Sex-ploration: An Odyssey to find your Authentic You.

Approximately a lifetime ago I came out as Bisexual. I was young but I knew my mind. I had had enough sexual experience to know what I liked and I felt fairly certain my preferences would not change. I had a raft of folks telling me I would pick a side eventually, however, here we are over 40 years later and while I have picked a side it is the same one. I am Bisexual. It has been a lifetime of surfing the spectrum of bisexuality but there has been no sea change in my sexual orientation.

However, it is common for most young folks (and some older folks) to feel unsure of exactly how to define themselves. There is absolutely nothing wrong or abnormal about that. Especially now with so many acronyms and labels it can seem overwhelming to figure out where you fit in.

I propose not calling that time confusing. I would like to coin a new term called sex-ploration. It doesn’t necessarily mean it is all sex all the time but rather language to define the journey to determining who you are and how you, or if you, fit into the Queer universe. I would argue saying you are setting off on sex-ploration is more fun than saying you’re confused, you don’t know who you are yet, you can’t make up your mind.

Sex-ploration indicates looking at unexplored territory and confidently making your way in uncharted waters. I know I used the term confidently while fully knowing how challenging it can be sometimes to feel confident as you try new things and meet new people. If you are uncertain just own that…remind yourself that you have a lifetime to know who you are and what you like. It could be using a term or acronym for yourself does not feel right. Don’t jump into saying you’re Bi, or any other term,  if you are not certain you identify that way. You would be surprised how understanding people can be of the journey to find your sexual (and your gender) identity. Many of us have been there and would not even consider pressuring you to explain yourself. Beware of anyone trying to tell you who you are. You are the only one who can give yourself a label or express your own sexual and romantic preferences. In fact, the more open and honest you are it is likely you will find the support and advice you truly need. You may need to actively seek support but it is there, if not locally, then on the internet somewhere (needless to say, sift and winnow, where you are seeking advice and look to legitimate organizations such as GLAAD, Bisexual Resource Center, BiNet, HRC and many others).

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being curious. Curiosity is a wonderful personality trait and one that maintains your mental and physical flexibility. Call yourself bi-curious if you like, say you are on a sex-ploration journey in search of yourself, whatever you want but don’t set anything in stone. While being Bi is not a phase and, in fact, a legitimate sexuality you need to make sure it is the right one for you.

Take your time. Be fair to yourself and to your partners. Be honest. If you do that you will be true to yourself and that is what matters the most.

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Bi Gatekeeping

Bisexual. Pansexual. Omnisexual. Queer. Unlabeled. Polysexual.

What do these terms have in common? They are various labels for a person who is non-monosexual. Why are there so many? I don’t really have the answer for that but it really doesn’t matter. Folks choose the label which resonates with them and which they feel best describes their sexuality. And, guess what, that is just fine!

The only problem arises when folks use various labels to potentially divide the non-monosexual community. I personally like the term Bi+ to describe myself. However, I could use any of the above terms if I wanted to as they pretty accurately describe my limitless attractions.

Just like any other person I have preferences. I could not really express those preferences very well verbally….suffice to say, I know what I like when I see it. However, ‘what I like’ is not limited by gender. What I like has to do with a person who is relatable to me…that usually involves keen observational skills, a great, slightly off beat sense of humor and a general curiosity about the world.

My point is there is no one who can tell you how to be Bi and no one who can tell you which label to use. Only you are in charge of your own Bi-ness. Never allow someone else to have that agency for you.

Are there gatekeepers within the Bisexual community. Absolutely. Do you have to pay them any mind at all? No, you do not. In fact, I would argue when you see gatekeeping taking place whether in the real or virtual world confront it and make clear that as a Bisexual (Pansexual, Omnisexual, etc) you do not tolerate it.

As Bisexuals we get plenty of gatekeeping from outside of our community. We must not do the same thing ourselves.

It is actually much easier than you might think. It is simply a matter of understanding that we are a beautifully diverse group of people and that we all have our own way to express our sexual fluidity. All we have to do is not only accept but celebrate our differences. It is as simple as treating our Bi sibs exactly the way we would want to be treated with love and with respect. : )

 

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I am always actively Bisexual! ; )

Me: I’m Bisexual.

