Saturday, June 13, 2015

Building Bisexual Community in the Ozarks

My BiAngle Column in The Gayly May 2015

As I wrote in my Solutions to Bisexual Mental Health article in Bi Women Quarterly, one of the main objectives for bettering bisexuals’ appalling statistics is to form a strong community.
According to BiNet USA’s mission statement, building community is a major focus for the organization. They even have created a map showing bisexual groups across the country. Finding one another is perhaps our biggest roadblock towards creating non-cyberspace community.
Recently, a new member to BiNet USA’s Facebook page posted, “I wish I knew more Bi people here in Tulsa!!! I wish there were a group like this one!!”
Someone in Springfield responded that there is a new bisexual group at The Gay & Lesbian Community Center of the Ozarks (GLO) and then posted a link to the South West Missouri (SWMO) Bisexual/Pansexual Pride Group’s Facebook page.
I contacted the page’s administrators to get more information. My hope is that this column will lead more bisexuals in the area to the group.
Wendy Owens, who started the Facebook page, says the GLO Center, which will be celebrating its twenty-year anniversary next year, is the longest continually running LGBT+ Center in Missouri.
The Center, which offers, “a place to be yourself, a place to meet others in the community, and a place to find information about the community at large,” also hosts the annual Greater Ozarks Pridefest.
Owens says she first connected with GLO when she went looking for transgender resources.
Seeing how difficult it was to find such resources led Owens to start the Springfield Transgender Resource Group on Facebook, which she says has helped many in the Southwest Missouri region and beyond find physicians, psychiatric help, and support. Owens explains that, “This personal outreach put me on the Board of Directors radar,” which then led to her being recruited to be a GLO Center board member.
“One thing that has been important for me since day one on the board” Owens explains, “is the need to help those who are on the fringes and often marginalized, and there was a decided lack of such for our area.” She went on to say, “The Board has a motto that, ‘Everyone shall have a seat at the table.’ Being that I identified as pansexual as well as transgender, I was shocked to not see any real outreach or organization for the Bi/Pan community. It was asked one night what, and to whom we could reach out to. It just so happened that I already the idea formed and had created a Facebook group towards gauging the interest in a monthly Bisexual/Pansexual Support Group.”
Her intent is to allow those who attend shape the group, make it personal and theirs, with the idea that people will take more pride in it that way.
In her position as Co-Chair for the Greater Ozarks Pridefest Committee, Owens planned that the forming bi/pan group’s first event — a Bar-Bi-Que — also be the kickoff event for Pride Week to give visibility to bi/pan issues.
The Bar-Bi-Que is scheduled for June 14th, the Sunday before Pride. Owens wants the event to convey to bisexuals and pansexuals in the area that, “they are seen and loved.” The event begins at 7:00 p.m. at the GLO Center at 518 East Commercial Street, Springfield.
Co-administrator of the bi/pan Facebook page, Collins RC, moved to Springfield about a year ago, connected to GLO when they went looking for queer community, and soon joined the pride planning committee.
Acknowledging that the center does not include bisexuality in its name, Collins says that they never experienced any biphobia at GLO, and that only encouragement has been encountered when they tried to increase bi/pan/queer outreach.
Collins says they “jumped at the idea,” when, during Pride planning, Owens mentioned the importance of a bi/pan event.
Collins hopes the bi/pan group will have a meeting at GLO every other week, that there will be a more active Facebook page, and perhaps an educational blog.
 Collins is also interested in exploring bi specific history in the area, and says, “We are starting a trend of real action around diverse queer identities.”