Objectified and Angry

By Gabrielle Blonder, BRC Board Member

About a year ago, I left a company I’d been with for a few years and have been doing a combination of temping and job searching since then. This is my first time job searching as an openly bisexual person, and since the Bisexual Resource Center is now such a large part of my life, my first time job searching with the word “bisexual” written on my resume. The biggest thing I’ve noticed since this change is how few potential employers have been willing to say the word “bisexual.” Either that part of my resume is emitted from questioning entirely, or I get awkward, vague questions about the work I’ve done with “the…center”.

A few months ago, on a Monday, I started a new temp job. I was genuinely excited about this assignment – the company seemed great, and everyone I met was super friendly. On Wednesday, I was asked to cover the front desk reception area while the main receptionist (we’ll call her Debbie) was on break. During that time, an interviewee showed up to meet with the head of HR. The reception computer is logged into a generic ‘operator’ account used by anyone currently at the desk (90% of the time it’s Debbie). When I opened up the internal chat client to let the HR director know about his visitor, the rest of the chat history showed up in the window as well, timestamped as the Friday before I started working there. For the sake of delicate readers, I won’t transpose the content of the conversation here. Suffice it to say, it was lewder than you can imagine. The HR director talked about how hot it would be if Debbie (the straight lady receptionist) hooked up with her “new friend,” who would be starting work on Monday. Debbie, being a straight woman and also being aware of appropriate office behavior, turned down his every idea and even reminded him at one point that “you know I can’t delete this, right?”.

That “new friend” being oh-so-casually objectified was me.

My bisexuality is reflected on my resume in the form of organizations I am, and have been, highly involved with. It is also reflected, like a cracked fun-house mirror, in the disgusting nature of these comments.

In one instant, I was made to feel ashamed of and gross about an integral part of my identity. The rainbow necklace I proudly wear now feels as though it’s burning a hole in my chest. I’m reminded that my experience with women is something dirty, an object of male lust even in the abstract. My crushes, my relationships, and my heartbreaks have all been reduced to one idea of a “hot” encounter.

This is why I do the work I do. Because for every woman who is struggling with their own desires and identity, there’s someone ready to fetishize bi girls. Because my sexual identity is immediately assumed to mean I’ll hook up with anyone willing (and sometimes, those unwilling).

It’s taken me years to even start to shake off the shell of insecurities and internal biphobia enough to begin to feel safe being myself. I debated for ages whether or not to put the (considerable) work I’ve done with the Bisexual Resource Center on my resume and Linkedin, knowing that this information would immediately out me to future employers. But I did it, and let me tell you, it felt freaking great. I felt invincible; staring down my interviewers, daring them to express discomfort. Encounters like this one make me want to crawl back into the closet and bar the doors.

But I won’t. I can’t. Heading back into the closet would be a betrayal of all the self-work I’ve done, and quite the waste of the anxiety/emotional turmoil I’ve gone through in my (many) coming-outs. Even if I wanted to, a quick Google of my name (or a quick scroll through my Facebook page, for that matter) pulls up multiple references to bi-related projects I’ve been involved in. And, honestly, I wouldn’t have this any other way.

If you have ever been in a situation like this, know in no uncertain terms that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. The more I came forward about my experiences, the more people responded with similar stories of their own. I was equal parts amazed and saddened by how much support and commiseration was waiting for me. If you feel like you don’t have anyone to talk to, talk to me. I will listen to you, empathize with you, and rage with you. And if you’re an ally, speaking up when you see things like this is probably the hardest thing to do. If you can’t (and trust me, I don’t judge whatever your emotional limits are), just be there for those who have been hurt. We need it, and it means more than you know.

Gabrielle is a member of the board of directors of the BRC, as well as the leader of the monthly young bliss group. She spends most of her time crafting, doing aerial silks, and writing cover letters.

A Pride Like No Other: Boston to Orlando Strong

By Kevin Hogan, BRC Board of Directors

Work crews are still sweeping up from this past weekend’s Boston Pride March. Yet this evening, the same City Hall Plaza where the march concluded will serve as the gathering spot for a vigil to honor the 50 lives lost at Pulse, an Orlando LGBTQ nightclub, in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Many will write that words fail them, and to tell the truth, the words chosen here are far from perfect. But after this horrible act of domestic terrorism, the commitment of the Bisexual Resource Center’s Board of Directors to advocate for and assist the bi+ community, as well as our greater rainbow community and allies, is only reaffirmed all the more.

