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Has Bi organizing gone the way of TV Guide?

Once upon a time, every "tv watching" home needed a TV Guide. It told you what was on at what time. Without it, you were forced to stand by the tv and manually switch between channels until you found something good.
Eventually, cable companies added a scrolling guide, which morphed into a searchable guide.
There was no longer a need for a paper guide.

Similarly, there was a time when bisexuals were isolated, lacking in references, depictions in the media, or acceptance by the larger glbt community. Bi organizing grew out of a need for a generation of self identifying bisexuals to find out about
ourselves, to connect with others who felt the same way, to create a large enough presence to be taken seriously by the glbt community.

These days, there are whole libraries of bi themed books, dozens of discussion groups online, myspace, facebook, yahoogroups.
We have bi characters in film and on tv. And almost all major glbt organizations have out bisexuals on staff.

We set out to do what we meant to do. We're now at a crossroads. Do BiNet and other national bi groups step back and become merely a directory for other bi groups? Do we serve solely as a 501c3 placeholder for smaller bi groups to fundraise through?
Or do we retire?

We are run currently by the same generation who saw the original need for bi activism/organizing. We are lacking perspective
to make these decisions on our own. We desperately need people willing to join the board volunteer 5 or so hours a week and
help us steer BiNet into this century.

We can't seem to find anyone. Is that our answer? Is it possible - with war, the economy, health insurance, famine, and all
the other issues today, when compared to the current level of bi acceptance... that people's volunteer hours are better spent elsewhere? If that is the case, are we fooling ourselves by keeping this going?
Do we need to step back and let BiNet go away? Keep the listserv and let all else die? Eventually, the few remaining board members will fade away and the decision will be made.


( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 20th, 2008 05:22 am (UTC)
I believe you wrote that very, very well. As a person not in the USA, I can only watch and see what happens from the outside looking in. I hope that it will stir some of your country-folk to action.
Feb. 20th, 2008 05:49 am (UTC)
I was directed here via a post by nyabn in bisxual_world. In an effort not to be too redundant, below please find a link to my response :)

Feb. 20th, 2008 06:27 am (UTC)
I agree with much of what bi dilemma wrote in her other comment. I am in my mid 20's and while I feel bisexuality is accepted in ways it never was 10 or 15 years ago I still think there is a long way to go. Unfortunately it seems a lot of activist groups are having trouble with getting new members right now. I don't have a solution but I say don't give up.

Are you or binet involved with Robyn Ochs' talk at Fenway Community Health in March? I am in Boston and would be interested in learning more about the community here. I know about the bisexual women's network in back bay and the women's center in cambridge, i just haven't been able to get involved in much of anything yet (grad school sucks away all my time).

good luck and keep working, it does make a difference
Feb. 20th, 2008 06:31 am (UTC)
I have been wondering this myself. I recently was drafted to take over as president for Seattle BiNet, and I almost turned in down because I did not want to take the risk of being the one to shut it down. We had at least 8 people at every meeting when I first started going to meetings 6 or 7 years ago. Then the weekly meetings went to biweekly, as we were not getting enough attendance. I hosted our monthly coffee social last Saturday, and had one new person show up, and none of the old-timers. That has been the case for the past year. I often make dates for the social just to have company when no one else shows up.

Yet, our annual picnic is well attended every year, and we have a large following on LiveJournal. Still, most of the people in the LJ community have never been to a meeting, and a good chunk of the people who go to the picnic stopped attending other events years ago.

