John M. Becker

Oregon Gets Nation's 1st Bisexual Governor This Week

Filed By John M. Becker | February 16, 2015 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Gay Icons and History, Politics
Tags: bi erasure, bi invisibility, bi visibility, bisexuality, governor, Kate Brown, Oregon

kate-brown-headshot.jpgThis week, the LGBT community will mark another major milestone with the swearing-in of Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown as governor. Brown, a Democrat, is openly bisexual, and when she takes the oath of office Wednesday, she will be the first openly bisexual governor in the history of the United States.

ThinkProgress reports:

Gov. John Kitzhaber (D), who had just been reelected to his fourth term in November, resigned [last] Friday amid questions about the improper influence his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, may have had over the distribution over contracts distributed in the state. Though the 67-year-old governor repeatedly denied allegations of wrongdoing, he said in a statement Friday that his resignation would be effective Feb.18. Because the state of Oregon doesn't have a lieutenant governor like most other states, the secretary of state will succeed Kizhaber.

Brown wrote about her bisexuality in a 1992, when she was serving in the state's House of Representatives. "I believe it was during my early 30's that I figured out who, or what, I am. But it wasn't until it was written in the Oregonian newspaper that I was bisexual that I had to face the inevitable and let those around me know. Thus began my very public coming out as a bisexual," she wrote as part of an online project called Out And Elected In The USA.

But this isn't just a milestone for the LGBT community -- more specifically, it's a watershed moment for the "B" part of our rainbow. Details, after the break.

oregon_rainbow.pngAs we've previously reported here on Bilerico, bisexuals make up the largest share of the LGBT community, but they're also the least visible component of it. Both inside the LGBT community and in society at large, bisexuality remains highly stigmatized and negatively stereotyped (how often have you heard bisexuals smeared as indecisive, greedy, confused, sex-crazed, etc.?) -- and these myths and misconceptions encourage bisexuals to stay in the closet, putting them at an elevated risk for a whole host of problems like binge drinking, depression, and suicide.

Combating bisexual invisibility remains a major challenge for the LGBT community, so having a governor who is out, proud, and unapologetically bisexual is a huge step forward. Samantha Allen of the Daily Beast explains:

[B]y becoming the first bisexual governor, Brown now has more power than ever to be influential in helping to end these same forms of prejudice. In addition to reporting that bisexuality seems to be the least accepted orientation, LGBT Americans also told Pew that "well-known public figures who are open about being LGBT" is the second most helpful factor in "making society more accepting of people who are LGBT." That's second only behind people getting to know LGBT people on a personal level.

So far, the U.S. has seen its fair share of bisexual celebrities--Gore Vidal, Pete Townshend, Angelina Jolie, Megan Fox, and Margaret Cho have all borne the label--but bisexual public figures in other spheres are fewer and further between. The only LGBT politicians that Pew respondents could point to as indicators of progress were either gay or lesbian.

There's a dire need for more bisexual public figures and Brown, however unwittingly and literally overnight, has become the right woman for the job.

Congratulations to bisexual trailblazer and incoming Oregon Governor Kate Brown!

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