Thursday, March 12, 2009

Tips on Being a Bi Ally

We here at PFLAG’s Straight for Equality program are all about becoming the best allies we can be. To that end, here are some great tips on being an ally - from The Bilerico Project and Ellyn Ruthstrom (pictured) of Bi Women Boston - to an often misunderstood group in our community: bisexuals.

· Believe that I exist. Despite ongoing scientific research that seems so determined to disprove the existence of bisexuality plus the general lack of interest by the greater... community in acknowledging us, we really do exist.

· When I tell you I'm bisexual, please don't try to talk me into redefining my identity into something more comfortable for you. Please don't tell me that if I haven't been sexual with more than one sex in the last three, five, or ten years that I am no longer bisexual.

· Celebrate bisexual culture along with me. We have a vibrant and rich cultural history within the bi community. Not only do we have fabulous examples of cultural communities that accepted and practiced bisexual living/loving--Bloomsbury Group, Greenwich Village, Harlem Renaissance--but from Sappho to Walt Whitman to Virginia Woolf to James Baldwin to June Jordan, we have many daring voices that have expressed love beyond the monosexual confines.

· Please don't try to convince me that people who lived bisexual lives in the past would have been gay if they had lived today. You don't know that, I don't know that, and your insistence that it is true says that you believe that people were bisexual only out of necessity, not by desire.

· Validate my frustration with the gay and lesbian community when they ignore or exclude bisexuals. Please don't try and defend an action such as a keynote speaker who is addressing a GLBT audience but consistently says "gay and lesbian" when referring to all of us. It bothers me, so even if you don't think it's that important yourself, please don't try and talk me out of my feelings.

· Ask me, if appropriate, about my other [opposite]-sex relationships and my same-sex relationships.

· If there is some sort of bisexual scandal in the news, don't use it as an opportunity to make derisive remarks about bisexuals generally. As we know, all communities have examples of "bad behavior," and painting everyone with the same brush doesn't create much understanding between us.

· Speak up when bisexual people are being defamed or excluded [even if a bisexual person is not around]. It's great when we can witness your support, but I'd love to know you are helping us even when we are not looking. You'll be the best ally possible!

For more tips on how to be a great ally to everyone in the LGBT community, visit Straight for Equality at www.straightforequality.org.

- Julie Handy

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