Why is there a Bi-Visibility Day?

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By FAITH CHELTENHAM

 

Every September 23 is Celebrate Bisexuality Day, also known as Bi Pride Day.  And every year on September 23, I do two things: First I wish my mother a happy birthday, and second I take a moment to pray for the bisexual activists, community organizers, and advocates past, present, and future. I say a blessing for all those we lost this year to suicide and disease, since there are always too many. Afterward I send some good thoughts out to the world. On Bi Pride Day, I celebrate that I am able to exist and am still happy to do so.

Last night I heard from my fellow BiNet USA board member Gary North, after he heard the news that Berkeley, Calif., was the first city in the nation to recognize the September 23 Bi Pride Day.  Gary had gone and rummaged through his files and found that in 1990 the city of San Francisco had proclaimed June 23, 1990, Bisexual Pride Day in San Francisco in honor of the 1990 National Conference on Bisexuality. Gary tells me that the biggest lesson from his decades of involvement “has been reinforcement that change and acceptance are in large part generational.” I know what he means even though I am still a bit of a young one at 32 years of age. 

Back in the 1990s I hadn’t even heard of the word bisexual, and coming from the small coastal California town of San Luis Obispo, my exposure to anything gay was very limited. Having been raised in the Church of God in Christ, a primarily black Pentecostal denomination, I had been placed in pastoral care by elementary school so as to stamp out my unnatural urges. My mom was doing what she then thought was right to save my soul, so I read from Ezekiel and had elders lay hands on me to pray that devil right on out. Like many queer folks, I escaped my confusion of sexuality into a clusterf*** of sexual activity because none of it made a whole lot of sense. People told me I would “come out eventually,” but I didn’t have any idea what they were talking about, as I had a preference for living indoors and really hated camping. So I carefully folded up my pictures ferreted out of a trashed Playboy, hid them under the bed, and prayed after doing such “bad things” at the end of every night. My heart still pounds to think of my fear, to remember the feeling of being caught in an undertow, as if I jumped into the biggest wave, only to find the light lacking and the deepness of the ocean void of air. It seemed I lived without breathing for years, caught between the worlds of gay and straight. 

Finding the bisexual community saved me. Finding others like me online and off made me feel completely normal and finally capable of loving relationships with whomever I wanted who wanted me. No one should need a permission slip to fall in love, and no one should have anyone else’s definitions define them.  This Bi Pride Day I celebrate the heroes who helped me get here, and all the people who work toward a world where none of us live without being able to love ourselves. In a stunning letter from a person who’s loved more than one gender, Frank Ocean tells me, “I was never alone, as much as I felt like it … as much as I still do sometimes. I never was. I don’t think I ever could be.” Frank’s letter shot off into space, breaking barriers and embracing the kids on the street, people between sheets, and all the other lovers who had missed a beat. For there are still too many people waiting, watching, and wondering about the line of best fit; how they intersect, and if they’ll ever connect.

There’s nothing more annoying to me than a person who scoffs at my bisexual insistence, those who tell me “sexuality’s not really a big deal” and “no one really cares.” When my orientation is dirty enough to be on a block list from Google and I have to spend time convincing them it matters, it’s a big deal.  When monosexism and heterosexism mix in my Lamaze class and I’m seen as a married straight, it troubles me. Yet I am lucky to not be the first person to care, and to not be the last. Lani Ka’ahumanu, Autumn Courtney, Arlene Krantz, David Lourea, Cienna Stewart, Maggie Rubenstein, and other members ofBiPol organized that first National Conference on Bisexuality in San Francisco, and we bisexuals have always been right there, matching stride for stride. Our pride was so fierce that Brenda Howard, a bisexual woman, was even a founder of the LGBT Pride days now held all over the world. These days,bisexuals run for Congress and train contestants for NBC’s The Biggest Loser. We’re lambasted by conservatives and defended by a gay icon who only agreed bi men existed last year. Gary’s right, all this life is change; either you’re making it or you’re waiting around for it. So this time every year, I say a lil’ pagan prayer that someone else just like a younger me will know what it is to breathe safe and free. 

 

FAITH CHELTENHAM is the president of BiNet USA.

The desexualization of bullying – A deeper look at bullying’s sexual undertones

Posted on February 16, 2012

by: Kris Gowen, originally posted on Kris Gowens Blog

 

Kids Bullying

You Can Stop Bullying

I was going to try to come up with a fancier more accessible title, but I can’t right now. But I sure better by May! I’ve been invited to speak at an bullying awareness event in Austin Texas this May. While I jumped at this opportunity to share my work (and support my friend who is organizing the event), I quickly realized that I am no bullying expert. But, for better or for worse, not being a total expert on a topic as not stopped me before…

I am an expert on adolescent sexuality and sexual development. I also have a pretty good handle on youth and technology and how that impacts their development (hence, this blog). So, how to use my strengths in the context of this upcoming event? Tie all of these issues together — sexuality, technology, and bullying. I have found my comfort zone!

