“That’s why we…condemn the persecution of… people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.” – US President Barack Obama during 2015 State of the Union Address
POTUS said what? It’s the first time a US President has used the word bisexual in a State of the Union address. For many who have witnessed gay politics occupy an increasingly prominent role in liberal and progressive politics, it may come as a shock that bisexual and transgender identities have been even more controversial and unspeakable in the mainstream of US politics.
Hence, President Barack Obama made history Tuesday, January 20th, 2015 by uttering the words “bisexual” and “transgender” in his second to last SOTU address. How did this new, emerging inclusivity happen? Bisexuals have struggled with gay and lesbian leaders for decades to gain recognition as a legitimate member of the LGBT community. Many of those leaders have played the role of gatekeeper to the White House—limiting access to only include people within their networks, i.e., other white, middle class gays and lesbians. In spite of this, and due to the efforts of many bisexual activists and allies, the White House has taken notice.
It is important to note that it was only two and a half years ago that Barack Obama became the first sitting president to come out in favor of same-sex marriage. In an interview with ABC News in 2012 , the President stated “At a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me, personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”
He went on to elaborate that his daughters, Sasha and Malia, had played an important role in his thought process. They had shared that they had friends whose parents were a same-sex couple and it didn’t seem right that they be treated differently.
Knowing bisexual people has apparently made a similar impact on the White House. The many bisexual activists and allies who have interacted with the President and his administration have, no doubt, made a difference.
The president said: “As Americans, we respect human dignity, even when we’re threatened, which is why I’ve prohibited torture, and worked to make sure our use of new technology like drones is properly constrained. It’s why we speak out against the deplorable anti-Semitism that has resurfaced in certain parts of the world. It’s why we continue to reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims – the vast majority of whom share our commitment to peace.”
“That’s why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. We do these things not only because they’re right, but because they make us safer. “