Other person: Are you…actively bisexual?

Me: Well, I am certainly not passively bisexual. In fact, I am being ACTIVELY BISEXUAL right now.

Other person: Oh, umm, ah….are you attracted to me?

Me: No.

End scene.

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Are you actively bisexual? That is the silliest and, depending upon my mood, the most annoying question I get asked. It stems from the idea that to be Bisexual I must be concurrently engaged in a sexual relationship with someone of all the possible genders in the universe. Not only would that be time-consuming (and, yes, it might be fun for awhile) but the likelihood of my finding that many folks at one time I would like to date is unlikely (not impossible, mind you)

Of course, when folks use the term ‘active bisexual’ they are, without fail, thinking of sex. They are also functioning from the mythical notion that all bisexuals must be sexually involved with all genders at all times. As stated above, that would mean I would probably not doing much else other than having sex. Could I do that? I like to think I still have a fair amount of stamina. Would I want to 24/7? Probably not. I do, in fact, have some other interests.

It is ridiculous to think that if I am not currently engaged with folks of all possible genders that I am somehow being ‘passively bisexual’. That is not an option. My sexuality is always flipped on. It is something I carry with my physical body everywhere I go. It does not mean I am attracted to everyone. It simply means my bisexuality is a fully integrated part of my being….like having blue eyes, or being radically left on the political spectrum, or being a musical omnivore,or being a bookworm. Bisexuality is a complete and total part of who I am as a human being and something I am never passive about.

This idea that Bisexuals are always sexual is demeaning and diminishing. Many of us think about sex, a lot. But, as stated above, it is not the only thing we think about. Seeing us as simply sexual beasts does not take into account the wide spectrum in the community (from aces to hyper-sexuals) and that all Bis have their own way to express their sexuality.

It can also be isolating to think of Bisexuality as only the sexual aspect of who we are. It is much more than that. It is our unique way of seeing the world and the beauty of individual humans. I can see a beautiful, sexy person without thinking of every single one of them as fuckable. Bisexuals are not predators and we take consent as seriously as people of other sexual orientations.

So, yes, I am actively Bisexual every single day and like all Bisexuals expect acknowledgement and respect for exactly who I am. : )

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Our Mission is to Exist.

Yes, that’s right, Bisexuals just need to exist. To be real. To prove we are here, we are queer and we are not going anywhere. That is easier said than done. Why you ask? Well, let me tell you….

Let’s start with my experience as a Bi+ woman (To be clear, I am a non-binary woman but I am certain that to many I look like a cis female).

Many attempts have been made to coopt my sexuality. I have far too often been ‘seen’ as a straight male fantasy….as a woman interested in sex with another woman so a straight male may gaze on appreciatively. That attitude makes it difficult to own your own sexuality. Trust me, it can be done, but it is just one way in which bisexuality is fetishized and diminished.

I have been accused of lying about my sexuality because I am married to a man. Cue my usual lecture about how my relationship does not define my sexual orientation but also cue someone telling me I am just saying I am bisexual because it is ‘on trend’ or because I want to be different or because I want attention. Given that a large portion of the attention I have received as an out bisexual has been negative that argument seems questionable, at best.

Studies generally show that fewer older folks identify as Bisexual. This is grasped by those who would pronounce that bisexuality does not exist to prove their point. I am 61, still joyfully bisexual, and I know that many folks in my age group will just keep a part of themselves in the closet than admit to being bisexual. I have had people tell me it is easier than getting into heated conversations about whether or not they are ‘still’ bisexual. I understand where they are coming from and have had folks tell me I ‘protest too much’ when I continue to be vocal about my bisexuality. The truth is bisexuality does not go away as you get older and is not just youthful experimentation. However, the diminishing numbers of those identifying as bisexual as they age is often used to underline the false assumption that bisexuality is not a lifelong gift.

The point of my rant is to support and encourage bisexual folks of every age to say who they are. The more of us who say loudly and proudly that we are Bi+ the less likely it will fall to future generations to continually have to prove who they are.

I have said this before, and it bears repeating, when we tell you who we are, believe us! It matters for our physical and psychological health to be acknowledged as who we say we are. To those who have questioned our existence use BiVisibility month to change your ways. To those who are Bi who have let others define who you are make a concerted effort to tell those you feel safe telling that you are Bi+. It really really matters!

