This past week has been one of unprecedented triumph for Chicago’s bisexual community, as the Office of the Mayor Rahm Emanuel has issued a proclamation to officially recognize September 23 as Chicago’s “International Day of Bisexual Visibility.” This historical milestone marks the first time Chicago has officially commemorated a day in recognition and support of bisexual communities. The proclamation was prepared by the Chicago Bisexual Health Task Force (CBHTF), a group of community members, researchers, and health care professionals that include ISGMH faculty member Dr. Brian Feinstein and postdoctoral fellow Dr. Lauren Beach. The International Day of Bisexual Visibility, which was created by community activists in 1999 and is now celebrated worldwide, kicked off Bisexuality Awareness Week. Founded in 2014, Bisexual Awareness Week is dedicated to accelerating the acceptance of bisexual communities by raising awareness about the unique challenges bisexual people face and the community’s resilience in overcoming them.
Despite comprising the majority of self-identified LGBT individuals, bisexual populations regularly experience erasure and prejudice from outside as well as within LGBTQ communities. A notable component of the proclamation is that it countered that erasure by highlighting the striking disparities bisexual people face in comparison to people of other sexual orientations in terms of employment, poverty, healthcare access and health outcomes. It also acknowledged how, despite such barriers, Chicago’s bisexual communities have come together to create opportunities that foster safe spaces, awareness, and empowerment for bisexual people.
Dr. Feinstein commented, “The fact that the City of Chicago has officially recognized the needs of the bisexual community represents a major step forward in our efforts to improve the health and wellbeing of bisexual individuals in the greater Chicagoland area.” Dr. Beach, who is both a sexual and gender minority health researcher and a long-time bisexual community advocate, agrees, sharing that “Bisexual Awareness Week was created by and for bisexual people as a way to affirm and empower ourselves and our communities by fighting bi erasure. Bisexual visibility in society helps decrease the stigma-induced isolation that studies have shown is toxic to the mental health of bisexual people.”
In response to the lack of bisexual representation in health research, ISGMH has committed to bisexual health research as one of its designated areas of growth. Dr. Beach and Dr. Feinstein have led several studies examining the particular needs and experiences of bisexual populations, and Dr. Feinstein recently received a 2018 Visionary Grant from the American Psychological Association for a new study on combating the invisibility of bisexuality in the field of mental health. As active members of the CBHTF, they are committed to improving the lives of bisexual individuals in Chicago by mobilizing communities and engaging in advocacy, education and research.
Our sincere congratulations go to Dr. Beach, Dr. Feinstein and all of the members of the Chicago Bisexual Health Task Force for their inspiring efforts to ensure bisexual individuals are seen and heard. From all of us at ISGMH, happy Bisexuality Awareness Week!