Write as Rain

Talking about the LGBTQ Life in DC…

Posted on October 1st, 2014 by Loraine Hutchins

The DC Public Library invited me to be part of a panel discussion about our vibrant Washington DC LGBTQ community, its history, evolution and trends.  I’m looking forward to an engaging discussion with panel members Mark Joseph Stern (Slate), Andrew Sullivan (The Daily Dish), Philip Pannell (community activist) and our attendees.

Please join us at 7pm on October 22, at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library.  You can RSVP for “District of Change” online or call 202-727-1183.


Bisexual? Fluid? It’s your week to celebrate!

Posted on September 22nd, 2014 by The Invisible Bisexual

So now we’ve got a Bisexual Awareness Week?  Give us a day and we take a whole week!  Sure.  Why not?  This is the beginning of a whole  week when bisexual people are encouraged to celebrate themselves; to “come out,” letting everyone see just how varied, ordinary and average we really are.  Then the formally unaware world will realize that they’ve been surrounded by invisible bisexuals (like me) all the time.

September 23 was officially designated Bisexual Awareness Day about 15 years ago.  Is it a siren’s call to catastrophe or a perfect day to uncloak our beautiful bisexual/fluid orientation for all the world to see?

I’ve been wrestling with this question for many years. Should I live out loud or should I continue to operate on a need-to-know basis?  Biphobia is devastating, and there’s still plenty of it to go around among both straights and gays.  I consider the stigma and professional risks.  So I ask myself, “Do I want to attract small-minded speculation about my private life?”  So far, the answer has been “no.”

Yet I’m thrilled by the growing awareness about bisexuality and the increase in bi visibility in the media.  Check out all the bisexual celebrities flowing out of the closet and showing us their famous faces, and sayin’ ‘Yeah, me too.’   But after way too many years in the bisexual closet, I’m thinking, “Times have surely changed, but I still don’t feel safe revealing my orientation to people I don’t know.”

“All-y All-y in come free; come out, come out wherever you are!”

Enjoy this week with bi friends and allies.  Check out the shiny, new website, http://www.bisexualweek.com/ and all the cool events that have been planned by many amazing volunteers.  I’m proud to be part of this diverse group of human beings.  Their fierceness gives me courage.  Hopefully, one day I’ll have enough courage to join the unveiling.

~The Invisible Bisexual

BECAUSE Brings Bisexuals Together

Posted on June 18th, 2014 by Loraine Hutchins

Surround me with a few hundred bisexuals for a whole weekend, and I relax like I haven’t in a long time, feeling empowered and supported.  Even after all these years as an out bisexual, being with so many bi comrades who understand our unique challenges and care about our community is still a rare experience.  But if Keynoter ABilly Jones-Hennin hadn’t launched a full-on campaign to convince me to go with him, I would have missed out on this inspiring gathering of my peers.

ABilly Jones-Hennin and Dr. Loraine Hutchins taking a break at BECAUSE in Minneapolis. (June 2014)

The last time I attended BECAUSE (Bisexual Empowerment Conference: A Uniting, Supportive Experience) was soon after the 1991 publication of “Bi Any Other Name: Bisexual People Speak Out,” the bi anthology Lani Ka’ahumanu and I co-edited, which includes ABilly’s coming out story.  The love, respect and understanding I received at BECAUSE, both then and this year, were profoundly encouraging.  The stigma that’s all too often projected onto bisexuals takes a disheartening toll.  This is all the more reason why the Bisexual Organizing Project’s annual gathering is such a treasure.

BECAUSE 2014 was held on June 6-9, at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.  The conference featured presentations on media representations of bisexuality; health care; the state of the bi movement, intersecting identities; bi visibility; sexual violence; aging; bi arts and literature; and the publishing industry.  There were workshops, panels, plenary sessions, a theater performance, various social activities, even a bi items gift shop.  I met young filmmakers, playwrights, bloggers, rappers, student activists, elder caregivers, parents, teachers, scientists, artists, secretaries, and cashiers—all kinds of bi and bi-friendly human beings.

ABilly is among the elder vanguard of the LGBT movement in the United States, and he had much wisdom to share in his keynote address.  He is someone who can organize a bathroom line at a crowded movie theater, a line of non-violent resisters at a demonstration, or a rope line at the White House with equal aplomb.  Originally from Antigua, West Indies, this month he will celebrate a 36-year, same-gender-loving relationship with his bi partner, Christopher Hennin.

Among his many accomplishments, my longtime friend co-founded Gay Married Men (GAMMA), the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays (NCBLG), and several other gay and human service organizations.  In the late 70s, he helped mobilize the first national March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights, convened the first conference of Third World Lesbians and Gays at Howard University, and led the first African-American gay delegation to the White House.  His recent essay about himself and his father will be published this fall in “RECOGNIZE,” a new anthology on bi men.

ABilly flashback

The merry twinkle in ABilly’s eyes first caught my attention at the Washington DC Runaway House when he walked into our tiny basement office in Dupont Circle to interview for a youth counselor position in the mid-70s.  His experience as a devoted father and a compassionate human rights activist were just what our young clients needed. He eventually became director of the program.  Since that time, we’ve been serving our communities and instigating political action together for almost 40 years, inspiring and mentoring each other along the way.

