Yesterday was a hard day for me.
I showered, slathered on deodorant, and put on clean underwear, but then I fell asleep and missed a follow-up appointment with my dental surgeon. I’m usually pretty good about it, but missing doctor appointments isn’t uncommon. I have chronic fatigue issues, among other disabilities. I was more tired than usual though. Other than making a couple of important calls at the last minute and making sure I ate and took my meds, most of what I did was sleep, with a bit of Netflix toward the end of the day.
Feeling left behind as many of my fellow bisexual activist superheroes descended on the White House lawn this week to advocate for policy issues that address the unique needs of our diverse community, I went back and forth over whether or not I would write something to “celebrate”. Simply surviving is a good enough celebration when you’re in my situation, no?
I tick off many of the boxes that are representative of the issues that non-monosexuals face. I have mental disabilities, I am poor, I have a history of sexual abuse, and I also have physical disabilities. On top of that, I’m a writer but I haven’t been writing much lately (fear and impostor syndrome, fatigue, uninspired/lack of motivation). So what am I going to write that can speak to people? What could I possibly have to say that will celebrate bisexuality today?
And then it came to me.
This love letter is as much for me as it is for you. It is for all of us: of all ages, all races and ethnicities, all nationalities and citizenship statuses, all labels (pansexual, queer, omnisexual — you’re a part of us too!), all faiths and lack thereof, all political persuasions, all abilities, all levels of income, all genders, and all life experiences.
I want you to know three things on our special day:
1. You Have a Community
What does it mean to have community?
Well, it means that you aren’t alone. There are other people like you out there. I’m one of them! 🙂 We have organizations all our own that advocate for our issues, like BiNetUSA, Bisexual Resource Center, and the American Institute of Bisexuality. Because we tend to get lumped in with gays and lesbians, much of the funding that goes to LGBTQIA organizations does not come to us, so the more awareness of their existence, the more we can advocate for their support (and therefore our unique needs can be addressed).
Much of our community is online, in the form of Facebook and Tumblr pages, Twitter accounts, and other websites.
Some places, like The LGBT Center here in New York, create spaces for bisexual(plus) people to congregate and talk about our issues, like Bi Perspectives, which is a discussion group that meets at the Center on the first Saturday of every month.
We don’t always agree about everything. There are generational gaps, cultural gaps, and educational gaps, among other things, but I can say that I have been fortunate enough to meet (virtually and in real life) some of the most amazing, fierce, seemingly tireless people I’ve ever known through our community. We support each other (and do we ever need support often, as we’re often poor and coming from many marginalized identities!), lovingly correct each other, organize together, rage at erasure together, and celebrate together. We aren’t perfect. (What human is?) Some people will fuck up in various ways, and what the real life community is like will depend on where you’re located in the world, but we’re here for you, even if you only join some random Facebook group and lurk just to have proof that you aren’t alone.
2. You Have History
This community and the bisexual activist superheroes that I know are not new. We were at Stonewall in 1969. Brenda Howard, a bisexual woman (may she rest in peace), is the Mother of Pride. Jamaican-American author, poet, and activist June Jordan was talking about bisexuality while my mom was still in high school. We were the founders of student organizations that recognized queerness, like Stephen Donaldson, founder of the Student Homophile League at Columbia University in 1965. Not only that, but we participated in other movements, like second wave feminism and Black Power movements. We were writing books like “The Bisexual Option” in 1978 and my good friend Loraine Hutchins and her editing partner Lani Ka’ahumanu published “Bi Any Other Name: Bisexual People Speak Out” in 1991.
We are still making history today. 2013 saw the first bisexual roundtable meeting at the White House — an unprecedented occasion where community members had the chance to talk about our specific issues. Furthermore, we have a longstanding radical activist relationship with the transgender community, partly because transgender people make up a significant portion of the bi(plus) community (as do people of color), calling for an end to rampant erasure by the gay establishment.
You come from radical, badass ancestors who get shit done and we’re still doing the work today. You may not be able to participate (online activism counts!), and that’s OKAY, but know that we have been fighting and striving and surviving for a long time, and that legacy is a part of you.
3. You Have a Future
You might be grimacing, you may have let out a sarcastic LOL, you may have even grumbled a “fuck you!”, but I want you to keep in mind that the person writing this is a 28 1/2 year old Black woman with multiple disabilities who has been unemployed (without unemployment benefits mind you) for closing in on two years and lives with her mom. Yeah…
At one point in April, I was, for the first time in my life, seriously considering suicide. I only told a handful of people. I had all this talent and experience, all this passion, all this knowledge, but seemingly no job prospects. I would get interviews, sometimes even second interviews, and then nothing. My doctor couldn’t figure out why I was under 30 with no job yet super tired all the time. I use a cane. I was struggling to pay rent, depending on generous friends and side gigs like domestic work, sex work, and freelance writing to survive, and there was seemingly no end in sight (and there still isn’t in many ways).
I have been writing almost all my life, I believe it’s my calling, yet most days I just feel like all my ideas suck, all my screenplay drafts suck, all my children’s book manuscripts suck, and I want to scream because I’m multiply marginalized with no industry connections and seemingly no way to get my foot in the door. (Screenwriting competitions are expensive and they add up!)
And yet, there remains a glimmer of hope.
For one, it is now nearing the end of September and I’m still alive. *waves* I’m a bit closer to having an answer to the chronic fatigue question, which makes me closer to treatment. I’m pretty good about taking my meds every day. And hey, I’m writing this! (I also dreamt up an idea for a new screenplay the other day!)
I know the struggle. Our community deals with mental disabilities and suicide ideation, combine that with the intersections of race, trans issues, class, citizenship status, and other markers of difference and many people (if we aren’t invisible to them) would just dismiss us as hopeless.
But I don’t. My bi(plus) activist superhero friends don’t. And you don’t have to accept it either.
I’m not saying every day will be roses. Like I said, yesterday was a hard day. Some days I manage better than others. Some days I want to just give up (not necessarily via suicide) and other days I’m convinced I’ll win awards one day and be famous.
No matter what, I know that I have a community, and I have a history, and so do you. And with those tools, we can build our future. On days when I’m too tired or overwhelmed to advocate for myself, you can do it for me, and vice versa. Those in the community with more social privileges can take up the mantle and use their voices when the rest of us are too weary. We can fight alongside other movements for better political representation, better health care and mental health services, more affordable housing, higher minimum wage, and many other issues that affect us every day.
We don’t have to be doomed to death (by our own hand or others). We don’t have to accept invisibility. We don’t have to tolerate inadequate resources.
I see you, you are loved, and you matter — ALL the time. Not only when you’re marching or writing important articles or going to class or getting to work on time or showering or taking your meds or making your bed or job hunting. ALWAYS.
This is my love letter from me to you. Happy Celebrate Bisexuality Day to all my bisexuals, pansexuals, queer folks, omnisexuals, ambisexuals, biromantics, and labelless folks!
(visit www.bisexualweek.com for information and resources)
Producer and Co-Host "The BiCast"