What Does the Bi World Say about the First Bisexual Governor?


Here is what leaders in the bisexual community (and others) are saying about the first out bisexual governor of Oregon, Kate Brown.

Abigail Webb, an Oregon woman who identifies as gay, told The Oregonian that Brown is “our out-bisexual person.”

Bob Moore, a Republican pollster, told The Los Angeles Times about her sexuality, “I don’t think anybody cares. The whole thing seems irrelevant to me. But what does it mean to be a bisexual and married? What does that mean?”

Denise Penn, editor of Bi Magazine, on the board of the American Institute of Bisexuality, says, “Kate Brown is a dedicated, smart and eithical public servant. The fact that she is openly bisexual will help whittle away at negative stereotypes.”

Ellyn Ruthstrom, of the Bisexual Resource Center, tells The Associated Press,  “There are so few bi political leaders out there, so we pay attention to them,”  citing U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona) “Beyond elective politics, the bi community continues to struggle to establish its appropriate place in the broader civil rights campaigns being waged on behalf of lesbians, gays and transgender people. Within that movement, there was widespread animosity toward bisexuals a couple of decades ago. Now it’s not as overt, but there are still issues.

Faith Cheltenham, president of BiNet USA, told the Blade: “Kate Brown’s swearing in as governor of the state of Oregon comes at a critical time for bisexual people. We need to see role models just like her and we need to hear stories about people just like us. We are a strong, resilient and tenacious people with a history of organizing ourselves over 50 years deep. It’s time we saw ourselves in the light of our tremendous history and shared common experience.”

Fred Sainz of the Human Rights Campaign, said bisexuals may in some respects face greater challenges than gays and lesbians:”To the extent that they’re out, they may well be more so the victims of scorn because they get it from both gay and straight people. Gays want them to make a choice, and straights consider them gay, so in many ways they face increased amounts of stigma and discrimination.”

Ian Lawrence, director of the American Institute of Bisexuality, says, “How thrilling that the first openly LGBT governor in office is bi! As far as I know, there isn’t an openly LGBT person currently in a higher-profile position in government anywhere in the world – sorry, Luxembourg. Bisexuals are blazing the trail and everyone can see it! From all accounts, Kate Brown is a person of great integrity, accomplishment and drive and now she is getting the attention of the national political establishment. Our community so urgently needs good role models and in Governor Brown we clearly have one.”

John Sylla, president of the American Institute of Bisexuality, says, “I’m certain that there have been many bisexual governors throughout history, and I think it’s a great step forward to finally have one who is open about it.”

Lani Ka’ahumanu, who co-authored Bi Any Other Name: Bisexual People Speak Out, said she met Kate Brown in the mid-1990s through a bi activist in Portland. “A BiNet Northwest representative at the time worked on her campaign and set the visit up. I gave her a copy of Bi Any Other Name. She had a home copy and the one I gave her was her office copy!”

Robyn Ochs, a bisexual advocate and writer who is a Mass Equality board member, tells the Washington Blade: “On one level, her sexual orientation is of minor importance. The most important question is whether she will be a good governor, and I expect that she will be. But on another level we are making history. Kate Brown is now the highest ranking out bisexual (or LGBT) person ever elected to public office. As someone who has identified as bisexual for almost 40 years, this is a significant step forward and I am celebrating.”

Sarah Warbelow, Human Rights Campaign’s legal director, said, “On one hand, there’s assumption that bi people are never happy in any relationship and need to have multiple partners. On the other hand, you’ve got people who say it’s not real – it’s an in-between existence until you figure out who you really are when you grow up.”

Stacey Long Simmons, director of public policy and government affairs for the National LGBTQ Task Force, says, “This gives us an opportunity to talk about the realitites of what it means to be bisexual. People want black and white, but bisexuals give them a gray they don’t know what to do with.”

Tina Kotek, the openly lesbian Oregon House Speaker, says her state “has again made history as a leader in equality” with Brown “now serving as the nation’s first governor from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. As the legislative session moves ahead, I look forward to working with Gov. Brown to support strong schools, balance our budget, tend to our pressing transportation needs and expand opportunity for all Oregonians.”

After starting in her new position, Governor Brown has a new Twitter handle: @OregonGovBrown

And what do you think? Post your thoughts on the Facebook page (CLICK HERE).

Mike Szymanski
Mike Szymanski has written about bisexual issues since 1989 and has one of the longest-running regular bisexual columns as the National Bisexuality Examiner. He came out as bisexual in a cover story of Genre magazine, which resulted in more than 50 television appearances, including Ricki Lake, Phil Donahue Show and 20/20. Szymanski won the Lambda Literary Award in 2007 for co-authoring an informative humor book “The Bisexual’s Guide to the Universe: Quips, Tips and Lists for Those Who Go Both Ways.” Write him at [email protected]