this from a different angle means that bisexual women (18-44) are 2.1 times more likely to live in poverty than the general population. Unfortunately, while these numbers are alarming, it is not the only challenge bisexual people face.

Bisexual health
Bisexual people also report higher rates of poor physical and mental health. Studies from Kent State University and George Mason University reveals that being misunderstood by both straight and LGBTQ people place bisexual people at an elevated risk for a host of problems including binge drinking, depression, and suicidal thoughts and actions. According to the American Journal of Public Health, bisexual women report the highest prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), 26.6% compared to 6.6% of straight women. Also, bisexual adults have a higher risk of attempting suicide. One study found bisexual people were four times more likely than straight people to report attempted suicide. A study titled, “Health Inequities by Sexual Orientation in New Mexico,” found that bisexual men were 6.3 times more likely to seriously consider suicide in their lifetime than gay and straight men. Another recent report published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that bisexual teens who reported suicidal thoughts did not report a decrease in these thoughts as they aged into adulthood, unlike their straight peers.

While bisexual people comprise more than half of the LGBTQ community, they experience significant health and economic disparities. Research on bisexuality is growing, as is the importance to distinguish bisexual people from their gay, lesbian and straight peers among researchers. Even more critical is the responsibility of community organizations that support LGBTQ people to provide culturally appropriate care to their bisexual clients. We have come a long way in the work to advance full equality for all, but it remains crystal clear that more needs to be done to eradicating stigma and discrimination against bisexual people. We hope you join us in celebrating Bisexual Awareness Week this September by starting a conversation about the hurdles bisexual people face when attempting to access full equality and encouraging others to join the work to eliminating bi-invisibility and bi-phobia.

by Daniel Chevez, National LGBTQ Task Force Media Relations Fellow

This article originally appeared in Adelante


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