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Not One With You: Why Bisexuals Like Me Are Always Missing From Gay History



Not One With You: Why Bisexuals Like Me Are Always Missing From Gay History

Remember that time a whole bunch of bisexual activists worked so hard to be nice about being left out of the Cleve Jones led March on Washington (MOW) in 2009? Remember those days when Faith cared a bit more about being a respectable bisexual?
Oh, those days? They are no more!

Remember when bisexuals shared name after name of amazing bi community advocates, experts, filmmakers and subject matter expert speakers with the 2009 MOW programming team? Remember when we stocked bi hopes in gay dreams?

Only to be told the ONE bi, pan, fluid, queer (bi+) community speaker at the March would be a musical icon who hadn’t yet identified herself as an activist for bisexual communities?

I remember, but did not see that history represented in ABC Network’s When We Rise, a television miniseries on the history of the LGBT movement.

From: Tanner E. (MOW March Coordinator)
Date: 2009-09-30 18:12 GMT-07:00
Subject: Chat with Tanner E.
To: thefayth

6:06 PM
me: hi
6:07 PM
this is faith, like and faith and all that

Tanner: hi faith
im on a conference call right now - so I apologize if I am not completely "here"
me: oh gosh no
nm, i just wanted to shake the tree on bi speaker for NME
6:08 PM
i'll shoot u an email instead!
Tanner: Lady Gaga is going to speak about being bisexual
6:09 PM
me: hmm, no bi activists who have experience talking about marriage equality, fluid political and all that?
any trans activists?
Tanner: we have about 7 trans speakers
6:10 PM
but yes, Lady Gaga, also the biggest celebrity on our stage, is going to have to represent the community
me: and 1 bi speaker
6:11 PM
who's not an activist, advocate or educator?
6:12 PM
Tanner: Lady Gaga considers herself an activist and advocate
me: sorry, i just burst into tears
i gotta go
6:13 PM
someone will be in touch, thanks for letting me know the decision!

Mad respect to Tanner (above) who was just relaying the message from Cleve Jones as multiple other sources at the time relayed to me. I do not share this information lightly, but since it directly relates to the discrimination and exclusion of bisexuals from the 2009 March, I do so now.

So what was I, a reasonably new and obviously deeply invested bi activist, to do?  After Tanner told me the above message in a Google chat? What do we bisexuals do when “LGBT” history is written about us, once more without us?

With BiNet USA and other bi leaders, I threatened to protest the 2009 National March on Washington because Lady Gaga, who had yet to publicly identify herself as bisexual, could not be the only person representing the bisexual community that day. And I LOVE LADY GAGA!

I let the MOW team know we would call both gay and straight mainstream press about bisexual exclusion. I told them naked bisexuals would be at their gates if they did not have a speaker who represented us and our issues. For a little under an eighth of medicinal green, I hired some of L.A.’s best stand up comics and alternative songwriters to call a bisexual phone tree of organizers who then attempted to call all 80 people or orgs listed on the MOW website as co-sponsors to let them know they’d be getting protested with Cleve too. I think me and Sean Hart also went off and wrote a song about me growing up in San Luis Obispo, CA, called SLOW too. Hey, it was 2009, and before I had a kid, and was just working full-time, so I did bit more back then.

Simply put, we all raised hell across every state and Jones and his planning crew acquiesced and allowed a single bisexual activist speaker to introduce Lady Gaga. Tanner then told me “Cleve, says 2 bi speakers is OK as long as it’s not you” and while I’m an engaging and funny Black bi woman who had already been featured on an Emmy winning reality show on race co-produced by Ice Cube, I swallowed my disappointment. It was important to have a community speaker to represent us and it really did not have to be me.

The bi+ speaker the MOW programming team chose to introduce Gaga at the 2009 March did not use the word bisexual in her speech as much as I would have liked. To be honest af, having fought tooth and nail for one effing person who was a bisexual activist to appear, I did not respect her choice then as much as I do now.

The day of the 2009 March on Washington, a fluid bi queer woman of color, Penelope Williams, introduced Lady Gaga to the stage as a representative of the bisexual community. Before introducing Gaga, Williams took the opportunity to give voice to many without voice that day. She spoke in Spanish and in English because “that is who our movement is” she told me fiercely. , Penelope, Yes!

And so bisexuals were there that important day in LGBT history, as we always are, with our hearts lifted in quiet and hardwon pride. We came as ourselves, and as the whole people we must be and as the large diverse movement we are to become. We are the caller outers, the out of liners, the ones who do not fit easily between, and may we always stay where Black bisexual poet June Jordan wanted us to be when she said:

As long as there are Gay and Lesbian Americans who view sexuality as the first and last defining facet of their existence, and who, therefore, do not defend immigrants against the savagery of xenophobic hatred, as long as there are Gay and Lesbian Americans who view sexuality as the first and last defining fact of their lives, then for that long I am not one with you and you are not one with me.

Was it convenient for the LGBT community to engage itself in diversionary tales such as When We Rise while Latinx communities are being quietly deported by the millions? When Muslims are fighting a ban on their travel based on their religion?

What does it mean for When We Rise to elevate a narrative of “gay rights” that excludes bisexual activism like BiPOL’s fights for Haiti or Dr. Alan Rockway’s Orange Juice Boycott at the same time today’s gay community outlets release “straight faced” reporting on President Trump making a gay man his NATO ambassador? With nary a mention of Mexicans, Central Americans, Muslims, Black Lives, Jewish cemeteries being desecrated on the regular and/or the dumpster fire that is otherwise called the Trump administration. #GAYMEDIASOWHITE indeed?

Pretty sure I even heard that gay and trans leaders recently met with Trump’s Education Secretary DeVos too, and what do you know? Again, the bisexuals were not present! Makes me wonder if there couldn’t be a benefit to staying a bisexual course devoted to ensuring every life feels safe, secure and whole, come whatever genders may. When, if ever, will the LGBT community decline to fully engage and explicitly reject the white nationalism that reigns at the highest level in LGBT politics? Or did you miss gay organizations celebrating the hell out of Moonlight too?

It should be no surprise that this When We Rise teachable bi moment is being brought to you by badass bisexuals of color who are content creators and activists, like actor and advocate Sara Ramirez, faith leader and author Eliel Cruz and YouTube sensation R.J. Aguiar alongside longtime leaders like BiNet USA’s new President Lynnette McFadzen, a demisexual asexual bisexual disabled elder and Bay Area Bisexual Network’s Martin Rawlings-Fein, a Jewish bi trans dad.  Bisexual diversity, or what advocates throughout our history have identified as “biversity”, is and remains our greatest strength.

Real talk bisexuals, stay mad. I am extremely proud of all of you!

I just got asked on Twitter by Dustin Lance Black to tell him more in a DM about bisexuals protesting in 2009! Sadly, I can’t DM him at the moment having learned a valuable lesson from bi woman of color comic, author, singer and fellow rape survivor, Margaret Cho who tried to help Tilda Swinton out before seemingly getting leaked by #whitefeminism. Most times it’s not to the benefit of women of color to have private behind the scenes conversations, especially when some folks are used to using women of color as cleanup.


Maybe I’ll suggest we take what might prove to be an engaging conversation about LGBTQIA community inclusion to a more public forum. Maybe Dustin Lance Black and I can virtually visit with HuffPostLive’s lovely Jewish roller derby queen and proud bi queer Alex Berg!

Or find some other opportunity that represents the “pay Black women, love Black women, and respect Black women” approach to my life that I work towards these days! After a decade of unpaid bisexual advocacy, I no longer do bisexual work for free or without benefit to me.

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