This year, I was honored to introduce ABilly to the conference attendees, most of whom were meeting him for the first time. Who better to epitomize BECAUSE values? This 72-year-old great granddad exemplifies loyalty and caring, inspiring many by his brave and steadfast love for his partner and their blended, inter-connected family. He’s a quietly persistent instigator who sticks up for seniors, homeless people, prisoners, refugees and workers. ABilly’s big arms embrace us all. He makes everyone feel like family.  Just because.

With Haddayr Copley-Woods, a great photographer and one of the energetic conference volunteers.

Bisexuals & Domestic Violence

Posted on October 11th, 2013 by Loraine Hutchins

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the contentious Houses of Congress with their warring factions have added a darker level of meaning to domestic violence this year. The government shutdown and debt ceiling standoff, instigated by the Tea Party-ruled GOP, means that 80% of government-funded shelters will likely receive less support. 

The only Washington DC organization that provides immediate services to victims and their families, DC SAFE, is struggling to keep its doors open.  Even without such draconian budget cuts, most shelters aren’t adequately prepared to help victims who are gender variant, sexual minorities or male. 

On the 25th Anniversary of “National Coming Out Day,” is coming out more risky for bisexuals?  Statistics indicate: yes.

It’s also LGBT History Month with the 25th Anniversary of National Coming Out Day on October 11, 2013. This year’s theme, “Coming Out Still Matters,” encourages everyone to be as honest about their sexual orientation as possible.  Among those who identify as lesbian, gay or bi, 50% are bisexual; yet, we’re probably the least visible.  Is coming out more risky for bisexuals?  Statistics indicate: yes.

At last month’s White House Roundtable on Bisexuality our team reported on bisexuals and domestic violence.   Even we were shocked to find how disproportionately bisexual people are affected by intimate partner violence.  Sadly,  many with whom we’ve shared our findings  react the way people often do to the existence of bisexuality itself:  disbelieving that we or the statistics exist, minimizing and dismissing the discrimination against us, disputing that the abuse is so prevalent and “ordinary” and  blaming bisexuals for their own victimization.  Yes, we do need more bi awareness.  October’s awareness initiatives offer opportunities to share the research, tell our stories and engage in thoughtful dialogue.

Sixty-one percent of bisexual women reported abuse, primarily by men…Thirty-seven percent of bi men reported sexually abusive intimate relationships, primarily with women.

The CDC’s 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey is one of the first studies to report victim statistics by all sexual orientation categories.  Survey findings show that 61% of women who identify as bi report experiencing rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner, and 90% of their perpetrators were male.  In comparison, 44% of lesbians and 35% heterosexual women in the study had experienced domestic violence. Why is domestic violence so outrageously high for bisexual women in particular? And why do people have a hard time hearing this information at all, much less responding to it?

The stats for bisexual men are disturbing in a whole different way. Thirty-seven percent of bi men reported sexually abusive intimate relationships (compared to 26% of gay men and 29% of het men).  Moreover, 78% of these bisexual men reported that they were abused by women. Clearly, more research needs to be done to understand what these findings mean.

But research isn’t being adequately funded, and services won’t improve in this political climate.  Instead, projects are being stripped, gutted and de-funded.  It’s discouraging that these severe cutbacks are occurring just as the beginning of good research on bi-specific issues is being addressed in social service agencies and organizations.  Nevertheless, we included these recommendations in our report to federal officials:

  • More research on bi-specific issues;
  • Better training for law enforcement and social service agency employees; and
  • Improve data collection and inter-agency uniformity of sexual orientation definitions and categories, such as a policy to count bisexuals separately from lesbians and gay men, and a consistent definition of “bisexual” for cross-study comparisons.

 Beyond Only Recommending

We live in a very unstable time when basic human services are being cut, when many people are income-insecure, food-insecure, and often home-insecure.  All of these conditions lead to increases in domestic violence while vital services are de-funded.

What good do powerful stories and passionate recommendations do in a time of such dire inequalities and injustices?  What can we do besides raise our voices in protest and make suggestions?  Appealing to people’s better nature and giving them vital information isn’t enough—either for policymakers or the average person.

We live in a very unstable time when basic human services are being cut, when many people are income-insecure, food-insecure, and often home-insecure.  All of these conditions lead to increases in domestic violence while vital services are de-funded. 

The last thing the brave women who started the movement against domestic violence wanted was to create a more punitive criminal justice system that punishes perps without helping them or changing the conditions that create violence in close relationships. The last thing they wanted, or that we today need, is an increasingly compromised system whose inadequate services merely pacify and distract, while domestic violence’s root causes remain unaddressed.

Focusing on “Domestic Violence Awareness” in October isn’t enough.  But it’s a start.  Making a “way out of no way” is definitely what it’s all about.