The hashtag #BostonStrong may sound like a distant memory to many Americans. But those of us who live, work, and go about exercising our daily freedoms in the very city that suffered and survived the marathon bombings that inspired the Florida gunman—we know a thing or two about resiliency, and not letting hate win!

So to all our brothers and sisters in Orlando: know you do not stand alone. WE are #OrlandoStrong. And by displaying love, compassion, and kindness to all members of our greater rainbow community who need it, we will always diffuse fear and hatred and leave them like rusting relics on an old battlefield—while we march on with PRIDE!

For years an inspiring high school English instructor, Kevin Hogan’s life irrevocably changed after an international news story branded him “The Porn Star Teacher.” Since then, he has founded the Healing Stigma program, served on the Board of Directors of the Bisexual Resource Center, and twice visited the White House to meet with officials on matters of bisexual health, inclusivity, and awareness. An author, poet, radio show host, Huffington Post blogger, speaker, consultant, and LGBTQ advocate, his breakout poetry collection My Ríastrad was recently named a 2016 Lambda Literary Award Finalist.

Kevin is currently co-authoring the book Healing Stigma: A Survivor’s Guide to Repairing Identity in the Internet Age with Dr. Galatzer-Levy.

It’s Not a Phase…or Can it Be?

In the BRC online store, we sell buttons and t-shirts that say, “It’s not a phase, it’s my life.” A lot of folks have expressed how comforting this phrase is, amid a world where bisexuality is still seen as an in-between identity, like an interstate rest stop between gay and straight. Too many of us hear that our attractions are “just a phase,” which implies that we’re not only lost on the binary highway of sexual attraction, we don’t even really know how to drive.

So what I’m about to say will probably be a shock to you, especially coming from one of the co-presidents of the Bisexual Resource Center: For some, like me, it could be a phase. And that’s okay.

Now I don’t mean that all those bi-phobics were right when they suggested that you weren’t the best expert on your own orientation. I’m not saying that the Bisexual Resource Center has changed its stance on bisexuality not being a phase. I’m definitely not saying we will stop selling those awesome buttons and t-shirts.

But I am saying that in my case, it’s not a simply matter of my bisexuality being my phase vs. being my life. For me, it’s both.

As members of a community of folks with fluid sexual orientations, whether we call ourselves bi, pan, queer, or don’t use a label at all, we really hate binaries: gender binaries, sexual orientation binaries, cake/pie binaries. We, out of everyone, know our world and dessert choices come in a gradient. We can love cake AND pie, or cake in a pie, or milkshakes, or something else. We don’t have to choose. That’s one of my favorite parts of being bisexual (with a varied dessert palate).

And as members of the world here in 2016, everything changes now, faster than it’s ever changed before. We (mostly) no longer have the luxury of staying at one job our whole adult lives, we rarely live in the same house (or town, or maybe country) all our lives, and there is a definite minority of those of us who keep the same partner(s) our whole adult lives. We shift hobbies, favorite restaurants, hairstyles. So why can’t we change how we personally identify?

I went through a lesbian phase when I was in fifth grade. That’s not to say I identified as a lesbian, but now looking back I wanted to. I wasn’t fantasizing about sex much in general yet, but boy, did I love my middle school gym teacher. Every morning I would wait out by the playground fence, doing flips on the metal bars, waiting for her green Ford Explorer to pull up. I would relish those two minutes I got to walk with her into the building. Gym days were my favorite days.

And the phase went beyond school. My favorite artists at the time were the Indigo Girls and Melissa Etheridge, and every time I saw a woman with masculine features or clothes, I would get a tingle in my chest. For those of you who have seen or heard Fun Home: The Musical, it was pretty much just what Alison describes in the song “Ring of Keys”: Do you feel my heart saying hi?…I know you.

