Editors’ Note: This story is a part of the #BiStories project, the first national survey exploring the intersections of bisexual Americans and the need for comprehensive non-discrimination protections. The #BiStories Project is proudly led by BiNet USA and Freedom for All Americans. Learn more about the #BiStories Project here – and click here to add your own.
As a sociologist and writer with a rich history of activism on behalf of bisexual people, people of color, and Native people, Victor J. Raymond, PhD, knows how important it is for all people to come together and work toward full equality for all. And this week, during Bisexual Awareness Week, it’s the perfect time for people to reflect on – and begin to change – their attitudes about bisexual people.
“Bisexual Awareness Week is important for me, because it is one time of the year when an important part of my identity – my bisexuality – is given attention and celebrated,” he said. “But just like Native American Heritage Month – or any other date on the calendar dedicated to a group which has been historically subordinated – it is not enough to celebrate on just those dates, but to remember that group all year long.”
Victor previously served on the board of BiNet USA, and he is a founding committee member of the BECAUSE Bisexual Empowerment Conference.
Through those experiences – and his primary field of study – he has gained significant expertise about the many disparities that bisexual people face.
“As a sociologist, I am aware that health outcomes for bi+ (bisexual, pan, fluid, and queer) people are often worse than for other people in the general population, including stress, depression, greater incidental illness, and the like,” he explained.
That’s why he knows how important it is for bisexual people to be a key part of the conversation around the need for employment, housing, and public accommodations non-discrimination protections covering sexual orientation and gender identity. “One immediate effect that the lack of protections against discrimination creates is a greater pressure for all LGBTQ people to remain closeted,” he said. “But this pressure to hide has a specific effect on bi+ people – when bi+ people feel unsafe to disclose their sexual identity, they are judged more harshly for it than closeted gay men and lesbian women. In particular, this judgment is part of justifying the conditional (rather than complete) acceptance of bisexuality and pansexuality as legitimate parts of the larger queer political movement.”
Victor has been an activist working on bisexual issues for decades – but in 1993 he specifically took a stand for non-discrimination protections in Minnesota. As the co-chair of the People of Color Caucus of “It’s Time, Minnesota,” Victor testified before the Minnesota Legislature as lawmakers began consideration on a bill providing protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
“I testified that my people – the Lakota Sioux – did not have the same understanding of sexuality and gender as the white community, to a packed room,” Victor wrote in a blog post on the BiNet USA website about the need for bisexuals to lead a truly intersectional movement. “As state senators listened to my testimony and the testimony of other Native people and people of color, it was the culmination of a long, hard, bitter struggle by the LGBTQ communities and their allies to ensure that bigotry and discrimination would be stopped.”
The long campaign to pass the state protections ended when Republican Governor Arne Carlson signed the bill into law, making Minnesota the eighth state to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, and the very first state to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.
In that blog post, Victor calls for an intersectional movement that represents people’s many different identities. He illustrated this later, saying, for example, that the pushback he has received for his sexual orientation is similar to the questions he has been subjected to about his racial identity. “I have often faced discrimination from gay and lesbian and transgender people, who act as gatekeepers or drive-by attempts to invalidate my identity. Among straight people, I have been treated more as an exotic animal than anything else – especially among straight men. This runs parallel to some of the discrimination I face as a biracial Native American/White person – I have encountered discrimination from whites and from people of color who did not recognize my Native identity as valid. Having the clear comparison between my racial and my sexual identity has made it easier for me to remain relatively serene when I get discriminated against on either basis.”
The #BiStories project, led by BiNet USA and Freedom for All Americans, elevates the voices and stories of bi+ people – specifically centering on the important policy changes we need to see across the United States. Sharing these stories is an integral first step.
“It is vital for bi+ people to speak out about their communities, because bisexuality has been erased, trivialized, given short shrift, or discriminated against for a very long time,” Victor said. “Worse, those people who treat bisexuality with disdain or hate often do so with the assertion that bisexuality is either not real, or not worthy of respect. … It is up to us – to bi+ people – to step up, step out and speak up in our own defense and the defense of others who are not monosexual.”