Bisexuals were visible and vocal at invitation-only White House meeting

Posted on October 7th, 2013 by Loraine Hutchins

Washington DC  —  9.23.13

If you knew bisexuals experience rape, partner violence, and stalking more than any other segment of our sexual orientations, would you keep silent?  If you were offered a national platform to give voice to their stories, could these sad statistics be revealed without perpetuating the many hateful stereotypes about bisexuals? 

I asked myself these questions as I prepared to join a contingent of 33 bisexual activists from around the country who were invited to speak with key members of the Obama Administration on September 23, 2013, known for almost 15 years as “Celebrate Bisexuality Day.”  This was a significant opportunity on an auspicious day!

Ellyn Ruthstrom, President, Bisexual Resource Center, and Faith Cheltenham, President, BiNet USA, mobilized 33 bi activists to meet with Obama Administration officials.

For the first time ever, bi leaders were going to be very visible and their voices would be heard by public officials who make policies that affect us all.

With about one month to prepare, we divided into small, issue-focused groups and got to work preparing talking points on policy issues. My group’s mission was to cover domestic and intimate partner violence experienced by bisexuals.  Others spoke on bullying and hate crimes, health, HIV/AIDS, employment and more. It was challenging to break the silence on domestic violence, while protecting the survivors’ anonymity and respecting their dignity.

Like the old gospel song says, we need to make “a way out of no way” to help all people feel valued and respected; to be safely visible while being bisexual.

After immersing ourselves in piles of research reports and assessing the state of domestic violence advocacy in this country, we realized that we needed to bring those hidden, invisible bisexual survivor voices directly into that Old Executive Office Building conference room. So we read brief excerpts from their stories.

When one battered woman from Chicago went looking for a safe place to live, she had not one, but two doors slammed in her face instead—because she was bisexual:

The shelter staff told me I didn’t belong there, that they only served women abused by male partners. They referred me to a new gay community anti-battering project. That group also turned me away, saying that I was bisexual, not gay, so they couldn’t help me…What I felt too angry and defeated to say back then was, ‘why can’t services be designed with bisexuals in mind?’ If we design services sensitive to bisexuals, they end up being responsive to both heterosexual and gay people, don’t they?”

A young woman from Texas told us that when she was 13 her sexual abuser labeled her a bisexual as a way to control and molest her before she understood what it meant.  I instantly felt shamed.”

We emphasized the disturbing and appalling statistics from the CDC’s 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey on victimization by sexual orientation:  61% for bisexual women as compared to 44% for lesbians and 35% for heterosexual women.  The violence stats for men were 37% for bisexuals compared to 26% for gay men and 29% for heterosexual men.

As an adult, an intimate partner used her bi orientation to manipulate and control her.  “…negative stereotypes about bisexuality helped spark his abuse of me, the trauma, complete isolation, and total dependence upon him at that time.” 

Our last anecdote came from an older Maryland woman who married young and had several children. “My husband knew about my bi orientation before we married. It was not an issue,” she told us. “…soon after our marriage, he began to psychologically abuse me… I resolved to finish college so that I could have the self-sufficiency to leave him. In my senior year, he launched a custody battle; using my bi orientation to imply I was an unfit mother…I survived this trip through hell, but still have the scars. It feels much safer to pass as heterosexual.  Even today, a bisexual orientation can still be used as a weapon.”

Why do many bisexuals opt to remain invisible?  We distributed a Massachusetts social service group’s brochure that reads, “Does Your Partner Blame It on Your Bisexuality?”  We covered the findings of a Seattle group’s[i] research: “shelters are simply not accessible; lesbian and bisexual women experience pernicious problems in their stays, and for almost every confidential shelter… gender-variant people and bisexual and gay men are explicitly ineligible for services.”

We emphasized the disturbing and appalling statistics from the CDC’s 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey on victimization by sexual orientation:  61% for bisexual women as compared to 44% for lesbians and 35% for heterosexual women.  The violence stats for men were 37% for bisexuals compared to 26% for gay men and 29% for heterosexual men.

At the White House roundtable, I wanted to implore our government and our society to do the impossible: create/defend/empower humane solutions to domestic violence…to not stigmatize or ignore bisexual victims…to not blame depression, suicide, addiction, and workplace problems on people just for BEING bisexual.  

Bisexuals were well-represented at the White House roundtable by our group of intrepid bi advocates.

Last month’s meeting was both a challenge and an honor to speak with high-level government officials on behalf of bisexual women and men.  As a long-time Washingtonian and bisexual advocate, I totally understand the irony of lobbying for better treatment from the federal government, yet not holding our collective breath; of learning to celebrate bisexual pride in the midst of sorrow; of crafting anthems of resistance and insistence despite our fears. 

Like the old gospel song says, we need  to make  “a way out of no way” to help all people feel valued and respected; to be safely visible while being bisexual.

Special thanks to the members of our bi roundtable team on Domestic and Intimate Partner Violence: Heron Greenesmith, Gary North, Chiquita Violette, Morgan Goode and Lindasusan Ulrich.

[i] From Connie Burke’s 2008 speech to an ABA group on LGBT domestic violence issues.

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