VCU Students Rally for Bisexual Visibility Day
It’s the morning of September 23rd and I’m standing at the VCU compass watching a student-run rally trying to raise awareness about bisexuality.
The small, but passionate group started the day by making signs - ’Ask a REAL bisexual anything,’ boldly read one held by Maureen Bashir, the Vice President of Feminist Student Organization (FSO), who identities herself as queer.
“People ask if we’re more straight or more gay,” says Bashir, “and my only response is well do you ask the color purple if it’s more red or more blue? ”
Today’s rally coincides with Bisexuality Visibility Day, an national annual event in its 15th year hoping to spread awareness about a population which is often even more underrepresented than the L, G, and T in the sexuality spectrum.
The students within FSO were energetic and outgoing, holding signs that addressed common misconceptions about bisexuals and encouraged VCU students to come talk to them.
Bashir said she is often asked personal questions by strangers after they discover she isn’t straight. “Whenever people find out I’m queer, they always look at me and are like ‘wait, what does that mean? Is that allowed in your religion? Is it apart of your culture?’
Bashir is a woman of color, and she says people often think her sexuality is policed entirely differently.
“People can be extremely rude, and this [rally] gives them a chance to become educated.”
Today’s local event comes on the heals of The Human Rights Campaign release of a new report, Supporting and Caring for our Bisexual Youth, which dives deep into the issues facing bisexual youth around the US.
More than 40% of those interviewed identified as bisexual, according to the report – meaning a majority of young LGBTQ folks identify as bisexual, queer, other otherwise. More surprising was the issues many bisexual youth face when the come out, saying that it’s a challenge to gain acceptance once coming out not only to their Non-LGBT peers, but to their gay and lesbian peers as well.
As a heterosexual female, I myself had no idea just how uneducated I was when it came to how offensive I or the general public could potentially be on a day-to-day basis when it came to bisexuality, without even realizing their mistakes.
“Hopefully this [rally] will get folks who aren’t well versed in queer politics and queer discussions to come and learn about something that they might have misconceptions about,” says VCU senior Amber McNeal and member of the FSO, who identifies herself as queer.
“We want people that aren’t within the queer community to learn something new.”
According to the HRC report, bisexual youth remain deeply disconnected from the larger LGBT community and it’s services, and they reject the term “bisexual” when describing their sexual orientation, preferring instead to use, “queer,” or “pan sexual.”
“I think the term bi-sexual reinforces the gender binary,” said Corinne, a 5th year VCU student and member FSO who identifies herself as bi/poli-sexual. “People avoid it because there are a lot of negative connotations associated with the term bisexual. A lot of people assume if you’re a bisexual girl, you’re actually just straight and going through a phase, and if you’re a bisexual man people just assume you’re gay and trying to cover it up… but we aren’t going through a phase; we’re here. It’s not just gays and lesbians.”
Magen Stempin, a junior at VCU that identifies herself as bisexual adds, “There’s this idea that bisexuals just need to choose a gender, or make up their minds, which really isn’t the case. I like males and females, but that isn’t as readily accepted in both the straight and gay community. We’re the forgotten little B in LGBT, and for the few hours we’re here [at the rally] I hope it’s remembered.”
The HRC report echoed the idea bi-phobia is a serious problem within the LGBT community, saying the concept compounds the challenges faced by bisexual youth.
“Personally, if I’m being honest,” Corinne started, “I’ve encountered the most bi-phobia from lesbians.”
“There’s a weird hierarchy for lesbians… dating as a bisexual woman looking for other women is very hard, a lot of them either don’t take you seriously or think you’ve been tainted.”
Ellen Kahn, the director of the HRC Foundation’s Children, Youth, and Families Program wrote in the report, “it hurts deeply when young people are told they are not legitimate, and unfortunately, that is what many bisexual youth are hearing from their family and friends.”
“This report will help bust the myths and understands associated with bisexuality, and create a space for young people to be more open.”
This is exactly what the women of FSO want to accomplish, and they hope holding more rallies, discussions, and events all centered around educating people on VCU campus will make a change.
The combination of deliberately dangerous words and poorly informed people can destroy our democracy.November 14, 2016
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