On Monday, Sept 23, 2013, I found myself in Washington, DC, in a room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. With me were 31 other bi activists from around the US - and one from Canada - to meet with White House staff and federal government officials for an historic event, a true first of its kind. The meeting was a bisexual public policy roundtable, and there was a total of about sixty of us in attendance.
That day happened to be National Celebrate Bisexuality Day. For years, bisexual activists have asked for a place at the proverbial table. Now we finally had one. We had three hours to state our case and share with the federal government the unique and debilitating challenges facing our community, to hear from them the things they were doing or want to do to partner with us for change, and to build relationships that will hopefully save and improve bisexual lives.
Sounds very active, huh? Jam-packed? It was! Then why did I use the passive-voiced, "I found myself" in the opening sentence of this essay? That's because that's what I did. Oh, I worked to get myself in that room. I worked hard to keep myself in that room, and I busted my butt to make the most of my time in that room. But I also found myself in that room.
I found myself in good company. In there with me were representatives from every major bisexual organization in the country. In addition, we had allies from all the major LGBT organizations, there not to present to the federal officials, but to bear witness, to bring their presence into the room with us, and to extend the value of their reputations to the proceedings.
I found myself in awe of my colleagues' brilliant minds. Among the 33 of us bi community representatives were many PhDs, authors, researchers, professors, spiritual leaders, and battle-scarred veteran activists who have more knowledge about community organizing in their little fingers than I'll ever have in my brain.
I found myself surrounded by survivors. Compared to gay and straight people, bisexuals have higher rates of domestic violence victimization, mental health struggles such as addiction, depression, anxiety, suicidality, and much more.
I found myself reeling from the crushing weight of discussing the suffering in my community. We are hurting, and it hurts to talk about the hurt, even as I know that we are finally, finally talking about it with people who can actually make a difference in our lives.
So when I say I found myself, I don't mean I had been lost. I mean that I got re-grounded in the work and invigorated by the potential for success. We were here at last in the corridors of power. We haven't made it, but we're getting closer and closer.
And lastly, I found myself in conversation with a young man. After the meeting ended and folks were circulating, exchanging cards, and connecting with one another, I began talking with a man who was not one of the Bi Thirty-Three. We talked about this and that, and I asked him if he was bi. And he said he was, but wasn't out, because when he tries to come out to gay male friends, they say things like, "Oh yeah, I went through that phase too. That'll pass." As though being bi is like having a bad cold!
I found myself welling up with anger and sadness for this man. What kinds of friends are these, to patronize, to dismiss, to assume that his experience of his sexuality must match their own? What are we as an LGBT community fighting for, if not the right to be who we are and speak that truth for ourselves?
I said to him, "How sad for your friends that they don't appreciate the diversity and complexity of the human heart and all its potential." And I said to myself, how ironic it is that we (bisexuals) are depressed, but they (biphobes) are the ones who are sad.
We still have so much work to do, to lift all of our selves out of this mire, to really celebrate bisexuality, and by extension, all sexualities! With good luck and hard work, on Monday we took a major step towards doing just that.
And so I say to that man now, if he's reading this: I found myself that day. I hope you did the same...
Photo of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building via the White House.