By Nicole Sutton, LGBT HealthLink Grant Manager
What: Annual BECAUSE Conference
Where: Minneapolis, Minnesota from April 17 – 19, 2015
With more than 20 states represented by individual advocates and organizations, the 2015 BECAUSE conference focused on developing Bi Leadership for community empowerment. This being my first-ever BECAUSE conference I was extremely pumped―after all, I spent more than 14 years in community engagement and empowerment for public health.
Poet, writer, and artist Andrea Jenkins kicked it off with an exceptional keynote challenging conference participants to “reimagine leadership”: How do we reimagine community, how do we reimagine family, and how do we reimagine sexual identity? Challenging questions that stayed with many of us throughout the weekend conference during sessions that addressed the intersexuality of race, class, gender, the harm of binary mindsets, the policing of gender, the complex experience of “passing”, horizontal hostility, and ultimately invisibility.
Long-time bisexual leader and public speaker Robyn Ochs spoke at length about how some identities are visible on the body, but bisexuality often is not. This sometimes creates isolation and the feeling of needing to explain who you are and why. It’s absolutely exhausting at times and leaves little space for validation of experience.
As the LGBT community continues to make tremendous strides toward legal and social equality, the bisexual community is growing in visibility thanks to several outspoken bi activists. But BECAUSE Conference chair and Bisexual Organizing Project Director, Camille Holthaus, asks the question of all the progress, “how do we make sure that the most marginalized of our community come with us?” There is no easy answer but instead the acknowledgement that in order to improve the health and wellness outcomes for our community we must continue to act as agents of change for civil rights and social justice overall.
And how do we support this next generation of bi youth making it easier and safer to identify? Human Rights Campaign has published a resource “Supporting and Caring for Bisexual Youth” based on one of the largest surveys ever of LGBT youth and released in partnership with the Bisexual Resource Center, BiNet USA, and the Bisexual Organizing Project. It is available at http://bit.ly/1Ibdh0v