Tiggy Upland tackles bisexual troubles, empowers bisexual students

Tiggy Upland shares wisdom from her book, "Tiggy Upland and The Wild Deuce" in a lecture at the Rainbow Center on September 20, 2018. The lecture covered topics including tips for bisexual coming out and intersectional identity (Judah Shingleton)

Dressed as a watermelon and with a crown of fruit upon her head, Tiggy Upland brought energy and excitement to her Rainbow Center lecture entitled “Redefining Bisexuality 101.” A colorful character, Tiggy Upland is actually a persona created by Jen Bonardi, who gave the first half of the talk as Tiggy Upland and the second half as herself. Bonardi has used the persona of Tiggy Upland to create a webcomic, run a blog, and write an advice column, all of which she mentioned in her talk.

Upland/Bonardi herself is bisexual, and her lecture focused on issues that bisexual people might face when coming out, as well as other challenges facing the bisexual community.

Throughout the presentation, Upland read advice queries and the answers that she’d given from her book “Advice from a Wild Deuce: The Best of Ask Tiggy.” To one advice-seeker who questioned what her own sexuality was, Upland responded encouraging this person to think of sexuality as a favorite shirt.

“‘Do you have one favorite shirt your whole life?’” Upland asked. “‘When it’s not working for you anymore, you get a new one. The two most important things about this shirt are that you like it and it fits. Only you can decide these things.’”

Upland’s point was that an individual’s idea of their own sexuality can change with time, and this is ok. Sometimes people struggle with how to label themselves, she indicated, but only an individual can truly decide what is right for them.

She then gave some tips about coming out as a bisexual person. Having a specifically bisexual support network, explaining to people what bi means to you, and opening up a dialogue were among her suggestions. Additionally, Upland touched on the problem of having to possibly come out multiple times to the same person. Because some people may think that if a bi person dates someone of the opposite gender, that person might not be bisexual anymore, Upland encouraged bisexual people to drop occasional reminders (for example, commenting on which actors/actresses one finds attractive). Furthermore, she encouraged people to not engage in conflict when a loved one may suggest that bisexuality is simply a “phase” or that the bisexual person is “confused.”

“It is good to say ‘I understand that you’ve heard many stereotypes about bisexuals, but I’m not a stereotype. I’m me. And I’m the person you’ve always known, and feel free to come to me with questions,’” Upland said. “I would rather people ask me things about my sexuality.

For the second half of the lecture, Jen Bonardi spoke as herself instead of Upland. Bonardi expounded on issues that bisexual people face, as well as how to get involved in causes that help bisexual people. She mentioned how biphobia within the LGBTQ+ community sometimes causes bisexual people to think that there is no place for them, as well as how minority groups competing with other minority groups only hinders real progress. Among her tips to young people to remedy these problems were applying to be on executive boards of organizations that help this community, helping the most vulnerable within the community (for the bisexual community, this is those with health problems) and attending conferences.

“I never let a lack of talent or intelligence or common sense or money or really anything stop me in life,” Bonardi said of creating a place for herself in the world. “You just gotta plow forward even though you have no business plowing forward.”

Students enjoyed the presentation and spoke highly of Upland/Bonardi.

“I thought it was really awesome,” Annastasia Martineau, a fifth-semester psychology major and women’s, gender and sexuality studies minor, said. “I think it’s so good that we have things like this. Even if it isn’t the community that you identify in, it’s still really important to have it be presented.”

Many in the audience connected with Upland/Bonardi’s energy and said that it helped them to understand this important topic.

Even if it isn’t the community that you identify in, it’s still really important to have it be presented

“She was very fun and energetic, which you know, it’s easy to absorb that energy and also feel kind of excited and happy about what she’s presenting about,” Sophia Tramuta, a seventh-semester animal science major said. “I think she did a really great job bringing the energy, making it exciting.”


Stephanie Santillo is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at stephanie.santillo@uconn.edu.