Before you raised the question, I had just assumed it was a Seattle problem. Now I see our problem as part of a larger trend. What to do about; I haven't a clue.
Feb. 20th, 2008 07:47 am (UTC)
maybe we should chat, I might have some thoughts/ ideas for you. . .
Feb. 20th, 2008 10:25 am (UTC)
please come join the new listserv Local_Bi_Group_Leaders, we are all brainstorming about just these kinds of issues
Feb. 20th, 2008 07:22 am (UTC)
I would personally love to be more involved in the bisexual community in Seattle, and nationally. However, my attempts to attend both of the bi groups in seattle and become involved have been incredibly disappointing for the most part. Most of the members are at least 10 years older than me, which seems to be a big enough gap that we have very different ideas of what a group should look like and how it should be run. I have definitely enjoyed hearing perspectives of older members who were around when bisexuality really was completely unaccepted. However, I didn't feel as if the group was similarly open to my own experiences or willing to work with different ideas or topics. Also, I am definitely a minority in my age range- most of my friend identify only with the word 'queer'. I feel as if the bi community and the people who use the word queer as an identity label could be really powerful and radical together, but I don't see a willingness to come together.
I think there should be an adjustment of perspective before BiNet disappears.
Feb. 20th, 2008 09:33 am (UTC)
The bi-queer divide is one that interests me a lot too, if you kick off talking about bridging it anywhere I'd love to be part of it.
Feb. 20th, 2008 08:08 pm (UTC)
meanwhile all heck has broken loose (especially on postqueer and bipolypagangeek) because some feel bisexuality is oppressive by it's very name + nature because it "promotes the binary" + leads 2 gender opression and not recognizing that gender as well as sexuality can be fluid
Feb. 21st, 2008 10:30 am (UTC)
I think this is a lot of where the issues lie now... in the terming of the sexuality.... which is unfortunate, because it may be keeping people from joining "Bi" groups or getting involved in Bi issues, JUST because it doesn't use the term they prefer, even though the issues are probably relevant... and I'm sure they could really bring amazing things to the existing Bi groups!

In my own opinion, I have NO issue with using Bisexual as a defining term for myself... For me, I generally like men because they are men and women because they are women, regardless of how they represent this (whether it fits stereotypical gender-identities or not), THUS I define as BI-sexual... It's not a 50-50 thing for me, and OF COURSE I recognize AND APPRECIATE the fluidity of gender-identity within those two categories, but Bi still fits... Pansexual is not accurate to how I feel, and neither is Queer.
Feb. 21st, 2008 01:29 am (UTC)
well, that's all I need! Let's do this! where are you located?
Feb. 21st, 2008 09:53 am (UTC)
Manchester, England. So for all intents and purposes here, "online".
Feb. 20th, 2008 10:23 am (UTC)
please come join the new listserv Local_Bi_Group_Leaders, we are all brainstorming about just these kinds of issues

Edited at 2008-02-20 10:24 am (UTC)
Feb. 20th, 2008 09:30 am (UTC)
This intrigues me a little in that over in the UK we're just getting on to the "let's have a national organisation" stage, despite on paper being in a better position legally and such. Up til now the closest we come is Bi Community News magazine, which has been described to me as "the members newsletter of the UK bis membership organisation we don't have".

I think it's more to do with the credibility of a national voice to the pink and non-pink media, and that there are some things where a national body would help: economies of scale in producing general bi info for Prides and other outreach spaces for example.

It might be that BiNet is suffering that natural ebb and flow that we all know from group running; or perhaps it's reached the end of its cycle enough and you need some time without a national body until fresh energy is there to make it happen. But I guess 501c3 status takes some achieving (I have no idea) and you have to think about whether maintaining a body with that status saves the next wave of activist energy from needing to do the paperwork, or holds it back on a "we can't start a national body, someone's already doing that" basis.

Or maybe US-wide organising is just too geographically large a scale, in the same way we don't have an EU-wide body?
Feb. 20th, 2008 10:20 am (UTC)
comments from the peanut gallery . . .

Or maybe US-wide organizing is just too geographically large a scale, in the same way we don't have an EU-wide body?

the US has other large and very successful national LGBT Groups including two (competing liberal and conservative) general groups and a group representing the transgendered community, etc.

in any event please come join the new listserv Local_Bi_Group_Leaders, all people who lead any sort of bi group anywhere and can get along in English language urged to join
Feb. 20th, 2008 07:55 pm (UTC)
On the latter point, I'm already there - just a little quiet as it's got a bit too navel-gazing for me and not enough of the Running Groups Successfully stuff.
Feb. 20th, 2008 08:49 pm (UTC)
At BOP (the Bisexual Organizing Project) we struggled for a time about getting younger queers involved. Interestingly, after starting to work on the BECAUSE (Bisexual Empowerment Conference: An Uplifting and Supportive Environment) conference, we have had a number of student groups become active in bisexual organizing. The University of Minnesota Queer Student Union is one of the sponsors of the event, and we've been developing good relationships with MNGLBTA Campus Alliance.
Feb. 20th, 2008 10:42 pm (UTC)
I don't see the libraries of bi themed books, but perhaps I'm not looking in the erotica section :)

I also see lots of 'I want to get laid' online activity and not so much other discussion etc.

