By Cameron Kude, Guest Writer
There is a gaping hole in our community — no, not that kind of hole. Nestled obediently between Gay and Transgender, center stage yet largely unnoticed, the “B” in LGBTQ represents a group of queers that are in dire need of recognition.
Bisexuality is the black sheep of queerdom. Viewed as a threat by some, dismissed as a phase by most, bi people have been marginalized to the point of invisibility.
However, some people call Portland the nation’s bisexual capitol. According to data gathered by The Mercury in 2007, 17 percent of Portland’s population identifies as bisexual. Comparatively, only 3.2 percent of the general American population identify as bisexual. That’s almost two bi people for every gay or lesbian in Portland. Why are we so high in bi’s? More importantly, are bisexuals still closeted as a culture?
I came out as bisexual when I was 18. I had been with boys, and I had been with girls. Although each experience was different, I derived pleasure from both genders. I saw no need to reject one sex or the other.
“You’re just gay,” my friends would say, “and this is a transitional stage.” Others would cling to the rhetoric that there’s no such thing as a bisexual man. My existence, however, persisted.
I became very active in the LGBTQ community and assumed the lifestyle of a young gay man. For years after I came out, I only slept with other men. My bisexuality became a sort of fun fact. I had no quarrels with the fact that I preferred the same sex, but my philosophy remained unchanged: Sexuality is a continuum, subject to change. I hadn’t always preferred men, and I may not always continue to. For a long time, deep down, I believed that everyone was bisexual, that the extreme of monosexuality (exclusive attraction to a single gender) was a myth created to keep people guilty and divided, that we’ve all been duped into picking a “team.” We have turned love into a sport that few ever win. On some level, this belief goes unchanged.
When I moved to Portland, something inside of me shifted. Telling people that I was bisexual resulted in a smile instead of a raised eyebrow. I didn’t feel the need to defend or elaborate on my orientation.
On the first night of Portland’s Pride weekend that year, I ended up sleeping with a woman. I remember lying in bed with her afterward. “Isn’t it ironic that we met at Gay Pride?” I asked. She looked at me and said, “Not at all. Pride is all about being free with your sexuality.”
That was the moment I knew for sure. I’m not greedy, and I’m not confused. I’m bisexual.
When I observed this attitude of acceptance and learned of Portland’s disproportionately large bi population, I knew that something special was happening here and began to seek out a bi community. I learned about numerous efforts to create visibility of Portland’s bi community, both past and present. When I first got here, I heard about a monthly bisexual speed dating event, which sounded really fun! But I missed it and haven’t heard about it since.
The Portland Bisexual Alliance ran from 1995 to 2002. They hosted workshops, statewide conferences, and became politically involved. They even started an annual “Bi Day” rally. Ultimately, the organizers became burnt out from a lack of funds and resources. Getting Bi PDX continues to offer a safe, positive, supportive environment for all self-identified bisexual … women. Call me old fashioned, but shouldn’t a bisexual group, oh, I don’t know, encompass both sexes?
My internet research was limited. Luckily, Portland has the largest independent bookstore in the nation. I went to Powell’s and found myself standing in the purple room, wedged between two towering walls of shelves dedicated to gay and lesbian literature. My quest for a bisexual genre was met in the corner of my eye, and on a dusty high shelf I found the most extensive collection of books on bisexuality, possibly in existence. There were fewer than 10 titles, and not one of them had been published since the late ‘90s.
A few months ago, I wandered into Q Center, Portland’s number-one resource for LGBTQ causes. The space itself was impressive and the folks were quite friendly. It seemed they hosted a discussion group for just about every niche of queer culture, except for one … you can probably guess which.
Right when I was starting to lose hope, I browsed Q Center’s event calendar and was delighted to discover a bi/pansexual discussion group on their schedule. It just so happened to be the first, and throughout the past year I haven’t missed a single meeting (Every fourth Tuesday at 7 p.m.). I now facilitate the group, where topics and attendees differ each month and there has never been a shortage of interesting topics, opinions, and perspectives. We’ve put on bi-specific events, been interviewed on KBOO, and collaborated with PQ monthly to launch a Bi/Pan/Genderqueer dance party (GREED at Crush in Southeast Portland, the fourth Friday of every other month.) These developments perfectly demonstrate the eagerness — and inevitability — of Portland’s bisexual community becoming visible, viable, and valuable.
Throughout my experience advocating bi visibility and cultivating bi culture, meeting bi people from all walks of life, and engaging in countless hours of conversation, one thing is crystal clear: we need this. We need a voice, because people are listening. We need a face, because people are watching. We need a place, because so many of us are standing out in the cold.
The hardest part about identifying as bisexual is the inescapable feeling that you’re going through it alone. For the first time since I came out of the closet, though, I feel like my fellow queers are willing to represent me beyond a letter in their acronym. We don’t skip a beat, and we shouldn’t skip our own “B,” because with a bi community as diverse and expansive as Portland’s, “B” might as well stand for backbone.
Cameron Kude, originally from California, has lived in Portland for almost two years. He is a chef, writer, and aspiring filmmaker. For more information about Portland’s bi community, contact him at email@example.com.