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Bi advocates seek visibility through White House roundtable

Closed-door meeting to take place Monday

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bisexuality, bisexual pride flag, gay news, Washington Blade

The White House is set to hold a closed-door bisexual roundtable on Monday (Photo by Peter Salanki via Wikimedia Commons).

Bisexual advocates are hailing an upcoming roundtable at the White House as an opportunity for greater discussion about their issues — despite the closed-door nature of the panel.

For the first-time ever, the White House Office of Public Engagement is set on Monday to hold a meeting on bisexual issues at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. The roundtable, which is closed to the press, will take place on Celebrate Bisexuality Day on which bisexual visibility is observed.

Two groups responsible for putting together the roundtable are the Boston-based Bisexual Resource Center and BiNet USA, an umbrella organization for bisexual groups.

Faith Cheltenham, president of BiNet USA, said she’s “excited” the administration is taking time to talk to members of the bisexual community about their issues.

“Our community is definitely in desperate need,” Cheltenham said. “We’re hoping that this dialogue is just the start of a very long, fruitful relationship to help serve our community.”

An observer might reject the idea of the need for a separate discussion on bisexual issues when they’re closely to tied to gay and lesbian issues. After all, bills like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act provide protections based on sexual orientation, which is inclusive of bisexuality.

Cheltenham, who’s married to a straight man, rejected the notion that bisexuals automatically face the same challenges as gay or lesbian people, saying many bisexual people suffer additional discrimination.

“When we do come out, the things that happen to us are different than what happens to gays or lesbians,” Cheltenham said. “We won’t get promoted sometimes because we’re out and people think we’re flaky. That has nothing to do it. Bisexuality is sexual orientation; it’s an innate part of who we are.”

These advocates also say bisexual visibility is necessary because bisexuals face disparity not only in the general population, but within the LGBT community.

For example, as Cheltenham noted, a 2013 report from the Centers for Disease Control Control found 61 percent of bisexual women have faced intimate partner violence, sexual violence and stalking based on their sexual orientation. Comparatively, the numbers are 44 percent for lesbians, 35 percent for straight woman, 26 percent for gay men and 37 percent for bisexual men.

Cheltenham also said bisexual men face unique problems compared to gay men in terms of increased vulnerability to mental health issues and HIV/AIDS.

“Te HIV prevention models that have been working or do work for gay men and heterosexual men — there’s no specific bisexual one, and that’s a problem,” Cheltenham said. “So bisexual men aren’t being educated on HIV at the levels that we want them to be. We’re not seeing them reflected in HIV materials.”

Ellyn Ruthstrom, president of the Bisexual Resource Center, said the White House roundtable provides an important opportunity for bisexual advocates to come together to “share their perspectives” with LGBT advocates and administration officials.

“Our bisexual community is suffering to a larger degree on many of these different health disparities, mental health issues,” Ruthstrom said. “You just assume if we’re addressing just the LGBT community as a whole, then we must be taking care of bisexuals. And that is not the case.”

Although bisexuals may not be considered as publicly prominent as lesbian or gay people, a 2011 report from the Williams Institute estimated that they actually make up a majority of those who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual.

Among the 3.5 percent of the population identifying as LGB, bisexuals comprise a slight majority, or 1.8 percent, compared to the 1.7 percent who identify as lesbian or gay, the report says.

Cheltenham and Ruthstrom were reluctant to talk about how many people will attend the roundtable, or disclose any names of participating advocates or administration officials because the event is off the record.

Still, they confirmed they planned to attend along other bisexual advocates and researchers from across the country, including a large percentage of people of color. The Human Rights Campaign has previously said it would take part in some capacity.

Asked whether President Obama would attend, Cheltenham said she couldn’t speak to it, but hasn’t heard he’ll be in attendance.

Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson, confirmed the roundtable would take place on Monday, but declined to provide additional information other than to affirm it’s closed to the press.

“As it routinely does with interested parties on any number of issues, the White House Office of Public Engagement will hold a briefing on Monday on issues of concern to the bisexual community,” Inouye said. “This event is closed press.”

It’s not unusual for the Office of Public Engagement to hold meetings that aren’t public. That’s generally the ground rules for the events that office holds — LGBT or otherwise.

Asked whether she wants the White House to open up the event, Cheltenham would only say generally she sees value in discussions on bisexual issues be open to the public.

“I’m totally in support of any public event that gives us a chance to dialogue about the disparities of our community — whatever they may be, whether that’s at the White House, or at HRC or at other places,” Cheltenham said.

While the meeting may be a first for the White House, bisexuals have been organizing independently of the LGBT community for some time. The Bisexual Resource Center, for example, was founded in 1985 following a regional conference.

Cheltenham said bisexual advocates have engaged with the White House for years and first brought up the idea for a panel with then-White House LGBT liaison Brian Bond in June 2010.

“From there, we started having discussions about what that would look like,” Cheltenham said. “We engaged the White House, and this is sort of where we came together.”

