The Black Bisexual Experience: Intersections Can Electrify To Save Lives


The National Black Justice Coalition, America’s leading Black LGBT civil rights organization focused on federal public policy, hosted the 5th annual OUT on the Hill Black LGBT Leadership Summit in Washington, DC, from September 24-27, 2014. As a black bisexual cisgender woman identified person attending Out on the Hill was an honor and a deep privilege, because often I enter into a space, event or organization being able to only honor one part of myself, instead all of me. From the very beginning of OUT on the Hill I was able to celebrate my blackness alongside my bisexuality to showcase what the black bisexual experience can really be.

junejordanquoteI was also honored to present at the OUT on the Hill conference, and joined legendary black LGBT icon ABilly S. Jones-Hennin and black bisexual psychologist Shervon Laurice, MS, LCPC, LPC, RYT on a panel at OUT on the Hill (OOTH). From the very beginning of our conversations with OOTH organizers ABilly and I realized the historic importance of our presentation and panel. There have been few resources developed and dedicated to the black bisexual experience even though black folks have been central to the development of bisexual culture and community. As well many of the health, physical/sexual violence and mental health disparities so often reported by bisexuals are also experienced in black communities.

In fact for me I’ve considered my blackness a superhero add-on to my work in bisexual communities and my bisexuality a major asset to my work supporting black and people of color communities. Personally my own diverse background as black person with West Indian roots and American Indian ancestry has impacted my approach to all culture. I call myself “alternablack” not because my experience is alternative to black folks but because of how I look or how I sound, people often assume that my experience is different from other black people when it is not. I experience racism on a daily basis and survive. I regularly am followed by security in the grocery store and every time I fly, I am selected for further security checks. Being black is an every day, every hour and every second experience that I celebrate because my blackness can be a strength and in fact, my blackness is badge of honor that taught me a great deal about how to survive in a world where many will struggle to accept me.

nbjc_faithMy history of being a black American has also shaped how I approach my health because my family history includes cancer, heart disease, auto-immune diseases, obesity, high cholesterol, mental illness, and high blood pressure. In fact, as a child I was often educated by my family and community about the health concerns I needed to be conscious of. Having that education has allowed me to recognize risk factors for what they are, opportunities to get better and save my life. I’m thankful that my blackness and my personal culture has functioned as a bridge for my bisexuality as well so the risk factors I face as a bi person are not always multiplied, sometimes and in some ways I can actually use my various intersections of identities to supercharge my approach to health. To give me strength and courage to keep going to the doctor, and to keep challenging myself to keep getting healthier.

11-BiHealth
Slide on Bisexual Health Disparities, BiNet USA Bisexual Community Presentation

I’m lucky to have had the information to educate myself and help educate the communities I live and thrive in. I’ll be writing more about some of the various things that affect the health of bisexual, pansexual, fluid, queer and/or non-monosexual people too so stay tuned!

Download “The Black Bisexual Experience” PowerPoint Presentation here.

Download “The Black Bisexual Experience” Handout here.

Published by thefayth

Faith Cheltenham activist/writer/speaker There are so many different aspects of Faith Cheltenham’s life and career––writer, community organizer, advocate, activist, lecturer, poet, social media expert, digital strategist––that she is currently working to develop a single unifying “theory of Faith.” (It might be easier if you keep in mind Faith lives with hyperthymesia, or the inability to forget her own memories.) Then you too might be able to “keep thefayth” and learn to live in a future where gender and sexuality quite easily bend and every single Black life matters. Faith got her start in LGBT advocacy as a Human Rights Campaign intern on the Gore 2000 campaign, and in 2002, she co-founded UCLA’s BlaQue for LGBT/SGL students of African descent. In 2006, she appeared in the Emmy winning reality series on race in America, “Black. White.” produced by Ice Cube. After spending time working in corporate America doing digital strategy for Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York and co-creating and launching tor.com for Macmillan Books, she began to focus full-time on bisexual advocacy. In 2012, she was named one of The Advocate’s "Forty Under 40" and was appointed to the University of California's LGBT Task Force. In 2013, Faith was the Co-organizer of the first Bisexual Community Issues Roundtable at the White House & in 2014, was honored to be a stage participant alongside President Obama as he signed the Executive Order protecting LGBT employees of federal contractors from discrimination. Between 2015 and 2016, Faith co-organized four bi community meetings with the Obama White House including the first livestreamed Bisexual Community Briefing at the White House in 2016. Every year, together with GLAAD, BiNet USA co-sponsors Bisexual Awareness Week (#biweek), a social media experience seen by millions that Faith co-created in 2014. As a lecturer, Faith has spoken at locations as varied as San Diego Comic Con, Netroots Nation, Case Western University, UCLA & Yale University, on topics like the histories of pre-colonial African sexuality and bisexual intersectionality. An award winning journalist and writer who has had her poetry featured on Genius, Faith won her first writing acknowledgment from Parade Magazine for her musings on the racism she experienced as a Black Star Wars cosplaying kid in her native San Luis Obispo, California. Faith has been published widely in Washington Blade, South Florida Gay News, Advocate, Huffington Post, and her personal blog, thefayth.net. She has also been featured in various publications and outlets, including CNN’s Headline News, LA Times and New York Magazine. Faith identifies herself as a “Black bisexual intersex queer woman of color who came up transracial.” She is the proud parent of a gender expansive child, Storm (age five) with her husband Matt Kanninen, an Android developer working at Facebook.

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