It matters for so many reasons, but for me personally, it matters because my bisexuality is such a fundamental part of who I am. It matters because bisexuality, pansexuality, asexuality, and other non-monosexual (not gay/lesbian or straight) identities are still too often rendered invisible even in queer spaces, are still treated as a “phase”, as immature or somehow flawed.
It matters because visibility is important.
I’ll pull together links and share them here later on, but for now…
Bi visibility matters because I have seen first-hand how much it hurts when we are not visible. I have been facilitating Possibilities Calgary Bi+ Community events since 2010, and in that decade, I have continued to hear stories of biphobia in medical and mental health support services, in workplaces, in families, and in intimate relationships. The effect of this (which is sometimes an erasure and invisibilizing, and sometimes a scrutinized hypervisibility) impacts the people in my communities.
The bi+ community includes intersections of race, gender, class, disability, neurodivergence, body size, substance use, sex work, parenthood, housing and food insecurity, under- and unemployment. At each of these intersections, there is further harm that happens as a result of the layering of biphobia on top of existing oppressive discourses such as white supremacy, fatphobia, ableism, transantagonism, and so many others.
Two years ago I wrote:
I am bisexual. My bisexuality challenges, destabilizes, disrupts and dismantles the binary of gay and straight. In the wake of the disruption there is space for new ways of being and knowing.
I am non-binary. Right there in the labeling of my gender is the challenge to the binary. My gender does all of the same rich disruptive work that my bisexuality does, just in the realm of gender rather than orientation.
I am also invisibly disabled. My chronic pain means that I am not normatively abled, but my body looks like it should be.
This identity, too, troubles the binary that suggests people are either abled or disabled, and challenges the idea that you can tell just by looking.
In the first year of my undergrad, I read Cyborgs Among Us: Performing Liminal States of Sexuality by Elizabeth Whitney.
She writes, ‘As long as oppositional binaries of sexuality exist between heterosexuality and homosexuality, those caught in the middle suffer as scapegoats for any issues that arise between the two… one cannot embody both aspects of a dualism – i.e., nature/culture, homosexuality/heterosexuality, etc., – for to do so would be to dispel the cultural myths which we have collectively embraced.’
Rereading the essay for this post, I don’t agree with everything in it. But sliding across these familiar words, I remember the way it felt to read about the potential for my identity to align with my politics in such a deep and meaningful way. It was a moment of intense euphoria. A moment of my body and identity feeling deeply right. In bisexual theory, I found myself and the self that I found was a self that I wanted. A self that I could love. A feminist cyborg self with the power to disrupt systems of harm. Amazing!
Later in the essay, Whitney writes, ‘Beyond binaries of sexuality, Hutchins and Kaathumanu warn that ‘building a bisexual movement without a multicultural, feminist perspective is disastrous… Bisexual liberation necessitates the recognition of not only the sexual dynamics among us but all the race and class dynamics that impact and affect ones sexual identity as well’.’
What this means to me is that bisexuality can, but will not automatically, be a liberatory theory for people beyond the white middle class. There are bisexual folks from every class, and race, and gender, of course. But just like queer theory, bisexual theory does not automatically include every class, and race, and gender. We have to make those choices explicitly and intentionally. We have to challenge the cultural myths which we have collectively embraced. All of them!
I love the binary smashing cyborgian parts of my identity.
There are a lot of theorists I’ve read since then who have deepened and expanded my understanding of both bisexuality as a theoretical position and also of myself as a bisexual.
I am so thankful for the theory that lets me see myself in the world, as a person with agency and the ability to challenge and disrupt the binaries that cause so much harm.
But I’m also thankful for the world that I am able to see myself in. Not everything is theory. I love theory, and I love my books and papers. But I also love sitting in the park with bi pride coloured make-up, with my sister in her own bi pride make-up. Bisexuality is one of many liberatory liminal identity theories, and I love the theory of that. But my life, as I live it, is its own liberatory liminal identity. And I love that, too.
Originally posted on Facebook Sept 2, 2018.
Bi+ Visibility Week matters, and posts about it matter, and events matter, and zines and articles and conversations matter, because even though our perspectives will change and grow and our contexts will shift and we won’t agree with our earlier selves or our earlier thoughts, still, these moments of euphoria upon seeing ourselves reflected matter.
This week matters.
