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.

Why blaming the rise of HIV on ‘gay sex parties’ is irresponsible and dangerous

#stigma

The Guyliner

Sometimes it’s wonderful to wake up gay and some days, well, not so much. My perfectly Instagrammed breakfast of eggs benedict was seriously spoiled on reading the Guardian and the Independent’s latest overwrought articles about ‘gay sex parties’ being linked to a rise in HIV diagnoses.

This story is trotted out in some form or another every few months or so, usually illustrated with a microscopic selfie of HIV itself or a blurry picture of a heaving Vauxhall club. For the uninitiated, here’s how these pieces usually roll: a ‘study’ is done on HIV rates, a journalist will trawl the sexual health clinics or ask charities for statements until something is said that will make a good headline. Usually a finger points firmly at a supposed increase in gay sex parties, a Roman orgy remixed for the Vauxhall generation.

The piece is printed, society safely compartmentalises HIV as a…

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Body Ownership

Carmen Cordis is a rad CHATpdx Sexpert, Activist and Leader in Portland, OR. 

I’ve recently encountered a lot of people, whether they identify inside, outside, or on the fringe of the alphabet soup community (LGBTQQAAPIT-S and any I missed, in no particular order), who have given me an ultimatum, namely that I must make some kind of physical or surgical alteration (of other people’s choosing) to my body or appearance in order to “earn” their acceptance, approval, respect, charity, or support.

I am taking a stand against our culture of non-binary-gender-phobia, body-shaming, photographic alteration, unrealistic body image fixation, cissexism, transphobia, and discrimination based on gender identity, gender presentation, sexual orientation, or bodily appearance.

Carmen Graphic

I am a living, breathing, feeling human being with a heart, a brain, a plethora of dreams, a past, a future, and a story.

I am not someone else’s narrow vision of a quickly-labeled “other” identity that ceases to exist outside of those narrowly imposed boundaries.

I was born with human dignity.  My gender is my own; it does not belong to anyone else.  It cannot be ripped away from me and reshaped by someone else, because no one else owns it.

Likewise, My body is my own. No one the right to make serious, irreversible, potentially harmful or deadly decisions regarding MY BODY but me – and those I designate as my agents in the event that I desire assistance.

Because of the culture of fear, my body has been made into my worst enemy for as long as I can remember.  I also tend to avoid conflict and prefer mediation or compromise in order to diffuse conflict.

Unfortunately, at times I have lost the control of my own body because someone other than myself decided to own my body or change it to suit their desires.

Willingly, or unwillingly, I surrendered my body to someone else, sometimes to avoid external conflict, and found myself waiting for the hell to be over when I began to drown in the internal conflict I created by capitulating.

Carmen Own Post

Too many times, I have tried to destroy my body, in order to satisfy the demands of a fear-hatred culture, and to escape from the hell of conflict by giving up and throwing in the towel, saying, “Okay.  You win.  Are you happy now?”

I no longer wish to propitiate those people who would delight in my destruction.

I deserve to be happy, and one step toward my happiness is to own my own body.

Please consider my words the next time you notice someone (perhaps yourself, even) making serious entitlement claims to someone else’s body, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Please consider my words the next time you notice someone else making serious entitlement claims to your own body, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Do not surrender to anyone who would delight in the destruction or invalidation of your essential self, the self of your definition and determination, the self of your life experience.

No one is infallible, but maybe by educating each other we can make a better world, one step at a time.

Carmen Dignity Post

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Toilets, Gender and Liberation

By Alicia Izharuddin:

“Public toilets have not existed in their gendered form since time immemorial. They emerged alongside urbanisation, improved sanitation, and enforced privatisation of bodily functions in 19th century Europe. Since their inception, public toilets for women (introduced decades after the male-only facility) was subjected to fierce objection. Ideas of women relieving themselves in small ʻrest roomsʼ outside the confines of their homes (where they should be) was shocking and morally transgressive.”

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“Transgress the laws of the  gender divisions, and you could face violent repercussions. Trans* people and butch women have all faced the aggressive force of gender policing in public toilets. Homophobic attacks against gay men or men suspected as gay in public toilets are also rife. What is considered a ʻpublic convenienceʼ for all can turn out to be an oppressive menace to those who do not conform to mainstream gender and sexual identities. Public toilets are therefore sites of gender and sexual privilege.”

Why do we care about gender neutral restrooms? Equity is at the heart of it all:

http://www.thestate.ae/mapping-gender-in-public-toilets-of-the-non-western-world

Do You Understand The Difference Between Sex And Gender?

