What Comes After Bi Visibility? More Bi Spaces

11/26/2018

Photo credit: Jon Viscott

Three weeks ago in Good Bi Love, I discussed our need to think about what comes after bi visibility, noting that visibility, while important, isn’t a solution by itself. In order for bi people to be fully accepted by both gay and straight communities, we need to do more.

I haven’t stopped thinking about that article since it was published, because in my opinion, it is one of the most important articles I’ve written, or rather, questions I’ve posed. Also, while I did my best, I didn’t feel 100% satisfied with my own answer.

So I’ve been brainstorming more, and if you don’t mind, I’d like to delve deeper into the issue than my attempt last time.

One thing I didn’t address in the last article is the need for more diverse bi+ spaces and events. This year, we had the first Bi Pride in Los Angeles (thanks in large part to the people here at bisexual.org). That was huge! It was international news, and I read about it in at least half a dozen publications. It was important for visibility, yes, but it also helped foster a larger sense of community. We need more events like these!

One of the large problems that plague bi people is not being able to find other bi folks. This is ironic, given that bi people represent the majority of queer people. The issue, as we know, is that many bi people don’t feel comfortable coming out, or they feel compelled to “choose” a side — hiding or re-closeting part of their sexual identity.

But another part of the problem is the lack of bi spaces. Gay men go to a gay bar and know that gay guys will be there. They know they’re with their people – their family. They have an established venue they can inhabit whenever they want to be surrounded by other gay men. There are literally thousands of gay bars across America, and often, there’s one even in smaller towns. It might not be as lavish or “open” as the gay bars is NYC, but roughly 80% of the time, there’s usually a gay bar within an hour drive in the United States.

There isn’t, to my knowledge, an established bi bar in America. There are bi nights for sure, and Portland, Oregon kills it when it comes to having bi takeovers at bars and saunas. When I’ve been to the bi events in Portland, tons of folks are in attendance!

We need to be like Portland and create more spaces that are fun. Often, when I see bi groups, they’re bi support groups that involve lots of talking, expressing our frustrations, and seeking guidance. Obviously, these spaces are important, but it would also be nice to have a more casual, playful setting where bi folks can drink, dance, watch some drag shows, and if they so choose, talk to other bi folks about some of the struggles they face being bi.

It would also be nice to be able to bring a straight partner or partner of a different gender into an event without feeling awkward. God knows one of the things I dislike about dating women is that she and I don’t feel welcome being demonstrative in gay spaces. When we make out, we get side-eye because the gay men assume we’re that disrespectful, straight couple who comes into gay bars to completely monopolize the space. We’re not… we’re queer as f#ck, but still, we don’t feel welcome.

So clearly, there is a need for bi-specific places where bi+ people and their partners (no matter their sexual orientation or gender) are welcome.

I believe that bi bars haven’t happened for two reasons. One, we weren’t as visible and out, and therefore, people didn’t know that we exist in hoards. In the past we also might not have felt comfortable enough with our identity to go to a place that calls itself a bi bar. But two, it’s a matter of bars not making enough money. There weren’t enough people in attendance. (In Portland, the bi nights are LIT so bars absolutely love it, and subsequently, welcome us.)

A brief side note: When the last lesbian bar shut down in Los Angeles, I went on a journalist mission to find out why these spaces were closing down rapidly. Was it that women were not deemed as important as men in the gay community? Was is that lesbians tend to be more homebodies? Was it something else entirely?

What I learned was boring and simple: Lesbians don’t drink cocktails. Needless to say this isn’t all lesbians – plenty do. But the majority of queer women in these spaces drank canned beer, which bars make significantly less money on, and they didn’t drink many beers at that. I ended up not writing the piece because there really wasn’t more than 150 words on the matter. It had nothing to with misogyny or femmephobia or anything like that.

Bars and various event spaces value one thing over all others: turning a profit. There are absolutely enough bi folks all around the world to fill up a bar in nearly every city. When we come out in droves, bars make money on drinks and admission, and bi people have spaces to socialize and have fun with other bi folks. It’s a mutual beneficial relationship between us and owners!

So, back to my original question here: What comes after bi visibility? More bi spaces. Visibility has helped more and more people come out of the closet, and now, it’s our turn to do more for our community.

Over the next couple of months, I plan to talk to a few bi orgs in NY and beyond about setting up some bi social night events at bars. I already have a bar in Williamsburg that seemed open to the idea. But please, if you’re a person/org who would like to get more involved, email me at [email protected].

Zachary Zane
Zachary Zane a Brooklyn-based freelance writer, speaker, YouTuber, and activist whose work focuses on (bi)sexuality, gender, identity politics, relationships, and culture. He's a contributing editor at The Advocate Magazine, a columnist at Bi.org, and currently writes for The Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, Out Magazine, and PRIDE.