BiNet USA Is Formed Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

BiNet USA was founded at a time when lesbian and gay groups were encouraged—by emerging bisexual, queer, and transgender activism and by an intellectual movement known as queer theory—to become more inclusive not only of bisexuals but also of transgender people.

Summary of Event

The fortunes of the bisexual movement, which first developed in the early 1970’s, have shifted along with changes in gay and lesbian politics and identity. While in the early days of gay liberation the movement was seen to encompass anyone who had same-gender desires, this began to change as gays and lesbians increasingly regarded themselves as a distinct minority. As a result, bisexuals were often perceived as “fence sitters” and pressured to “choose sides.” In addition, some bisexual women became alienated from lesbian-feminist communities as lesbian separatism took hold in the 1970’s. Also, the issue of what constituted “acceptable” lesbian sexual practice reached its height during the so-called “sex wars” among feminists in the early 1980’s. [kw]BiNet USA Is Formed (June, 1990) BiNet USA National Bisexual Network Bisexual Network, National [c]Organizations and institutions;June, 1990: BiNet USA Is Formed[2020] [c]Feminism;June, 1990: BiNet USA Is Formed[2020] Friedland, Lucy Nania, Liz Kaahumanu, Lani

Among the first organized bisexual groups were New York City’s National Bisexual Liberation Group National Bisexual Liberation Group Bisexual Liberation Group, National (formed in 1972), New York’s Bisexual Forum Bisexual Forum (founded in 1974), and the San Francisco Bisexual Center (opened in 1976). Along with these newly organized groups came a wave of magazine and newspaper articles that appeared in the mid-1970’s in the mainstream press. Also in the 1970’s, many of the most popular books on bisexuality were published, including Bernhardt Hurwood’s The Bisexuals Bisexuals, The (Hurwood) (1970), Janet Bode’s View from Another Closet: Exploring Bisexuality in Women View from Another Closet (Bode) (1976), and Fred Klein’s The Bisexual Option: A Concept of One-Hundred Percent Intimacy Bisexual Option, The (Klein) (1978).

A new wave of bisexual organizing emerged in the mid-1980’s, largely spearheaded by feminist women. Among the earliest such groups were the Boston Bisexual Women’s Network (BBWN), San Francisco’s BiPol, and Chicago’s Action Bi-Women, all begun in 1983. In 1987, two BBWN members, Lucy Friedland and Liz Nania, distributed a flyer that read, “Are We Ready for a National Bisexual Network?” The response was encouraging. In October, about seventy-five activists gathered at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., for the first-ever national meeting of bisexuals. The group also participated in the October 11, 1987, March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights behind a BBWN banner proclaiming “Bisexual Pride—Gay Liberation is Our Liberation.”

This gathering inspired activists to discuss the formation of a national bisexual organization, at first informally called the National Bisexual Network. The first International Directory of Bisexual Groups was produced to facilitate national and international networking. BiPol offered its post office box as a contact address, receiving two shopping bags worth of supportive mail. Local groups met to discuss the incipient national network, and proposals were discussed via mail and telephone.

In June, 1990, this networking culminated in the first national bisexual conference, hosted by BiPol in San Francisco, which drew some 450 attendees. After three days of discussion, participants formally launched the North American Multicultural Bisexual Network. From its inception, the network adopted a grassroots focus and a consensus-based structure, and it was committed to feminist and antiracist principles. At the network’s first organizing meeting in Seattle in July, 1991, participants adopted a shorter, more recognizable name: BiNet USA, the Bisexual Network of the USA.

The early 1990’s saw the bisexual movement’s greatest growth as new groups continued to spring up across the country. In 1992, bisexual activists, working with gay and lesbian allies, organized a successful campaign for bisexual inclusion in what became known as the 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation. At the April 25 march, an estimated one thousand people were part of the bisexual contingent. At the rally that followed, BiPol’s Lani Kaahumanu, a former lesbian activist, was the first person to speak on behalf of the bisexual community at a national gay and lesbian event, although she was the last speaker to take the stage.

BiNet continued to grow throughout the 1990’s, spawning local chapters and reaching a membership of about one thousand. The network launched the Bisexual Youth Initiative in 1995, met with the White House gay and lesbian community liaison in 1996, hosted the first National Institute on Bisexuality and HIV-AIDS in 1998, and participated in the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s “Equality Begins at Home” campaign in March of 1999. The network also focused on bisexual media activism, assisting with a July, 1995, Newsweek cover story on bisexuality, and collaborating with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) on a bisexual visibility Web site. BiNet, however, had perhaps its greatest impact in helping to foster local organizing among bisexuals.

From the start, BiNet USA was beset by tensions between grassroots activists who decried encroaching bureaucracy and those who favored a more traditional organizational structure. In 2001, the network selected Venetia Porter as its first executive director and took steps to secure an office in San Francisco’s new LGBT Community Center. However, the organization experienced a series of setbacks, including the diversion of both funding and activist attention following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. As a result, the national office was never fully occupied and Porter was let go. In 2004, BiNet maintained a skeletal board and a Web site, but it is essentially on a long-term hiatus.

Significance

During the late 1980’s and much of the 1990’s, bisexual activists for the most part focused on persuading gay and lesbian organizations to be inclusive of bisexuals. At the same time, social changes were afoot that would lead to greater acceptance of bisexuality. The early 1990’s saw the birth of a mixed-gender queer activist movement that emphasized sexual and gender diversity, and the burgeoning transgender movement called into question traditional boundaries of gender and sexual orientation. The same decade also witnessed the popularization of queer theory in academia, which stressed the fluid and socially constructed nature of sexuality and gender.

The 1990’s also saw a growth in bisexual literature, including Lani Kaahumanu and Loraine Hutchins’s Bi Any Other Name: Bisexual People Speak Out Bi Any Other Name (Kaahumanu and Hutchins) (1991) and Bisexual Politics: Theories, Queries, and Visions Bisexual Politics (Tucker) (1995), edited by Naomi Tucker. There also was increased visibility in higher education and mainstream media.

While BiNet USA never achieved anywhere near the prominence of the major national gay and lesbian groups, the gay and lesbian movement expanded to include bisexuals. By the beginning of the twenty-first century, hundreds of gay and lesbian groups had added “bisexual” and “transgender” to their names and mission statements, much as the gay movement had started to include “lesbian” in its names in the 1970’s and 1980’s. BiNet USA

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hutchins, Loraine, and Lani Kaahumanu. Bi Any Other Name: Bisexual People Speak Out. Boston: Alyson, 1991.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Ochs, Robyn, and Liz Highleyman. “Bisexual Movement.” In Lesbian Histories and Cultures, edited by Bonnie Zimmerman. New York: Garland, 2000.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Raymond, Dannielle, and Liz Highleyman. “Brief Timeline of Bisexual Activism in the United States.” In Bisexual Politics: Theories, Queries, and Visions, edited by Naomi Tucker. Binghamton, N.Y.: Harrington Park Press, 1995.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Storr, Merl, ed. Bisexuality: A Critical Reader. New York: Routledge, 1999.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Udis-Kessler, Amanda. “Identity/Politics: A History of the Bisexual Movement.” In Bisexual Politics: Theories, Queries, and Visions, edited by Naomi Tucker. Binghamton, N.Y.: Harrington Park Press, 1995.

May 6, 1868: Kertbeny Coins the Terms “Homosexual” and “Heterosexual”

June 27-July 2, 1969: Stonewall Rebellion Ignites Modern Gay and Lesbian Rights Movement

1974: Bisexual Forum Is Founded

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