THE BLOG
11/11/2013 01:07 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Bi 'OBE': Overtaken by Events

My unexpected blogging sabbatical over, I intended on my return to pen a pastiche of bi-imbued posts focusing on violent public events that had occurred during my absence -- and what bi people could do as role models of love and compassion to help prevent such horrors. But in almost all cases, my scribbled musings were "OBE": overtaken by events. Now, with "our" special holidays behind us -- the 23rd annual observation of Celebrate Bisexuality Day (aka CBD, aka Bi Visi-BI-lity Day, aka Celebrate Bi Pride Day) on Sept. 23 (darn, could've done a "23 on the 23rd" bumper sticker) and the conjoined first-ever White House-sponsored gathering regarding bi issues, plus the 25th annual observation of National Coming Out Day (NCOD) on Oct. 11 -- I look back at what has transpired while I was away, and while there is much to celebrate, I'm just as shocked as I am awed.

To be sure, there have been breathtakingly momentous events and stunning progress recently (well, "progress" for many of us, "setbacks" and "regression" for those who oppose us): gay marriage recognized by the Supreme Court and several states; DOMA dead; "don't ask, don't tell" long gone (or so it seems); and that historic bi roundtable at the White House on CBD.

And yet, according to relatively recent statistics from the CDC, Pew, and other researchers, bi people are still more fearful of coming out than their gay and lesbian compatriots are, bi women are far more likely to be the victims of rape and domestic/intimate relationship abuse than lesbians and straight women are, bi teens are far more at risk of being suicidal, and the list of horrors goes on. Whither "progress"? Or is it progress that we finally have statistics that bear these things out?

Such tragedies and setbacks are, of course, not unique to bi people and their community kin: It belies a seething, widespread base of intolerance and hostility toward "others" who are different from "us." Nothing new there, although there are fewer (if any) racial lynchings in the South, less slavery in the world than before (or is it just hidden rather than openly exalted as a sign of prestige, as in "the good ol' days"?), a growing sentiment of live-and-let-live among more and more people (or so it seems to me, at least in the United States: more openly gay relationships, more interracial relationships), and less gang violence (or am I totally off-base and organized crime is on the rise?) -- so is this a matter of two steps forward and one step back, as has always been the case with human behavioral evolution?

Then I look again at the seemingly endless spate of school shootings, mass shootings, the Syrian gassings, ongoing wars, child mercenary soldiers, tortures, rapes, and humans' ongoing, repetitive inhumanity to other humans, and at the very least I have to lower my expectations and increase my skepticism -- but at the same time not become jaded or cynical or give up all hope.

And so here we are, post-government-shutdown (with another such event possibly looming), all because we're not wiling to compromise, find a middle way, appreciate our differences, and live and let live. In the midst of al this, who are the role models? How many of those people are openly bi? Is being bi relevant or irrelevant to being a role model for being peace-loving and tolerant? Is it asking too much for bi people to lead the way? (Or should I drop the word "bi" and substitute it with "two-spirited" or "open spirit" or some other such connotative identity that indicates a more "enlightened" or "advanced" way of being?)

Thus I find myself looking back at the past 30-plus years of what is called the bi movement, and the 40 to 60 years of the modern gay-rights movement, and I have to wonder: If we haven't achieved world peace in all that time, what have we achieved? Is peace and tolerance and acceptance and lack of hostility something we achieve incrementally day by day and moment by moment and person by person, not the great, sweeping, once-and-for-all "grand bargain" that we will all henceforth be loving and kind? Yep.

Anything more than that was too ambitious, unrealistic, and impractical. But it was nice to have such a goal, however childlike it was in its innocence: that if we simply waved our media signs and magic rainbows of peace often enough, love and harmony would come about.

Well, you know what happened, of course: World peace didn't just spring from the earth fully formed. And for some -- perhaps many -- the LGBT rights movement was never about world peace either; it was more about being left alone, and/or getting laid and/or striving for civil rights, or it was something much more personal or theoretical. In any case, it was usually nothing so global or ambitious as obtaining global acceptance of each other.

So in that sense, I've reluctantly resigned myself to never seeing global compassion and tranquility on a global scale. I've lowered my sights to something more local or regional, and that works OK for me. Not that I've given up, and not that I've become your typically cynical, jaded pessimist. On the contrary, I'm the constant optimist -- hence the reason I went into journalism and activism (albeit the latter accidentally), where hope springs eternal that if you let people know what's happening, they'll do the right thing, and there's always tomorrow, and the glass is always at least half full, etc.

On the one hand, my taking the (involuntary and unintentional) time away from blogging gave me the chance to step back to reassess what progress has and hasn't been made -- but on the other hand my timing was awful: If ever there was a time to not step away from the LGBT rights movement, the past year was it, as recounted at the end of my opening observation above: At least in America, we arguably have undergone a sea change in attitudes toward rights and acceptance, a majority of the (national) public now supports gay marriage as authentic expressions of love, we reelected our first black president (regardless of how one parses his identity and self-identity), and my jaw still drops when I think of how, during his second inaugural address, he twice explicitly referred to the genuine love "our gay brothers and sisters" and mentioned Selma and Stonewall in the very same sentence. (I still get chills thinking of those historic moments.) So the winds of change are at our backs, we do have momentum, and momentous change is upon us.

Well, upon some of us. The devolving peace and freedom initiatives of the Arab Spring in Egypt and Syria have been beyond disappointing, but there has been hope with U.S.-Iranian relations. Certain U.S. governors and state militias won't honor same-sex benefits for spouses and partners, but now the federal government will. Our polarized Congress couldn't rally enough votes to pass effective gun legislation (there was a simple majority, but not enough of a supermajority) even after the most innocent of humans -- elementary schoolchildren in class -- were horrifically massacred (never mind the many, many others who were gunned down both before and after that searing event). So is it any wonder that I find myself feeling that bi people as loving role models don't have a chance in leading the way to better world?

Well, I often have to force myself to recall Dr. King's adage that the moral arc of history always bends toward justice, and I have to force myself to recall Jesse Jackson's admonition to keep hope alive. And I have to remember that progress rarely runs in a straight trajectory, but that the human mind, once expanded to an enlightened idea, rarely shrinks back to its former smaller self.

The progress we've made in the history of civilization has by and large always become more humane -- even as monsters continue to roam among us with chemical weapons, machetes, handguns, "conventional" weapons, blackjacks, and -- often just as bad -- words of rejection and belittlement.

But by now you probably know my mantra: Bi people should be a loving bridge between hostile people and entities. We should be role models of how humans should be and should live. And I had intended to focus on that upon my return.

And then an amazing thing happened: that first White House conclave of bi people informing policymakers about bi issues. Ephemeral? Appeasement? A chimera? Window dressing? Or something longer-lasting and substantive, but in subtle ways?

Maybe we've come much further than I give society credit for. This year's monumental court decisions and public pronouncements seem to suggest so. But, as always, time will tell. I can't wait -- but I must: day by day, interaction by interaction, on little cat paws and little acts of kindness. I wonder if Congress hears any of that.