by Camille Holthaus
Yesterday one of BOP’s board members, Mary Hoelscher, and I did a presentation for OutFront Minnesota. OutFront had invited us to provide a presentation about bisexuals and the bisexual community. For two decades, OutFront has been an ally organization for BOP from being our fiscal sponsor in the 1990’s to supporting the most recent Bisexual Community Needs Assessment. Yet, even within the most supportive organizations, we find a lot of ignorance about the bisexual community and a lack of understanding of why resources need to be devoted to bi programming.
In the last five years, we have started to see important survey and health data about bisexuals that are distinct from the aggregated LGBT data we’ve had before. There are a number of reasons to care about having solid, reliable, and difficult to refute data about our community.
First, most people know so little about bisexuals that facts go a long way. This is the opposite of how we typically approach advocacy work. We know that making personal connections with people is the most powerful way to change their hearts and minds. However, recent research has told us that when the general population knows next to nothing about your community, it is the facts that are important. Most people believe that the stereotypes they know about bisexuals are the TRUTH and apply to all bisexuals. They don’t recognize them as stereotypes and have no basis for understanding that bisexuals are as varied and diverse as any other sexual orientation.
Second, the non-profit organizations that provide programming for the LGBT community run on donations, but especially on grants. Grants come from larger organizations who like to make sure their money is well spent. To convince grantors to grant money to support programming for the bisexual community, you have to have facts and figures. Perhaps most powerfully, we now have good statistics on the health disparities between bisexuals and gay/lesbian populations as well as straight populations. I’ll give away the ending: we have the worst mental and physical health outcomes of those four sexual orientations.
We also have great facts and figures on the funding disparities between the greater LGBT community, gay and lesbian programming and bi specific programming. Another spoiler: we get 0% of the funding.
So we went in with our facts and figures, providing hard data to support the stories all bisexuals are familiar with: the high incidence of depression in our community, passing is not a privilege but a hardship as we come out over and over again, the disconnect between behavior and labels, and so on.
Our community has made some great gains the last two years, and there are decades of hard work and incremental progress behind that. It’s great to know that the NIH recognizes and wants to engage with us about our health disparities or that the White House wants to stay engaged with the bisexual community. But what I work for is what I saw on the faces of the people in that room when I told them that 1 in 2 bisexual women has been raped. I saw understanding begin about the effect negative stereotypes and bi erasure have on real people; people they know. When they thanked us for coming, it seemed heartfelt and I was glad I was able to be there.
October 2-4, 2020
Location Wellstone Center, St. Paul, MN
Build, serve and advocate for an empowered bisexual, pansexual, fluid, queer, and unlabeled (bi+) community to promote social justice.
Within the next five years grow Bisexual Organizing Project (BOP) into a successfully-run Upper Midwest nonprofit organization with annual funding of $100,000 that provides community building, education, and advocacy for the bisexual, pansexual, fluid, queer, and unlabeled (bi+) community and our allies.