THE EARLY DAYS
Bisexuals have been part of the modern Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights and Liberation Movement since at least the mid-1960s. For a variety of reasons bisexuals have also organized separately while continuing to be active in gay, lesbian and other progressive movements.
Throughout the 1970s while popular press articles focused on “bisexual chic” in the club scene and among celebrities such as Elton John, David Bowie and Patti Smith, bisexual groups formed in several large US cities signaling the birth of the modern Bisexual Civil Rights and Liberation Movement.
1966 – Stephen Donaldson (nee Robert Martin, 1946-1996) founds the Student Homophile League at Columbia University and New York University; in 1967 Columbia University is first in United States to officially recognize a gay student group.
1969-1970 – Brenda Howard (1946-2005) conceives and coordinates a one-month Stonewall Rebellion anniversary rally, and later, a one year march and celebration. This became the annual New York City Pride March that, in turn, spawned Pride Marches around the country and the world.
1972 – The National Bisexual Liberation Group forms in New York. Within three years, more than 5,500 members in 10 US chapters receive what is probably the earliest bisexual newsletter, The Bisexual Expression.
1975 – Bi Forum, a social, educational, and support group, forms in New York “to encourage awareness of bisexual issues in a non threatening and non judgmental environment.” At its peak in 1980, BiForum has more than 200 active members and a mailing list of several thousand.
1976 – The San Francisco Bisexual Center, the longest surviving bisexual community center, opens its doors. A social and educational organization, it offers counseling and support services to Bay Area bisexuals and publishes a newsletter, The Bi Monthly, from 1976 to 1984.
1977 – Alan Rockway, a psychologist and bisexual activist, co-authors the nation’s first successful gay rights ordinance put to public vote, in Dade County, Florida. When former Miss America and orange juice spokesperson, Anita Bryant, initiates her viciously homophobic “Save Our Children” campaign in response to the ordinance, Dr. Rockway conceives of and initiates a national “gaycott” of Florida orange juice. The Florida Citrus Commission cancels Ms. Bryant’s million dollar contract as a result of the “gaycott.”
1977 – The San Francisco Bisexual Center, in coalition with members of the gay and lesbian community, sponsor a press conference with lesbian activists Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, and pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Spock to protest Anita Bryant’s “Save Our Children” campaign.
1978-79 – Grassroots bisexual communities grow with the formation of Midwestern groups such as One To Five and BI Women Welcome in Minneapolis, The BI Married Men’s Group in the Detroit suburbs, and BI Ways in Chicago.
1979 – A. Billy S. Jones, bisexual founding member of National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays, helps organize the first black gay delegation to meet with President Carter’s White House staff. Jones is also a core organizer of the 1979 March On Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights.
CHANGES IN THE 1980s
In the 1980s, bisexual groups mushroomed around the country and the world. Throughout the 1980s bisexuals organized significantly in the US, Canada, Europe, New Zealand, and the UK. In addition to the various social and support groups arising locally across the nation, by the mid-1980s umbrella groups formed to consolidate resources and facilitate regional organizing.
While the groups of the 1970s were often predominantly male, in the 1980s bisexual women took the organizational lead. Many of these woman had been working in the Lesbian and Women’s Movements and the groups they formed often reflected their feminist politics.
Also among the new groups were those formed specifically for bisexual political activism. By the late 1980s, AIDS activism and service became the focus for many bisexuals in response to the impact the epidemic was having on the community.
1983 – The Boston Bisexual Women’s Network (f. 1983), the oldest extant bisexual women’s group, begins publishing their bi-monthly newsletter, BI Women. The longest-lived bisexual newsletter in the US, more than 600 people currently receive BI Women.
1983 – BiPOL, the first and oldest bisexual political organization, forms in San Francisco. Founded on progressive feminist principles, BiPOL “educates, advocates, and agitates for bisexual rights, visibility and inclusion.”
1984 – After a two year battle, BiPOL activist, AIDS educator, and therapist Dr. David Lourea persuades the San Francisco Department of Public Health to recognize bisexual men in their official AIDS statistics. This acknowledgment sets the standard for health departments nationwide which previously had recognized only gay men. This acknowledgment is significant because it forces health care providers to recognize the existence of bisexual men, their potential risk for contracting HIV, and their need to be targeted for HIV prevention education.
1984 – BiPOL sponsors the first Bisexual Rights Rally outside the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco. The rally features nine speakers from civil rights groups allied with the Bisexual Movement.
1984 – The First East Coast Conference on Bisexuality is held at the Storrs School of Social Work at the Univ. of Conn. About 150 people participate in what is the first regional bisexual conference in the US.
1984 – The Boston Bisexual Men’s Network (BBMN) forms to address the social and support needs of bisexual men in the greater Boston area. At its peak in 1988, about 150 people are receiving their newsletter, Boston Bisexual Men’s Network News.
1985 – The Bisexual Connection, a social and support organization serving the greater Twin Cities Area forms in Minneapolis. Currently 350 people receive their newsletter, BI Focal.
