Loraine Hutchins shares with BSN her bisexual activism on what’s happening now and how we need to get equal representation in our community.
Loraine Hutchins is a bisexual activist, professor, and author, who is also involved in civil rights and social justice work. She is the author of Bi Any Other Name: Bisexuals Speak Out, which she co-authored with Lani Ka’ahumanu and several chapters and essays about bisexuality. She also teaches a class on lesbian, gay, bi and trans[gender] studies at Towson University, and a class on sexuality and women’s studies at Montgomery College. She has done local work with The Alliance for Multicultural Bisexuals and national work with BinetUSA, and has been an out bisexual activist — advocating for bisexual rights and bi visibility since the nineteen seventies.
She was recently honored by the Rainbow History Project in Washington DC, which keeps tracks of and archives the stories of BLGT people. Every two years they have an awards night when they honor DC Community Pioneers who’ve contributed to BLGT DC history. Not many out bisexuals have been honored, and it was great to see someone who has done so much [to be] honored for her hard work and also to see more bivisibility.
I caught up with Loraine and asked her what achievements she was recognized for and how was the ceremony. [What were] her thoughts on the growing acceptance of bisexuals in the BLGT community, and also how far we still have to go?
Here are some of her thoughts, reflections, and ideas:
“The Rainbow Project honored me for my books and organizational work. For years I’ve tried to speak up at local queer events, and I remember going to events in the 80’s where I was the only out bisexual there. I marched in the 1985 Gay and Lesbian march for equality before it was called LGBT as a bisexual contingent of one. I had a sign that says “peace to all closet bisexuals and to those already out” and I was riding a “bi”-cycle! I’m pretty sure some of the other people at the awards ceremony have had relationships with both genders, even though they don’t identify as bisexual. I hope my being there and being out has helped them to realize it’s alright to feel feelings for people of all genders. I don’t know if there will be any major news about the ceremony, but I personally love the Rainbow History Archives because I am into documentation and chronicling and history and I’ve seen this group struggle to survive and sustain itself over the years. Mark Meinke the founder got it affiliated with the DC historical society. That has helped because the city itself is helping to document the history and stories of gay, bi, and trans people. It’s a fascinating eclectic multiracial and multicultural collection and an interesting overlap of people you don’t often see mingling in DC, and that was refreshing to see.
As far as bi-visibility goes, every little thing helps. People who otherwise wouldn’t know about Rainbow History Project came to the awards ceremony because I was in touch with them. There was an overlapping of lots of communities and I loved that. There are people who came that I knew who where heterosexual, polyamorous — from the swinging community, public interest lawyers, and people who are active in the sexual liberation fields who are not necessarily queer identified, but have done some of their homework in understanding bisexuality better, because of my work in those areas. It’s always good for people to learn about other communities. Even my mom came! She was active in the nineteen nineties helping her church become a reconciling congregation. There were a lot of connections made between people. The bio that was written about me on the Rainbow Project website did a lot to educate people on some of the realities of being bisexual and how hard it is.
What came out of it concretely in one way I didn’t expect, was that I was there with Billy Jones – the only other out bisexual that I know, [who’s] ever been honored by theRainbow Project. He told me that a few days after the ceremony, he’d be testifying at the DC city council meeting on marriage equality and asked me if I would come and testify too. So there would be more than one out bisexual person there. I couldn’t make it but I did submit written testimony — which helped to show that bisexuals have concerns and interests in marriage equality issues too, just like lesbian and gay people do.
In some ways, the overall LGBT atmosphere has gotten friendlier for bisexuals, but I wouldn’t say that it has unqualifiedly. In my LGBT studies class recently I started talking about bisexuality and the stereotypes bisexual people face. My class is made up mostly of queer friendly straight people, some gay people, and a couple of bi people. I asked them what they had heard about bisexuals around campus, and they said things like “bisexuals are dirty and greedy.” They acknowledged that they thought it was a negative stereotype, but the fact was that the stereotypes are alive and they don’t seem to be hearing the same stereotypes about gays and lesbians. I was explaining to one student that there is more to biphobia than just homophobia — that we can be hated for “refusing to choose” or being “too sexual.” One student in particular didn’t know that under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, bisexuals are not welcome in the military just like homosexuals. So yes, it has improved, but we also still have a long way to go.
It was nice to see that the word bisexuality was mentioned by several speakers and organizers at the National Equality March, much more so than in 1993 and 2000, and that we had our own speakers. Even Cleve Jones mentioned us! I’m also seeing more acceptance for non-straight people in genera, in the younger generations of the straight world through people who sign up for my classes. There’s more of an openness to listen to the experiences of LGBT people. There is good change happening but it’s back and forth, and there’s so many other problems people are worried about right now. And when people are having a rough time that’s when they can fall back into patterns of hate and distrust of those who are different from them.”
Thanks and congratulations to Loraine Hutchins for being recognized for all the hard work on behalf of the bisexual community!