Bi+ Visibility a Critical Need for Pride Events
By Shari Lucas
Everyone has their story. I just turned 60. In my youth being gay or lesbian wasn’t talked about. I knew I was attracted to women so that must mean I was a lesbian. After college I dated women exclusively for many years. Then at 39 I had a major pendulum swing where I started being attracted to men. I still didn’t call myself bisexual because the word wasn’t used much and I had no one else who was bi to talk to and compare myself too. I met a straight man whom I married. Years went by fine, but I realized I missed my community. I was meeting his friends who all assumed I was straight and I really didn’t like that. I came out as bi on Facebook on National Coming Out day in 2014 and received tremendous support. After that I tried connecting with LGBTQ+ groups but had a hard time finding other bisexuals. I was missing the aspect of being able to look in a mirror through someone else find the common ground that I couldn’t find from speaking with my gay and lesbian friends.
I attended a pride event in hopes of finding connection. It didn’t happen. Here was something where I could celebrate who I am yet I felt very alone. The lesbian folks gathered, the gay guys gathered, the trans folks gathered, but there was no “space” for the bi folks. The common thought is that the part of bisexuals that are attracted to the same sex are welcome and they should sit with either the lesbians or gays and not talk about their opposite sex attractions.
I tried to find bi connections via pride centers and groups but it still wasn’t happening. So I began a Bi+ Discussion Group on Meetup to find others like me so we can talk about our commonalities. I also started a Bi/Pan table at pride events. I bought giveaways in the form of pamphlets, bi/pan bracelets, pins, mardi gras beads and stickers. I brought a bunch of chairs so that other bi+ folks could literally have a place at the table. I intentionally made the space for the bi+ community that I couldn’t find elsewhere. To my surprise I was very busy the entire event giving out literature and giveaways and having so many wonderful conversations. When I took a break from the table I saw a young woman wearing a bi flag so I stopped her and gave her my bi bracelet, to which she sincerely replied “you just made my day”. When I saw three young women walk by wearing their bi/pan flags I called them over and gave them trinkets. One of their moms was their escort and was so thankful that she put money in my donation can.
I had invited a lesbian and a straight friend to sit with me at my table. I was kind of shocked when they declined because they were not bi and did not want to give anyone the impression that they were. What? Are we really considered that scary? Our society tells me over and over that I belong with the other women (lesbians) or with straights and I’m supposed to be ok with that. But apparently vice versa isn’t cool.
Bi+ visibility is not only important, but vital. It is vital for the bisexual+ community and for those who are not bi+. Vital for those like me who have struggled and still struggle to find our place in our own community. Many bi+ folks are still afraid to come out because of backlash from society and from within our own community. The bi+ community is the largest in the LGBTQ+ community yet you wouldn’t know it. We suffer high rates of mental health disparities, high suicide rates, and high domestic abuse rates, yet you wouldn’t know it because it’s not talked about. Throughout my years I have been expected to help others in the LGBTQ+ community, like when we have AIDS, when we are murdered, when we fight for same sex marriage. Our community helps each other. I can hope that bi+ education continues to be forefront to increase understanding. Bi+ visibility at pride events is an excellent tool to do that.