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.
“I think a lot of times, people such as myself – white conservatives from the South – are painted with a very broad brush,” Katie Joyner, a conservative Republican living in Lexington, South Carolina, said. “People assume we are all closed-minded, that we hate anything that goes against what society thinks we believe in – but I very much disagree with that perception. I was raised to not take everything at face value – to work, to debate, to have an open mind.”
This point often comes up when Katie talks about her strong, unwavering support for the bisexual community – especially since her sister, Miles, is a part of the bisexual and bi+ community. That means Miles has the potential to be attracted romantically, physically, or mentally to people of more than one sex and/or gender – not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.
Katie’s younger sister is such an important part of her life – they live two miles apart from each other, with Katie working in the nutrition department of a private hospital and Miles studying journalism in college. They watch TV together, hang out at football games, and learn from each other. “It’s not too terribly exciting,” Katie laughed. “We do pretty much whatever we need to do or want to do when we’re together.”
“Yes, I do identify very closely as a conservative,” Katie said. “But at the same time, people are people. I don’t think we have a right to tell someone who they can or can’t love. It is so hard to find someone who puts a smile on your face with just the thought of them, and it’s not our place to tell someone what’s wrong or what’s right.”
Coming out was not easy for Miles, and Katie watched the experience with concern about her parents’ lack of understanding.
Miles came out at a young age. “Honestly I don’t fully remember when or where she came out,” Katie said. “People often remember big events because they use it as a mark for when their lives drastically changed – but I don’t see Miles coming out in that way. I love her unconditionally, so learning that about her did not change one thing. She is my sister, and this was just one new part of her that I learned about. It didn’t affect how much I loved her, how much I respected her.”
In the conversation, Katie had a few questions for miles: “Are you still the person Mom and Dad raised us to be? Are you happy? Are you enjoying your life?’
“Yes,” “Yes,” and “Yes” were Miles’ responses.
“Then I don’t care,” Katie said. “I will always love you unconditionally. This doesn’t change or define who you are.”
“I think my support made it so that this was a bit easier,” Katie said. “I hope the feeling she got was that it was OK for her to be who she was. She didn’t have to hide. If she finds a woman who loves her and makes her a better person and makes her happy, I will be ecstatic, because my sister deserves that. And if it’s a guy, I’ll feel the same way. I’ve always wanted her to know that I just care that she’s happy. And from that point on, she and I had a closer relationship.”
Katie knows how important Miles’ bisexual identity is. Like lesbian, gay, and transgender people, many bisexuals take deep pride in their bisexual identity – it is a significant part of their lives and inner sense of self.
“It took Miles a long time to be OK with the fact that she was born bisexual – that she was attracted to both genders,” Katie said. “It took her a while to come into her own, but one day she was able to say, “This is who I am, so this is who I’m going to be.”
In 30 states, including in South Carolina, nondiscrimination laws protecting people from discrimination in employment, housing, and public spaces like restaurants and businesses do not cover discrimination based on sexual orientation. Bisexual people, therefore, are often vulnerable to discrimination. They often report being fired, passed over for a job, denied a promotion, or subjected to unique discrimination and harassment in their daily lives.
Katie explained that sharing those facts is important to her. “I have not personally had to endure discrimination but I have seen my sister endure it,” she explained. “And I’m becoming more aware of the reality of discrimination. My sister is researching these things, and through her Im becoming more and more aware of just how prejudiced most states are and how difficult it really is. If you’ve never been in that situation – or if you’ve never been a minority – you don’t think that things are that way. So I’m learning more and more of just how difficult that is, and that’s another reason why I’m so supportive.”
“I don’t think it’s fair for people to lack these basic protections,” Katie said. “Just because people are being themselves and living their lives, I don’t think they should suffer for it. I think it’s past due for that to change.”
Katie called on South Carolina – and every state – to pass basic legislation ensuring that no one faces discrimination because of who they are or who they love.
“It would make me happy and proud to see these protections come to South Carolina,” she said. “It would show me that we are more than our history. We are more than what the past has written us to be. It would show that we may be a very red state – but that doesn’t mean that we can’t move forward, that we can’t advance the rights of every single person that lives here.”
Katie represents the growing majority of young conservatives across the United States who strongly support LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination protections. There is no question that it is well past time for all Americans – including bisexual Americans – to be protected from discrimination equally under the law. It’s not a matter of liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat – it’s about fundamental fairness and equality.
“I’ll always be a conservative and I’ll always identify as a Republican,” Katie said. “But I don’t want to be painted with that broad brush – that I’m closed-minded, that I hate anyone who’s not straight, or that the only people who should be able to do anything are straight white people. … I want people here to look around say “Hey, discrimination is not right. This is not what we need to do. Let’s change this. Let’s make everything equal for everyone.”