Political Matters

I’m sorry I haven’t been maintaining this blog since the election. I had intended to restart this month, reinvigorated by a break so I can create a team that wants to work on this project with me and move it forward to the next phase.

However, current political events have my energy focused elsewhere. I just published a new post on my (very occasional) personal blog about last week’s events.

You will find excellent recommendations about writing an organizational response to last week’s events in todays Nonprofit AF blog post.

If you haven’t committed to education for your leadership and your community on racism and anti-blackness, now is the time to plan that work. Get professional help from organizations that use BIPOC trainers in your area and make the time to do this work. It is hard, emotional work, but its not as hard as living BIPOC in this country right now. To paraphrase something Vu says in the Nonprofit AF post I linked to above, if you don’t loose a few volunteers, donors, or participants during this time, you probably aren’t taking a strong enough stand.

Good luck.

Intermission II–The Waiting

Hi! Yep, we’re all still here, waiting for tomorrow. Not that tomorrow will let us know the final results of many of the elections happening in the U.S., but some things will be settled. In the mean time, anxiety is running high, not just about the election results, but about what will happen next.

Please take care of yourselves and take care of the people around you. We’ll be back next week with an update on this project and ways you can help shape the content and delivery of leadership development for the community of folks attracted to more than one gender (bisexual, pansexual, fluid, queer, bi+, etc). See you on the other side.

Intermission

Hello! This week and next week we are taking a short intermission from leadership development. This week our key message is:

VOTE!

Please, vote. If the non-political comedy show Rediculousness can put a “get out the vote” message crawl across the bottom of it’s episodes this weekend, you know everyone is getting in on the message. I’ve been getting texts and emails about getting out to vote, making a voting plan, and committing to talking to other people about voting for weeks.

If you haven’t voted, please check one of the many sites that can help you vote. Personally, I wouldn’t mail an absentee ballot at this point given all the drama with the USPS right now. However, if that is your safest option, it is better than not voting. Better is to drop your ballot in an official ballot drop box. Vote in person at early polling stations or vote the day of if you must. Check your state voting site for current information.

Please Vote!

Every vote is a grain of sand on the scales. If you are not excited about the options, well, welcome to 21st century politics. I am not well represented by any candidate but I don’t only vote when I’m excited. At this moment especially, think about your values and decide what’s important to you. Then vote for the major party candidate is most likely to act in alignment with your values.

I always used to vote third party. I still do in some state races because of election funding and ballot access laws in Minnesota. However, as the U.S. political system has become more polarized and politics more fractious, I feel strongly that I need to weigh in for which of the likely winners I support.

Please vote.

Next week, as we all wait for the election news to start pouring in (even thought we probably won’t know the results until after January 6), I’m going to lay out the plan for this project and what the next steps are. I hope by now you’ve seen enough of my writing to know what’s important to me. This was never intended to be a one person show nor is the plan that the blog is the only resource. I’m looking for contributors and collaborators to take this project into its next stages. Stay tuned!

Reflections: Hope

Five years ago, when I was chair of Bisexual Organizing Project (BOP), I was contacted by QED: A Journal of GLBTQ Worldmaking. They asked me to write an article about the future of bisexual activism. It was published in early 2015 and I wrote about it on my very occasional personal blog. Today, I was looking through old posts and was surprised how the excerpts I shared from the article have stood the test of time. Here is a partial re-post from that February 9, 2015 entry:

I consider the topic of the “future” of anything to be a moving target. Written before the tragedy in Ferguson and the rise of the #blacklivesmatter movement, this article begins a discussion of social justice both for the bisexual, pansexual, fluid, queer, and unlabeled (bi+) community as well as the social justice we must work for within our community.

There are two parts I want to highlight. First, a summary of what we need to build strong supports for our activism:

There are four key elements needed to move bi activism forward. First, there needs to be a better understanding by grantors and other institutions about the needs of the bisexual community. Second, the bi community needs to have organizational structures in place to allow grantors and institutions to work effectively with bisexual organizations. Third, bi individuals need to understand
where and how they can get involved as activists and why it is important to do so. Fourth, there must be high-quality research on the bi community to identify needs and provide evidence about the disparities experienced by bisexuals.

