Activist Archives: Bi with Pie and the Importance of Bi+ Organizing
Yesterday, October 18th, marked the first meeting of Pandemonium, a local bi+ organization. The first meeting lived up to the name, and really, that is my fault! I thought it would be fun to have a “Bi with Pie” event, wherein we meet up and have some pie. This SOUNDS fun in theory, but in practice, this meant being seated in the center of the room amidst a crowd of elderly diners at the local Perkins. So, it was not exactly a comfortable discussion environment. I asked to move and we were seated in booth that was off to itself, but were eventually joined by two nearby families with small children. The world is a diverse place. We have a right to be there and a right to discuss whatever we wish to. But, most parents aren’t huge fans of subjecting their children to such interesting topics as bisexuality, polyamory, and transgender issues. Thankfully, there were no complaints and we actually had a lively and interesting discussion. However, I do take full responsibility for not thinking through the locale as well as I should have. Next time we will meet at Pizza Luce for “Bi with Pizza Pie.” We will also meet on Mondays as I was unaware that a local Trans group meets on Tuesdays. These were honest mistakes, but geez, I feel terrible!
The Bi with Pie event attracted about five adults and one baby. I was nervous that we would not have enough to talk about, so I brought questions and talking points to the group. The meeting began with introductions and my own vision/mission of why I wanted to start the group. This lent itself to some discussion throughout the two hour meeting. As a little history about myself, I grew up in a small town and was pretty sheltered from various sexualities. There was a time in high school wherein I thought I was a lesbian, but I kept this a secret from others. I had a crush on a female at my school and told someone, which resulted in some very brief rumors about my sexuality. At the time, I thought a person could only be straight or gay. I eventually did have a boyfriend my senior year (I wasn’t exactly the sort of person who attracts a lot of romantic interest), which laid to rest my questions about my sexuality. These questions did not surface again until college, when I learned that bisexuality was actually a possible sexuality. This seems terribly naïve, but I seriously did not know much about different sexualities. I finally came out as bisexual while studying in Ireland, as this was an environment where I was more free to express myself with less social consequence. I have identified as bisexual since then.
My own catalyst for trying to start up a bi+ group was the events of this summer. I was at a vigil for the Orland Nightclub Massacre this summer and was asked to be interviewed by the news. I told them that they should interview someone else. I did not feel that I was a good representative of the LGBT community. After that interaction, I asked myself why? Why do I feel like I am not a part of the LGBT community? Why do I feel that my own opinion doesn’t matter? Why do I feel like I am not queer enough? As a bisexual, I have had the privilege of passing as a heterosexual. At the same time, I have felt that perhaps I was not oppressed enough to fit into the LGBT community or that there might not be space for me. This is not because anyone from that community has treated me poorly. Rather, it is my own fears and insecurities. As such, there are several reasons why I think that it is important to organize as bisexuals, which I shared at the meeting and which I will outline here:
- Visibility: One of the things that is most frustrating as a bisexual is the lack of visibility. While bisexuals make up the largest portion of the LGBT community, they are not the most visible. Opposite gender relationships result in invisibility when bi+ are assumed to be heterosexual. Same gender relationships can result in invisibility when bi+ are assumed to be homosexual. Historically, many cultures had sexual practices that might be considered bisexual by modern standards, but these instead get labelled homosexual. This is all part of the larger issue of bisexual erasure.
- Legitimacy: Several people who attended the group felt that their sexuality was treated as a phase, dismissed as something to appeal to men, or was somehow deviant. I think that a bi+ group can work to assert ourselves as legitimate and dispel some of the myths associated with bisexuality. For instance, some people in the group felt appalled that they had been stereotyped as promiscuous, kinky, or hypersexual (not that there is anything wrong with these things).
- Education: I was surprised to learn that bisexuals played an important role in the early LGBT movement. The first campus LBGT group was founded by a bisexual man (Donnie the Punk) and the first Pride Festival was organized by a bisexual woman (Brenda Howard). Getting together is a way to educate each other about history and learn together about sexual issues. Part of our discussion involved educating each other on the differences between bisexual and pansexual, different sexualities in general, and the role of gender roles in patriarchy. Additionally, the groups gives us an instrument through which we can organize educational community events.
- Community: Through education, discussion, activism, and support, we can grow in our identities and as a bisexual community. Some of the members expressed that they felt alone or that they did not fit in. Some felt that they had always been private about their sexuality because their sexuality had been used as weapon to discredit them. Thus, a component of the meeting was offering support to one another. Each person at the table had a struggle. Themes of these struggles included past relationship violence, mental health, sexual trauma, etc. The group provides an avenue for sharing and support.
- Social: It is fun to get together with people and discuss issues. This is socially rewarding. It builds friendships and networks to resources. So, sexualities aside, having a group fulfils this role.
- Activism: Finally, having a group creates an opportunity for activism. When things such as the Orlando massacre happen, we can mobilize to protest. We can also participate in Pride, Bisexuality Visibility Day, National Coming Out Day, and other LGBT events.
Our discussion meandered over many topics and there was plenty to talk about. In the end and despite the challenges of the locale, we decided that we would meet on Monday November 21st at Pizza Luce at 6:30 pm. One of our major goals for the time being is simply to meet up once a month. Based upon this we can expand into activism, community education, and connecting with the larger LGBT movement. Although our beginning was a little rough and certainly modest, I am hopeful for the future and thankful to those who attended.