The silent B in Pink Shirt Day

In 2006, the bisexual poet and musician Hinemoana Baker and I were profiled by Maori Television in Takataapui, discussing discrimination and prejudice against bisexual people within the queer community.  Amongst other things, we were asked to respond to these:

Sadly this Takataapui episode isn’t available online.  Which does save Hinemoana and I from the real possibility of being bullied on the grounds of a series of poor hair choices over the years.  TVNZ’s slightly earlier “State of the Queer Nation” – which is online –  wasn’t actually about the queer nation. No (out) bisexual, transpeople or intersex people; no bi, trans or intersex issues – or even people – mentioned.

Bi people have been organising against biphobia around the world since at least the 1980s.  We need Pink Shirt Day not just because we have same-sex attractions – we need to stop bi-specific bullying and invisibilisation related to negative stereotypes because it has negative impacts on bisexual people.

Bisexuality is explicitly named as a grounds for discrimination in the Human Rights Act, after a long and sometimes bitter fight by bi people leading up to 1993.  Despite continued attempts to exclude us from the Act’s protections the Wellington Bisexual Women’s Group rocked up at a celebratory event in 1993, flushed with bi pride at our inclusion. When the approved lesbian speaker outlined the Act’s protections but repeatedly left us out – not for the first time – our slightly tired response was to heckle, shouting “and bisexual” as needed.

We got up to speak collectively, ending with a waiata.  Fortunately for negative stereotypes of bisexual people, I was able to clasp Hinemoana’s hand tightly, so I could mouth our waiata and allow the audience to enjoy her gorgeous voice without noticing mine.

Aroha mai Hinemoana – this apology for appropriating your musical genius is long overdue.

This Pink Shirt Day I’m going to share some link love for bi people, and those interested in challenging biphobia and biphobic bullying.  I’m not including generic queer groups as too often those groups have a silent B (and T, let alone I) when it comes to LGBTI issues and communities.  Feel free to add more links in comments.

The Wellington Bisexual Women’s Group continues, eating and talking our way to bitopia.  Members have also lobbied for queer rights legislation, contributed to queer rights legislation and created resources to challenge discrimination.  Most recently this included suggesting significant changes – all of which were accepted – to the Human Rights Commission chapter on the rights of sexual and gender minorities.

Secret Love is a short NZ film featuring Hinemoana’s music and story which opened the queer film fest a few years back.  And if you’re wanting bi anthems, her song “I’m Free” was written in response to someone in her family telling her being bisexual was just a phase.  Other bi anthems here.

The best resources I know of online are the US based Bisexual Resource Centre and the wonderful Boston Bisexual Women’s Network.  They  produce regular newsletters and the only resource I’ve ever seen which explicitly names bi-specific experiences of domestic violence.

I’ll leave those interested with eight BBWN tips on how to be an ally to bisexual people.  Pink Shirt Day is a great day to start:

  1. Believe that I exist. Despite ongoing scientific research that seems so determined to disprove the existence of bisexuality, plus the general lack of interest by the greater gay and lesbian community to acknowledge us, we really do exist.
  2. When I tell you I’m bisexual, please don’t try to talk me into redefining my identity into something more comfortable for you. Please don’t tell me that if I haven’t been sexual with more than one sex in the last three, five, or ten years that I am no longer bisexual.
  3. Celebrate bisexual culture along with me. We have a vibrant and rich cultural history within the bi community — from Sappho to Walt Whitman to Virginia Woolf to James Baldwin to June Jordan, we have many daring voices that have expressed love beyond the monosexual confines.
  4. Please don’t try to convince me that people who lived bisexual lives in the past would have been gay if they had lived today. You don’t know that, I don’t know that, and your insistence that it is true says that you believe that people were bisexual only out of necessity, not by desire.
  5. Validate my frustration with the gay and lesbian community when they ignore or exclude bisexuals. Please don’t try and defend an action such as a keynote speaker who is addressing a LGBT audience but consistently says “gay and lesbian” when referring to all of us.
  6. Ask me, if appropriate, about my other-sex relationships and my same-sex relationships. Bisexuals live our lives in multiple ways. Some of us are monogamous and we would like to discuss that relationship openly with the people in our lives, no matter whom it is with. Some of us have more than one relationship going on and we’d like to be able to share that with others without feeling judgment.
  7. If there is some sort of bisexual scandal in the news, don’t use it as an opportunity to make derisive remarks about bisexuals generally. As we know all communities have examples of “bad behavior,” and painting everyone with the same brush doesn’t create much understanding between us.
  8. When I’m not around, or any other bisexual, speak up when bisexual people are being defamed or excluded. It’s great when we can witness your support, but I’d love to know you are helping us even when we are not looking.

3 thoughts on “The silent B in Pink Shirt Day

  1. As a lesbian woman, I will not tolerate being labelled as ‘QUEER’. Most of my inner circle feel the same way. I can totally relate to your points.

  2. This is a good article, but seems focused on bi-sexual women (forgive me if I miss-interpreted). I am a bi-sexual male, and I have personally found that we especially are ignored, as almost every time I have came out as such in a gay forum I am told “I am in denial” while I find most women are accepted instantaneously. Again, just my experience and I am sure this is not often the case, I don’t mean to imply prejudice against bi woman is insignificant.

    • Hi Johndar,
      yeah, I’m sure that’s fair comment – I’d love to hear more about your experiences of being a bi man, I’m not nearly as aware of the issues for bi men as I am for bi women. Do you write anywhere? Or would you like to write a guest post here?

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