And my vision for the future:

The future of bisexual activism will require a new set of skills, a new level of organizational commitment, and a broad vision. However, it builds on both a rich history of an inclusive community and a new commitment by activists to national coordination and leadership. Bisexual activists will be creating more types of organizations to support this work, including political fundraising organizations, research institutions, and foundations. Although this vision is ambitious, the energy, momentum, and expertise present in the bisexual community today provides just the place to begin such an ambitious undertaking.

I wrote those passages so long ago: Obama was President, #BLM and #Metoo hadn’t started and, while many organizers were concerned about push back from the conservative right, no one had foreseen how our entire system would be upended when Trump was elected President. The world was a very different place for activists and community organizers when I wrote the original article.

However, I see that we’ve made progress. The launch of Visibility Impact Fund and more education for other funders to increase funding for bi+ organizations and programs, the increase in the number of bi+ organizations around the country, and a new organization focused on bisexual health in Chicago all show me that even in the difficult times since this article was published, we’ve been creating the institutions we need.

Sometimes it feels like we deal with the same issues year after year. This writing from 2015 was helpful to me today when I really needed to regain my optimism. I hope it gives some perspective on how leadership continues to work on behalf of our bi+ communities.

If you are interested in other reflections on the past that feel relevant right now, take a look at the text of the keynote speech I gave less then a week after Trump won the Presidency in 2016. I had to significantly rewrite the speech in those few days between waking up to a new world on Wednesday November 9, 2016 and the day I spoke on Saturday, November 12, 2016. I struggled with how to frame the new situation for the college students I was addressing as I watched fear and anxiety saturate every part of my social media feeds. I hope thatI helped them put what was happening in perspective and left them feeling more prepared to keep moving forward.

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Community Agreements

It’s always exciting to see community members join leadership. In the community of people attracted to more than one gender who use labels like bisexual, pansexual, fluid and queer, among others (the bi+ communities) our leadership is all volunteer and draws from our own communities. Sunday afternoon I attended Minneapolis based Bisexual Organizing Project’s annual meeting via zoom where they held elections for their open board positions. I have been involved in different ways with BOP since 2008 when I first presented at the BECAUSE Conference, which I have co-chaired for the last two years.

I know one of the things the board will be working on soon is developing their list of community agreements. I first encountered this idea at conference workshops and it is often used in educational settings as well. The concept is that a group of people agrees how they want to conduct themselves then holds each other accountable. The group might only be coming together for a single workshop, or it might be a leadership team that expects to work together for a year or more. Regardless, these community agreements can be very helpful when a group has to discuss difficult topics or decide how to move forward when individuals are in conflict. Groups need to have a framework that allows them to work through rough patches and continue functioning. Without such a structure, most groups will at least loose some members when there is a problem, and may find they are unable to continue to act effectively at all.

I think it is very important for the group to create this list together. When we all contribute to something and discuss the items until they make sense to everyone, then we have buy-in. Developing a list together also helps address assumed agreements that often plague organizations. We all have our own history from our families, our schooling, our work, and other places we’ve volunteered. Some of these dynamics may be toxic while others model healthy conflict resolution and negotiation. When we develop these community agreements about how we want to treat each other, we establish a common understanding.

Community agreements often require participants to stretch themselves. When we are feeling hurt, angry, tired, stressed, or depressed we may need to fall back on good habits and accountability to our peers to continue to treat each other respectfully and bring our best selves. In the best community agreements I’ve participated in, there are items I know will be a stretch for me. These are great ways for me to continue to develop my own skills and support others in their growth, too.

At conferences, community agreements usually start with an all conference agreement. BECAUSE has a short list of agreements about how organizers ask the attendees to approach the conference along with a much more detailed code of conduct that addresses interactions between individuals. In workshops that need to expand on that list, the workshop leader will solicit additional items from the participants. Not all suggestions will be agreed on, but through the process the group starts to work together, which can also contribute to better a workshop experience in general.