1985 – Bisexual organizing on the East Coast reaches a new level of sophistication as the East Coast Bisexual Network forms. ECBN sponsors annual regional conferences and retreats between 1985 and 1989 that draw from 150-250 people representing 10 eastern states.
1986 – BiPOL’s Autumn Courtney is elected co-chair of San Francisco’s Lesbian Gay Freedom Day Pride Parade Committee. This election marks the first time an openly bisexual person holds this or a comparable position in the US.
1987 – A contingent of 75 bisexuals marches in the 1987 March On Washington For Gay and Lesbian Rights. This event proves to be the first nationwide bisexual gathering. The first national bisexual organization is conceived at this gathering, The North American Bisexual Network. NABN would later change its name to BiNet USA. The article “The Bisexual Movement: Are We Visible Yet?” appears in the official Civil Disobedience Handbook for the March.
1987 – The New York Area Bisexual Network (NYABN), a tri-state regional group which forms in 1987 spearheads an anti-defamation campaign that carries into the 1990s. For example, in response to an October 1989 Cosmopolitan magazine article that maliciously stereotypes bisexual men as dishonest spreaders of AIDS, NYABN initiates a letter writing campaign. Cosmopolitan has printed no articles defaming bisexuals since the campaign.
1987 – The Bay Area Bisexual Network (BABN) forms in the San Francisco Bay Area. BABN publishes a newsletter, sponsors monthly educational forums, and coordinates a speakers bureau. Currently BABN has about 1000 members.
1988 – Members of the Philadelphia-based group, BI Unity (f. 1987), successfully lobby the Philadelphia Mayor’s Commission on Sexual Minorities to form a work group on bisexual issues.
1988 – Gary North publishes Bisexuality: News, Views, and Networking, the first national bisexual newsletter.
1988 – The Seattle Bisexual Women’s Network (f. 1985) works with Seattle city agencies throughout the late 1980s to educate service providers and policy makers about bisexual issues. For example, in 1988 SBWN testifies at the Seattle Commission On Children and Youth Public Hearings On Gay and Lesbian Youth and at the Seattle Women’s Commission of the Mayor’s office . Both appearances result in increased bisexual recognition in Seattle government agencies. SBWN has published a bimonthly newsletter, North BI Northwest, since 1988.
1988 – The Bisexual Committee Engaging in Politics (BiCEP), a bisexual political/educational group forms in Boston. BiCEP’s most enduring contribution are many of the educational pamphlets currently available through the Bisexual Resource Center.
1989 – Openly bisexual veteran Cliff Arnesen testifies before the US Congress on behalf of gay, lesbian and bisexual veteran’s issues. Arnesen is the first veteran to testify about gay, lesbian and bisexual issues and the first openly non-heterosexual veteran to testify on Capitol Hill about veteran’s issues in general.
1989 – Seattle Bisexual Men’s Union (SBMU), an anti-sexist men’s education and support group, forms. Members organize a support presence at the annual Women Take Back The Night marches. As a result of continuing testimony by SBMU, the current draft of Seattle’s city plan (which includes housing codes) now recognizes families headed by same-gender partnerships.
1989 – BiPAC, the New York-based Bisexual Political/Public Action Committee which forms in 1989, challenges biphobia in the lesbian and gay community with a national letter writing campaign in 1990. The campaign successfully persuades an educational institution to remove an offensive workshop it offers called “Bisexual Men: Fact or Fiction?”
NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL CONSOLIDATION-1990s
In the 1990s, the bisexual political community expands and consolidates with national and international coalitions. Regional conferences strengthen smaller and newer communities, especially in the Midwest and the South. Bisexual groups continue to form as awareness and discussion of bisexuality broadens. Although the list is incomplete and growing daily, according to The Bisexual Resource Guide (published by the Bisexual Resource Center) there are currently more than 1300 bisexual groups in 48 US states, Washington, DC and 19 countries.
JUNE 1990 – BiPOL sponsors the first National Bisexual Conference in San Francisco. More than 450 people attend from 20 states and 5 countries. The mayor of S.F. sends a proclamation “commending the bisexual rights community for its leadership in the cause of social justice,” declaring June 23, 1990 Bisexual Pride Day. The North American Bisexual Network (NABN) is formalized as the North American Multicultural Bisexual Network (NAMBN) at this first meeting of its members. The conference inspires attendees from Dallas to create the first bisexual group in Texas, BiNet Dallas.
FALL 1990 – Susan Carlton offers the first academic course on bisexuality in the US at UC Berkeley.
WINTER 1991 – The Bay Area Bisexual Network begins publishing the first and only national bisexual quarterly magazine, Anything That Moves: Beyond The Myths Of Bisexuality.
OCTOBER 1991 – The First International Conference on Bisexuality is held at Vrije University in Amsterdam. About 250 people attend from nine countries.
