Two weeks ago, I went to Minneapolis to visit my best friend. I had planned to go that specific weekend due to the BECAUSE conference happening on the University of Minnesota campus. BECAUSE (Bisexual Empowerment Conference: A Uniting, Supportive Experience) began in 1992 as a way to gather midwest bisexuals together. The conference had not happened since 2004, but had been going strong for thirteen years before that. It was sponsored by UM’s Queer cultural center.
I only went to the key note speaker on friday evening, just to see what folks were talking about and get a feel for the conference atmosphere. The speaker was Ron Fox, who is a psychologist and has made a bibliography of just about any bi themed, or bi inclusive book, magazine or film internationally. He spoke a lot about what was out there as far as literature around bisexuality and was really interested in debunking the myth of there being no bi research or bi literature. It was interesting to hear about books I had never read, and to hear how someone else valued books I had never bothered to read. (I ended up buying one of these in a bookstore the next day- written by a minnesotan). When it came to the question and answer period, one of my favorite bi questions popped up. “Why are bi women so much more visible than bi men?” His answer? “because of homophobia and patriarchy” period. the end. no further discussion. what?? I think that can be elaborated upon, don’t you? Some of the other audience members chimed in, but the answers didn’t satisfy me either. OK, I know, I’m a tough customer when it comes to things like this, but really, my straight best friend came up with better answers.
So, overall, I was not unexpectedely disappointed in the keynote speaker. I really wish that bi activists would dig deeper and move into a different level of analysis about things. We all know the stereotypes, how about we talk about why and how those stereotypes function? We know bi women are generally more visible, we know that probably has something to do with patriarchy and homophobia, but how are those two things functioning to keep bi men from coming out or becoming visible? And do bi men need to come out and be visible? And how can bi women help with this? AND, we know the bi community and the trans community are connected, and need to stay connected (I was happy that BECAUSE recognized this) but how can we truly work together? How can we take the word BI (with such a binary connotation) and make sure trans folks and people attracted to trans folks feel included in this? Is this neccessary, or is a word change neccessary?
These are the questions I want to see talked about at a bi conference. Otherwise, aren’t we just talking about the same stuff over and over again while the rest of the world is moving on without us? We need to meet the world where it is and move forward to create a strong bi presence that is not oppressive to others. Can we do this? Or, am I again, asking too much?
Links for the conference (the ones I could find anyway):