The Power of Us: #StillBisexual
In the 20 years since #StillBisexual campaign founder Nicole Kristal came out, she “noticed that nothing had really gotten better for [bisexuals].” Myths and misconceptions still permeated our culture. Kristal thought “that maybe if people could understand that for many of us being bisexual is a permanent not transitional identity, then there was a potential that we could be understood.” She launched the #StillBisexual campaign in January 2015 with a video of her own story.
“I came out in 1995. No one believed me.” – Nicole Kristal, #StillBisexual campaign founder
The #StillBisexual campaign is “a confessional-style social media and video campaign aimed at dispelling the misconception that bisexuals don’t stay bisexual.” Bisexual individuals are encouraged to put their life experiences to paper, sharing their stories with the camera and viewers one page at a time. Their words, stark against the bright pages, are both silently offered and vibrantly conveyed.
“I’ve learned that there are many types of bisexuals. I think that’s why we are so misunderstood. That’s why our stories need to be heard.” – Steve Douthat
In just under a year the campaign has gained major speed with close to 60 video submissions, a popular meme series, and both national and international coverage. During the annual Bisexual Awareness Week this past September #StillBisexual was one of the top hashtags.
The #StillBisexual campaign has been featured by the Daily Mail UK, Cosmopolitan, SheWired, Swagger New York , Logo, and was even named Huffington Post’s Unicorn of the Week . But why is the campaign so compelling, even to those outside of the bisexual community?
It’s our stories. They have rarely, if ever, truly been seen before. Bisexual people have been consistently portrayed in popular media with a string of tropes, neglecting the great spectrum that is us.
Barbara Kean, Gotham
Along with providing a venue for concentrated storytelling, #StillBisexual directly targets this phenomenon with an ongoing series of memes. Some of these memes address pop culture characters that have contributed to bierasure and the perpetuation of bi myths, while others celebrate the characters who have been outwardly and openly portrayed as bisexual.
Callie Torres, Grey’s Anatomy
Seeing someone like you reflected in a story (whether it is a real life story or a fictional character) is a powerful feeling. Many of us will watch a whole series, sit through many a sub-par movie, read a book or three just for a few glimpses of representation—no matter how the characters are written.
The experience of finding a bit of yourself in someone else can be life-changing, and #StillBisexual creates the space for us to find bits of ourselves over and over again. It enables us to say “That’s me, that’s where I was, that’s who I am,” to know we are not alone. And when we know there is someone out there who has shared our experience and has come out the other side —it makes all the difference.
“I didn’t know there was a word for who I was…A community of people just like me…With a shared history and common experience” – Faith Cheltenham, BiNET USA president
Our society tells us what is important by the amount and caliber of words assigned to something. Consider the gender binary—for so many years we were taught the only way to refer to someone was to use he/him/his or she/her/hers. There was no word for so many individuals.
The only pronouns we had for referring to someone without noting assigned gender (they/them/theirs) were considered by some to be exclusively plural and therefore grammatically incorrect (although professional linguists such as Harvard’s Steven Pinker have long defended the singular, gender neutral usage of these pronouns).
Slow forward to 2015 when the singular “they” was crowned Word of the Year with specific consideration for its use by those who don’t ascribe to the gender binary. This very gradual shift in language is showing societal change, although it remains far from a standard assumption—especially once we leave LGBT spaces.
“Came out gay first to ‘fit in’…Came out gay to be ‘enough’…After a suicide attempt…I came out as Bisexual…Our GLBTQ community kicked me OUT!!” – Michael Oboza
“Bisexual” is a term that has waxed and waned in popularity over the years, the definition of which has often come under scrutiny. #StillBisexual has spent the last year both highlighting and reclaiming this label with all of its historic glory, each video ending with the phrase #StillBisexual.
But as you watch videos, you’ll notice a pattern begin to emerge: in youth, and often into adulthood, many bi people don’t know what to call themselves, although they feel different from the monosexuals around them.
Society pressures people to “choose a side,” which usually implies the only two options are gay and straight. This erasure, combined with the biphobia many bisexual people later face when they finally do find and use the terms under the Bi+ umbrella, leads to depression, and sometimes suicide.
“It took me years (and a great deal of love) to deal with all of the internalized homo…bi…trans phobia (self-hatred) (I was almost a statistic)” -Colleen McTigue
Bisexual people experience as much discrimination from within the LGBTQ community as outside of it. The stories of the #StillBisexual campaign reflect this—coming out has often lead to rejection from the community. As bi people make up at least one (and often more than one) letter in the QUILTBAG community, acceptance is crucial—we need a queer community to which we can turn without dealing with the detrimental effects of additional biphobia.
“We’ve tried for decades to get the gay community to care about us by telling them they should. This strategy has been ineffective,” says #StillBisexual founder Nicole Kristal. “The gay community will only accept us once their own peers admonish them for being biphobic.”
“I’m not confused I’m not selfish and I’m definitely not going to Hell (my rabbi told me)” – Stacy Goldate
She likens the campaign’s strategy to middle school. “If the unpopular kid says, ‘Stop making fun of me,’ nothing changes. But if the popular kids say, ‘Hey, quit picking on them!’ Then their peers sort of follow suit.” To do this, the campaign intends to enlist positive support—Kristal “would love to build a network of gay allies who support the #StillBisexual campaign.”
Biphobia, along with the many other forms of discrimination that members of our community face, has catastrophic results. Research shows that Bisexuals “face striking rates of poor health outcomes.”
As much as the impact of discrimination can be stifling, we can counteract it by reaching members of our community with messages of hope and by sharing our stories. For the upcoming Bisexual Health Awareness Month, #StillBisexual hopes to “tell more stories from young people who are confident in their bisexual identity,” although Kristal notes “that confidence sometimes only comes with years.”
“Now I wouldn’t want to be another way.” – Alex Anders
Asked about poignant moments during the campaign’s first year, Kristal shares “the poignant moments for me are the videos. Every time I see a new #StillBisexual video and someone bravely tell their story, I feel moved and empowered.”
Indeed, the #StillBisexual stories are many things: heartbreaking and delightful; simple and deep; uplifting and courageous. The #StillBisexual videos are a community coming together to speak our truths, clarify answers, refute misconceptions, challenge stereotypes and reclaim them. These are the true tales of what we have been and what we can do. The #StillBisexual stories are the power of us.
When asked about the future of the campaign, Kristal states “moving forward, I just want more people to hear about us and what we’re doing so bisexuals know about this resource that exists that can make them feel less alone.”
“What’s your #StillBisexual story?” – Robin Renee
It takes a brave few who speak up and tell their story to create change —it takes a compassionate many to create a movement. You can join the movement towards a bright Bisexual future with #StillBisexual: the website provides resources for making a video.
While you’re there, be sure to check out the stories of your community. From demisexual divorced sociologists to members of the board of the American Institute of Bisexuality to presidential candidate-confronting genderqueers to married author cat-moms (aka yours truly), we have a wonderful spectrum of us represented. And hey, if you don’t see yourself there (and even if you do), pick up that camera phone—you never know who might hear your story and find themselves.