I attended the White House Bisexual Community Policy Briefing yesterday as part of the second annual BiWeek—a campaign co-founded by GLAAD to accelerate acceptance for the bi community. It was my first time at the White House, and it was a powerful introduction.
Bi, pansexual, queer, and fluid-identified advocacy leaders from around the country gathered in DC, representing a diverse range of ethnicities, races, gender identities, abilities, geographic backgrounds, and ages, all under the bi umbrella. For many, this wasn't their first rodeo. The bi community and its history are imbued with dedicated, effective advocacy for gay, trans, racial, gender, and economic equality. These roots run deep, but many fear that others are not always quick to advocate for the bi community's well-being.
Bi people experience greater rates of health disparities, physical violence, poverty, homelessness, and discriminatory attitudes than their gay, lesbian, and straight peers, despite making up the majority of the LGBT community. Coming together in the nation's capital with the intention of moving towards a better reality, shaped by the input of bi leaders, was both necessary and encouraging. It was a chance for bi people to unite and succeed impactfully.
It was a busy time to be in DC. The district was bustling with Pope-related activity, as the head of the Catholic Church will be arriving for his historic visit shortly. In anticipation of his arrival, GLAAD has been amplifying the voices of LGBT and LGBT-affirming Catholics, empowering media professionals to report accurately report on the Catholic Church's hierarchy, and even reached out directly to the Vatican asking the Pope to meeting LGBT families within the Church. While many are hopeful that Pope Francis can bring systemic inclusion to the Catholic Church, the reality for LGBT Catholics in their families and parishes often remains harmful and exclusionary.
The overlap of the bi-related policy briefing and the excitement around the Pope's visit was a tangible reminder of how multifaceted people in the LGBT community's needs are. Spiritual, physical, emotional, and social health are still goals—not yet given realities—for LGBT folks, including and sometimes especially bi people. Having these diverse needs represented at the policy briefing by bi people with intersecting identities was necessary for moving towards sustainable and successful policy changes.
Sharing one's personal reality is vital for changing a community's broader social reality. GLAAD's mission to story-tell as a way to accelerate acceptance was represented in the courage, honesty, and openness of the people who told their stories with the hopes of shaping national policy. People's difficult pasts were reclaimed as tools for building safer, more inclusive futures for their peers.
Perhaps one of the most valuable elements to Monday's policy briefing was the opportunities for people to share resources – those resources were our experiences, fields of work, and knowledge, all of which varied widely but were strong across the board. When put together, these resources served to move the bi community as a whole towards cultural and political advancement. While the bi community must overcome a disproportionally high hurdle in order to access hard resources and to achieve, I felt we were in a space where being ourselves was valuable, productive, and enough.
In sendig us invites from the White House to gather and speak, the office and administration seemed to tell the bi community in all its multi-facets, "I've Got Your Back." Creating a space seemingly dedicated to posing the question, "what do you need from us to help you do and be and feel your best?" is an important strategy for being an ally.
This BiWeek, I invite bi people around the world to share their experiences as a way for building visibility, changing hearts and minds, and gaining allies. I invite allies in the bi community to listen closely and embrace the opportunity for education.
Visit glaad.org/biweek2015 to learn how you can participate in the weeklong campaign, and check out GLAAD's original photos from the policy briefing below:
(Nicole Kristal, founder of #StillBisexual)
(Aud Traher, Vice President of BiNet USA)
(Robyn Ochs, advocate & author)