By Paige Listrud
I see the world through an activist lens. Give me facts, give me info, but above all, give me ideas on what to do next. By the end of the Bi Health Summit, the last hour and a half of programming, you could feel the brain death. Everyone was wiped, probably experiencing information overload, and finding focus for creating a bisexual health agenda became difficult.
How grateful was I, then, when Stephen Simon, AIDS Co-ordinator for the City of Los Angeles, pulled off a BiHealth Top Ten list, drawn from the 25 recommendations crafted by Julie Ebin, Marshal Miller, Amy Andre, and Leona Bessonova in their groundbreaking bisexual health report. Yes, Stephen, I still owe you.
Top Ten Things To Do For Bisexual Health Advocacy
Take non-programmatic steps to make your agency or practice as a whole more inclusive of bisexual people by having posters and pamphlets with “bisexual” or “LGBT” prominently mentioned (rather than just “gay and lesbian”) in your waiting area. Use these terms in advertising and outreach materials.
Fund programs! Recognize that there are significant health disparities and that traditional gay or lesbian-focused programs and services do not necessarily address the needs of MSMW/WSMW* of any identity.
Create programs that specifically target bisexual people, tailoring them according to the needs of your community. If it’s not feasible to replicate these programs at this time, you can still revise existing programs to be more inclusive.
Understand the difference between sexual identity and sexual behavior. Promote this understanding to your colleagues, staff and boss.
Increase research that targets bisexual people specifically, asking both asking both behavioral and identity-based questions. behavioral and identity-based questions. The research is fundamental, as funders and practitioners need it to be able to fund and create programs and services.
Recruit MSMW/WSMW* and bisexually-identified individuals for policy and/or funding advisory groups and grant/proposal readers.
Work together to provide training on bisexuality for local health groups. Distribute information on bisexuality to your own and other area health providers. Ask your own and other doctors/counselors/therapists to have the materials available for their colleagues, in their waiting rooms and anywhere that bisexuals might need to be welcomed.
In the general health arena, attend professional and grassroots national health conferences and speak out on issues that affect MSMW, WSMW, and bisexuals.
In the bisexual arena, support health organizing and educational efforts at national and international bisexual or bisexually-inclusive conferences.
Help the Bisexual Health Summits to go forward.
While the list clearly targets healthcare professionals and people working in larger mainstream agencies, a street-level activist can get a lot of mileage by just promoting a few things on this list. The Fenway Health Institute has bi-specific safer sex pamphlets and safer sex pamphlets that integrate safer sex for WSMW and MSMW, whatever their identity.
Julie Ebin has helped to develop at Fenway bisexual health clinical education modules that are designed to assist training of healthcare providers to be culturally competent with their sexually fluid clients. The modules can be used in tandem with the institute’s book, The Fenway Guide to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health. The modules can be downloaded from Fenway’s website, and are free. Hear that, administrators? Free, free, free!
It looks like Portland will be the next spot for the 2011 Bi Health Summit. Stay tuned.
* Men & women who have sex with men and women
Reprinted with the author’s permission, with minor edits, from her blog at opensalon.com.