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Op-ed: One Little Word Means the World

Op-ed: One Little Word Means the World


The word 'bisexual,' from President Obama's lips to America's ears.

For the first time in the history of the United States a president mentioned bisexual, lesbian, and transgender people in their State of the Union speech. This is an amazing highlight for the bisexual community.

During the Obama administration, bisexual Americans have enjoyed attention unprecedented in history. I had the honor of attending the 2013 White House LGBT Pride Month reception with my partner and other bisexual community leaders. That September, on International Celebrate Bisexuality Day, the White House hosted the first ever bisexual delegation to the administration to talk about policy concerns for the community and how to best meet the unique needs of bisexual people in the United States.

In a culture where even saying the word "bisexual" is a huge taboo, both in media and in personal lives, having one of the most powerful people in the world use it is incredible. Now that President Obama has said the elusive and oft-scorned b word, there is no reason for others to skirt the issue.

The State of the Union address is considered to an all-ages, all-citizens affair. The president used the word. It was not censored or bleeped. The president's utterance was more than a mere throwaway mention or nod. It was a decree. Bisexuals, bisexuality, is is a cause of equality worth fighting for, it is acceptable, and above all it is real.

Over the last several years the attempts to diminish and invalidate bisexual history, culture and community have helped to establish a legacy of disparity instead of hope, with bisexual erasure whittling away bi contributions to LGBT history and biphobia actively preventing bi people -- especially bi youth, bi people of color, and bi trans people -- from accessing lifesaving resources.

As prominent bisexual scholar Dr. Herukhuti tweeted shortly after Obama's address, "Now that #POTUS is including #bisexuals in #SOTU it is time 2 include bisexuals in federal policy & mainstream LGBTQ advocacy. #teambisexual"

Looking at services provided by LGBT centers in the U.S., only a couple identify bisexual community populations as worthy of service. Why is there so much fear when a single word could save someone's life? The very word "bisexual" has been rife with controversy. From simple erasure in favor of terms like "gay marriage" and "gay and lesbian" to wanting to do away with the word on false grounds of transgender inclusivity, as happened at the National Gay and Lesbian (now LGBT)Task Force in 2014 during the first-ever Bisexual Awareness Week. As I wrote then, this idea isn't rooted in the idea of complex language but biphobia. When people talk about how words reinforce the binary, it is only ever in regard to bisexuality.

In the coming year ahead I hope that more people, in politics, media, and in personal lives, can embrace using the word bisexual. Bisexual has too long been a word relegated to the shadows because of the incorrect assumption that it is a dirty, vulgar, transphobic, and tainted word. Not any more. Thanks to the tireless work of activists, educators, and now President Obama, there is no need to hide or skirt around it. The word is "bisexual." The president of the United States of America can say it. Can you?

AUD TRAHER is a bisexual transgender activist and writer living in rural Pennsylvania. They have written for publications such as Bi Magazine, BiNet and the Task Force. They are currently writing a coming out book for bisexual teens and young adults.

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Aud Traher