MFA alum & faculty member Seth Fischer attends White House Bisexual Community Briefing
I was lucky enough to attend a historic Bisexual Community Briefing at the White House, where more than a hundred bi+ activists were given a platform to discuss our needs and showcase our talents.
It is hard to understate the importance this sort of exposure has for the bi+ community. We are sometimes called the “invisible majority” because of the fact that we face bi erasure in the media, the public sphere, the workplace, and our personal lives. To remain visible, we are constantly required to come out, as those around us often assume that we are gay or straight. Or even worse, we face the biphobic declaration that we don’t exist at all. This invisibility takes a toll: despite making up more than half of the LGB population, we receive an infinitesimal percentage of the attention and resources. The invisibility and lack of resources then lead, at least partially, to our higher rates of mental and physical illness, poverty, addiction, and violence.
Facilitated by Faith Cheltenham, President of BiNet USA, this platform gave advocates the chance to discuss all this and more. In one panel, we heard about examples of biphobia from both the straight and the gay and lesbian community. Gregory Ward told his story of employment discrimination from his straight bosses, discrimination that is still legal in the majority of states. We also heard from RJ Aguiar, an activist and content creator whose picture went viral when he wrote “Not Afraid” on a rainbow flag at LA Pride on the day after the Orlando shooting. Sadly, he also had to share the story of what happened after—heckling and shouts that it was “not the time” from folks at Pride when he took off his overshirt to reveal a t-shirt with the hashtag #stillbisexual.
Perhaps most importantly, panelists and participants stood behind both the Black Lives Matter movement and the struggle against the Dakota Access pipeline, demonstrating the intersectional nature of the struggle for bi+ rights. In one panel that included bi people of color, participants discussed how trans folk, black people, and other groups identify as bi+ at higher rates, and they also discussed that biphobia needs to be looked at in the larger context of anti-blackness, transphobia, xenophobia, classism, ableism, and other intersections that help define the bi+ experience.
As a writer, I was also thrilled to witness the talents of bi+ authors like Ron Suresha, who read about the experience of being a bi man; Khafra Abif, who read about living with HIV; Andrea Jenkins, who read a stunning piece about the intersection of bi, black, and trans; and Yazmin Monet Watkins, an LA-based poet whose piece on identity, like so many of the performers, led to a standing ovation.
On a personal note, this was a surreal if wonderful homecoming for me: about a decade ago, I worked in politics, including for a member of Congress. At the time, I fought for LGBT rights, all while still in the closet. Years later, after giving up on that career to pursue, among other things, my passions of writing and bi activism, I was invited to the White House.
There is a lesson in there somewhere.