I also still see lots of LGB[T] organisations only mention the bi word on their funding applications and not in their services etc.

So I think there is a need, and in the UK we're still seeing people want to do something...
Feb. 21st, 2008 04:34 am (UTC)
don't throw the baby out with the bathwater (from queer and postqueer ljs)
or in this case, the tv guide with the newspaper. unlike the tv guide, bisexuality is not a vestige of days gone by. i think part of the problem is that the ideal "bisexual agenda" is more radical than either the feminist or the gay agenda, and many people who identify as "bisexual" arrive at that label from heterosexuality. it seems to me that people who fall in the middle of the kinsey spectrum (i.e. most people) but arrive at that label from/through homosexuality are more likely to choose a label that emphasizes the fluidity of sexuality--i.e. striking down both the hetero and the homo of binary sexuality and normativity.

thus "bisexual" as a category, rather than an identity category, refers to a massive number of people; but as a self-chosen identity category, refers far fewer. in my mind, this reflects the problematic association of the word "bisexual" with a system of binary sexuality, which is exactly what is undermined by the existence of bisexuality.

it seems to me that, rather than rallying behind the bisexual flag, the need is for a greater movement to reconsider the construct of binary sexuality and think about sexuality in a new way. who is the "we" of bi-organizing? i think that if the bisexual community establishes itself with the exclusivity and normativity that has inevitably seeped into gay and lesbian politics, we (in a much broader sense) will all suffer. in other words, the problem with bi-organizing as i understand it is the construction of "bisexuality" as a third sexuality and an alternative to hetero or homo, a conservative effort that would do more harm than good to young people groping to find their categories.

the magnetic attraction of nonestablished labels (bicurious and heteroflexible among them) reflects people's tendencies and evident desire to opt out of a system of sexuality in which everything is defined by precedent or by practice. the diversity of identity labels that ensues makes it difficult to make a flag that promotes acceptance, tolerance, and fairness for a specific identity group. but this difficulty should not be interpreted, as curriedspam does, as a problem that requires greater advertising but as an ideological issue. the true cause behind bi-organizing should be the erasure of binary sexuality. instead of bringing another minority into nominal acceptance, why not turn to the greater cause? then instead of having a dwindling parade of bisexuals, we could all exercise to become a little more flexible. better yet, instead of calling the single hard-working volunteer, maybe we could continue to support the normatively unthinkable and unimaginable and imagine into reality a world in which there is no "default" or exclusivity in sexual politics; in which the rainbow spectrum would represent everyone who supports sexual freedom and free sexuality.

an addendum: of course people don't like labels when the label in question is bisexual. there are strong, supportive communities on both side of the too-tall fence. it is difficult to imagine that the bisexual community will ever be able to summon the people and resources to be its own institution when there are preferable "defaults." this problem of community organizing, which is where you're coming from, leads directly to the ideological conclusion i made...
Feb. 21st, 2008 11:41 am (UTC)
It all starts with one...
Like the old saying goes, "Organizing bisexuals is a lot like herding cats." Sad, but true, but also not surprising in some ways. After all, telling people over and over and over again that you really do exist when you're standing right in front of them wears a kid out! It also goes to show that the more we learn to love ourselves, the more we'll advance.

Hey - it worked for other letters in the L - G - B - T.... =)

Seriously though, the one thing that should keep all of us going is that however few there are, the outspoken/organizing voices that exist are there. It's times like these that I'm reminded of one of my favorite quotes by Margaret Mead:

"Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

And that means US. Not in numbers, but in voices. Maybe the better question to ask ourselves is this: "What have I done today?" I'm lucky enough that I get to do a lot of it by just going to work (OutQ in the Morning on Sirius Satellite Radio). But I also grab any opportunities I can for discussion in everyday life - even at the dentist's office (a charming tale I'll share another time)!

We can't "give up." No one will fight for our rights - and truly, if we don't - why should they?

( 20 comments — Leave a comment )

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