But then I got to high school, and was very, obviously, totally straight. This “straight phase” lasted throughout college, then for years after college, when I married my college boyfriend. Even after I’d left that marriage realizing that monogamy wasn’t for me, I still dated only cis men. I didn’t realize I wanted it any other way.

And then in 2011 I came out to myself after a particularly hard crush on the ex-wife of a partner, and very soon came out to everyone else. I’m bi, I said. And no, it’s not just a phase.

But what would I have called myself before? Would I have said that I was bi as a middle-schooler? Or as a young adult? There are many parts of me, like my preference for non-monogamous relationships, that I can now see glimpses of in the past (I wrote a poem called “Polyandry” in college). But my bisexuality isn’t one of them. I never wanted to kiss my female friends in college, and when I did for laughs, I felt nothing. So does that mean, if bisexuality isn’t a phase, I’m not really bisexual?

Calling what others identify as a “phase” is a form of erasure and can be very emotionally harmful, for sure, but for me, it’s not about the difference between temporary and permanent. I think it’s about the difference between definable and undefinable, black and white. People who say “it’s just a phase” don’t want me to say, “Oh yeah, I know, don’t worry, I’ll be over it in a few years,”  they want me to be over it right now. They want me to fit the mold as soon as possible, so that I make sense again. What they mean by “it’s just a phase” is “I hope you will pick a side soon, because this middle-space is terrifying me.”

I don’t think we, as humans, can go through life without phasing into and out of different identities. I went through a Robin Williams phase, a Twister phase, and a phase in my mid-twenties where I wanted to move to Iowa and live on a farm. I had a lesbian phase. A straight phase. And now, a bisexual phase.

And yes, at some point I might decide I want to identify as something else. And that’s okay. Because I’m not “picking a side” just because someone tells me it’s time. I’m following my own attractions, my own identities, my own choices of how to label myself (or not).

The sooner we can all embrace our phases and the fluidity of our attractions over long periods of time, the more we can show naysayers that there are more than two destinations on the highway of sexual attraction, and we are free to move about them whenever – and however – we want. And that desire I have for acceptance and understanding…that is most certainly not a phase.

Kate Estrop is a co-president of the Bisexual Resource Center, artist, and cat mother.

Building Bi-Inclusive Community Spaces

Work to rethink the way we use labels!

On the last day of our campaign’s Action Week, Bisexual Health Awareness Month focuses on community-based action steps that can best support bisexual+ youth.

In one report, bisexual+ youth were less likely to be out to their families, friends, and communities, and only 4% of pansexual youth reported feeling like they “definitely fit in” with their community. In addition, bisexual youth are less likely of having attended a queer youth group compared to their gay and lesbian peers. Therefore, it is critical for community centers and places of worship to provide bisexual-specific and -inclusive spaces for bisexual+ youth.

Some action steps for these community centers and places of worship to build upon their bisexual+ inclusivity include:

  • Implementing bisexual-specific programs, services, and resources; Often bi+ people avoid LGBTQ+ spaces if they don’t see themselves truly represented!
  • Bisexual+ individuals often experience biphobia, transphobia, racism, ageism, and/or ableism, so organizations must work towards creating safer and more inclusive spaces; Supporting bisexual+ youth and their intersecting identities is critical in improving their overall health and well-being
  • Filling your LGBTQ+ resource library or suggested reading list with bisexual+ literature; Great listings of bi+ books can be found here and here
  • Connecting bisexual+ youth with their community; Bi-specific groups are listed here and here, and a listing of LGBTQ+ religious groups can be found here
  • Working towards addressing LGBTQ+ issues in the criminal justice system, particularly for transgender* youth and youth of color who often experience oppression, unfair treatment, and discrimination; A recent report by the Movement Advancement Project provides various recommendations and resources for fixing this broken system

What else can we do to support and care for bisexual+ youth in our communities? Let us know in the comments!

Caring for Bisexual+ Homeless Youth

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Today Bisexual Health Awareness Month provides action steps for homeless shelters and social service providers working with bisexual+ youth

A higher percentage of bisexual students reported running away from home one or more times compared to their gay and straight peers. In addition, more bisexual youth stated they were homeless because of physical abuse by parents than their straight and gay peers. Gay, lesbian, and bisexual homeless youth also have greater HIV risks and these risks are greater among bisexual female youth. Therefore, stronger policies are needed to provide bisexual+ youth with safe environments to live that are off the streets.