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See and Be Seen.

There was a time, and it does not seem all that long ago, when I could not have named a single out high profile Bisexual. And now they are legion with the most recent being Ryan Russell, a NFL free agent. I don’t pretend to know much about American football but I do know that having a sports figure come out as Bi is probably a very big deal to many sports loving bisexuals especially Bi+ men/masc. I will just name a few of the folks who come to mind as out and proud Bisexuals as we should always make sure to give them a high profile: Alan Cumming, Stephanie Beatriz, Angelina Jolie, Halsey, Bella Thorne, Cynthia Nixon, Billie Joe Armstrong, Drew Barrymore, Janelle Monae, Gillian Anderson and so many more.

The fact that out bisexual celebrities is a long list which I don’t have the space to mention is incredibly meaningful. When I was young the only out bisexual I knew of was David Bowie and it meant a lot that he was unashamed, unapologetic and used the actual word. I knew who I was and seeing even one person be open about their bisexuality made a major difference in my life.

So, here we are in the 21st century, many folks have come out as Bi+, young people are identifying as Queer in droves and yet there is still a massive stigma and many misconceptions and myths about Bisexuals.

Only 28% of Bisexuals come out. This is in comparison with about 77% of gay men and 71% of lesbians. You might ask yourself why this is the case. Well, in a word, Biphobia.

I have literally had folks tell me they don’t want to come out because it is more comfortable for them to remain closeted than deal with the stigma of being the greedy, creepy Bi person.  This is internalized biphobia at its most damaging.

Bisexuality is still sometimes seen as taboo. Heteronormative society can understand a gay man or lesbian who is attracted to folks of their own gender but those of us with more expansive tastes are more difficult for het society to swallow. ; )

Of course, there is the fear of sharing your true self and not being believed. That has happened to me a lot and it never gets easier to disabuse people of the notion I am straight due to the gender of my long term partner. There is nothing more belittling and demeaning than to share your truth and have someone tell you that you’re wrong or that you don’t know yourself. (my response has always been ‘why thank you for knowing me better than I know myself! and feel free to use it. Saying that usually, at least, makes folks think a little deeper about their assumptions….)

There are some who refuse to believe bisexuality exists. That is a tough one. We are not truly invisible, that is a super power most of us have not achieved at this point, but it can make it extremely difficult to share your truth. Het society needs to wrap their collective mind around the fact that we don’t have to and never will ‘choose’ a gender. As Bisexuals we cannot do that….no matter who our partners are we will always have the potential to be multi gender attracted.

And some folks just think living their lives as happy, healthy bisexual people…sometimes dating a woman/femme, sometimes dating a man/masc and sometimes dating a genderqueer person should speak for itself. In a perfect world, I would totally agree. I look forward to a time when a queer person’s attractions are treated equally as another person’s heterosexual attractions. We are not there yet and that is why I strongly advocate for visibility. Yes, it might take you out of your comfort zone. Sometimes the only way to grow is to be uncomfortable on occasion.

And know that as we become more visible as a community there will be more and more safe places and spaces for Bi+ humans. We do need to push the envelope and make our presence known. It is the only way to change attitudes and behaviors.

For now, if you cannot come busting out of the closet consider telling a person you trust. Take things one step at a time. Even if you tell one person and are authentic with one person it can start a gradual process of feeling more comfortable walking in the world as your beautiful Bi+ self.

(Cautionary note: If you don’t feel safe being out in any situation do not do it. I don’t want anyone harmed for being themselves. )

 

 

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MGA and Genderqueer

Almost every day I learn a new acronym and often I find the acronym applies to me. MGA is pretty much me, in a nutshell. It also applies to most, if not all, bisexuals. We are non monosexuals and, by definition, multi gender-attracted folks. To me, this is just being a regular, magical bisexual person.

Being able to love and be attracted without limits is, by far, the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me. Have their been challenges? Definitely. Would I change who I am? Absolutely not.

