B: The Forgotten Letter in LGBT
What’s harder than not belonging anywhere? Try belonging everywhere.
You’re a friend to everyone and subsequently an enemy to many. It must be so easy for you, people might say, you can just switch it off, and go for her or him, or whatever you wish. Why complain?
Because desire isn’t a fancy, you think, but you can’t communicate this to a heterosexual who thinks you’ve got it made, or to a homosexual who thinks you’re abusing the fringed acceptance that’s been creeping in for LGBT people during recent years.
You’re somewhere in between, in a world neither here nor there. You’re on your own, and you need to find a voice and a community. Enter Faith.
Not faith the word, but Faith Cheltenham, president of BiNetUSA, an organization over two decades old and self-described as "America’s umbrella organization and voice for bisexual, pansexual, fluid, queer-identified and all other of us ’somewhere in between’ people..."
"We definitely have a large number of bisexual people in the U.S.," Cheltenham told The Mirror, adding that BiNetUSA was founded in 1990 "out of a need for a national advocacy organization for bisexual people."
What is a bisexual person? The answer isn’t as clean cut as some may think, Cheltenham said, leading to a myriad of societal complications.
"We identify ourselves as bisexual if we recognize in ourselves the ability to be attracted to more than one gender," she said.
It’s unusual to be attracted to both genders at the same time. Attraction morphs and changes over time with no clear range of when it might switch or slowly recede from one gender to the other. That’s how the nickname "fluid" became prominent. It’s an easier way to explain one’s sexuality than simply saying "bisexual," to which most respond with resounding misconceptions.
"That’s something we work to educate people on," Cheltenham said. "Many mainstream organizations and publications, as well as LGBT organizations, refuse to let that definition live. But we bisexual people know that doesn’t really work for anybody."
By "we bisexual people," Cheltenham is referring to a substantial portion of the LGBT community. According to LGBT think tank The Williams Institute, 51 percent of people within the LGBT community are bisexual.
"It’s not about who we are with, it’s not about who I am with right at this moment," said Ellyn Ruthstrom, president of the Bisexual Resource Center, an almost 30-year-old group geared toward raising awareness of bisexual issues.
And there’s more data, according to BiNetUSA: Bisexual men are 50 percent more likely to live in poverty than gay men; bisexual women are more than twice as likely to live in poverty as lesbians; bisexual men and women are at least one-third less likely to disclose their sexual identities to their doctors than gays or lesbians. (For more, see sidebar).
With these numbers, bisexual people should be out and proud, but it’s not that way.