Groups that are going to work together longer will usually develop their own, more comprehensive list. Some common community agreement items include:

  • Speaking from your own experience or using “I” statements. This helps prevent people from trying to speak for groups they don’t represent or belong to. Although sometimes we need to speak for groups who are not present, that is a good indication you need to expand the representation in the discussion, not that folks should speculate on the feelings or experiences of other people.
  • Being willing to listen and engage when someone has a problem with something you did or said is a common aspiration that can be difficult to follow through on when things are difficult. However, having the expectation that these issues will be discussed honestly discourages nursing resentments instead of confronting an issue. For groups that are working together long term, it can be good to provide some guidance around how those conversations will happen: privately, with a neutral third party present, or in the full group.
  • Assuming the good intent of others working with you can be difficult in our community where trust is difficult to build. When done well, this can make listening to and learning from each other easier. However, I think it is important to pair it with the next item.
  • Taking responsibility for impact, regardless of intent. While we assume good intent, we also need to accept responsibility when our actions cause harm. This is especially true when microaggressions create an environment that feels unsafe to some participants.

These are just a few examples of ways people might agree they want to work together. The Anti-Oppression Network has a very comprehensive discussion of their community agreement which addresses ableism, structural power dynamics, and much, much more. However, if a group is looking to adopt another group’s list, I think it’s important to talk through each item and make sure everyone understands it in the same way. All communities have their own culture and their own needs when it comes to creating safer spaces or brave spaces.

Not all groups have the tools or experience to work with a list such as the one The Anti-Oppression Network uses. Look for people local to your area who provide training to organizations to raise their awareness of social justice, racial justice, as well as other access and inclusion issues such as disability inclusion and creating spaces welcoming to neurodivergent individuals. Find trainers from the communities you need to learn more about and pay them for their time. Work in the broader area of access and inclusion is never finished, it is a process that continually evolves the more you learn. Make this type of training a part of your budget.

I would like to once again recognize the significant contributions that BIPOC led organizations and social justice movements have made to all groups working toward social and racial justice both within their organizations and in the world we live in. The importance for the bi+ communities to embody social and racial justice cannot be over stated. It must be a part of everything we say and do.

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Reframing Hard Conversations

Last week I had the opportunity to present via zoom alongside two librarians from the Hennepin County Library System at the Minnesota Library Association annual conference. We were speaking about how libraries can be more supportive of bi+ library patrons and employees. During the question and answer portion, one participant asked for ideas on how to have conversations with coworkers who are feeling uncomfortable.

My answer fell into a category of answers I think of as reframing the question. As leaders in the community of people attracted to more than one gender who use labels like bisexual, pansexual, fluid and queer (bi+), we often serve as educators both to our own community members and to others. Some of the hardest questions benefit from this reframing approach so I wanted to take some time today to share a few examples. I’d love to hear in the comments about creatively constructive ways you have answered questions about our community.

My answer to the attendee at the MLA conference was to ground the answer in the idea that we learn the most when we are a little uncomfortable. This idea is often taught as part of diversity or social justice training. The discomfort this coworker is feeling can be related to other situations where they may have experienced discomfort and come through that experience learning more. Without delving deeply into the specifics of the questioner’s situation, I hoped that reframing the discomfort as something related to many situations might provide a broader context so the person will be more willing to venture into uncomfortable discussions.

When I present about the bi+ community, I often get questions about how to rebut different stereotypes. One time I was asked about the idea that bi+ folks are greedy. Greedy is a sticky one because it ties into many problematic assumptions about sex, pleasure, scarcity, and more.

After admitting that I am reclaiming greedy, I suggested they try discussing what was really being communicated when someone said bi+ folks are greedy. The first questions that came to my mind were, “In what way are bi+ folks greedy?” and “Is that a bad thing?” In the case of the bi+ stereotype, I think greedy is usually being connected to wanting lots of sex or wanting lots of partners. Of course, this is no more true or false then any other stereotype, but I find that argument doesn’t have as much impact as I’d like because it rarely causes people to rethink their assumptions. So, I explored those questions I posed with the questioner and we dug into assumptions about sex, intimacy, and scarcity.

