To Basit Shittu, increasing bi+ visibility is essential to their work as an activist.
“As a person of color, as a gender non-conforming person… all my life I’ve just wanted to see myself represented just [the] slightest bit -- to not only see myself represented but to be the representation that I wanted to see,” Shittu, a Brooklyn-based artist and cast member of MTV’s “Are You the One?” said.
Shittu was a part of HRC’s Bisexual Awareness Week panel on Sept. 19, moderated by HRC Deputy Press Secretary Elliott Kozuch, on bi+ visibility in the media. Alongside Shittu, bi+ panelists included Advocates for Youth’s Khadija Khan, HRC’s Helen Parshall and the National Center for Transgender Equality’s Charles Girard.
Bi+ community members and advocates joined the evening of celebration to discuss bi+ visibility, support bi+ artists and address the barriers the community faces.
As part of our #BiWeek celebrations, @HRC was proud to host a panel about bi+ visibility in the media with:— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) September 20, 2019
��@AdvocatesTweets' Khadija Khan
and other bi+ community members and advocates pic.twitter.com/bXZa02Xa6n
Some of these obstacles were illuminated by data from the 2019 Bi+ Youth Report, which the HRC Foundation, in partnership with the University of Connecticut, released this week. The report found that bi+ youth are far less likely to be out about their identities to people in their lives -- including family, friends, doctors, teachers and peers -- compared to gay and lesbian youth.
Further, research showed that:
68% of bi+ youth report being teased or treated poorly because of their sexual orientation;
Just 13% of bi+ youth received information about safer sex that is relevant to their identity;
58% of transgender and gender-expansive youth identify as bi+;
Only 11% of bi+ youth of color think their racial or ethnic group is regarded positively or very positively in the U.S.
The panelists shared some of their experiences handling the challenges that come with being bi+ and visible.
“When you have this barrier already to coming out, which is people assuming that you are actually gay or you’re actually lesbian and you just don’t want to fully come out, that’s a lot of issues that young people run into,” Khan said. “I ran into it myself, and it’s really extremely invalidating and adds another layer to general widespread confusion that young people experience.”
Because individual experiences differ, sharing stories can help youth who are grappling with or confused by their sexuality.
“None of our stories are the same, but we’re all looking for that thing that connects us and how we can find that and find each other,” Parshall said.
Girard echoed this sentiment, and he had simple advice for young bi+ people.
“One thing I really hated hearing as a kid was ‘be yourself’ because what does that even mean? But my advice would be to be yourself in a way that feels safe and authentic,” he said.
If you’re bi+ and looking for resources, visit hrc.org/bisexual.