And I would love to celebrate it with you. Hence, this post!
Although there have been quite a few posts all over my blog and social media in anticipation of this week, this post pulls together all of the upcoming events, so that you know where to find me and how to RSVP for the various events.
First, from now until the end of September 2020, I’m offering 23% off enrollment in An Unexpected Light. This is an online course in narrative therapy and speculative fiction, and it’s probably the best thing I’ve ever created. Find full details at this post, or just zip right over to Thinkific and enroll! Use code ‘jellyfish’ for that 23% discount. (Why 23%? Because Celebrate Bisexuality Day is on September 23, and I like things that are on theme.)
There will be a special new lesson released on September 23 to celebrate Bi+ Visibility Day.
The next announcement is the Ocean of Possibilities zine! I received submissions from eight contributors and I think it’s going to be lovely. I’ll update this page with a link, as well as creating a post for the zine itself, once it’s complete!
Now, on to the events.
Friday, September 18
Our first event is the Jellyfish Jam. This virtual dance party will be happening on Friday, September 18 from 8-10 pm mountain time. You are welcome to join from anywhere in the world, and there is no expectation that you’ll either be dancing the whole time or that you’ll have your camera on. This is an all-ages dance party, and will be hosted on Zoom. You can register for the event here. There is no cost to attend.
Saturday, September 19
The Seeing and Being Seen panel on Visibility and Care will be happening on September 19, from 1-2:30 pm mountain time. Panelists Osden, Jane, Pedrom, and Crystal will be talking about what it means to be visible, why it matters, and how we can care for ourselves and each other. Find their bios and more details about the panel in this post, or just email me to RSVP! This event will be hosted in GoToMeeting, and I’ll send you the link when you RSVP. There is no cost to attend.
The September meeting of the Shiny! speculative writing group will be happening on Saturday, September 19 from 4-6 pm mountain time. This writing group meets once a month to write speculative fiction together, and our work bridges genres and styles – these writing meet-ups, which have been happening in GoToMeeting since the pandemic started, are consistently encouraging, inspiring, and welcoming. Our Bi+ Visibility Week special event will include writing prompts that step into the liminal spaces that bi+ identities open up. Although you do not need to be bi+ to participate, this event is specifically in celebration of non-monosexual queer identities. Email me to RSVP and receive the link. There is no cost to attend.
Wednesday, September 23
Our final event is the Pride Jellyfish Paint Night on September 23 from 6-8 pm mountain time, on Bi+ Visibility Day / Celebrate Bisexuality Day itself!
This virtual craft event will be hosted in GoToMeeting, and there is no cost to attend. You can join us from anywhere in the world! For participants in Calgary, I have 15 craft packs (with thanks to Kensington Art Supplies for the discount on materials!) that include:
One canvas board
Two paint brushes
Small paint jars in the following colours:
A copy of the Ocean of Possibilities zine
A set of bi+ pride postcards
There is no cost to attend this event. RSVP by emailing me, and let me know whether you need a craft pack! Craft packs can be picked up in SW Calgary, and if you need help getting a pack, let me know and I will do my best to arrange delivery.
Keep an eye on this page for further posts and announcements.
These prompts, which expand on our jellyfish theme, might be helpful.
If you’re having trouble getting started, I would suggest reading through these questions and prompts and picking the one that brings a thought to mind most easily. Then set a timer for 15 minutes and write. Try not to edit yourself as you go, just let the words flow! You can edit afterwards.
If you love what you’ve written, awesome! Keep going on that track.
If you don’t love it, that’s okay! Pick another question or prompt, or take another crack at the one that first drew your attention.
(Keep in mind that you do not need to stick to a jellyfish or ocean theme – this was just a fun theme I went with this year. The zine will include all kinds of writing and themes.)
Jellies have been around since before the dinosaurs, and our communities have also always been around.
What community do you identify as belonging to, or being part of?
Do you know the history of that community?
When did you first learn that there was a community that shared your bisexual, pansexual, asexual, or otherwise non-monosexual orientation?
What experiences have you had in these communities?
Have you felt welcome in queer communities, either communities of shared orientation or other queer communities? What has contributed or stood in the way of feeling welcome in these communities?
Write a story about a bi+ person in history. (This could be in any genre.)
Jellies are found in every ocean, and in every part of the ocean, and our communities are also found everywhere.
