Bisexual Naming at National Black Justice Coalition Out on the Hill Conference


One of the great things we discussed at length during last week’s Bisexual Awareness Week (#biweek) was the bisexual identity, the many labels bi people consider using to describe their experiences and why. Awhile back the Patheos.com “Camels with Hammers” blog published a great piece that detailed the vital function that both labels and the development of labels serve. I’ve bolded some of the more stunning statements here for the “tl;dr” crowd.

“Naming the gender types, the sexual orientation types, the sexual interest types even, in all their beautiful diversity helps us think better. It helps us acknowledge more realities and account for them with better social practices so that the people who don’t fit into one or two current everyday categories are now taken into account. Having words for these differing people at the tip of our tongue, reminds us they exist at all. Refusing the words for them. Refusing the conceptualizations of their experience they offer us is an attempt to erase their existence. It’s an attempt to make it harder for us to remember them or think about them. It will make it harder for us to take any interest in their thriving. The conditions of their thriving may be different than ours. Denying them labels to describe themselves or their experiences will make it harder for us to meet their needs.”- “Why Do We Need Labels Like “Gay”, “Bi”, “Trans”, and “Cis”?

With this in mind we should welcome new conceptualizations of sexuality, gender, race, culture and every aspect of our humanity. For black bisexual people this conversation has been an on-going cultural experience. As a child I remember my West-Indian grandfather bristling as popular culture began to exclusively use African-American to describe black experiences in America. For him and other members of my family, the term African-American did not fully describe their experiences, political history and culture of their Black America.

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Meeting former president Bill Clinton one night at dinner was a highlight for my grandparents (left)

Every so often it seems that words will change to reflect our better understanding of each others experiences. Nowhere is that truer than for bisexual folks who have re-claimed terms like bisexual, pansexual, fluid and queer to describe our lives as sexually fluid individuals. It’s also necessary for there to be some examples and role models for black and bisexual people, whether it be youth, elders or working professionals.

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From The Out on the Hill Black Bisexual Experience Presentation, click here to download it.

Being able to positively identify yourself within a group of people is also extremely important for bisexual people striving to find a safe haven from the micro aggressions bisexual people regularly report experiencing. For as a recent report on bisexual women and micro aggressions said:

“We hypothesize that microaggressions that render bisexual women’s identity claims faulty or, worse, false and inauthentic, burden bisexual women with additional ‘identity work’. This burden, or stressor, is both cognitively and emotionally taxing, and in turn, likely has negative consequences for mental health and well-being.” – Wendy Bostwick on bisexual specific micro aggressions

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Faith Cheltenham, ABilly S. Jones-Hennin, and Shervon Laurice at Senate Hart building #OOTH2014

One of the more important things we did at our Out on the Hill black bisexual panel was exist as our total selves and in doing so continue to cement the importance of affirming black people, bisexual people, LGBTQIA people and every person working towards a world where we’re all equally valid.

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