Since I had already covered the connection between stereotypes and sexual and intimate violence in the presentation I didn’t feel like I needed to cover that again. However, that approach is also a good way to prompt some real reflection on the impacts of stereotypes.

As a side note, at this point people may start throwing up health concerns or talking about cheating. These are completely different topics, both of which are problematic, and which happen with people of all orientations. Greedy does not mean unsafe or unethical, but people often need you to connect the dots for them.

For a final example: a number of years ago in a large Facebook group run by a bi+ organization, there was a discussion about bi+ community: what was it, did it exist as a coherent idea, and was it even a good idea? One person went on a rant about gatekeeping, hair length, and being shunned for not conforming. While I had not experienced that in bi+ community, I had certainly see toxic community elsewhere and had no trouble imagining such a situation.

Instead of answering the specifics, or pointing out that wasn’t true everywhere, or telling this person they should try again, I looked past the rant and took a stab at the cause. I wrote that I heard a lot of pain in that post and clearly the writer had had some bad experiences. I expressed my wish that the in the future the writer would find a supportive community, such as I had found in my local bi+ community. As this person was not near me geographically nor did we share any Facebook friends, I left it at that. I wasn’t going to make their pain less by challenging it, I could only focus on what was important to me as a community leader: that people find supportive community somewhere.

I hope these few examples might give you some ideas about how to reframe ideas or questions and help people look at them from a new perspective. Have you had a situation where you reframed a question or idea about bisexuality, pansexuality, or our bi+ communities? Please share in the comments!

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Transparency

This week’s post will bring us back to some more concrete organizing skills. Transparency through communication and access to organizational information holds leadership accountable and builds trust with the community. It also falls into “best practices.” A lack of transparency doesn’t necessarily mean anything wrong is happening. Most organizations of all types and sizes could be better about transparency. However, it is when the community and donors do not have access to the full picture of an organization that things can go badly wrong. Worse, a lack of transparency (and record keeping) means sorting out the situation when something goes wrong is difficult.

Before I dig into the topic, want to take a moment to talk about security. We live in a country with powerful elements that many of us don’t trust, and some that we know will actively try to harm us. An argument can be made that at least some of the information I discuss in this post isn’t safe to have publicly accessible or searchable online. Just as I feel that each individual is the only one who can decide what is safe for them in their situation, organizations need to be careful they don’t put their leadership, participants, or donors at risk. However, I challenge all leadership to examine how they can share information, and to push their comfort level on disclosing more about their organizations. Too often “security concerns” are really code for “I don’t want to have to defend my choices.”

In the bi+ community, the community of people attracted to more than one gender who use labels like bisexual, pansexual, fluid, and queer, our experiences with our bi+ identities make trust hard to give. It takes extra effort to build the trust so people will feel they can participate, much less donate and volunteer. That trust can be even harder for bi+ people with other marginalized identities including trans and BIPOC folks. As leaders, we must do everything we can to build that trust so that we can serve our all our bi+ communities in the ways they need.

The aspirational goal for any organization is to publish agendas and minutes for board meetings (or any leadership meeting) along with annual reports. Who serves on the board or other leadership body should be easy to look up. All this information should be publicly accessible. Many staffed organizations don’t have this level of transparency, however I think it is important to try.

I wrote a few months ago about minutes and agendas at length. I suggest checking it out if you have any questions about how and why they are important. For this discussion of transparency, I will emphasize that publishing agendas before meetings and publishing minutes after meetings is important.

Agendas should be sent out ahead of the meeting so all participants know what topics will be covered. It should be publicly available so community members and other stake holders can plan to attend if they need to participate. If they only need to be at a part of the meeting, having the full agenda means they can plan their schedule accordingly. In addition, board members can prepare prior to discussions or making a decision. This reduces the need to delay agenda items because leadership needs more time to research, discuss, or think about the matter at hand.

Publishing the minutes of meetings helps communicate what the board is focusing on and what decisions they have made. Many people only see one or two dimensions of the work of an organization. By publishing minutes, you create a longitudinal record of what the board has discussed and decided. Community members can look at this record to see if topics of importance to them are under discussion, have had decisions made about them, or if perhaps the board needs to have the issue raised for their consideration. People considering joining leadership can use these records to orient themselves. Organizations vary by how much financial information they include with minutes, however I encourage you to include the basic financial reports that should be a part of every leadership meeting.