Being bisexual is more than having a certain type of sexuality. In my view, it is looking at the world in a way that is far beyond binaries. Gender is important in that we must respect everyone’s gender identity. However, as a bisexual, I see the beauty and pure sexiness of every type of gender. As a non-binary person myself I have had to give a lot of thought to how I present myself. And, very often, how I explain myself and my attractions. I have made the mistake of saying I am attracted to humans despite what their gender is. That is flawed language. I am attracted to them because of what their gender is or no matter what their gender is. I still struggle with the right way to express how I feel but using MGA might solve that personal shortcoming. 😉

We have so many acronyms in the LGBTQ community but I think it is past time to adopt MGA. It also helps define the way many bisexuals feel about their bisexuality. It is limitless and infinite. : 0

 

 

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Be Bi Proud!

It has been a very busy couple of months. It has taken a lot of work but it has been well worth it. Bi+ Pride Milwaukee has made great strides in the 414 and beyond. Our Bi Fi signal has been strong and has been amplified. For such a new organization we have really come a long way.

We marched in the local Pride parade again. Our numbers were larger, our Bi finery was better and we received the same warm, affirming welcome from the crowd in attendance at the parade.

Our social media numbers continue to grow, we are organizing more events  and we are welcoming more and more folks to our events.

The true icing on the cake was receiving a Pride Award from Milwaukee’s Pridefest. There were a number of folks who won an award but among them was Bi+ Pride Milwaukee. This was notable in that one year ago I don’t think most folks in the local LGBT community knew we existed and little had been done to support and welcome the Bi+ folks to most LGBT events or activities. That has changed significantly. It was fair for many of the folks I met to say they had no idea whom to contact to establish a connection with the Bi community.  That was true. However, that has changed. We’re here, we’re queer and we are not going anywhere. We know we are fulfilling a need and we will continue to do so.

Over the past year we have finally been able to have our local LGBT center host a Bi event and now the Bi+ discussion group meets on a monthly basis. To have the signal boost the LGBT center can provide and have access to their facilities has been beneficial. And, it is only the start.

When I made remarks upon accepting the Pride award at the Pridefest opening ceremonies I made the point that Bisexuals have been in the community and have been fighting for the rights of all Queers, right along with gay men, lesbians, and trans folks. In fact, there were Bi folks at Stonewall and Brenda Howard, the Mother of Pride, organized the Christopher Street Gay Liberation March, 1970. I also made the point that our organization was inclusive and if you are non-monosexual (no matter which label resonates with you) or an ally you are welcome to join us. We are not an organization which participates in gatekeeping. We experience enough of that and will have no part in encouraging it.

All in all, it has been equal parts exhausting and exhilarating to get BPM going but I think our future is bright. A few other folks are starting to participate very actively and having been acknowledged at Pridefest has definitely elevated our ‘brand’.  Here we are with a few of the folks who joined us in the Milwaukee Pride parade. Don’t we look marvelous.

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I am putting my full remarks here. Not so much to share as to have them for myself when I want to reflect next year on how much progress we have made. : )

Thank you. Good Afternoon. What a beautiful day to be proud. (Editors note: and it was truly gorgeous)

My name is Amy Luettgen and I am here on behalf of the wonderful people who are Bi+ Pride Milwaukee. Five of our activists are here with me today and I would like to give them a well-deserved shout out: Sarah, Grace, Sean, Michelle and Lexy.

When this all started happening/coalescing over a year ago we really did not have great expectations or lofty goals, the idea was to create a safe space for folks who identify as Bi to meet each other and begin to craft Bi+ community. We certainly could not have expected to have our work recognized with a Pride Award on the 50th Anniversary of Stonewall.

But, actually, it is really appropriate in that Bi Trans women were a major part of that initial riot for Gay Rights five decades ago. And, Brenda Howard, a Bi woman, known as the Mother of Pride was the organizer of the first Pride parade and festival. She organized the Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day March and had the idea to have speakers and activities at the same time as the march. Brenda’s legacy is the reason there is a Pridefest here in Milwaukee today.

Bi the way, we want to be abundantly clear that while our organization is called Bi+ we welcome and embrace all the many and diverse labels folks use to describe their non-monosexuality: Fluid, Queer, Pan, Bi, Poly, Omni, Unlabeled…whether you’re Trans, Cis, non-binary, gender non-conforming, gender fluid, gender expansive…you and your partners and allies belong so just drop Bi and join in the fun. We aren’t gatekeepers, if you shelter under the big Bi umbrella you are welcome.

