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.
I 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.
My 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.
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.