The week following Bi-Visibility Day on Sunday, Sept. 23 is widely referred to as Bisexuality Awareness Week. First celebrated in 1999, a year after the Rainbow Center at the University of Connecticut was founded, Bi-Visibility Day and Bisexuality Awareness Week dates differ from place to place, but overall the week is recognized as a time to focus specifically on the bisexual community and the challenges they face.
Individuals identifying as bisexual make up the largest portion of the LGBTQ+ community. According to Rainbow Center Program Coordinator Julia Anderson, people often find this statistic surprising.
“It’s not an identity that people talk about as much,” Anderson said. “When talking about the LGBT community overall, people are usually talking about gays and lesbians or transgender folks.”
Perhaps because this identity is often overlooked, there is less representation in the media and individuals will often decide not to label themselves as bisexual to escape stereotyping. Visibility and representation, which is addressed more specifically with Bi-Visibility Day, strives to combat these issues, make bisexuality more apparent, give individuals a sense of community and fight stereotypes.
“Anytime that someone is visual it helps to break down the stigma,” Anderson said. “If people don’t know anyone who identifies within a community, (it is) likely stereotypes and other perspectives can really run amuck.”
Anderson helped define what counts as visibility by saying that it’s really just knowing people in your life who identify as bisexual, or as any other identity, whether seeing them on television or in classes, knowing that there are other people out there who understand your experiences and can speak to their own as well.
“Representation is important,” said third-semester physiology and neurobiology major Carissa Aekins. “We want everyone on campus to feel included.”
In addition to challenges of visibility and awareness, the bisexual community experiences poorer physical health, even compared to the rest of the LGBTQ community, which is another challenge to be broken down.
Typically, bisexuality is defined as attraction to both females and males, although there has been a recent push to broaden this community by using terms such as bi+ or nonmonosexual. These terms strive to be more inclusive, incorporating the pansexual community and fluidity into discussions.
“Bisexuality is often assumed to be one thing or another,” said third-semester costume design major Alex Ose. “Making the campus community more aware of the range of sexualities and preferences within bisexuality is so important.”
In order to acknowledge Bisexuality Awareness Week, the Rainbow Center is hosting an event called Bisexuali-TEA this Friday, in which coffee and tea will be provided and there will be a time and a space for bi+ community members to meet and hold a discussion.
“It’s something that’s really important for us to foster those kinds of spaces where people can find peers that identify similarly to them so they don’t feel alone, if nothing else,” Anderson said.
More consistently, the Rainbow Center is also trying to kickstart a program in which individuals with specific identities can meet and hold discussions. While they used to have weekly discussion groups available for different identities, they’re trying to switch over to a Student Organization format, with advisors from the center and students leading weekly discussions.
Once this program is up and running there will be a forum for students to discuss bisexuality and other identities in greater depth and more often, instead of just when identities are being nationally recognized, not that this should undermine the idea that setting time aside for an identity is important to awareness.
“Remembering the history of the fight for LGBTQ+ rights has to include bisexuality, just like it has to include recognizing trans, lesbian, gay, queer and anyone who identifies on the spectrum,” Ose said. “We all deserve a time to be celebrated.”
Alex Houdeshell is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.