5 Questions You Should Ask Yourself As A Bi Activist 

9/13/2018

istock/FG Trade

We need more out and loud bi people trying to change the world, but there aren’t many places you can go for advice of how to handle the pressures. Here are some things to ask yourself if you’re just starting out.

1. What do you want to achieve?

Knowing your long-term and short-term goals will help you structure what you’re doing as well as not getting disheartened when small things don’t go your way.

For me, my activism evolved over time. I wrote my first piece after becoming single and realising things had not changed in the world, the ignorance around bisexuality was endless. In my fury, I wrote a piece to set the record straight on bi people. After seeing how well it did and getting comments from bi people telling me how much it helped them I realised there was a need for bi people to have more content online. Working in PR and getting stories in the news for big companies, I realised I could donate those skills and contacts for free to bring bisexuality in to the news like never before.

Whilst I will always continue to create bi content I now have my eye on actually changing things long term. Some of the issues I’m passionate about are convincing LGBT groups to properly fund bisexuality, having more spaces for the bi community to meet, and better sexual health research. All goals that aren’t going to be achieved today but something I can always have my eye on working towards.  

2. Can you handle the criticism? 

If you’re in activism for people to like you and accumulate lots of online followers – start uploading pictures of puppies instead. 

Considering my intentions are to help bi people, one of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with has been other bi people disliking what I’m doing. I was more than prepared for those who think bisexuality is a joke to come after me, but my own people? That’s a tough one and you need to think about how you measure success. For me it’s when just one person messages/emails me privately to say thanks and you realise it helped at least one person. Unfortunately, the world we live in now means people love to criticise, to tear down what you’re doing so that they can tell you how they would do it better. That means those little moments where people come to you and thank you or even ask for your advice mean more.

I’m really not doing my activism to benefit the out and loud bis comfortable enough to criticise people on Twitter. My ‘target audience’ are the bis that are in the closet, that think there is something wrong with them, that need their identity validated, that just might benefit from seeing more examples of out bi people. 

3. Do you have the courage of your convictions?

I can’t tell you the amount of times a well-intentioned, positive article has ended up with someone cherry picking a sentence out of what I’ve written and going nuclear over it.  Recently an article I wrote over two years ago resurfaced online only for Twitter to take offence, but what can you do?

I’ve certainly fallen in to the trap of defending myself on Twitter but over time you realise if you explain yourself once you’ll spend more time clarifying your work than actually doing it. You have to have a certain level of conviction. To say what you think needs to be said and not take the counter arguments to heart. You have to believe in what you’re saying and what you’re doing because Twitter will always be there to let you know just how much people hate you and what they’d like to do to you. 

4. Can you tell the difference between good and evil? 

The world is far more grey than those stories books we grew up with had us believe. As an activist you need to learn to discriminate. There are many different characters you will run in to and many different opinions. What I would encourage is understanding that just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t necessarily mean they are biphobic. For example, I might tell someone of the alarming mental health figures for bi people and how I think having well-funded bi-specific venues will help change that by allowing us a space to support each other. If someone disagrees with that it doesn’t mean they are biphobic, they’ve listened to me – they just don’t agree with my recommendation.

It is truly a mine field to work out why people are mad at you and why people disagree with you but you would be wrong to take it all to heart. You need to work out who agrees with you, who you might need to convince more, who simply hates you and whose opinion you just don’t care about.

5. Can you listen?

As much as you need to have a hardened shell when being a bi activist it is still important to listen. I try and listen to as much as I can about what people say about my work – both good and bad, other wise you run the risk of becoming arrogant. The trick is to assess the comments, you know better than anyone else who you are and what you feel, you’ll know if something is a fair criticism you could take onboard for the future and what is just angry people taking their own insecurities out on you. 

You also need to listen to bi people in the real world and understand that your experience is not their experience. Coming out in 2018 is vastly different to coming out five years ago, the world is moving fast and so are the experiences of bi people. Taking the time to listen to as many bis as possible will only strengthen your work and help it resonate with a wider audience of bi people. 

Lewis Oakley
Lewis is a proud bisexual Londoner who wishes to use his voice as a blogger to bring about greater acceptance of bi people. Tweet him at @lewyoaks