Building Up Bi+

The Bisexual Organizing Project is celebrating 20 years of uniting, supporting, and building up the bi+ community.

On the surface, the GLBT community is welcoming and inclusive for everybody, and while this is something the community is always striving for, certain subgroups within the community get lost in a world where identity is seemingly everything. For bisexual, pansexual, fluid, queer, and unlabeled (bi+) individuals, how do you walk into a gay bar while maintaining your bi+ identity? Or how do you publicly appear to be in a heterosexual relationship while still asserting that you’re not straight, and you’re proud of it?

Image courtesy of Bisexual Organizing Project

For bi+ people, it can be difficult to “fit” a mold that only contains a portion of their identity. Because bi+ people face more obstacles surrounding invisibility, the Bisexual Organizing Project (BOP) has provided unity, support, and empowerment to the community for 20 years.

BOP started in the late 1990s when organizers of BECAUSE (“Bi+ Empowerment Conference: A Uniting, Supportive Experience”), the annual conference of the BOP, wanted to provide year-round programming for the bi+ community. BOP was incorporated as a Minnesota nonprofit in 1999.

“BOP’s mission is to ‘build, serve and advocate for an empowered bisexual, pansexual, fluid, queer, and unlabeled (bi+) community to promote social justice.’ We do this by working through the framework constructed by our core values; support, advocacy, and social justice,” say Sally Corbett, administrative assistant of BOP.

Bi-erasure and bi-invisibility are the tendency to ignore, overlook, dismiss, remove, falsify, or reexplain evidence of bisexuality in history, academia, the news media, and other primary sources. This sense of invisibility is something that BOP continues to fight every day.

“Bi+ individuals definitely face more obstacles surrounding visibility. Our community experiences phenomenons known as biphobia, bi-invisibility, and bi-erasure. These distinguish our experiences with visibility from those of gay and lesbian folks. Biphobia is discrimination, negative attitudes, behaviors, and structures directed towards bisexuality and bi+ identified individuals,” Corbett says.

Because bi-erasure and bi-invisibility are so prevalent for bi+ folks, BOP strives to provide safe and welcoming spaces for bi+ people to gather, work, and just be themselves.

“Creating spaces where bi+ folks can come together in community is critical to upholding our mission. Sustainable access to community is fundamental for the mental, emotional, physical, and social well-being of bi+ individuals. We primarily support this simply by hosting events and spaces where bi+ folks can meet each other, spend time in community with one another, and find support from those who share similar experiences surrounding our sexual orientations,” says Corbett. “We also provide educational workshops and presentations to LGBTQ+ ally organizations and communities, and participate in research initiatives about the bi+ community when we are able.”

The Bisexual Organizing Project is celebrating their 20th anniversary this year. Photo by Leah Yoemans

BOP’s recurring social events happen monthly, such as their discussion group, book club, board game nights, and hiking/walking meetups. They also have a variety of one-off events as often as possible, including meeting for happy hour, going rollerskating, picnics, movie nights, pizza parties, and knitting circles or craft nights. They also host the BECAUSE conference annually. The conference was founded in 1992 by a handful of bi+ activists and has grown into the largest conference centered around non-monosexual identities in the United States.

“BECAUSE is first and foremost a community conference, rather than an academic or professional conference. BECAUSE strives to be welcoming and inclusive, and embraces the many intersectionalities of the bi+ community and encourages people of all backgrounds and experiences to join us for an eventful weekend full of networking, community building, education, and organizing to create a more welcoming, inclusive, and equitable LGBTQIA community. We offer free and pay-what-you-can registration options, provide meals throughout the entire conference weekend, and survey registrants for accessibility needs,” Corbett says.

BECAUSE 2019 is happening Friday, Oct. 11 through Sunday, Oct. 13 at The Wellstone Center in St. Paul. It will offer a variety of workshops, entertainment, social events, and community building activities all weekend long. You can find the latest updates on BECAUSE 2019 and register at www.becauseconference.org.

If you’re interested in becoming a BOP member, Corbett says BOP membership is rather informal.

“We have a form on our website for those who want to sign up. Membership is free, but we do offer sustaining memberships starting at as little as ten dollars a month,” they say. “Sustaining memberships are what allow BOP to provide programs and resources for our community, and keep our events free or low-cost for attendees. You don’t need to be an ‘official’ member to attend or participate in any of our events.”

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