Ending Biphobia in LGBTQ Spaces is Not the Job of Bisexuals
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.
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