New year’s resolutions are a time-honored tradition in the United States. This year I put a twist on the tradition by offering a set of resolutions for bi* (i.e., bisexuals and other fluid sexual identity people) activists, organizers and organizations—meant to honor our shared histories, build upon the work of recent years and inspire the vistas we continue to envision ahead of us.
Address Funding Discrimination
Bi*s have endured significant discriminatory policies against us in the funding world. Gays, lesbians and heterosexuals who have decision-making authority within funding institutions have allowed biphobic stereotypes about us to inform funding priorities, grantee selection, and the general climate toward funding bisexual organizations and projects despite significant challenges facing bisexuals in areas such as health, violence, suicide and poverty.
Let us build upon the work we have conducted over the last several years to transform the way the funders view us and our needs. To do this, we need to identify allies within the funding world, educate program officers and other decision-makers about the damaging conditions we experience and the unique challenges to meeting the needs of bi*s as compared to lesbians, gays and heterosexuals, and enlist funders are collaborative partners in addressing funding discrimination.
Be Strategic Fighters
Bi*s are easy targets for biphobic comments, bisexual erasure and general monosexist attitudes. We can burn out individually and collectively if we attempt to respond to each problematic blog, article, speech, and action. Therefore, let us choose our battles wisely. By asking ourselves a series of strategic questions, we can determine if it is worthwhile to take action:
- What is this person’s or organization’s reach or level of impact?
- What are the potential long-term consequences of righting this wrong?
- What kinds of bi*s (e.g., youth, people of color, economically oppressed, differently-abled, etc.) stand to benefit from addressing this issue? To what extent will they benefit?
- What gay, lesbian or heterosexual allies exist who are in a position to address this issue effectively?
When we deem that it is strategically valuable to confront a person or organization on their prejudice or discriminatory practices against bi*s, we should be equally thoughtful with the tactics that we employ to confront them. There are no effective one size fits all tactics. Petitions, boycotts and critical blog articles may work in certain contexts. Frank, behind-the-scenes conversations may work in other contexts. It may also be useful to have a multifaceted approach with different actors playing different roles: antagonist, conciliator, mediator, provocator, etc. When we have a strategic goal and an understanding of everyone’s role, we can respond in ways that conserve our energies and build momentum for the respect of bi*s in heterosexual society and gay/lesbian communities.
Hold Each Other Accountable to Community Standards
We are a very diverse part of the population. We have monogamists and polyamorists. We have people in same-sex relationships and people in different-sex ones. We have cisgender people and transgender people. We have people of different ethnicities, genders, regions, colors, classes, etc. We are diverse. That diversity is one of our strengths but it also creates challenges to large things like organizing collective action or building a national agenda but also smaller things like communicating with each other or building relationships with allies.
When bisexual leaders or organizations act in ways that are at cross purposes with the goals of the movement or negatively impact the health and wellbeing of other bi*s, we have to have mechanisms for naming those realities, discussing them, and addressing problematic actions with each other. Avoidance is not productive. Rumor-mongering and whispered conversations don’t provide collective clarity or actionable information.
Before we can hold each other accountable, we need to collaboratively define the standards by which we can hold each other accountable. In addition to creating community standards, we need to devise the means by which we can use them. How will we have the difficult dialogues and courageous conversations about the nature and impact of our actions when questions are raised?
Stop Supporting Monosexuals Who Demonstrate a Callous Disregard for Our Lives
Because of discrimination, structural inequality and oppression, bi*s are rarely in positions of power and authority—in lesbian, gay or heterosexual-dominated institutions—that are advantageous to the bisexual movement. Therefore, we have to rely upon monosexuals in many situations to help us advance our agenda. When monosexuals act as allies and are committed to a vision of diversity, plurality and social justice that includes bi* people, their participation advances the movement and our relationships with them help bi* people.
There are monosexuals who use bisexuality as a punching bag or fetish for entertainment purposes or professional gain. As journalists, researchers, commentators, or organizational leaders, they exercise their biphobia and monosexism in ways that are quite damaging to bi* people. It is important that we identify these individuals for whom and what they are and act accordingly. To paraphrase former POTUS George W. Bush, fool me once, shame on you but you’re not gonna fool me a second time. When it is strategically valuable, we should most definitely attempt to engage them on the impact of their actions on bi* people. But we should not continue to support monosexuals who demonstrate persistent hostility or benign neglect of us or our concerns.
Don’t give interviews with journalists or media outlets that don’t respect us. Don’t give money to or participate in the research of researchers who don’t respect us. Don’t attend conferences hosted by organizations that don’t respect us.
Stop Trying to Prove or Legitimize Our Existence
It’s 2015. Bisexuality has existed for millennia. The fact that some people don’t believe that to be the case is a recent phenomenon and their problem, not ours. The more we continue to support research or participate in public discussions focused on proving the existence of bisexuality the more we are playing by the rules of people who do not care about us nor respect us. It is a losing strategy.
Bi* people have too many pressing needs to get bogged down in the politics of proof. The sooner we shed the skepticism toward bisexuality that some of us have internalized the sooner we can bring all of our genius and creativity to bear on addressing our needs..