Our bi+ communities overlap with trans communities, fat communities, Black, Brown and Indigenous communities, disabled communities, poor communities, substance using communities, sex working communities, and every other community. What overlaps exist in your bi+ experience?
Are there places you didn’t expect to find bi+ community, but then they were there?
Write a story about a bi+ person in an unexpected location, such as the moon, the bottom of the ocean, or a space station. (This could be in any genre, but my love of speculative fiction is certainly present in this prompt!)
Jellies can be hard to see because they blend in, and our communities can be hard to see, too.
Have you experienced a sense of invisibility, or erasure when it comes to your bi+ identity? What was the effect of this?
Have you experienced being seen in your bi+ identity? What did that visibility make possible?
What do you wish people knew about bi+ experience, that tends to get lost when we are blended into our contexts (such as the discourses that flatten us down to “spicy straight” or “gay/lesbian lite”)?
Where would you like to see more bi+ representation?
Write a story about blending in. (This could be in any genre.)
Write a story about not blending in. (This could also be in any genre!)
Jellies are resilient and they survive in so many different contexts, and our communities are also resilient, and survive in many different contexts.
What skills of survival have you learned as a bi+ person, and in bi+ communities?
What are some of the obstacles that you have faced?
What are some of the skills of resilience that you have developed as a bi+ person, and in bi+ communities?
What is the history of your skills of resilience and survival – where did you learn them, and who supports you in them?
Write about your “care toolkit” – the skills and resources you use to care for yourself and others.
Write a story about bi+ survival. (This could be in any genre.)
Some jellies are bioluminscent, creating their own light, and so do our communities – bi+ communities have been creating queer-inclusive spaces for generations, including Brenda Howard and the first Pride March!
Has there been a time when you’ve “created your own light” for yourself or others – a time when you have held out against the gloom, or when you have offered hope to someone else?
Has there been a time when another member of a bi+ community offered light and hope to you?
Who in your life, now or in the future or in the past, would you want to create light and hope for?
Who in your life knows that you are holding onto hope or possibility?
What allows you to be bioluminescent?
Write a story about being a light in the gloom. (This could be in any genre.)
Write a story about finding a light in the gloom. (This could be in any genre.)
And if the idea of finding light in the gloom appeals to you, you can use code ‘jellyfish’ from now until the end of September 2020 for 23% off An Unexpected Light, in celebration of Bi+ Visibility Day on September 23, 2020.
The zine is only the first of the Bi+ Visibility Week events!
There is also a virtual video dance party on Friday Sept 18 from 8-10 pm MDT (please RSVP for details – we’re still figuring out exactly how it will work but it’s going to be super fun). RSVP at the FB event – https://www.facebook.com/events/313322403260174 or send me a message.
And a panel on visibility and care on Saturday Sept 19 from 1-2:30 pm MDT. Watch for a blog post coming this weekend with full details.
And lastly, a virtual paint night on Bi+ Visibility Day, Wednesday Sept 23 from 6-8 pm MDT. Anyone can participate, and for folks in Calgary, I’m putting together craft packs with a canvas board, paint brushes, and paint. You can find details and RSVP in the FB event – https://www.facebook.com/events/1175049712880550.
Bi Visibility Week is coming up from September 16-23 and plans are coming together!
One small project is a little zine about our queer experiences, open to contributions from anyone who identifies as somehow non-monosexual (not gay or straight, attracted to something other than a single gender). This includes bisexual, pansexual, asexual, and a whole range of other queer folks.
Since all of the Possibilities Bi Visibility Week events have a bit of a jellyfish/ocean theme going on, consider the following possible prompts for your writing:
Jellies have been around since before the dinosaurs, and our communities have also always been around! Not like The Bis Before Time, but, you know.
Jellies are found in every ocean, and in every part of the ocean, and our communities are also found everywhere!
Jellies can be hard to see because they blend in, and our communities can be hard to see, too!
Jellies are resilient and they survive in so many different contexts, and our communities are also resilient, and survive in many different contexts!
Some jellies are bioluminscent, creating their own light, and so do our communities – bi+ communities have been creating queer-inclusive spaces for generations, including Brenda Howard and the first Pride March!
