By Laura Latzko, Sept. 11, 2014.
A Phoenix-based blogger and novelist is using Celebrate Bisexuality Day as a platform to bring visibility to bisexual issues and people in Arizona and beyond.
A.J. Walkley, BiNet USA boardmember and bisexual activist and advocate, has been working to raise awareness about bisexuality through dialogue around Bisexual Awareness Week, during which Celebrate Bisexuality Day takes place.
Celebrate Bisexuality Day — also known as Bi Visibility Day, CBD and Bisexual Pride Day — was started by a trio of activists in 1999 and is observed Sept. 23.
According to Walkley, who participated in a roundtable on bisexual issues at the White House last year, Celebrate Bisexuality Day is important because of the need to give attention to bisexual issues and bring bisexual people together on local and national levels.
“The fact that the White House held a roundtable is an historic event because our community has been so ignored and truly invisible for so long,” she said. “To have that type of stage to start a national conversation about the issues surrounding bisexuality, from healthcare to domestic issues, it is important that this conversation has now begun.”
Walkley said issues such as bullying, discrimination, myths of promiscuity and domestic violence affect members of the bisexual community at greater rates than other members of the LGBT and straight communities.
Each year the event becomes more widespread, thanks to social media and BiNet USA’s partnership with organizations such as GLAAD, the Bisexual Resource Center, BiRequest and the Center for Culture, Sexuality and Spirituality.
GLAAD Media Strategist Alexandra Bolles said during the week, bisexual individuals and supporters have chance to share their stories and pictures, giving voice and a face to bisexual issues and identities.
The segment of the community who identifies with more fluid identities such as “bisexual” or “pansexual” is often misrepresented and underrepresented, Bolles said, especially in the media.
“It is a great opportunity to bring attention to those people who are in the LGBT community but don’t identify as gay or lesbian,” Bolles said. “A major issue in the bi community is proving that bi people exist and have feelings and can’t be defined by other people.”
In recent years, the coverage of bisexual people and issues has increased, with social media campaigns, such as The Advocate’s #27BiStories and the Twitter-based hashtag #whatbilookslike.
This year, on Celebrate Bisexuality Day, the Human Rights Campaign will release “Supporting and Caring for Our Bisexual Youth,” a report that looks at the experiences and needs of bisexual youth, based on responses from 4,000 participants.
“Not only will people hear about a lot of the negative statistics surrounding bisexuals in terms of the higher rates of sexual assault, domestic violence, bullying, but also the really positive stories of love and acceptance from bisexuals and their loved ones as well,” Walkley said.
In her regular Huffington Post blog, Walkley has discussed the media’s representation of transgender and bisexual people, the different stigmas for male and females who identify as bisexual as well as her own coming out process.
“I came out when I was in college, and I never had any qualms about being vocal about it until I moved here,” Walkley said. “Now there are certain spaces where I do fear a little how people are going to perceive me and whether or not their prejudices will come forward in some way.”
As a result, Walkley has dedicated herself to being a spokesperson and establishing a bisexual community locally.
“I’m trying so hard to get other people to come out and be visible but at the same time, I can understand their fears and their concerns, and I wouldn’t want to put anyone in harm’s way,” Walkley said. “It’s such a personal decision to be out and to be vocal about it.”
She also hopes her work encourages other bisexual people to be out and vocal about their personal experiences.
“Having a day to not only stand up for ourselves individually and be proud of who we are but to see how many people out there around us are also bisexual, to really feel that we are not alone, is important,” she said.
For more information on Celebrate Bisexuality Day, visit september23.bi.org.