By Amanda Morgan
I had the pleasure of attending the Transcending Boundaries Conference (TBC) for the first time this past November. To quote TBC’s official website, the conference is for “bisexual/pansexual, trans/genderqueer, intersex and polyamorous people and our allies. TBC is for and about those who do not fit into simple categories.” For me, TBC was about the rare experience of feeling at home. As a bisexual person who works in the LGBT movement, I often feel like a minority within a minority. Even though recent studies suggest there are more bi people than gay, for any so-called “proof homos bis,” it rarely feels that way. Entering TBC was the first time in a long time I didn’t have to continually come out as bisexual after folks assumed I was gay.
Appropriately, the first workshop I attended was on “The Stress of Hidden Bias.” The facilitator, Robin Benton, outlined what she called the three types of microagressions: microinsult, microinvalidation, microassault. As a bisexual person and a woman of color I experience all three of these on a regular basis and I wonder if many of you do as well. A microinsult can be rude behavior, insensitivity or equating bisexuality with perversion, instability or confusion. A microinvalidation can consist of excluding you, delivering a backward compliment (You’re pretty sane/monogamous for a bisexual. You’re not like those other bis, etc.) A microassualt is a deliberate attempt to hurt you physically or psychologically, such as teasing under the guise of humor. Benton’s workshop was a powerful validation of the stress that I frequently experience and also a reminder of why spaces such as TBC are so necessary.
Transcending Boundaries was a wonderful mixture of transgressors of gender binaries and strict categories of any kind. Fittingly, Tristan Taormino gave the keynote address: “Everyone’s Invited to the Pool Party: How to Build a Supportive, Inclusive Community.” She told an amusing tales of how she was able to create a comfortable and inclusive environment at her wedding for her trans and genderqueer guests as well as her straight gender normative birth family. She trained the staff and sent family members a gender primer, alerting them to the diversity of gender expression they would see as well as letting them know: “You’re going to meet three people who will look very much the same to you. One of those people identifies as male, one of those people identifies as female and one eschews gender altogether.”
Of course, the bi presence was also in full force and I wasn’t even able to attend all the bi specific workshops. I made it to “Bisexuality: Are We Still Invisible?” and “Getting Bi: Voices from Bisexuals Around the World.” The former consisted of a panel that brought together bisexual and pansexual people as well as monogamous and non. Each story was interesting and each panelist has struggled with making themselves visible and feeling included in the larger LGBT movement and community. My only complaint was – with five people who had a lot to say and only one hour to do it in – we were left with a litany of grievances but no plan or suggestions for how to move forward or make ourselves more visible. “Getting Bi…” was a lovely way to end the day. We formed a circle and took turns reading passages from Robyn Ochs and Sarah Rowley’s book of the same title. In between each passage we discussed the variety of experiences and marveled at the strength of our bi brothers and sisters from far and wide.
Amanda is a writer, photographer and bi activist living in Brooklyn, N Y. ( www.amandamorgan.com )