Although I am quite excited about the vast ocean of possibilities presented by this marine theme, that doesn’t mean you need to stick to the jelly theme at all. You can write about anything related to your bi+ experience. About presence and visibility and resilience. About connections and community (blooms of jellies, schools of fish). Write a short story, a poem, an essay. Draw a picture. Make a collage. Whatever you’d like!
Anything that is about non-monosexual experience is welcome, and I am especially interested in writing with some kind of focus on visibility (and all the pieces around it – invisibility, hypervisibility, conditional visibility).
Submissions must be received by September 13, 2020.
All contributors will receive a printed copy of the zine, and the zine will be available for free download on my website, with physical copies available for purchase (to cover the costs of printing and shipping). Submissions can emailed.
If you want support in the writing, you can attend the Warm Water Write-Along on Thursday, Sept 10 from 6-7:30 pm Mountain time. Message me to RSVP!
Image is a person sitting on a couch, watching tv. On the tv is a stick figure with the quote, “That’s what friends do, they stand by each other when there’s trouble. – Gabrielle.” Beside the tv is the name of the project, Zine: A Warrior Princess. The quote is from the show Xena: Warrior Princess, spoken by the character Gabrielle.
IMPORTANT NOTE! The deadline for submissions has been extended until there are enough to create the zine – hopefully end of July, 2020. The submissions that have come in so far are absolutely gorgeous. Be part of this project! Submissions so far include writing about Final Fantasy, Groot, and the musical episode of Buffy, Once More With Feeling. So good!
I’m ready to start working on my next zine project!
This one has the potential to be a little lighter, a little more playful.
This zine is about how pop culture is getting us through this time.
What is this zine about?
It’s about the lessons we’ve learned from our favourite tv shows, movies, comics, and books. It’s about how pop culture can invite us into an alternate world, and how these worlds have been safe and comforting spaces for us for many years.
It’s about the archetypes in the Princess Bride allowing us to see ourselves in a playful and generous light.
It’s about Buffy surviving a new apocalypse every season, and what hope that might offer for us as we face this particular apocalypse.
It’s about Steven Universe and She-Ra and Aang and Korra and Kipo and The Magicians and Elle Woods and Kamala Khan and Miles Morales and America Chavez and Kimberly Kane and Starbuck and Furiosa and Marge Gunderson and Elastica and Zoe Washburne and Veronica Mars and Minerva McGonagall and River Song and The Doctor and Jane Eyre and Phryne Fisher and Jo March and Alexander Hamilton (and Eliiiiiiiiiiiiiza) and Fem Shep and so many others, and it’s about how these characters, and the worlds they inhabit, the worlds they invite us into, make it more possible for us to get through the pandemic.
It’s also about pop culture personalities and how we navigate our relationships with celebrity (of whatever magnitude) in ways that make it more possible to get through the pandemic.
Prompts to get you started
What shows/books/comics/characters/etc are getting you through?
Are you re-engaging with old favourites or discovering new ones?
What are the gifts of these pop culture offerings? What skills have they taught you? What values have they nurtured in you? What hopes have they sparked? What comfort have they offered?
Where did you discover them? Does appreciation of these characters or worlds or creators connect you to a community?
Do you share these shows, books, characters with others?
What have they made possible in your life?
What have they made possible in your pandemic life?
I think this will be a fun project and I’m really excited about it!
When and how to submit
I’ll be accepting submissions until the end of June, and hoping to share the zine by the end of July.
I love the comic about how we are basically houseplants with complicated feelings, and it got me thinking about how isolation means we need to be succulents, able to survive and thrive in conditions of scarcity and intensity, and how fear also turns out lives into deserts, and how precarity does the same.
So, I thought we could use that metaphor, and make a little zine about what gets us through, and how we get each other through.
What are our skills of survival?
What are our strategies of mutual aid and collective action and care?
How are we keeping ourselves going, and what can we teach each other?
Many of us are in communities with generations-long histories of succulent lives in deserts of ableism, transantagonism, queerphobia, colonialism, white supremacy. Oppressed and targeted communities know the way forward.
So many folks responded to this invitation,
and what I imagined as a “little zine about what gets us through” is actually
over 90 pages of poetry, art, essays, and narrative projects. I am incredibly thankful
for these contributions, and honoured to have been able to bring them together
in this work.
Each contributor took the time and energy to create something that they shared with this project. This time and energy is precious, especially right now as we all deal with scarcity, precarity, uncertainty, and rapidly changing expectations and pressures.