Bisexual+ youth who are homeless or at risk for homelessness also need:

  • Additional education- and community-based support systems, such as affordable housing,  job training, and college prep programs
  • Social service providers who understand and can address all their unique needs and intersections
  • More LGBTQ-specific homeless shelters, like the Thrive Youth Center in Texas
  • Programs and services that can care for their sexual, physical, and mental health and wellbeing
  • For those at particular risk for HIV, comprehensive sex education, needle exchange programs, and PrEP distribution

Work to end homelessness for bisexual+ youth today! Get involved with the National Alliance to End Homelessness here.

Supporting Bisexual+ Youth in School

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Today Bisexual Health Awareness Month highlights ways to support and protect bisexual+ youth at school.

A recent report found that 37% of gender-expansive youth are verbally harassed at school, and another report found that 44% of bisexual youth were bullied about their weight or physical appearance one or more times during the past month. In addition, a report by the GSA Network chronicles harsh discipline and school push-out often faced by LGBT youth of color. Therefore, it is important to build safer, more inclusive and accepting environments for bisexual+ (e.g. bisexual, pansexual, queer, fluid, no label) youth in schools.

A report by the Human Rights Campaign provides several recommendations on how to better support bisexual+ youth in schools:

  • Use bisexual-inclusive language when talking to youth about bullying and harassment
  • Be an ally to bi+ youth by calling out biphobia and stereotypes about bisexuality when you see it
  • Be inclusive of bi+ youth in programs and resources. Listen to them and their stories, and use terms like LGBTQ+ whenever possible
  • Invite bi+ leaders to speak at LGBTQ+ events so that bi+ youth can see themselves represented

Other tips and steps include:

  • Call out all forms of discrimination and oppression in schools and classrooms – biphobia, transphobia, racism, ableism – that affect bi+ youth
  • Implement stronger policies in schools that protect bisexual+ youth of color from harassment and discriminatory discipline
  • Learn about issues affecting the bisexual+ community in order to effectively address the needs of bi+ youth

What do you think we can do to improve the health, safety and wellbeing of bisexual+ youth at school? Let us know in the comments!

Boosting Bisexual+ Competency for Healthcare Providers

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Today Bisexual Health Awareness Month provides action steps for healthcare professionals who treat youth in order to boost their bisexual+ competency.

Bisexual youth are less likely than gay and lesbian youth to disclose to their physician about their sexuality. Therefore, there are many ways that healthcare providers can better care for their bisexual+ (e.g. bisexual, pansexual, queer, fluid, no label) clients — Because our health matters too!

A report by the National LGBTQ Task Force provided several tips to healthcare providers who treat bisexual individuals, including:

  • Not making assumptions when working with bisexual clients; Treat us as individuals, not stereotypes!
  • Supporting and validating people’s diverse experiences and identities; Listen to bisexuals and what we need
  • Knowing that a person’s sexual behavior and sexual orientation are two different things
  • Including “bisexual” when talking to clients about sexual orientation; It’s not just gay and lesbian!

Other tips and action steps you can follow as a healthcare professional are:

  • Recognizing that sexual orientation can be complex. Learn more about this particular area with the Klein Grid
  • Having bisexual+ materials in your waiting area, like our brochure about mental health in the bi+ community
  • Knowing that your bisexual+ clients are not just impacted by biphobia; They also experience other forms of discrimination such as transphobia, racism, ageism, and ableism that significantly impact their health
  • Making your medical practice more welcoming and inclusive by displaying information about bisexuality+
  • Connecting your bi+ clients with their community; Bi+ groups are listed via BRC and BiNet USA
  • Learning more about bisexual+ health issues with these reports and materials and brushing up on your Bi 101 with this bisexual issues presentation
  • Becoming listed as a bisexual-aware health practitioner on the BiZone Directory

Today’s Featured Resources: E. shares their experiences with therapists in hopes more will become bisexual+ competent. And, for Bi Health Month this year, Samati Niyomchai shares his experiences with his doctor, which are more exception than rule.

How do you think health providers can better care for bi+ youth? Leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments!