A Very Bi Weekend By Bill Burleson I love getting out of town for a weekend; staying at a hotel, swimming in the pool, lying in bed watching HBO in the middle of the night. Hey, who doesn’t? I also love participating in esoteric and not so esoteric discussions about queer theory with my fellow bisexuals. Again, doesn’t everyone? The weekend of May 18th, I was able to combine these two loves at the eleventh annual BECAUSE Conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. BECAUSE is the Midwest conference on bisexuality that started in the Twin Cities, where it enjoyed nine good years before going to Milwaukee for the first time last year. About 80 people, including about 25 from the Twin Cities, participated in heady workshops such as “Futuristic Approaches to Gender and Sexuality”, “Feminist Bisexuality: the Challenge to Queer Politics”, “Explaining the Klein Orientation Grid” and “Meg’s Pool Party.” Let’s be clear: these are not Jerry Springer bisexuals, fighting in the shallow end of the gene pool. No, we are mostly the kind of bisexual recently described by Dan Savage as wearing Peruvian drawstring pants, berets, and carrying Guatemalan handbags. Proud of it, too. (Dan you dick-head, goes to show what you know. My drawstring pants are FairTrade from Chile.) The conference featured nationally known speakers Dr. Fritz Klein, a prominent researcher on the nature of sexuality, and writer Hanne Blank. It also featured a dozen or so workshops such as the ones I already mentioned that delved into many topics of interest to the bisexual community. Some of the workshops were professionally led, but most were designed and facilitated by self-styled experts who are usually remarkably well self-educated community members.
Therein lies the nature of BECAUSE: I have been to many a conference in my time, some done professionally, some not. I have been to conferences for jobs and GLBT conferences, and some that were both. But nowhere have I seen a group that is so democratic, so much truly put on by the community. This workshop attendee is the next workshop’s facilitator. Seldom is it framed that “we must listen to the expert – the expert knows all.” Here, participants are the experts! Everyone is listened to; all are part of a great search for a better understanding of the nature of being queer. I know of nowhere else where this discussion goes on to such an intense degree. Have you deconstructed the relationship between gender and orientation lately? But what really brings all these people together year after year, besides the hotel room, the HBO, the pool, and the esoteric discussions? If the nature of BECAUSE is community participation, the essence of BECAUSE is community support. That’s right: a hundred or so other bisexuals and I get to spend at one weekend out of the year with people of our own kind. Bisexuality is, believe it or not, very isolating. We don’t have community institutions like bars or bookstores. We are invisible: the world assigns us an orientation other than our own based on the gender of our partner. I know that there is a score of different-gendered relationships and one same-gendered on my block, but I don’t know if there are twenty or zero other bis like me. At BECAUSE, I can at once assume I am at home in my community and know that no one is assuming anything about me. Here you are free from assumptions and judgments in the way you can be only when you are with your own tribe. At BECAUSE one is free to be sexually diverse, polymorphous iconoclasts, or a boring old vanilla middle-aged bi guy, as the case may be. For that, I’d drive anywhere. I must confess that I am far from unbiased. Besides being a BECAUSE attendee, I have been involved in bisexual politics in the Twin Cities for years and have helped plan the conference in the past. Which brings up another reason why it was so much fun to go out of town for the conference: because it means I didn’t have to work on it.
But thatâ€™s coming to an end. Next year, after a two year absence, BECAUSE is coming back to the Twin Cities. Keep an eye open for it in April 2003; in the past the conference attendance was much larger here, and was generally held at Metropolitan State in St. Paul or the University of Minnesota. But for next year, the word is that it may be held at a hotel like it was in Milwaukee. And you know why: the HBO. Bill Burleson is a community activist, writer and boring old vanilla guy.