Celebrating the 'B' in LGBT: A history of Bisexual Awareness Week

The bisexual flag, pictured above, was created by Michael Page, a co-founder of Bisexual Awareness Week. (Matt Buck/Flickr)

What do Freddie Mercury, “Orange is the New Black” and the “gay, straight or lying” myth all have in common? They’re all wrapped up in the issues of bi-erasure and pride as part of Celebrate Bisexuality Day, held every Sept. 23 for the last 16 years.

CBD, now accompanied by Bisexual Awareness Week, was established in 1999 by BiNet USA former president Wendy Curry, bisexual pride flag designer Michael Page and activist Gigi Raven Wilbur. The day, chosen to align with bi-icon and Queen vocalist Freddie Mercury’s birth month, was created to recognize an identity that is often dismissed by both the straight and LGBT communities, Wilbur said.

“Ever since the Stonewall rebellion, the gay and lesbian community has grown in strength and visibility. The bisexual community also has grown in strength but in many ways we are still invisible,” Wilbur told the Huffington Post. “I, too, have been conditioned by society to automatically label a couple walking hand in hand as either straight or gay, depending upon the perceived gender of each person.”

Sixteen years later, the ranks of visible bisexual Americans have swelled considerably to include Megan Fox, Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong, Carrie Brownstein of “Portlandia,” and rapper Azealia Banks, just to name a few. Nickelodeon also created an unexpected space for bisexuality in mainstream media when “Legend of Korra’s” female leads ended the series as an established couple, a groundbreaking decision in children’s television. That doesn’t mean the portayal of biseuxality in pop culture, which often dismisses it as a trendy or “just a phase” in young adults, is without its issues.

Netflix juggernaut “Orange is the New Black” has received conflicting criticism and praise for its presentation of sexuality in women’s prisons. While some have accused the depiction of Piper as a former lesbian contributing to the larger issue of bi-erasure, others have applauded its willingness to forgo labels in examining the sexuality of its cast.

The varying opinions aside, there are plenty of concrete issues facing the bisexual community in 2015. The Movement Advancement Project (MAP) reported that, despite making up 52 percent of the LGB community, only 28 percent of bisexuals are out to friends and family compared to over 70 percent of gay men and lesbians.

“We fly under most people’s radar,” said Curry to the Huffington Post. “As a result, many people are isolated and the stereotypes remain unchallenged.”

This relative invisibility – particularly for bisexual men, who are often associated with HIV/AIDS and most often targeted by the “gay, straight or lying” myth – contributes to a 5.9 to 6.3 times higher rate of suicide attempts and ideation in the population, according to the San Francisco Human Rights Commission. Additionally, the MAP report found that almost half of bisexual men and women have experienced rape or other sexual violence in their lifetime.

Celebrate Bisexuality Day, and Bisexual Awareness Week as a whole, is about bringing attention to the unsettling realities of life as the “B” in LGBT, and how far we’ve come since Curry, Page and Wilbur decided to do something about it.

The UConn Rainbow Center will be holding a panel discussion on Bisexuality and Pansexuality Wednesday, Sept. 23 at 12 p.m. This will be followed by the weekly Between Women and Among Men discussion groups, at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., respectively. Members of the LGBT community and allies can also tweet using #biweek to show their support.


Kimberly Armstrong is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at kimberly.armstrong@uconn.edu.