FEBRUARY 1992 – The Bisexual Connection (Minnesota) sponsors the First Annual Midwest Regional Bisexual Conference. BECAUSE (Bisexual Empowerment Conference: A Uniting, Supportive Experience) draws close to 150 people from at least five midwestern states each year.
APRIL 1992 – Minnesota amends its State Civil Rights Law to grant the most comprehensive civil rights protections for bisexual, lesbian, gay, and transgender people in the country. Minnesota’s bisexual community unites with lesbian, gay, and transgender groups to lobby for this statute.
NOVEMBER 1992 – The South Florida Bisexual Network (f. 1989) and the Florida International University’s Stonewall Students Union co-sponsor the First Annual Southeast Regional Bisexual Conference. Thirty-five people from at least four southeastern states attend.
OCTOBER 1992 – The 2nd International Bisexual Conference is held in London. More than 130 people attend from 13 countries. German bisexuals announce the establishment of a national bisexual network in Germany.
NOVEMBER 1992 – Colorado votes to deny civil rights protection for bisexual, lesbian, and gay people by passing Amendment 2, the first such amendment to pass by popular vote in the US. The Colorado Supreme Court declares the measure unconstitutional in October, 1994. The case is bound for the US Supreme Court.
FEBRUARY 1993 – BiNet USA, the Seattle Bisexual Women’s Network and the Seattle Bisexual Men’s Union sponsor the First Annual Northwest Regional Conference, in Seattle. Fifty-five people representing Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Montana, and British Columbia attend.
SPRING 1993 – The East Coast Bisexual Network revises its mandate and changes its name to the Bisexual Resource Center (BRC). As an international resource on bisexuality, the BRC provides educational services and materials, publishes The Bisexual Resource Guide annually, and maintains an international bisexual archive.
APRIL 1993 – BiPOL (San Francisco) mobilizes a successful nationwide lobbying campaign for visible bisexual inclusion in the March On Washington. Openly bisexual people take key leadership roles in local and regional organizing for the 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation. As a result, for the first time bisexuals are included in the title of the March and are represented on the stage by bisexual activist and author Lani Ka’ahumanu. More than 1000 people march with the bisexual contingent in addition to the uncounted bisexuals who marched with other groups. This event signifies the national recognition and growing awareness of bisexual issues and the increasing grassroots power of the bisexual community.
APRIL 1993 – In an unprecedented coalition of national and nationally-recognized bisexual groups, BiNet USA, the Bisexual Resource Center (BRC), and the Washington, DC-based Alliance of Multicultural Bisexuals (AMBi) sponsor the Second National Conference Celebrating Bisexuality in Washington, DC to coincide with the March On Washington. More than 600 people attend from the US and Europe making it the largest Bisexual Conference to date.
OCTOBER 1993 – San Diego, CA based BiForum (f.1982) hosts BiWest 1993, a western regional bisexual conference. More than 250 people attend from at least five states and three countries.
FALL 1993 – Sheela Lambert writes, produces, and hosts the first television series by and for the bisexual community. Bisexual Network successfully airs for 13 weeks on NYC Public Access Cable.
JUNE 1994 – Bisexual communities based in Fayetteville, Raleigh, Chapel Hill, and Charlotte unite to form the North Carolina Bisexual Network (NCBN). In October 1994, NCBN sponsors the Second Annual Southeast Regional Bisexual Conference. Approximately 100 people attend from 11 states.
JUNE 1994 – New York hosts the Third International Bisexual Conference in conjunction with the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, the symbolic origin of the Gay and Lesbian Rights and Liberation Movement. About 400 people attend from at least five countries. The visible bisexual presence at the celebration signifies our link to the past: bisexuals fought in the Stonewall Rebellion of 1969, and celebrate the changes it has inspired in the present.
OCT 1994 – The 4th International Conference on Bisexuality was held in New York, NY.
OCT 1996 – The 5th International Conference on Bisexuality was held in Berlin, Germany
APR 1998 – The 5th International Conference on Bisexuality was held in Cambridge, MA.
SEPT 1999 – BiNet USA coordinators Michael Page, Gigi Raven Wilbur, and Wendy Curry organized the first Celebrate Bisexuality Day.
The New Millennium
AUG 2000 – The 6th International Conference on Bisexuality was held in Manchester, UK.
2000 – The BiNet Tri-state (NJ/PA/CT) regional conference voted to become an independant entity.
2001 – The BiNet tristate conference expanded the scope of the conference in two ways: expanding the geographical reach of the conference to include the entire Northeast, and including transgender and intersex issues as well as bisexual issues in the conference theme. they changed the name to Transcending Boundaries
OCT 2002 – The 7th International Conference on Bisexuality was held in Sydney, New South Wales, AU
AUG 2004 – The 8th International Conference on Bisexuality was held in Minneapolis, MN.
JUN 2006 – The 9th International Conference on Bisexuality was held in Toronto.
OCT 2006 – Transcending Boundaries conference was held in Worcester, MA.