It’s been said that Portland, Oregon is the most bisexual city in America. Our city doesn’t have a “gay neighborhood” per se, but its quadrants are so queer that there’s five of ’em. Portland is famous for its bounty of bridges, all of which go both ways. Androgyny is an honored aesthetic in this town; it’s common for our women to have hairy armpits and for our men to wear skirts to brunch. Oregon’s governor, Kate Brown—the highest-ranking openly LGBTQ politician in U.S. history, is an out-and-proud bisexual woman. Last year we opened a cuddling store, for crying out loud.
But it’s not just our cultural quirks and the lovely readers of PQ that are queer. Year after year, the results of Portland Mercury’s annual sex survey prove just how bisexual this place really is. In 2007, 17 percent of respondents to the survey said they were bisexual. It jumped up to one out of five the following year, and the national average for bi+ identity isn’t even one in a hundred! Four years ago, almost half of respondents to the Mercury’s sex survey admitted to having had a same-sex encounter. Try to keep that in mind the next time you see that ambiguous sex god/dess you’ve never quite been able to peg flipping through the pages of the Mercury.
Bi+ folks, we know it isn’t easy to find each other, even though you abound in this town. People will generally assume you’re either straight or gay based on what you’re wearing, where you’re drinking, or who you’re dating. Bi erasure is a bummer, but there’s a group of Portlanders on a mission to turn that trend around.
PQ Monthly is proud to present Bi Brigade (bibrigade.org), your newest resource for Portland’s in-person bi+ community. PQ is teaming up with Bi Brigade to bring our “B”s regular content written specifically for all of Portland’s beautiful bisexuals. This new column will inform the local queer community about upcoming bi+ specific events and resources for bi+ people. It will engage readers by answering questions, offering advice, and featuring individuals of all identities who have benefited from connecting with Portland’s in-person bi+ community.
Furthermore, it will work to educate the overall queer community by debunking myths and clearing up misconceptions about bisexuality. Bi Brigade works to eradicate biphobia and prejudice against bisexuals in all local LGBTQ spaces and conversations to ensure that Portland’s queer community is safe, inclusive, and welcoming to everybody.
What is Bi Brigade?
Bi Brigade started in the spring of 2014 in response to some awful advice given to bisexuals by straight and gay sex columnists. Emily Yoffe, also known as Dear Prudence, advised a young woman just beginning to open up about her bisexuality to remain closeted. She compared the woman’s sexual orientation to a kink and said that, because she is monogamously married to a man, her orientation was irrelevant to the people in her life. Dear Abby told a bi reader that announcing her bisexuality would be a mistake because it might be seen as announcing that she was “available.” Don’t even get me started on the decades of bad advice Dan Savage gave his bi readers. Although the famed gay sex columnist has gotten better about his awareness of bi+ issues in recent years, it does not, in fact, “get better” for many bi people.
Some bi+ friends and I decided that enough was enough, and that bisexuals needed access to a community of like-minded people to turn to for advice and insights. We were fortunate to be able to turn to each other for advice, and we knew how lucky we are to live in a city with that sort of in-person bi+ community. Because most bi+ people lack that kind of support, we invited bisexuals everywhere to join ours.
A few of us started a website and put out a call for submissions. The idea was for bi+ people with varying experiences and perspectives to come together and put in our collective two cents in response to submissions. The advice we would offer would be an ongoing conversation, instead of misinformed—and often harmful—opinions from so-called sex, love, and relationship experts. We filmed our response to the first submission we received and put it on YouTube.
A few bi+ organizations helped promote our website and The Advocate published a feature on Bi Brigade. After a short surge of engagement, submissions stopped coming in and Bi Brigade’s website lapsed. We were all volunteers and we didn’t have the time or resources to properly promote or maintain the site. For a short while, Bi Brigade seemed like a thing of the past… but our local bi community kept on growing, becoming more active and visible.
Now, in addition to the two monthly events that have been ongoing for years, Portland’s bi+ community has a weekly Sunday coffee meet-up that’s open to all ages. Members have been planning bi+ bike rides, bi+ takeovers, and various other bi+ themed events. Bi Brigade has now marched in Portland’s Pride Parade for two years in a row, and the group is now affiliated with a national bi+ social network (amBI). Over the past few months we have had so much expansion in our local bi+ community that we resurrected the Bi Brigade name and website to consolidate all our activity! There are so many new bi events springing up that we can hardly keep up.
Bi Brigade’s website now has a calendar that will keep Portland up-to-date on all of our events. There’s something for everybody, and if you want to create your own event there’s a way for you to do so. We now have enough organizers who have volunteered their time, skills, and resources to keep Bi Brigade alive and active. On our website you can find an organizers page that profiles some of the wonderful folks who have taken part in Bi Brigade’s creation and revival. And now, thanks to PQ, Bi Brigade will come directly to readers each month.
True to Bi Brigade’s roots, this monthly column will offer collective advice, insights, and resources for bi+ people wherever PQ is available. The column will be reblogged on the Bi Brigade website for bi+ folks everywhere. It will help local bi+ people find each other and stay connected by profiling our various events and community members. Bi Brigade aims to demonstrate how diverse and beautiful the bi+ community can be.
Proud queers of Portland, consider this a call for submissions. You may not be ready to dive in headfirst by attending the next bi social gathering, and we realize you might have reservations about identifying as bi+ or connecting with other bi+ people. You’re not alone, and Bi Brigade is here to answer your questions and address your concerns. Join the conversation today.
(originally published in PQ Monthly)