The B has always been around…we’re here, we’re Queer and it means a great deal to us to be seen and recognized. We have strong Bi-Fi but we really appreciate the signal boost provided by Milwaukee Pride. Amplification is always welcome. So please stop on Bi to one of the events we have going on. Check out our Facebook page or our website. Come to a discussion group (third Thursday of the month at the LGBT center), join us at Bi café or Bi Happy Hour. We have a lot going on and with your help and support we will continue to grow valid and vibrant Bi+ community. We are making big waves on a Great Lake. Join us for the fun and frolicsome Pan-demonium.

 

Oh, and Bi the way, thank you all  so much!!

Coupled, Bi and Coming Out.

Let’s say you’ve been married for some time, could be 5 years, could be 25 years, and you are finally accepting the truth that you are bisexual. You probably knew deep down for years, you may have known before you coupled up, but our society is heteronormative and marrying your high school girlfriend/boyfriend just seemed like the natural thing to do. It could be your marriage/relationship is very satisfying and you are not inclined to seek other partners but you’re hiding a very important part of your identity.
Or, another scenario… you were deeply attracted and enamored of your partner and had no thought of anyone else or anything else, you knew you had found your soulmate. Yet, as the years went by you found folks of other genders catching your eye and engaging your attentiveness. After many years, you want to take that feeling from fantasy to reality. However, you have never even considered broaching the subject you are Bi with your partner.
It could be you were well aware of your bisexuality prior to coupling and felt that you had found your person and others would never be on your radar again. Then, you met someone else who had your pulse racing. You had not discussed your bisexuality with your partner for years and this revelation would surely either surprise them or, you fear, cause damage to your relationship. You had both agreed to be monogamous and now you have other urges.
Folks in longer term relationships can experience their sexual fluidity in many ways and may or may not wish to act on their sexual or emotional desires. However, keeping them hidden causes severe emotional distress for most people. Keeping your sexuality under wraps because you don’t want to hurt your partner or because you fear their response is not uncommon. I just don’t think it is healthy, for you or for your relationship.
First of all, it is never wrong to be who you are. No human being should ever leave a part of themselves in the closet. People can make bad decisions based upon all kinds of things. One of those things can be sexuality but there is really no reason it has to be.
Honesty remains the best policy. While there may be hurt feelings and also repercussions it has not been my experience that anyone likes to be lied to. When you do that you do not give you partner the respect they deserve. There are times your partner may feel as though they are not enough for you, sexually or emotionally. This may or may not be true but the main thing is to provide them with the information so they can make the best decision for themselves. Not allowing them to do so is unfair. Hiding because you fear the outcome has no benefit for anyone.
There are times a person simply wants to be seen as precisely who they are. They may not wish to act on their feelings but simply have them acknowledged. Being honest about who you are can deepen a relationship. It can also open a relationship. I am not going to debate the benefits of polyamory, bi-amory, swinging, ethical non-monogamy, ‘friends with benefits’, etc over monogamy. That is a decision each couple must make for themselves. However, it really should be made. Cheating should never be the chosen option.
The decision to refresh or revamp a relationship may involve soul-searching, role-playing and trying to figure out how some desires can be met within the relationship. There are as many ways to address bisexuality within a relationship as there are couples. The only way you can make the decision is by being honest with each other.
It could also be that your relationship won’t last once you come out or make your desires/identity known. There is no way to truly predict the outcome of coming out, whether it is the first time you have done so with your partner or whether it is reminding them of who you are. The one thing I can predict is by being your authentic self you are treating yourself and your partner with respect. There is little enough of that in this world.

 

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Bisexuality is all about ME!