From Sonakshi Samtani:

Sex is biologically determined, Gender is socially construed. Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, attributes and activities that are considered appropriate for men and women.

These gender roles aim at governing everything, from our behaviour to our sexuality. However, it doesn’t come as a surprise that our largely patriarchal society has inherent prejudices constituted in its gender roles. In theory our country has progressed, but the fact is that we are still caught in the shackles of patriarchy. The female population is still facing numerous socio-economic hurdles in gaining access to quality education. It can be clearly attributed to our orthodox mindset which deems fit for women to accept their role as home-makers. Even the educated employed women are under the glass ceiling preventing them for getting higher posts and equal pay as their male counterparts.

So, when a woman gets raped, the society goes ahead to attribute it to her behaving in a brazen manner, for a man is a sexual being and can’t keep it in his pants if a woman provokes him by dressing in a certain way. While one can go on and on about what the repercussions of the gender rigid culture are, it is important to first realize that the society cannot govern our freedom of expression and choice, each of us as an individual has the right to decide what is normal and acceptable for us, a right that shouldn’t be compromised with.

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Read the whole story!: http://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2013/06/do-you-understand-the-difference-between-sex-and-gender/

June 27th is National HIV Testing Day

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The Dark Ages of HIV/AIDS History

The history of HIV/AIDS in the United States is rife with contention and controversy. During the very early years of public awareness, before any robust knowledge base on the virus existed, HIV was grossly misnamed as “GRID” – Gay Related Immune Deficiency. What motivated the use of this biased terminology was the prevalence of the virus in various urban gay communities in the 1980’s, which only fueled rampant homophobia and violence towards such enclaves. Not until the virus was discovered in recipients of tainted blood transfers, injection drug users, and persons of every identity did the massive push towards public and federal advocacy gain momentum.  Today, celebrities and high profile public leaders are involved in outreach and education efforts regarding research, treatment, and prevention.

At-Risk Communities

According to the CDC, MSM (men who have sex with men) and communities of color are adversely affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. However, it is mistakenly believed that being a member of such groups is deterministic of negative characteristics and behaviors that transmit the virus – vitriolic language and attitudes detract from the structural causes and socioeconomic contexts that fuel public health issues.  The stigma and violence directed towards the gay community in the early years of the epidemic discouraged individuals from seeking treatment and hindered the proliferation of organized prevention efforts. Moreover, systemic poverty and the lack of robust health infrastructure widened the gap between those seeking treatment and information from those who could provide it. In the recent years, there has been a paradigm shift in discussion of HIV/AIDS to treating it as a tragic byproduct of societal oppression and inequality.

Fighting Stigma with Information

Though advocacy has progressed far from the state of affairs of 20 years ago, there needs to be greater solidarity among all communities across the lines of sexual orientation, race, and socioeconomic status. Awareness and prevention are the highest points on the agenda when it comes to fighting any disease. Especially for those who identify or interact with groups that are considered to be at a higher risk for contracting HIV, or participate in activities that spread the virus, regular testing is essential for harm reduction and early intervention.  Testing remains one of the important personal initiative for individuals to take when preventing the spread of HIV. Empower yourself and those close to you by seeking help and knowledge, rather than taking your chances.

Find an HIV Testing Center Today! Click the FindTheBest logo below to access a great data driven tool to find a quality, free HIV test near you.

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Or if you’re in Portland join CHATpdx’s Youth Exclusive drop in and testing night! Monday (6/24) from 3:00 – 7:00 PM at Pivot! http://pivotpdx.org/

CHATroom

– Susan Li

FindTheBest is a company based in Santa Barbara, CA that builds unbiased, data-driven comparison engines. Their Health Division is committed to creating innovative tools for navigating the important decisions regarding your health, including an STD testing clinic locator and a treatment center comparison tool. Susan joins the Health team from Columbia University in the city that never sleeps, ever. As an Economics and Asian American Studies major, she is dedicated to advancing social justice in all areas related to public health.

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Perfectly Me

 

All my life I have been called freak, been asked if I was a boy or a girl, been called stupid, mentally retarded, ugly, that I should have been aborted. I have been called every mean name in the book. Behind my back and to my face. Even online. But no matter what they say, no matter what they do. They will never break me down. Yes, it hurts. But I will move on, grow stronger every day that I live.

I may have a female body, but that does not define me as a woman. I am not a girl, I am a boy, a man. I am male completely inside and out. I was made, while others were born.

I am a boy. Perfectly me.

James Damien Moore 

James is a rad CHATpdx Peer Educator, volunteer and awesome human.

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