What’s odd is that while so much of bullying has a sexual undertone or is blatantly about sex or sexuality or at least gender, most bullying curricula, anti-bullying campaigns, etc., do not acknowledge this important association. Bullying is seen as harassment, teasing, isolation, and assault. But under no circumstances should one put the word “sexual” in front of any of those terms and call it bullying.

Why this separation? Why not discuss sexual harassment while discussing bullying? Where is the conversation about sexual respect and self-worth in curricula that addresses the need to be nice to others? Are (anti) bullying experts afraid to talk about sex? Does it complicate things too much? Does it narrow their message?

Whatever the reason, I think it’s important to accept the fact that a lot of bullying has to do with sexuality. An obvious example is about name-calling due to sexual orientation and/or gender expression (and the “Think Before You Speak” campaign does a good job of calling this out). But what about sexting under pressure? Spreading rumors? Calling someone a ho or slut? These are unfortunately very common ways to bullying another, but where’s the conversation about the sexual components?

I hope to be able to speak more eloquently about this topic in the future. For now, I will continue to explore this rift and see if I can’t begin to bridge the gap between my interests and the important work done to decrease bullying among youth.

 

It’s your turn, what do you think we should do to change this? How has society removed Sexuality from bullying? Is this a bad thing? Comment and share your thoughts and then share this blog with someone you know.

Bully Victim Bystander

Stand Up Against Bullying

 

Being An Ally

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, being an ally is defined as “one that is associated with another as a helper”. The same goes for the New Oxford version “a person or organization that cooperates with or helps another in a particular activity:” Any way you put it, an ally is there to help another person, community and in some instances a country when they need that support. Historically, there were allies assisting to free Africans being enslaved in the United States, America served as an ally to European countries during World War II. And civil right activists were allies to the thousands of African-Americans fighting for civil rights guaranteed to them by the Constitution of the United States of America. Most recently, there has been a movement across the country of young people, educators, and parents supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth as allies.

Allies play a vital role in making schools safer for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. In fact, the first Gay-Straight Alliance was the idea of a straight ally. Although this isn’t a “new” movement, recent headlines about anti-LGBTQ bullying have brought to light the importance of allies to the LGBTQ community.

Being an ally means being there for people when the world marginalizes and discriminates against any one. Even today when we see more media representation of LGBTQ individuals, by in large, we still live in a society where to be anything other than heterosexual is not accepted. This is where allies come in! An ally for the LGBTQ community can be anyone, whether they are black, white, old, young, gay, or straight. Allies can be a support for LGBTQ people when they decide to come out to family, friends, community, church, or to anyone else. LGBTQ allies can stand up for LGBTQ youth and pledge: “I believe all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression deserve to feel safe, and supported. I will not use anti-LGBT language or slurs. I will intervene, if I safely can, in situations where students are being harassed, and support efforts to end bullying and harassment.”

Personally, as an ally I have had very rewarding experiences that made me really proud of what I stand for. Those experiences made me realize that the work I do isn’t in vain. In early October, a good friend of mine asked me, “What would you think of me if I told you I was attracted to men?” I told him, “I would think of you the same – who am I to tell you who you care about is wrong?” From then on he told me about his feelings and how he has been holding them in because he doesn’t want to be a part of the stereotype that society has created for gay men. He doesn’t want anyone to look at him differently because of his sexual orientation. We attend a university that is the most diverse in the North Carolina school system, and yet there is stigma around being a gay African-American male.

Being there for him was the best feeling I could have ever felt. After talking to me, he has since made strides in coming out to his peers and wants to tell his mother soon. I remember he told me once “I respect, support, and appreciate straight allies because they are the ones in society that are ‘normal’ in strong support of something that society sees as ‘abnormal.’ You all take the slack for all of that.” Although I let him know that he is in no way abnormal or wrong for his sexual orientation, I appreciated his words. I felt like I had a purpose.

You, too, can be an ally. High school students can join their gay/straight alliance at their schools, or if there isn’t one make an effort to be the founding member. College students can also join an organization that advocates for the issues relevant to LGBTQ youth. Within in that organization, plan a project, pass out flyers, ask questions, and most importantly, BE AVAILABLE! Go out into your communities and tackle the issues that relevant to the people around you. Take notice of abusive language, support your friends and their events. The Gay Lesbian Education Network, Advocates for Youth, and YouthResource are all great resources on how to plan events on campuses and in communities and ways to speak to your peers to ask questions to be a better ally.

I hope that the information that I have provided to you will make you more aware of the people around you and I hope that I have influenced you to stand up for the youth in your communities. Be the change.

