Bisexual Organizing Project’s BECAUSE Conference Builds Community, Inspires Activism, Changes Lives
By Lauren B. Beach for Bi Pride Day
Bisexual Empowerment Conference: A Uniting Supportive Experience (BECAUSE) is the nation’s only conference dedicated exclusively to building the bisexual, pansexual, fluid, queer, unlabeled, and allied community. What began in Minneapolis as a small group of grassroots bisexual activists imagining a community gathering turned into 70 bisexual, trans, queer, and allied people coming together to host the first BECAUSE in 1992. The connections created and reinforced among bisexual activists during the early BECAUSE years eventually led to the formation of Bisexual Organizing Project (BOP)– the 501(c)(3) non-profit that still annually hosts BECAUSE.
Each year, over the course of a memorable weekend, BECAUSE creates an inclusive community by and for bisexual and other non-monosexually identified individuals and their families, partners, friends and allies. Every year we hear from people who attend BECAUSE that the conference changed their lives. A large part of the reason I am writing this article today is because the conference changed my life.
In 2008, I attended my first BECAUSE Conference, at the University of Minnesota’s Coffman Union, where I was a new graduate and law student. After my first day at the conference, I wrote in my journal, “Being surrounded by a supportive, bisexual community has made me realize what true empowerment in my bisexual identity feels like. There can be no going back for me… I am going to dedicate the rest of my LGBTQIA activist life into figuring out how to better include bisexual people and bisexual communities in LGBTQ and allied communities, on our own terms.” Attending BECAUSE transformed my personal activist mission, and inspired me to join the BOP board and the BECAUSE 2009 organizing committee.
For others, BECAUSE removed them from the dark and closeted world of isolation and introduced them to a vibrant and supportive bisexual community they never knew existed. For still others, the conference has provided an even deeper form of support. Soberingly, conference attendees have reported to BOP that attending BECAUSE provided them with the essential feelings of acceptance and hope they needed to stop them from considering taking their own lives.
The lived experience of the mission of BECAUSE helps achieve the conference’s immense and meaningful impact on attendees. The mission of BECAUSE is to “create a safe, supporting and empowering community in which participants are encouraged to discover and celebrate their sexual identities.” To put this mission into practice, the conference features a diverse set of workshops on topics of interest to bisexual and other non-monosexual communities, including coming out, bisexual parenting, safer sex, exploring the diversity of our communities, advocating for bisexual inclusion in LGBTQIA and mainstream communities, marriage equality, and many others. Additionally, BECAUSE has a strong commitment to curating or commissioning written, visual and performance artistic works to be shown during the conference that positively and centrally feature bisexual characters and identities.
This year, for the first time, BECAUSE also featured BiReConUSA, a day-long academic conference designed to help BECAUSE conference attendees, “gain a stronger understanding of how… research [can] improve bisexual movement building.” Author of Bi America and BECAUSE 2013 keynote speaker Bill Burleson summarized it well when he said, “BECAUSE has always been a focus for bi community and bi activism. Now, with BiReConUSA and the increased focus on research, we can add furthering understanding of bi issues as well.” At the core of understanding “bi issues,” however, has to be an understanding of bisexual people and communities, as we define ourselves. Conference organizers encouraged researchers presenting their work at BiReConUSA to stay for the traditional BECAUSE community conference so that the, “social justice and community driven aspects of the BECAUSE community conference… [will] help shape and drive future research… involving the bi community.”
Overall, the BECAUSE conference is about promoting acceptance and empowerment of bisexual identities and communities – starting with our own processes of self-acceptance and expanding outward into creating more bi-welcoming cultures. The lived experience of bisexual empowerment and pride that so many have felt at BECAUSE perfectly represents the spirit and meaning of why our community recognizes Celebrate Bisexuality Day. BOP hopes that you will join us in creating an empowered bisexual community with us at a future BECAUSE Conference. Enjoy the holiday. #CBD2013
Lauren Beach is a former Chairperson of Bisexual Organizing Project, a current lead BECAUSE organizer, and founder of www.midwestbiactivist.org. She received her JD from the University of Minnesota Law School in December 2012 and expects to complete a PhD in Molecular Cellular Developmental Biology & Genetics in Spring 2014, also from the University of Minnesota.