Robyn Ochs, a Boston-based bisexual activist and educator, told the Washington Blade via email she’s “delighted” the roundtable is taking place because the needs of bisexual people “are not exactly the same” as others in the LGBT community.

“Yet in research, in public policy and in health policy we are usually either lumped in with lesbians and gay men, or else completely ignored,” Ochs said. “For this reason, I am delighted that this meeting is taking place, as it is an opportunity to shine some light on issue facing this sizable population.”

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Donna Rose

    September 25, 2013 at 5:10 pm

    wow the admin is doing important stuff

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Arts & Entertainment

2021 Best of LGBTQ DC Readers’ Choice Award Finalist Voting

Vote for your favorite finalist in our 2021 Best of LGBTQ DC categories through October 3rd.

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It is Decision 2021! You nominated and now we have our Top 5 finalists. Vote for your favorites in our 2021 Best of LGBTQ DC categories through October 3rd. Our 2021 Best of LGBTQ DC will be announced at the Best of LGBTQ DC Awards Party on October 21st and our special issue will come out on Friday, October 22nd.

Thank you to our sponsors: ABSOLUT, PEPCO, Washington Regional Transplant Community.

Vote below or by clicking HERE.

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World

Biden highlights LGBTQ rights in UN General Assembly speech

President noted crackdowns in Chechnya, Cameroon

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President Biden addresses the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 21, 2021. (Screen capture via NBC News)

President Biden on Tuesday in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly spoke in support of LGBTQ rights around the world.

“We all must defend the rights of LGBTQI individuals so they can live and love openly without fear,” he said.

Biden in his speech specifically cited anti-LGBTQ crackdowns in Chechnya and Cameroon. He spoke after Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who is a vocal opponent of LGBTQ rights, addressed the General Assembly.

“As we pursue diplomacy across the board, the United States will champion the democratic values that go to the very heart of who we are as a nation and a people: freedom, equality, opportunity and a belief in the universal rights of all people,” said Biden.

The White House earlier this year released a memorandum that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad.

The decriminalization of consensual same-sex sexual relations and protecting LGBTQ migrants and asylum seekers are two of the administration’s five priorities in its efforts to promote LGBTQ rights abroad. Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week expressed concern over the fate of LGBTQ Afghans who remain in their country after the Taliban regained control of it, but it remains unclear how many of them the U.S. has been able to evacuate.

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Local

Veteran restauranteurs to open Drift in Rehoboth

Second Block Hospitality eyes 2022 debut for new raw bar

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Double L, Diego's Hideaway, Fourth, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, gay news, Washington Blade
A new raw bar is coming to Baltimore Avenue in Rehoboth. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Despite the generally anti-business positions of the current Rehoboth Beach Mayor and some members of the Rehoboth Beach Commission, there are still some entrepreneurs who have faith in Rehoboth Beach.

One such group is the newly announced Second Block Hospitality Group, which brings together local industry leaders Lion Gardner, Tyler Townsend, Bob Suppies, and David Gonce.

According to the partners, “The mission of Second Block Hospitality is simple…to deliver exceptional hospitality. Second Block projects will be designed to become places that matter; that bring the community together. They aim to create unique spaces that foster positivity, a creative atmosphere, and memorable experiences. Driven by this philosophy we are thoughtful in everything we do, down to the smallest detail. In all our endeavors we are committed to crafting unique guest experiences through innovative design, authentic flavors, and warm hospitality.”

Their first new venture, Drift, will be a raw bar and dining room on Baltimore Avenue. The new project, already underway, is a massive restoration designed to transform the existing building, originally built in 1890 and used as a camp meeting house, into a modern structure with historic charm. Drift restaurant will feature a refined design, open airy spaces and lots of glass for open vantage points with an indoor/outdoor bar area and intimate back patio that will add to the allure of Baltimore Avenue.

“We could not be more excited to be breaking ground on another passion project,” said Suppies. “Coming through the last year brought many new challenges to our industry, but we were able to get very creative and grow as a company, so this new venture is very exciting for us.”

Another of the partners, Gardner, brings his skill set as a longtime chef to the new venture.

“One of my roles in the company will be to oversee the menu and kitchen at Drift and all of our projects moving forward,” Gardner said. “The great thing about our ownership group is that even though each partner has his own area of expertise, there is collaboration across the board; we are all involved in all aspects of the business. I am excited to learn and contribute in other areas as well, and luckily for me I’m working with a group of really talented, experienced and passionate guys.”

Drift is slated to open sometime in early 2022, and things are in full swing for the new restaurant owners, including menu planning. Townsend said, “Drift will be a true raw bar focusing on the art of raw seafood and not just oysters, along with traditionally prepared dishes influenced by the sea. From a beverage standpoint we will feature craft cocktails and eccentric wine and beer offerings. Think small and intimate, rustic and classic, yet casual with a focus on culinary inventiveness and creative spaces.” and good times. For more information visit driftrb.com.

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