New Beginnings

I’ve blogged before that here in the north land I do not think of January as a time of new beginnings. However, Sunday was a pretty big beginning. I’ve been an active member of Bisexual Organizing Project (BOP) for a while now and Sunday I was elected to a two-year term as chair of the board of directors.

This is a pretty big deal. Sometimes I loose sight of how much because I’ve been hanging around, watching the sausage being made and loosing sight of the bigger picture. Nothing like an annual meeting presentation to put it in perspective.

The 2013 BOP board (including me) wrote a new Strategic Plan for 2014 – 2019 that will take us to the next level of being a resource for the bisexual community. Our revised vision statement is:

Build, serve and advocate for an empowered bisexual, pansexual, fluid, queer, and unlabeled (bi*) community to promote social justice.

I have on good authority that we already have the largest budget of any 501(c)(3) in the country that is devoted primarily to serving the bisexual community.  We host the largest and longest running conference by, for and about bisexuals and our allies in the United States: the BECAUSE conference. Although our primary program focus is serving the Upper Midwest, BECAUSE and our work with other organizations gives us a national impact. We host a bi-annual, international conference for individuals researching bisexuality called BiReCon USA. Plus all the events we exhibit at, recurring social events we host and educational resources we provide. So BOP is kind of a big deal.

But here’s the secret. I love the idea of being chair because I want to empower our board and our committees to go out and make a difference. BOP has great programs, plans for more great programs and so many ways to connect bisexual folks with their community. We have lots of opportunities to get involved and I’m excited to connect people with what excites them. Leading, organizing, volunteering or attending, all of these things are important ways to be a part of our community. Community doesn’t just happen, it happens when people show up.

Last week I took part in a conversation on Fliponymous’ blog that started out about labels and ended with a discussion of community. You’ll find it in the comments of his most recent blog post. Sometimes it felt like Fliponymous and I were just not connecting with Saul. In the end I think we all saw where the breakdown of communication was. Saul has found his personal support among friends and family and that was enough for him. Fliponymous and I are working on the next layer out: community. Friends and family are really important and their support is invaluable. But when you want to change the world around you, you need to work with your community. That’s where BOP comes in: building community, educating allies and potential allies; researching bisexuals and our community so we can educate even more; being present and visible to combat bi-phobia and bi-erasure; being seen so that people struggling with their sexual identities can see that there are other people out there who feel the same way they do. Plus, BOP’s social events are great ways to expand your circle of supportive friends by providing a way to meet people who “get it” about being bi.

So come on down. Check out our Facebook page and get information about our recurring events. Wander over to meetup.com to see our member-driven events. Our website is under renovation right now due to some technical issues, but bookmark it, we’ll be back to our normal helpful, resource self soon.

Of course, I’ll be blogging about the journey I just started with my fellow board members. I’m still grinning like a fool when I think about what’s coming next.

Getting Too Comfortable

Yesterday I had my nose rubbed in one of my greatest challenges as an activist: getting too comfortable. And it happened twice!

The first was when I read the NY Times article about bisexuals that is going around. At first I felt like it was pretty good. They got some of it right and even quoted someone recognized by our community as a leader. Then I read my friend Fliponymous’ blog. I agree with every word he said. He’s totally right. I was focused on what the article did right and how much better it was then what we normally see. I was not seeing how it compared to what it should have been. I had gotten too comfortable again.

I am hopelessly optimistic. It shows up in how I have lived with depression for 30 years, how I manage money and my primary interests as an activist. It is everywhere in my life and no where more likely to trip me up then in holding people accountable to a higher standard. I look at what they did right and I’m proud of them. That is not enough. So I thank people like Flipanymous for pushing me out of my comfort zone.

The second was a little more complicated. Last night my therapist and I reviewed recent events. He talked about how far I’d come on creating boundaries and taking control of situations that used to upset me. Then he said, “And now you are taking on something that is so much harder, I just want to acknowledge how much harder this is.”

My first thought was it wasn’t harder. It didn’t feel harder, it didn’t upset me as much and I didn’t worry about it as much as I had those other things that I was doing so well. We wrapped up and I kept turning it over in my head. He’s usually right about these things, so why didn’t it feel harder?

I was definitely not comfortable when I realized it wasn’t feeling hard or scary or challenging because when things get really hard, I stop paying any attention to how I’m feeling. I focus on logic, other people’s needs or other ways to discuss things that don’t give any weight to my feelings about the situation. I don’t use my feelings as a reason something should change. It’s a habit I thought I had pretty much gotten rid of, or at least gotten better at noticing! And yet, there it was, sitting right in the middle of a big nasty problem, muddying the waters and reducing my chances of a successful resolution.

As I get older more of my energy is directed toward life stuff: raising children, maintaining a house, being a good wife and a good employee. In all those things, being comfortable can be good when it means things are going smoothly. However, when I put on my activist hat, I find myself needing to spend time with people whose passion can challenge my ideas and whose methods I may find uncomfortable. I need to stay in an uncomfortable space so I question my worldview and I strive to understand other people’s worldviews, where my privileges are challenged and I learn how to be a better ally and activist. That is how I know I am still working to improve the world around me…and myself.