EDIT Program Cohosts Groundbreaking Bisexual Health Event

Dr. Lauren Beach speaks in front of podium covered with bisexual pride flag.

Dr. Lauren Beach gives her afternoon plenary “Now You See Me: Intersectionality and Bisexual Health Equity”

On November 2nd, the Evaluation, Data Integration, and Technical Assistance (EDIT) program partnered with the Black Treatment Action Network (BTAN), the Department of Health and Human Services Regional Resource Network Program Region 5, Project RSP, Project Elevate, and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC),  to host the “We See You: Countering the Invisibility of Bisexual Health” conference. To the organizers’ knowledge, this event was the first of its kind – an entire day open to the public dedicated to discussing the health of bisexual individuals hosted by a large HIV/AIDS advocacy organization. A series of speakers, including EDIT post-doc Dr. Lauren Beach, and discussion sessions focused on bringing the ‘B’ back to LGBT health and services.

The speakers came from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, which resulted in a conference that addressed bisexual health from a variety of angles. Anthony Galloway from Equality Illinois and the Black Treatment Advocates Network (BTAN) welcomed the over one hundred attendees and charged the group to promote bisexual visibility and remember that “good bisexual health is good community health.” The first plenary speaker, Khafre Kujichagulia Abif, a community organizer from the Southern AIDS Coalition and writer of several books and anthologies telling the stories of people living with HIV, shared his personal story about the importance of improving bisexual health services. He read powerful poems from his first book Cornbread, Fish, and Collard Greens: Prayers, Poems & Affirmations for People Living with HIV/AIDS and letters he wrote to his son from a time when he assumed he would eventually die from HIV/AIDS. These letters will be published in a forthcoming book, Raising Kazembe: A Memoir.

Dr. H. Sharif Williams, also known as Dr. Herukhuti, founder of the Center for Culture Sexuality and Spirituality and professor from Goddard College and CUNY School of Professional Studies gave the keynote address, titled “No Homo|No Hetero: Black Bisexual Masculinities and the Search for Sociocultural Health.” He started by screening a trailer from “No Homo|No Hetero,” a work in progress documentary about sexual fluidity and manhood in Black America.  During his talk, he weaved through topics of social, cultural, and spiritual health and stressed the importance of offering bisexual people, especially black bisexual men, unique and specific resources to address all of their needs.

After lunch, Dr. Lauren Beach reconvened the conference to give the afternoon plenary about intersectionality and bisexual health equity. Coming from a more traditional research perspective, her talk used data to highlight the prevalence of bisexual individuals, the health disparities bisexual populations face, and the lack of response by funding entities to support initiatives addressing bisexual-specific disparities. After describing the serious health disparities and resource limitations bisexual populations face, Dr. Beach ended her talk by focusing on lifting up the work of current bisexual health initiatives. This work included talking about White House convenings focused on the bisexual community and their health issues, an event that she and many other people in attendance were a part of in 2013, 2014, and 2016.

Event organize smile and pose for a photo.

From left to right: Anthony Galloway, Greg Storms, Dr. Lauren Beach, Khafre K Abif, Dr. Herukhuti, and Jim Pickett

The final two speakers of the day, Jim Pickett from AFC and Greg Storms from Center on Halsted, focused on services and campaigns happening in Chicago today. Jim Pickett talked about the #PrEP4Love campaign, and engaged with attendees around issues of how to make sure that these messages were reaching bisexual folks to ensure that PrEP is not perceived as an intervention for just the gay community.  Greg Storms followed up on this talk by discussing the importance of affirming all identities within the bisexual health umbrella while offering culturally competent services to individuals.

While people filtered in and out of the “We See You: Countering the Invisibility of Bisexual Health” conference, the room was near capacity the entire day. The #weseeyou17 hashtag also gained traction on Twitter, logging nearly four million impressions and reaching nearly one million unique Twitter users. Tweets from the event were retweeted by a large variety of bisexual community organizations and by bisexual celebrity Sara Ramirez. Dr. Lauren Beach’s talk was live-streamed and has since recorded over one hundred views. The success of this event was evident as Cynthia Tucker, Vice President of Prevention and Community Partnerships at AFC, closed the day by promising to raise funds for bisexual health initiatives and lead in the formation of partnerships and working groups focused on these issues.

You can learn more about EDIT sponsored events by following @EDITatNU on Twitter. Below you will see select tweets from the event, including the recording of Dr. Beach’s plenary talk.