Photo: Hannah Whitaker, New York Times
For much of the past two decades, John has taken a backseat to me in the “bisexual activism” world. He’s tagged along with me to Bisexual Conferences, he’s suffered through long and boring activist meetings, he was forced to edit the book I co-wrote with my bi-friend and fellow writer Nicole Kristal.
Today that has all changed, and I couldn’t be more proud. John Sylla, and the great work he has done with the American Institute of Bisexuality, is being featured in The New York Times Sunday Magazine this weekend, March 23, and it is a big deal.
Not since the Newsweek cover declared: Bisexuality NOT GAY. NOT STRAIGHT. A NEW SEXUAL IDENTITY EMERGES has there been such a positive portrayal of bisexuality in the mainstream media. And that was July 17, 1995. It took nearly two decades to get another story like this done!
It’s a partially first-person story by the handsome journalist Benoit Denizet-Lewis and it details the dinner in West Hollywood that we had with him, and some of the things we discussed over lots of wine. (Yes, I’m in the story, but only peripherally.)
On my last night with A.I.B. in Los Angeles, I joined John Sylla and Mike Szymanski for dinner. Szymanski isn’t involved with A.I.B., but like Sylla, he’s a longtime bisexual activist. As a young man, Szymanski identified as gay and even worked for a gay magazine, but he surprised himself by falling in love with a woman. “So I had to sneak around with my girlfriend,” he told me, “lest I start a scandal at the office.”
When the photo shoot took place (in the middle of the Los Angeles Marathon), just next door to where Prince played in a surprise concert only the night before, the photographer asked John and I to pose together and asked me to put my head on his shoulder. I knew then, I was merely a prop for the story, but that was OK by me.
I was the national Media Coordinator for Bi Net USA for years in the 1980s and never could I have orchestrated a piece like this. Yes, Nicole and I wrote a great, upbeat book The Bisexual’s Guide to the Universe—Quips, Tips and Lists for Those Who Go Both Ways (www.bisexualsguide.com) and it had a great impact on a lot of people (we still get letters). Nicole and I were honored to win the very first Lambda Literary Award given in the new Bisexual Category, and my two close friends from college, Roxana and Barbara, were with me!
But, nothing could tell the story like this.
Yes, it’s surrounded in the story with people I knew before I ever met John. Regina Reinhardt, the therapist from San Diego, is pictured, so is Gary North. Robyn Ochs, who I went on “The Phil Donahue Show” with is quoted in the article, and so are many people I still call friends, and new ones I’ve since met.
In fact, the woman who inspired me to write “The House that Bisexuality Built” (a version that’s in our book), my longtime friend Denise Penn, is the reason why John and I met. She coaxed me to write that story that made the cover of the Orange County Blade that she was editing, (and for years I went on her public access TV show) and that is the reason John looked me up. He left yellow tulips on my front doorstep (which was only a mile from his own house in the Hollywood Hills), with the note he details in the New York Times.