By: Amy Andre, Lauren Beach, and Sarah Young
On Monday, September 23, over 30 leaders from the bisexual community attended the first-ever White House Roundtable Discussion on Bisexuality in Washington, D.C. Spearheaded by BiNet USA and the Bisexual Resource Center, the meeting also boasted attendance from high-ranking federal governmental officials and representatives from national LGBTQIA organizations. The historic day included discussions about how HIV/AIDS, mental health, physical health, hate crimes, workplace discrimination, and domestic violence impact bisexual communities.
Current Point Scholar Sarah Young (‘11) and Point Alumni Amy Andre (‘07) and Lauren Beach (‘06, ‘09) attended the event and share with ViewPoint their perspectives and experiences of being at the White House on Celebrate Bisexuality Day.
What was your role in the event?
Amy Andre: I was the Team Leader for the Health Team. We were tasked with presenting on physical health disparities faced by the bisexual community. For example, did you know that bisexuals, compared to gays, lesbians, and straight people, have significantly higher rates of smoking? Tobacco is a killer, and is linked with all kinds of cancers. And yet, sadly, bisexuals (compared to heterosexuals) have the lowest rate of cancer screenings. That was the kind of data my team was there to let the federal government know about. I presented for my team, giving a 5-minute speech plus PowerPoint.
Lauren Beach: I was a Co-Team Leader for the HIV/AIDS Team. Citing the 2010 National HIV/AIDS Strategy, my team’s presentation collaboratively demonstrated the need for specifically tailored, culturally competent interventions designed to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS in bisexual populations, as well as the need for more bisexual researchers and community health workers to develop and implement these interventions. Additionally, we used our presentation to reinforce the need for LGBTQIA health researchers to disaggregate data, so that specific health outcomes in each population making up our rainbow community can be better identified and addressed. The need for bisexual-specific data was a common theme among the presentations at the White House that day.
Sarah Young: I was a member of the hate crimes group. Our group worked together to raise awareness of hate crimes and how they particularly impact the bi community. I was pleased to help represent Southerners at the Bi Roundtable. I believe I was the only person from the Deep South at the table.
What was your biggest take-away from the meeting?
Amy Andre: That they’re listening — that the federal government is listening to us. And that we have something to say. We have lives to save and lives to improve — and those lives are our own! Bisexuals are significantly impacted by poorer health, both mental and physical, compared to monosexual people, and we are more often the victims of domestic violence and assault. We have a real crisis on our hands. To have the ear of the federal government was a game-changer for me personally and for the bisexual community collectively.
Sarah Young: I think this meeting is the start of ongoing and meaningful collaboration with various agencies. I personally am excited to explore how the bi community’s needs and concerns can be addressed by the Department of Education and the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration. The biggest lesson I learned is that many well-meaning agencies believe that they are truly doing LGBT work, but continue to think that the needs of the “LG” speak also for the “B and T.” As bi leaders, it is our responsibility to continue to be present when decisions are being made that impact our community. I’m thinking more critically as an organizer about the way our needs overlap with the needs of LGT people, and the way our needs may be unique.
On a very personal level, it was inspiring to be surrounded by such an accomplished group of bi people. It’s rare that I’m surrounded by a room full of bi people. It was a wonderful feeling!
Lauren Beach: I came away from the meeting with a reinforcement of my knowledge and personal experience that in so many areas related to health and community support, bisexual populations have specific needs often distinct from the needs of LGBTQIA populations. It was powerful to see how describing the bisexual community’s needs, both with our data and our stories, also seemed to move those in the room to want to better tailor studies and design community interventions to improve the lives of all parts of the LGBTQIA community – including bisexuals. This meeting increased my confidence and conviction that what bisexual activists and advocates are doing across the country to benefit our communities is both right and urgently needed – and that we are not alone in this recognition.
What do you hope will happen next/ are you working on next?
Lauren Beach: I project that the dialogue between the federal government and bisexual advocacy groups will continue to develop and expand in its sophistication. I hope that this increased showing of political will to benefit bisexual communities will lead to an expansion of the capacity and strength of bisexual organizations and advocates. I also hope that it will lead national LGBTQIA organizations to consider deepening their alliances to bisexual organizations and to develop programmatic areas of their own related to serving and benefitting bisexual communities. I plan to be involved in developing these conversations, strengthening bisexual infrastructures, and building strategic LGBTQIA organizational alliances on a national leadership level.
Sarah Young: I have high hopes for continued conversation with this administration and various federal agencies. I also have high hopes for the collaborative potential amongst the group at the Bi Roundtable. There is discussion of co-presenting at various conferences, and other organizing and programmatic ideas being discussed. I personally want to work with national Bi leaders to create space and support for a Southern bi community. As bi people, we face marginalization from both the straight and lesbian/gay communities. I’d hate to see a national bi movement leaving the entire region of the South behind.
Amy Andre: It’s all about follow-up and follow-through. I met some of the best and the brightest minds in our country on that day, and I will be connecting with each person one-on-one, to see where we can go with this. My hope is that this is not a one-time meeting, but that this was only the beginning. We have a long road ahead, and I’m glad to be traveling on it…
[Photo Credit: Morgan Goode]