This is National Bisexual Visibility Week (#biweek) and not an especially positive reflection on Pittsburgh. Our community does not have a single group or resource devoted to the bisexual community, nor do we have any openly bisexual individuals in leadership roles within the community. We have two very prominent community leaders who are bisexual – Reverent Janet Edwards and Helen Gerhardt, a Commissioner with the City of Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations (CHR.)
Leadership in the general community by people who are openly and publicly out as bisexual, transgender, queer, gay or lesbian individuals is very important, but so are efforts by existing organizations to be culturally competent in tackling biphobia within their organizations.
Pittsburgh is stuck in a 1990’s mindset where “lesbian and gay” is considered sufficient to describe the entire community. That extends far beyond defining services. The media is one of the biggest perpetrators of this mindset and each time we fail to call them out, we reinforce bi erasure. Bisexuality (and pansexuality) are orientations. They are as valid and authentic as gay, lesbian or straight. But we rarely have that conversation, much less invest resources in those who are part of the bisexual umbrella. We rarely prioritize the “B” even though the bisexual community is much larger than any other segment.
I can name a half dozen friends who “sort of identify” (their words) as bisexual, but have a lot of reasons not to be public about it – everything from family rejection to the power of the stereotypes within the community. They’ve internalized the biphobia to the point that they don’t even feel like they are allowed to use the term. That’s terrible for them and for all of us. They feel like fictional characters.
From the 50 AMPLIFY Q&A’s published so far:
- 14% identify as bisexual
- 6% identify as pansexual
- 20% identify as queer
- 4% identify as genderfluid
The reason I include queer in this list is for perspective; the question about identity was open-ended so this is not a statistically sound analysis. In fact, some of these participants also used “lesbian” or “gay” in their response or other terms that I haven’t listed here.
To me, this reflects a growing awareness that sexual orientation is complicated, nuanced and perhaps not as fixed as we might like in the sense that some people are growing into their self-awareness. Growing, not changing our minds or picking a team. As we all work to create a safe environment for our bisexual siblings and neighbors to define their own identity without fear of harassment, jokes or shaming, the better off we all might be.
In fact, the Movement Advancement Project reports that 52% of the people in the LGB commnity are bisexual. That’s incredibly statistically important.
I wish I could point you to a local resource driven by the bisexual community, but I don’t know of any. I know that the GLCC of Pittsburgh and Persad strive to be bi-competent which looks different. And that’s a serious problem – we are not keeping up with our own community and people are missing out on services and supports critical to their welfare.
I am not bisexual, so it is not my place to organize. It is my place to speak up as an ally and insist that we do better. Events are not sufficient. We need to systemically invest community resources into the regional bi community. I’d like to see a RFP inviting bisexual folks to submit proposals to fund community projects.
We can do better.
AMPLIFY posts featuring bisexual individuals.
And Andre Gray, of course.