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On Friday, Sept. 21, 2018, the Office of the Mayor in the City of Chicago issued a proclamation in recognition of the International Day of Bisexual Visibility. This important holiday was created by three bisexual activists in 1999 to celebrate bisexual people in the face of invisibility and stigma.
“There is definitely a need for the holiday,” said longtime bisexual community activist and Northwestern University LGBTQIA health researcher Dr. Lauren Beach. “Bisexual people face stigma and invisibility, not only within society at large, but also within LGBTQIA communities. Bisexual Visibility Day was created by and for bisexual people as a way to affirm and empower ourselves and our communities.”
The Chicago Bisexual Health Task Force (CBHTF) sponsored the proclamation’s development; the CBHTF is a new group of community members, health care professionals and researchers dedicated to improving the lives of bisexual individuals in the Chicagoland area. The task force originated after a November 2017 conference titled “We See You – Countering the Invisibility of Bisexual Health,” hosted by the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC). AFC is providing some resources and funding for various CBHTF events and activities, including a planned community forum this November.
Several AFC staff have played an active role in CBHTF, including Vice President of Prevention and Community Partnerships Cynthia Tucker, who helped move the proclamation to Mayor Rahm Emanuel through the Chicago Department of Public Health’s Office of LGBT Health. The proclamation highlights the striking health disparities that bisexual people face compared to people of other sexual orientations.
Dr. Brian Feinstein, a research assistant professor at the Northwestern Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing, noted, “The health disparities affecting the bisexual community have been consistently demonstrated across numerous research studies. These studies have found that bisexual individuals are at increased risk for negative health outcomes such as depression, anxiety and suicidality compared to heterosexual individuals as well as gay and lesbian individuals, and that these disparities are linked to the prejudice and discrimination that bisexual individuals experience.”
Importantly, the proclamation not only highlights these disparities, but also the tremendous resilience of bisexual communities to thrive despite them. A growing number of community organizations created by and for bisexual, pansexual, fluid and queer individuals (often called bi+ communities) are creating supportive spaces around the city to strengthen that resilience.
The Bisexual Queer Alliance Chicago (BQAC), an independent 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to educate, empower and provide resources for bisexual and queer persons, provides one of those spaces. Erie Sara, President of BQAC, discussed the importance of strong bisexual community building with CBHTF: “One fact that goes unrecognized is that bi+ people make up the majority of the LGBTQIA community. We are everywhere, but we are forced into the closet due to social stigma and biphobia. The importance of community for us cannot be understated. Since our identity and existence are so constantly erased, standing together for visibility is of vital importance.”
Adrienne McCue, President and Executive Director of the Chicago-based nonprofit Step Up for Mental Health, is working to create inclusive mental health resources for bisexual+ communities in Chicago. “Step Up for Mental Health houses BSN Bi+, which is a special advocacy project dedicated to improving the mental health of bi+ individuals,” says McCue. “We created this project because we believe that the mental health data shows now more than ever, we need to focus on mental health in the bisexual community as a whole. We especially need to improve access to mental health services among bi+ people who are impacted by multiple forms of marginalization. To improve community bisexual+ mental health, we must have a dedicated focus on serving bisexual people of color, transgender and gender nonconforming people, and our youth and elders.”
Bisexual activists from around the country agree. Khafre Kujichagulia Abif, an Atlanta-based author, HIV community organizer and bisexual health advocate who has been supportive of the work of the CBHTF since its inception, called the proclamation “historic, unprecedented and long overdue.” Abif noted the proclamation has far-reaching implications for improving the health and wellbeing of bi+ people: “We always talk about how identity affirmation is important for improving health outcomes of bisexual communities. This proclamation is an example of that affirmation. Bisexual people are here, and we deserve to be recognized.”
Get Involved with the Chicago Bisexual Health Task Force
You can learn more about the Chicago Bisexual Health Task Force by visiting the organization on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/groups/ChiBiHealthTF/ or by following CBHTF on twitter @ChiBiHealthTF. The full text of the proclamation is posted within the organization’s Facebook page. Electronic .pdf copies of the proclamation are available upon request by emailing CBHTF at ChiBiHealthTF@gmail.com.
To get involved with the work of the CBHTF, you can attend the organization’s Chicago Bisexual Community Forum, which will be held November 12, 2018 from 2:00-5:00 PM at the University Center, located at 525 S. State Street, Chicago, IL 60605. To RSVP for the Chicago Bisexual Community Forum, please visit the following website: https://goo.gl/forms/d1MYB5SDxFKoPeni1
The mission of the Chicago Bisexual Health Task Force is to improve the lives of bisexual+ individuals in the Chicagoland area by mobilizing communities, engaging in research, advocacy, and education, and supporting the development and implementation of policies and programs.
The Vision of the Chicago Bisexual Health Task Force is a thriving diverse bisexual+ community in the Chicagoland area that is visible, vibrant, and healthy.
Categorized under Chicago.