There is abundance in these pages. Richness despite scarcity.
If you would like a printed copy of the zine, please get in touch for pricing. The PDF is available at no charge, and can be shared.
Tiffany Sostar. Canada. Finding Succulence and When Everyone is Flailing, It Kind of Looks Like Dancing (contributor) Tiffany Sostar is a narrative therapist, writer, editor, community organizer, and workshop facilitator. They collected and formatted the zine. This is their webpage! (My webpage? What even is authorial point of view in collective documents?!?!)
Brianna Sharpe. Canada. Neverlings Brianna Sharpe is a writer and parent. She writes beautiful, moving, well-researched articles for The Sprawl, among other places. Find her website here.
Kalina Wolska-Chaney. Canada. Little Rock and cat art. Kalina is a young writer and artist.
Sophie Cao. China. How a Wandering Cat Survived During the Coronavirus Outbreak and Dear World, Dear Friends. Sophie is a narrative practitioner in mainland China, and has been involved in projects for the Dulwich Centre. Dear World, Dear Friends formed the basis of the Exchanging messages with Chinese narrative practitioners, which can be found here.
Lyn Janelle. Canada. Cat art. Lyn is a seamstress, artist, and crafter-of-all-sorts.
Neko. Canada. Huohuo and Momo Neko is a young writer and artist.
Agnieszka Wolska. Canada. A Pandemic Correspondence with a Challenging Presence and I am Tired of Sitting and When Everyone is Flailing, It Kind of Looks Like Dancing (contributor) Agnieszka Wolska is a narrative therapist and parent in Calgary, Alberta. You can find her therapy work, Calm at the Centre Therapy, here.
Bryan J. McLean. Canada [ Lights in a Dark Landscape ] Bryan McLean is a poet, musician, writer, and artist. You can find his website here.
Anupa Mehta. India. Toolkits For Trying Times. Anupa Mehta is a narrative therapist and workshop facilitator in India. Her website is here.
Josiah Ditoro. Canada. Become the Borg of Your Favourite Things Josiah is a writer, disability justice advocate, and one of the engines behind the Calgary Wrimotaurs, Calgary’s NaNoWriMo group. You can find the Calgary NaNo site here.
Rei. Canada. Allow Yourself to Start Again and Cheerio Upside Down Rei is a writer, artist, and disability justice advocate in Calgary.
Lori Helfenbaum. Canada. A Pandemic Passover Haggadah and When Everyone is Flailing, It Kind of Looks Like Dancing (contributor) Lori is a narrative therapist in Calgary. You can find her website here.
Nicole Marie Burton and Hugh Goldring. Canada. Take Care: A Community Response to Covid-19. Nicole and Hugh run Ad Astra Comix and publish smart, funny, political comics. You can find their website here.
Hugh D.A. Goldring. Canada. Anarchism and Pandemics
Kay Fidler. Canada. Sober in Isolation and Novel: A Pandemic Love Poem Kay is a Metis writer and perfumer in Calgary. They are working on a graphic novel, and it’s going to be amazing!
Beatrice Aucoin. Canada. Good Leadership in the Time of Corona Beatrice is a writer and cat sitter in Calgary. You can find her site, Cat Mom Calgary, here.
Callan Field. Canada. Mixed media pair Callan is a visual artist in Calgary. Callan’s website is here.
Anisha Uppal-Sullivan. UAE. Cat art Anisha is an artist in the UAE.
And the narrative practitioners group! We each contributed to the conversations that formed the basis of When Everyone is Flailing, It Kind of Looks Like Dancing Tiffany Sostar Agnieszka Wolska Lori Helfenbaum Joel Glenn Wixson (see his website here) Amy Druker (see her website here) Mim Kempson (see her website here) Sonia Hoffman Rosie Maeder Julia Scharinger Marisa Barnhart J. L.
This isn’t new, but somehow I had never put a link into a blog post!
I’m sharing it here now, in honour of Trans Day of Visibility.
Last year, my beloved colleague Rosie and I collaborated on a project – we met with non-binary youth in Adelaide, SA, and also with non-binary youth in Calgary, Alberta. Then we created a collective document bringing together the insider knowledges shared in those conversations.
This collective document has since been published in the International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work, and you can download the PDF here.