As an ally, there will be instances where you will have to direct your peers to resources to deal with their specific situations. To start you off on your journey here are a few resources:

Share your own stories of being an ally. What does it mean to you? How important is it?

-Amara

National A&PI HIV/AIDS Awareness Day May 19th 2011

Asian Pacific Islander Pride and Cascade AIDS Project will be commemorating National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on Thursday May 19th.  We invite everyone in our communities to join us!  We will be discussing HIV/AIDS related issues during our Monthly Happy Hour (Element Restaurant & Lounge, 1135 SW Morrison Street, Portland, 5-9pm). This event is part of a larger effort organized by The Banyan Tree Project, a national social marketing campaign to stop HIV/AIDS-related stigma in Asian & Pacific Islander (A&PI) communities.  
There are similar events being held in many cities across the country (visit www.banyantreeproject.org for more information).
  
The theme of the 2011 Campaign is HIV/AIDS and API Women.  While HIV is still seen as a men’s issue, the disease continues to rise unchecked among A&PIs and A&PI women in particular. Recent analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that A&PIs have the highest rate of increase in new HIV infections in the nation, the only statistically significant growth among any racial or ethnic group, and yet two-thirds of A&PIs have never been tested for HIV. The rate of increase for A&PI women is actually higher than that of A&PI men, but the misconception that A&PIs are not at risk for HIV persists–even among healthcare providers who discourage A&PIs from getting tested. In fact, a recent study by Dr. Hyeouk Chris Hahm (a leading researcher on A&PI women’s sexual health from Boston University) indicates that A&PI women are less likely than other ethnic groups to be offered an HIV test in OB/GYN settings. A number of factors contribute to the HIV risk for A&PI women, including a lack of targeted HIV prevention information for women, unequal power dynamics in sexual relationships, biological differences and the fact that a woman’s HIV risk is often indirect. A woman’s HIV risk is her partner’s HIV risk and many women in monogamous relationships are shocked when they test positive. Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of A&PI women living with HIV got it through heterosexual contact (86%).
 

“By 2050, A&PIs will represent about 11% of the US population,” says Lance Toma, executive director of A&PI Wellness Center in San Francisco. “We could be facing a public health disaster if we
fail to address the rise in HIV and STD infections in our communities now.” Another significant issues related to HIV/AIDS that is relevant to the API community is HIV-related stigma, which refers to the severe individual, family and community shame or disgrace associated with HIV. API’s living with HIV are blamed for their condition and are punished—by exclusion, isolation, prejudice and discrimination—for contracting the disease. They are often vilified and reduced to stereotypes—drug users, gay men, sex workers—with little regard for their individual experience or situation. In the A&PI community, HIV-related stigma is so powerful that people avoid talking about sex or HIV entirely. This silence feeds the fear and misconceptions about HIV transmission. For A&PIs, an HIV-positive test result can shame and disgrace the individual, as well as the family and community.  By raising awareness and openly talking about HIV/AIDS, sexuality and sexual health issue, we can help to erase this stigma and reduce HIV transmission and its impact in API communities.

API Pride is an organization led by and for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent in Oregon. We provide safe and supportive environments and opportunities to celebrate, educate and bring our communities together. For questions or concerns, please contact us by email at api.pride@gmail.com or visit our blog:  http://api-pride.blogspot.com

Film Friday- It gets better OBAMA

Yesterday as part of the It Gets Better Project, President Obama shared his message of hope and support for LGBT youth who are struggling with being bullied. This heartfelt video is amazing to see just years after our last president was calling for less LGBT rights. Check out what Obama had to say then come down to Pivot (209 SW 4th Ave) from 3-7pm next Wednesday October 27th  and record your own video about why LGBT youth should not take their own lives. Our voices have the power to save lives, use yours to help. What’s even better is we will take snip its from each video and make a larger it gets better video for you to share with your friends.

RSVP by texting  “LIFE” to 503-466-5056. We will send you a reminder, because we always forget. OR call us at 503.278.3871 to let us know you’re coming.

 

What is the It Gets Better Project?

“Noted writer and media pundit Dan Savage founded the It Gets Better Project in September 2010 as a unique way for supporters everywhere to tell LGBT Youth that — it gets better.

Closed-minded school administrators and parents may not let LGBT adults talk directly to their children about their futures, but we don’t have to get permission to tell kids that life gets better. That’s why we’re compiling a video archive to share the stories of people overcoming bullying and finding happiness.

ItGetsBetterProject.com is a place where young people who are gay, lesbian, bi, or trans can see with their own eyes how love and happiness can be a reality in their future. It’s a place where LGBT adults can share the stories of their lives, and straight allies can add their names in solidarity and help spread our message of hope.” -From http://www.itgetsbetterproject.com/pages/about-it-gets-better-project/