Yeah, you heard it. Bisexuality is all about me….and you….and every other Bisexual. Bear with me and I will try to explain what I mean by this seemingly narcissistic statement.
As a bisexual person I can be attracted to any but not all people, I can have sex with any but not all people, and my attractions can ebb and flow over the years and the decades. This is why bisexuality is not about the people I have sex with or relationships with….it is about me. The reason I say this is bisexuality is not defined by my partners but rather it is defined by my way of looking at the world, my way of seeing other human beings and my way of experiencing attraction.
I sometimes think this flexibility of outlook and attraction is what befuddles and confuses monosexuals. Their worldview cannot include the idea of being attracted to humans of their own and other genders. They don’t see romantic or sexual partners of multiple genders as an option and I do.
I am going to get real in saying there has never been a time, even when I was coupled, when I did not see folks of other genders than that of my partner (or my own)as attractive and potentially fuckable. That truth does not mean I have ever cheated or that my partner meant any less to me. It simply means the universe is full of truly beautiful and enchanting people of all genders and to not see them and appreciate them I would have to have blinders on.
I just want to make clear I don’t discriminate or think less of gay/lesbian/straight people. I am just confused by their declaration they can only be attracted to people of one gender. Nawww….just kidding….while I find monosexuality limiting I will defend their right to be monosexual and I certainly understand what they are saying. Do I feel just a wee bit sorry for them. Well, given how much being bisexual has illuminated and enriched my life I would have to say I do. I just got lucky when I happened to be bisexual.
And, as Bi Health Month draws to a close, I challenge monosexual folks and LGBT organizations to stand up and support the Bisexual community. We definitely need your support. Our health outcomes are poorer than the straight and gay/lesbian communities, we suffer partner violence at higher rates , we earn less and have higher rates of poverty, fewer of us come out of the closet and we struggle with biphobia and bierasure,
And Bi+ siblings, if you are doing alright, if you have the support of family and friends and are able to be out and vocal speak up for our non-monosexual community. While I said being bisexual is all about me I also know the only way to build strong, stable non-monosexual community is to speak out about things that matter….and to walk that talk.

 

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Bi Elders – Where are you? I’m here!

I am a (non-binary) woman of a certain age. In fact, I have no problem telling anyone what my age is. I am 61. I am working with others to build Bisexual community where I live. I enjoy the energy from all the folks in our organization. However, I miss having more Bisexuals close to my age to commune with. I enjoy the young people, don’t get me wrong. We have a great deal in common because we are non-monosexuals.  It just would feel good to have the shortcuts you can have with folks closer to your age and experience level. It would be great to have a larger cohort of Bi folks who remembered the activism and challenges of prior decades. Who would have my back when I explain where our roots are and what work has been done before. Who would be among those who could say we have been HERE and QUEER for a long, long time.

I think one of the reasons it is hard to connect with other Bi folks who are closer to my age is that we are so defined by our partners. Over time I do think our ‘friend’ groups can sort of fall into more Gay folks or more Straight folks.  I know that happened to me once my kids were born as I did have a lot in common with parents…most of whom were, or appeared to be, straight. Another reason being  so few Bisexuals come out it is hard to know we’re here. While I have gone to various events for older LGBT folks the majority of those in attendance are gay men or Lesbians. I have no issues with that but we all know biphobia is fairly common among the Gs and Ls and I don’t always feel as though I fit in. I want to make clear that I cherish all members of our LGBT community but I don’t always feel as cherished.

Often by the time folks are closer to my age they have gotten to a comfort level with where they are and who their friends are. I have many friends who are gay men and Lesbians but precious few who are Bi. There are many Bi men and women in similar gender relationships who leave a part of themselves in the closet to fit in. This is not an uncommon scenario. There are men and women like this in my own community. I know this fact but it is hardly my place to say…hey y’all, join me out here in the Bi-verse….be everything you are. I know, anecdotally, that sometimes the gay or lesbian partner would prefer their Bi partner not be radically visible. Why, you ask, Biphobia, I say… I realize these are broad strokes but I have had that experience in the past so I am speaking from what I have lived. All of these factors combine to result in fewer older Bi people being out and seeking out Bi friends in their own age group.

I think it is definitely a missed opportunity. I think we would feel so valued and visible if we were among those who have weathered the storms but have stayed strong and certain in our Bi identities. I think we have so much to offer each other and so much to share with younger generations of Bi+ individuals.

I wrote to our local LGBT center today. A center which has zero Bi programming and suggested a monthly Bi+ discussion group. Baby steps, right? And, if this idea comes to fruition I will try to make the argument we could/should encourage an inter-generational emphasis for the group. I’ll be there and I hope my fellow Bi-elders will join me.

 

 

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