Major magazines call us “slacktivists”, a generation of social media savvy youth whose sole contribution to social justice causes consist of clicking “like” on facebook statuses posted by various Big Gay Inc. NGO’s, retweeting aimless Petitions and lazily changing our Profile Pictures to Equal Signs or Purple for various causes. A generation they claim that doesn’t do activism, or scholarship. A generation of bisexuals who are listless, lazy and more interested in celebrity bikini shots posted to twitter then actively working towards bisexual equality and visibility.
While this may be true for some people in my generation it is most certainly not true for all of us. In fact the internet and social media are revolutionizing bisexual activism in a positive way that is anything but “slacktivist”.
The blogging platform Tumblr has played a huge roll in my shaping as an activist. Tumblr has one of the most active and vibrant bisexual communities anywhere online. There discussions are constantly going on about what it means to be a bisexual, how can we phrase and express our desires in a way that is both true and affirming and inclusive of transgender people.
New ideas are constantly created, discussed and honed, in between posts of pictures of bisexual pride colored Easter Eggs, Sneakers and much cool bisexual swag to aquire. Amoung the may voices are such notables as Oakland CA’s Lammy Award winning Author Jan Steckel; Tel Aviv’s Queer Theory Academic & Author Shiri Eisner; Austin TX’s Vlogger, Filmaker & Artist Ritch Ludlow; Editrix at BNC way of Manchester UK Jen Yockney; St. Cloud, MN’s married monogamous dad, that “Angry Bisexual With A Keyboard” Patrick RichardsFink; black British writer and activist Jacqueline Applebee; not to mention the local and regional bisexual groups including Salt Lake City’s 1 to 5 Club; the long-running policital group Bialogue; the readers delight the popular Bisexual Books; news and updates from the NorthEast USA’s Transcending Boundaries Conference; the USA’s Midwest Bi Activist covering issues/groups from that region; Bisexual London and many, many more.
Along with well known writers and academics are thousands of everyday bisexual people. There were people living in rural regions like me, but their rural might be South Wales rural, Australian Outback rural, or Oklahoma rural. There are big city bisexuals ranging from Copenhagen, to Hobart, to Minneapolis, to Hong Kong, to Medellín, to Brooklyn, to Kingston, to Tel Aviv, to Manchester, to Cairo, to Narobi, to Mumbai and beyond. Everyone brings a different and unique perspective to the bi tumblr community from intersecting issues of race, class, education and age, we all have a different and important perspective on what being a bisexual in the 21st century means.
It is on the internet where the original inclusive definitions of bisexual is being promoted and discussed. Thanks to the internet’s ability to connect bisexual people, everyone has a voice. What had slowly been being morphed into a dumbed down description of bisexuality as “attraction to men and women” or “attraction to both genders” that were being promoted by the Big Gay/Lesbian Groups and their Straight Allies were deemed unsatisfactory. And it is on facebook, twitter and tumblr that the old inclusive definitions of bisexual such as “same gender and other genders” or “more then one gender” are being reasserted, not only to other bisexuals but also to larger LGBT blogs and organizations.
Conversations about creating safe and inclusive spaces in the real world abound, It was the supporting and challenging atmosphere that Bi Tumblr and other online bisexual spaces such as BiNet USA’s facebook discussion group and Bisexial Resource Center’s site helped create that gave me the ideas, strength and courage to start up a LGBT group for my local community. When I run into a problem with my real world activism I know I can always pull out my smart phone or go to my laptop and post about it and a large supportive activist community will be there to help me out in solving it.
One of the most important and amazing aspects of this new internet activism is the fact that often it can save lives. I’ve seen posts and tweets of young bisexuals, who have just come out and are facing hardship or contemplating suicide be saved by quick and compassionate intervention from activists online. Before this person would have had to check phone books or find a way to access LGBTQ print media to see if a support group was in their area, then find a way to get there if one even existed. Now with a single mouse click they can access a whole community of peers, many who have gone through hardships like their own and come out the other side. Sometimes hitting “like and share” on a bisexual flag picture on Facebook or retweeting it on Twitter might be the signal a person in the closet was waiting for, a signal that at least one friend in their life will accept them if they come out.
Online activism and organizing does have its pitfalls and they are in the online platforms we use. Despite a campaign to convince Google to unblock the word “bisexual” in auto-complete that seemed successful, Google did no such thing and bisexual, and any permutation of it remains blocked from Google’s instant search fields still. While a person searching for bisexual related things can still obtain relevant results by manually typing out “bisexual meetup groups, NY” the fact that it does not auto complete in the same way that “gay meetup groups, NY” does is a type of symbolic violence perpetrated on the bisexual community, that further stigmatizes and erases us.
Along with the now, years old Google block, microblogging platform Tumblr, has now also blocked bisexual content on its mobile and some desktop versions. This is incredibly disheartening because tumblr is home to one of the most active and vibrant bisexual communities.
Currently searches for “bisexual” and “bi” are auto-redirected to the moderated “LGBTQ” tag. Sadly this tag rarely features the vibrant discussions and bi content that is going on. Thankfully the online bisexual community has found ways around this blockade and new ways to reach out to each other. Using non-blocked tags such as “bi tumblr” , “bisexual books”, “bi pride” and others bisexuals around the tumblr-verse continue to keep reaching out, creating and connecting despite biphobic and erasing practices on the platform they call home.
Now tumblr has once again changed things, creating a toggle switch that was meant to hide explicit or disturbing content. Whether or not this works as advertised and if it is a good thing for the bisexual community on tumblr is yet to be seen.
Far from being “slacktivists” online bisexual activists are often leading the way, writing, theorizing and discussing things among themselves and saving lives with their displays of pride. Resisting blocks on our identity by major corporations and fighting both online and off for a better world for bisexuals is an amazing thing and far from being “slacktivist”.