Where To Bi Scene?
Most of us know where to find our nearest LGBT group, but what about specifically for bisexuals?
Flag for bisexual Pride
There’s no doubt about it – bisexuals have specific needs outside of the mainstream LGBT umbrella. Whilst LGBT groups often do their best to be inclusive, it can feel alienating to be the only bisexual there. And although studies show we make up around 50% of the LGBT population, this scenario is nevertheless too common. Thankfully, many areas are reacting to this by setting up their own specialized bisexual groups and events…
So what does a healthy local bi “scene” look like? “We have a fairly substantial bi presence at the LGBT Community Center in Manhattan (about a five minute walk from the historic Stonewall Inn, where the LGBT movement in the US was, essentially, born),” responds New York bi activist Francesca Maria Bongiorno. “There are two bi support groups meeting at the center. Bi Perspectives, the group that I lead, is the longest-running group in the Center's history, started in 1979. Bi Perspectives meets in the afternoon, on the first Saturday of every month. There is also a twice-monthly evening group, called Bi Request and a writer and editor named Sheela Lambert runs a Bi Writers organization, which does readings at the Center. She runs a Bi Book Club and holds Bi Book Awards every year. All of these groups and individual members come together under the New York Area Bisexual Network banner and march together at NYC Pride every June.”
Why not just attend a “normal” LGBT group or event? “The bi groups and bi community presence in New York are important to me, personally, because they keep me from feeling invisible and isolated in that aspect of my identity,” she insists. “I also know that they are nothing to take for granted. I hear from bi people I know through social media, many of whom live in other cities with ‘LGBT centers’ where there is no bi programming at all. The ‘B’ is included in name only! Because there are bi groups and events and visible presence in the New York City LGBT Center, I feel at home when I go there, even if it's not for a bi specific event. I feel that I belong.”
Bongiorno recognizes only too well the importance of friendly faces for those who have just come out as bi. “Because I am one of the bi community leaders in NYC, I am so glad to have these various opportunities to be part of a ‘welcoming committee’ for people of any age who are just coming out as bisexual,” she says. “One of the biggest obstacles to coming out, for bisexual people, is not having any place to ‘come out’ to: no community waiting to embrace them. It's just really exciting and joyful to be one of the first friends that some of these people will meet on their coming out journey.”
Robyn Ochs is an international speaker/educator, and editor of the Bi Women Quarterly magazine and two bi anthologies. “I’m based in Boston, which is considered one of the hubs of bi activism,” she tells Curve. “It’s the home of the Bisexual Resource Center which, in addition to providing resources nationally (and beyond), hosts several local social and support groups. There are monthly all-gender brunches, and a monthly women’s brunch (I’m hosting this one in May!) Bi+* folks are also well-integrated in Boston’s larger LGBTQ+ community.”
Why does she see a need for separate bisexual spaces? “For me, bi+ spaces are not a substitute for participation in the larger LGBTQ+ community, but rather a necessary supplement,” she responds. “There is substantial bi erasure and bi-negativity in the larger LGBTQ+ community as well as in the mainstream world, and there is power and healing in being in a space where your identity is affirmed and celebrated. And to be quite honest, the bi groups I’ve been part of have been among the least judgmental spaces I’ve encountered.”
Unfortunately, funding is an issue. “We are not at all well-resourced,” she laments. “Sadly, while bi+ folks make slightly more than half of all LGB people, less than 1% of LGBT foundation funding is directed toward bi-specific issues or organizations. For a myriad of reasons, it’s very difficult to get our projects or organizations funded. As far as publicizing our work, it’s hard to do a promotional campaign without a budget, but we do the best we can by using social media.”
And if there’s nothing at all in your area…? “We need more groups!” Ochs exclaims. “My advice would be to create a MeetUp group and schedule a get-together in a public space. Advertise as far and wide as you can, including word of mouth, area schools, and any place that has an actual or virtual message board. At that gathering, take the temperature of the room: are folks interested in meeting again? If so, how often would they like to meet? Would anyone like to co-host with you? Spread ‘ownership’ as widely as possible. Create an email list or some other sort of electronic group so it’s easy to keep in touch.”
President of BiNet USA Lynnette McFadzen has more advice for those wishing to set up their own local bi initiatives. “The biggest problem is getting the word out,” she says, echoing Bongiorno’s sentiments. “Social media is the best way. Create Facebook pages and events. Utilize MeetUp. And Twitter is your friend!” Lynnette also advises putting on team-building options which appeal to a variety of tastes.“Plan activities that appeal to different types. Coffee meets for those unable to do physical stuff. Hikes for the really active. Arts and crafts stuff. Things like that.” Leadership is key, says Lynnette, in the infant stages of a new group. “Build a core group of organizers. Make sure they are diverse to represent the whole community. Build a clear idea of expectations from everyone. And then add volunteers such as event planners, etc.”
If you’d like to know what’s going on in your area, BiNet USA has produced