If you haven't heard of her already, BiNet USA board member Morgan Goode is a name for you to remember. At this year's Creating Change conference, she co-led a workshop about mixed race issues that brought a crowd that was literally spilling out of the doors. I was in that room, and I saw the current and future leadership of the bi movement - and of the LGBT movement as a whole - sitting in there with me. Specifically, I saw it at the front of the room.
Morgan is a writer and photographer living in Brooklyn. She is a profo-queer and is affiliated with many different LGBT organizations, but her opinions are her own. She tells me that one day she is going to make good on her threat to do a photo project on white tourists photographing homeless people of color. In the meantime, she is an editor-at-large at prettyqueer.com and is also organizing the 6th Annual Amazingly Queer Race for Economic Justice. Her favorite pastimes include subverting the gaze, making people uncomfortably aware of their privilege and petting kitties.
I recently caught up with Morgan to learn more about where she's going, where the movement is going, and how we can all get on board. Here's what she had to say.
Amy: What inspired your workshop at Creating Change for mixed race attendees? How did it go for you? Do you plan to do more in the future?
Morgan: Mixed race issues have been on my mind since I can remember but that workshop actually came out of meeting fellow activist Ryan Li Dahlstrom at the 2010 BECAUSE Conference. The conference and the panel obviously focused on bi/pan/fluid issues, but Ryan Li and I really connected around our shared identities as mixed race queers. It wasn't long before we knew we had to do a workshop that would give mixed race queer and trans folks the opportunity to come together and support each other as activists and allies. I think mixed race queer and trans folks are really hungry for that space to share our experiences and be heard.
Even though we didn't get through half the activities and discussions we wanted to that day, it was an incredibly powerful and satisfying experience. The scarcity of spaces and workshops like this meant that for a lot of people in the room this was the first time they'd had the opportunity to be surrounded by other mixed queer and trans people, so people had A LOT to say. The way the room (over)filled with people standing and sitting on the floor - not to mention the tears that were shed - speaks to the incredible need for more spaces and opportunities for mixed race queer and trans activists. I'm hoping it's just the beginning of an ongoing dialogue. Not only is supporting each other important as just a basic self-care issue; I think that all activist work is more affective when we operate within a framework of intersectionality. I'm in the process of organizing a local NYC based mixed race queer and trans group with my friend Kay Ulanday Barrett. And no matter where you are - you can join our Google group!
Amy: How long have you been on the board of BiNet, and what are some of your responsibilities there?
Morgan: I joined the board of BiNet USA in February 2010 and some of my duties include establishing policies and objectives, joint oversight of the organization's activities, budget approval, facilitating workshops, speaking on panels and representing BiNet USA at conferences. We have visions for expanding BiNet's online presence as well (which is where my passion is) but I think we've all been stretched pretty thin. That's the downside of having an all volunteer-run organization. I dream of a future for where we have a national bi organization with a paid staff! Of course, having bi people employed and making policy decisions at all levels of existing LGBT orgs would be nice too...
Amy: Where do you see the bi movement headed?
Morgan: Hmmm...it's really hard to say. Most bi activists are hard at work in movements and organizations that are not explicitly bi. Even working at LGBT orgs, I had to be very vocal in order to be out, otherwise I would just be absorbed into whatever identity I was assigned based on my current partner's actual or perceived gender identity, or mine for that matter. I think if organizations want to be genuinely bi inclusive, they have to actually understand bi issues on an institutional level. They can't just keep saying "oh, we have bi people working here." Because even if you do, that doesn't necessarily mean that the organization, the policies, the decision makers, are bi-affirming. And I think this continues to happen because most people still think that a bisexual person is just a part-time gay - half gay/ half straight. People don't have an understanding of the fact that being bisexual is as different from being gay as it is from being straight and we have our own issues - like poor health, higher prevalence of suicidal ideation, greater stigma.
My pet peeve is the claim that bisexual people have it easier or that some people come out as bi because it sounds more palatable than being gay. In the future, I would like to see greater understanding of bisexuality as a separate identity, which would hopefully result in more resources being out toward addressing issues of discrimination that bi folks face, because it's literally killing us!
Amy: What is your advice to up-and-coming queer activists, whether they are bi or involved in other communities?
Morgan: I actually think that queer youth organizers probably have more to teach some LGBT non-profit professionals than they have to learn from us! But if I had to tell them something...when I was a queer youth activist I devoured every bit of our history that I could - through books and talking to whatever elders I could find. All my heroes and the people who I think have been the most affective as activists have had a knowledge of history, of how we got here and what worked and what didn't. I still rely heavily on the wisdom of people like Sarah Schulman and Jim Hubbard. Of all the things that Sarah told me about what made ACT-UP so successful, the one that continuously sticks with me is this:
"People were valued for their strengths and hard work above all else. Many ACT-UPers did not know each other's last names or what they did for a living. All social status was irrelevant. What mattered was how effective you were at your active task."
So if I had anything to share with young activists, I would want to pass down the values, the spirit and the wisdom I inherited from people like Sarah and Jim, people who made real concrete change way before the concept of the Non-Profit Industrial Complex or corporate sponsors were even a thought.