Aug 1, 2009 | 2009 Summer - Labels

By Ellyn Ruthstrom

Why do bisexuals like to gather together and discuss issues about our identity, culture, families, activism, sex and more? BECAUSE!

The Bisexual Empowerment Conference: A Uniting Supportive Experience was held April 17-19 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. At the 15th such gathering (it hasn’t been held in 15 consecutive years so it’s not the 15th annual), organizers reported that this year’s 200 attendees made for the largest BECAUSE so far. Besides a wonderful group of Minnesota folks, there were participants from Wisconsin, the Dakotas, California, Illinois, Montana, New York and more. Plus, Steph Miserlis and I represented the Bisexual Resource Center, and Robyn Ochs was the keynote speaker on Friday, so Massachusetts was in the house as well.

Robyn’s speech on Friday night kicked off the weekend with a great spirit of sharing and pride. After discussing the importance of being visible and constructively engaging the negative ways that bisexuals are still portrayed, Robyn opened up the floor to the audience to talk to each other about personal ways they can claim positive space for bisexuals and work together. It was a very moving and creative exchange that enabled the group to get a sense of who they’d be sharing workshop and food-line conversations with over the following few days.

It’s always difficult to assess an entire conference because everyone’s experience can be so different, depending on what workshops you go to and who you engage with. From my own experience and from the reactions of those I spoke to, there were many epiphanies and uplifting moments going on all over the Student Union at the University of Minnesota that weekend.

One of my own highlights was learning more about the Bi Cities cable television program that is produced in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Just a few talented folks have kept this bi-centered program on the air for seven years. The all-volunteer crew discussed how they produce the show and shared some video with the audience, which highlighted the tremendous array of guests they have interviewed over the years. Check them out at

All work and no play? Never at a bi conference. For lunch on Saturday, we were entertained by a one-woman performance of Fluid: a personal exploration of “bi”-sexuality. Performed by Erika Kate MacDonald, the short piece delved into a personal odyssey of discovery through short vignettes and music. And for the evening’s entertainment, the lovely Janessa Jaye Champagne of Grand Forks, ND held court for the open mike. From light acoustic rock to drag kings and queens to belly-dancing, the stage was a constant source of amusement. I doubt that I will ever again see a drag king sing to a hand puppet…to Meatloaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”!!

Sunday was the time to say our goodbyes and thank all the volunteers for the tremendous work they put into making BECAUSE a lively success. The group was treated to a showing of the documentary Bi the Way and the director Josephine Decker talked to the audience afterwards. The film offers some great slices of life about current bi identity and Decker announced that it will be showing on Logo in the near future. Check out for more deets.

Hanging out at BECAUSE. Group includes conference chairs Kim Jorgensen (top left) and Becky Saltzman (bottom right).

Featured image: Janessa Jaye Champaign and Robyn Ochs

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