Bi Visibility at the White House!
Some of your bi.org crew recently attended the White House’s Bisexual Community Briefing in Washington D.C.. This was an excellent opportunity to meet other bi activists, and discuss some of the issues affecting the bi community these days. It also gave us a chance to celebrate some amazing things about the bi community. This could have happened anywhere, but it was wonderful to have the opportunity to do this in such an important government building. In a world where bi folks are frequently confronted by people claiming that bisexuality doesn’t exist, where people ask us to just chose a side, where people accuse us of ‘just being greedy’; it is wonderful that the current administration has given the bi community this space, time, and acknowledgement.
Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, Senior Associate Director for the White House Office of Public Engagement, opened the event by discussing the current administration’s accomplishments in regard to LGBT rights. These included acknowledging same-sex marriage, signing the Matthew Shepherd Act, and ending Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Once again, it felt great to be given such a warm welcome and to be acknowledged. Sitting in a room full of bi activists in the White House really made me realize the progress that has been made, and appreciate the progress that we continue to make.
One thing that came up over and over was that as wonderful and supporting as our community may be, that isn’t always enough. We can’t be strong and proud in a vacuum. We need the support of friends, families, and the law. Dr. Brian Dodge and his father David Dodge, Esq. told us about Dr. Dodge’s coming out process. It was incredibly touching hearing from both of them about how much love and support Dr. Dodge got from his parents throughout his coming out process. Dr. Dodge thanked his father for being there and being understanding,
Dr. Brian Dodge and David Dodge, Esq.
Thank you to him for always being there for me, for always loving me for who I am and encouraging me to be who I am, that I need to be who I am. For never telling me that I am confused.
Mr. David Dodge went on to say about his son,
Brian always made it easy for his mother and I to accept him, because he is just such a generous loving person.
It was great to see a person who had had such a positive coming out experience and who was willing to share that it could really be that easy. A loving support system whether it be from friends, family, or your own bi community is a fantastic thing to have and something that many of us benefit from. It makes it so much easier to be visible and be yourself when others are willing to see and support you. Dear allies, we need you and love you and appreciate you. If you are having a hard time finding bi community, check out bi.org on facebook for virtual community and amBi for in-person community.
Nancy Marcus, Esq.
Beyond visibility, the bi community is lacking legal protections. Nancy Marcus, Esq., talked about the legal ramifications of being out and bi. There are states where the LGBT community still lacks legal protection against discrimination. She also mentioned that if you do have legal questions about discrimination, please reach out the Lambda Legal Help Desk.
The LGBT community needs legal protections and more anti discrimination legislation. The Equality Act of 2015 proposes legislation at the federal level that would extend the protections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex. Considering some of the legislation being passed on the state level such as North Carolina’s HB2 bill, federal protections are absolutely necessary. We very much hope to see The Equality Act pass in the near future.
This event was also an opportunity to celebrate what a wonderful and supportive community we do have. Many people talked about how inclusive and welcoming the bi community has been and continues to be. Maybe it’s because so much of the world doesn’t recognize us, maybe because we constantly fight to be visible, but for whatever reason, our community has a fantastic reputation.
Charles Girard of HRC
Chalres Girard, a Welcoming Schools Project Coordinator for the Human Rights Campaign, talked about the many identities that are embraced under the bi umbrella.
I identify really strongly with the words queer and bisexual. For a while I didn’t use the word bisexual a whole lot because I believed the myth which is that the word bisexual is buying into the binary. Which we know is not real, right. You can be bisexual and you can not believe in the gender binary and you can be attracted to people of different genders and sexualities. … What I really love about the bi and queer community is that there is such a vast array of words and identities that we can use and that as a trans person I always feel welcome in bi spaces.
Eliot Sutler, Co-founder of Bi Women of Color
Eliot Sutler, co-founder of Bi Women of Color, led a fantastic panel. Sutler pointed out that the bi community is actually much more racially diverse than the general population. In fact, black women identify as bisexual at higher rates than white women. Trans people are also more likely to identify as bisexual. It is important to remember when we are discussing our community how diverse it is and how to appropriately serve and support all bi people.
It can be easy to get bogged down in the daily difficulties that many of us face as bi people. There is so much misinformation and misunderstanding that it easy to feel worn down and like you will never be fully accepted by the straight world or the rest of the LGBTQ community. This day was an amazing reminder that even though our community certainly does face a unique set of challenges, we are also uniquely powerful.
Over and over again, speakers talked about how their bisexuality has allowed them to see the world as non-binary and limitless. I think Marissa Lee, co-founder of racebending.com, expressed it best.
Our community is also brave because we know what it’s like to navigate and bridge different worlds. Bi people see a world without binary and we see a world without absolutes. Being bisexual is not a liability; it makes us brave.