I’ve shared this story before, but it continues to resonate for me (in a negative way) even many years later. I was at a meeting of community leaders called together to discuss some “issues” and the convener made an off-the-cuff remark about transgender people never attending things and bisexuals “well, we know that they don’t exist? ha ha ha” sort of comment. The convener was a gay white man.
The meeting included at least one bisexual person that I personally knew. But the rest of us just said nothing. We didn’t challenge that bi-erasure. We didn’t challenge the erasure of the trans community. We just sat uncomfortably, waiting for the meeting to move ahead.
It was a moment of collective shame and one that I regret very much. Sometimes I wonder if others who attended that meeting remember that moment. Maybe I should ask them?
Pittsburgh’s bisexual community has never had many resources invested in them. That began to change this past spring when the GLCC worked with community leaders to create eBIcenter – a resource for the region’s bisexual, pansexual, polyamorous and queer communities.
The need is clear according to an excellent feature in the Pittsburgh City Paper.
The Williams Institute, a UCLA-based think tank focused on gender identity issues, estimates that there are nine million LGBT people in the U.S.; slightly more than half say they are bisexual. But according to the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), bisexuals are also six times more likely than others in the LGBT community to be closeted.
The Pew Charitable Trust’s survey of LGBT Americans found that more than 70 percent of gay men and lesbians are out to most of their loved ones and closest friends, while fewer than 30 percent of bisexuals report the same thing, including just 12 percent of bisexual men. And nearly half of bisexuals say they don’t feel free enough to be out at work, as compared to 24 percent of gays and lesbians.
Bisexuality exists. There are bisexual people among us. The problem is our bias and bigotry, especially those of us who are also part of the LGBTQ community. Our insistence that bisexuality is a phase, that bisexual people access heterosexual privilege by “passing” and that there’s an inherent negative quality to not “choosing” one gender or the other are manifestations of the very oppressive themes that haunt the lives of gay men and lesbians.
eBIcenter attempts to tackle those damaging myths by creating resources for socialization, education and peer support through the GLCC. They hold a monthly tea gathering at the GLCC on Sunday afternoons. They organize groups to attend social events and activities collectively. They connect members with resources as needed.
And they are needed. The data on how bierasure and bi-invisibility is harming our sisters, brothers and neighbors is startling.
MAP found that bisexuals are four times more likely to have attempted suicide than heterosexuals — twice the rate of lesbians and gays. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, still ongoing, has thus far found that more than half of bisexual women, as opposed to a third of lesbians and a quarter of straight women, have experienced some physical violence in relationships. The same proportions have experienced what the CDC classifies as “severe physical violence,” while twice as many bisexual women (20 percent) as straight women have been raped by a partner. The incidence of stalking is also double for bisexual women compared to straight women. These incidents are more than twice as likely to be hate crimes, as classified by law enforcement, than such incidents against other LGBT people.
Why write about this now? Well, more than one person has reached out to me in response to my coverage of the death by suicide of Andi Woodhouse describing their own experiences with suicidal thoughts as bisexual people. It reminded me that it is important to highlight local resources and to acknowledge when the media coverage is positive.
I was pleased that the City Paper invested so much time in this story. It is the first such story I can ever recall reading in regional media. I actually pitched the story to Marty Levine precisely because there was such little coverage.
If I were in that meeting situation now, I’d like to think I would speak up no matter how awkward or uncomfortable it might be. I’d also like to think that’s less likely to happen today in Pittsburgh, but I’m not that naive. I’m probably just less likely to be invited to those types of meetings.
For more information on eBIcenter, please visit their Facebook page.
I also encourage you to explore BiNet USA.