Local and national activists from the bisexual community gathered at Center on Halsted Sept. 23 for a panel that honored the 14th annual Celebrate Bisexuality Day.
The panel followed a celebration at the Center the evening before. Activist Wendy Curry, a former president of the organization BiNet USA, said that Celebrate Bisexuality Day, which comes three months after Bisexual Pride Day, was intended as a joyous event that was divorced from political concerns.
The day was originally conceived of at a time when Curry's organization was struggling to gain recognition from national gay organizations.
"We were just tired of it. So we had a bi Pride day, which was fine, but it was about telling people, 'We're here toorecognize us, damn it.' So what we wanted to do was get together this amazing community and forget about the politics, forget about social change and embrace that this vibrant, creative amazing community exists, whether anyone believes it or not," Curry said.
She and co-organizers spent about six months planning. "We decided on September because that was Freddie Mercury's birthday month."
The panelists were asked about the difference between sexual identity and sexual orientation. Several admitted that that question could be a complex one for many bisexual individualssome might identify as bisexual because of a yearning for one person of the same sex, even if that yearning is not acted on. Conversely some people might reject the identification even when they are sexually active with both sexes. Other factors can weigh in as well, such as whether a person chooses to be in a polyamorous relationship or not.
Even where someone lives can add or take away a layer of complexity. Researcher Daina Almario-Kopp of University of Illinois at Chicago said, "In parts of Europeeven in this country, in a place like New Yorkit's not such a big deal."
"One of our biggest problems is that we have nothing in commonexcept having nothing in common with anyone else," Curry said.
Bi activist Ed Negron said that it wasn't completely necessary to latch onto a big issue in order to expand the profile of the bi community. Instead, he said, the community needed research conducted that is bisexual specific; very often gay-focused national organizations and institutions aren't amenable to that. "There are many of us," Negron said. "It can potentially take dollars away from them."
The bi community is "entrenched across the board," added Curry.
Many on the panel spoke of how society's perceptions of the community were changing significantly if gradually. Liz Thompson of Chicago i2i said that a friend's daughter, who is about 11 or 12, had just come out to her.
"That's when I see real progress," Thompson said. "She now has so many years of space, time and support in which to grow."
The day before the event, a party celebrating bisexuality took place at the Center.