Annual reports are a more difficult goal. The annual reports large non profits put out are slick publications suitable for marketing the organization and soliciting donations from the most discerning supporters. However, the information they communicate is important to have available throughout the year so even if you can’t do a multipage, full color publication, you still need to communicate the same information.

All 501(c)3’s over a certain size have to complete a full Form 990 for the IRS each year. This contains most of the financial information you should include in an annual report and broadly shows how money is made or raised and how it is spent. Putting a copy of your most recent Form 990 on your website is a great first step to being more transparent about your organization. Organizations who are not required to file a full Form 990 can elect to file one anyway, which of course they can then publish. Form 990’s can also be used in other ways, such as to raise an organization’s rating on GuideStar, a website that collects information on non profit organizations.

Annual reports should include information about work the organization did over the previous year including programs, events, or other work they are engaged in. Most organizations focus on their accomplishments and highlight a personal interest story or two. Financial information is disclosed to show fund raising and income earned as well as how the money was spent in very high level financial reports or graphs.

Most organizations hold very tightly to their financial information. Publishing your finances opens the organization up to all sorts of scrutiny including showing where you are expecting funding to come from and what areas you consider most important. However, I believe that communicating with the community about your financial priorities and expectations can build a level of trust that no amount of personal conversations or good promotional material can provide. If you are not confident you can defend your financial choices, perhaps you need to readdress your priorities or take some time to educate your community and your donors about your work. As organizations working to serve our bi+ communities, we should be held accountable for how we prioritize our resources. We also need to educate our donors and potential donors about all the different things we do, their importance, and how much they cost. When we don’t, we risk donors not understanding how their donation serves the community through our work.

A very stark example of donors needing more education happened when marriage equality became legal in the U.S. Many LGBTQ organizations had focused on the work for marriage equality to such a great extent they either didn’t have robust programming in other areas or they hadn’t educated their donors about the importance of all the work they were doing. Donors evaporated and organizations were left without the financial resources needed for their continuing work until they reeducated donors. The LGBTQ community still had, and has, significant work to do before our communities enjoy the same civil rights as our straight peers.

Organizations often have annual meetings which can be used to share information about the organization and get folks excited to be more involved as volunteers. While this can serve as a way to communicate the same information as an annual report, you are going to want to have that information available throughout the year.

Transparency can be difficult. The more information you make public, the more people outside your leadership circle will understand, and possibility critique, your work. However, this is the essence of being accountable to our community and our donors. This transparency, combined with our actions, is how we build trust within our bi+ communities. Without trust between our organizations, members of our bi+ communities, and our other supporters, we will continue to struggle as organizations and as individuals.

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Bi+ Giving Circle

On Wednesday, at the beginning of #BiWeek2020, I was proud to be part of the launch committee announcing the start of the first bi+ giving circle: The Visibility Impact Fund.

The bi+ community, the community of people attracted to more than one gender who use labels like bisexual, pansexual, fluid, and queer, runs on a shoestring. This is in part because LGBTQ grant-makers have never responded to the need for bi+ specific funding. The U.S. nonprofit funding model runs primarily on direct contributions and grants. Without bi+ specific grants, and without professional development staff, bi+ activism and organizing is limited by small donation fundraising that can be run by an all volunteer staff.

If you have only heard about giving circles from media coverage of very wealthy people using them to disguise political donations a few years ago, I’m pleased to let you know that they are much more then that. As a growing part of the philanthropy, more and more people are creating and participating in giving circles. At their most basic, giving circles pool the donations of their members and then donate or grant the funds as decided by the membership. As usual, the devil is in the details, and giving circles can be organized and select their funding recipients in many different ways.

The Visibility Impact Fund has a very low monthly donation requirement of $5 to be a member. We want as many people as possible to be able to participate. Of course, we hope that as time goes on, smaller donors will be able become larger donors but most importantly, this can be a way for our community to support each other regardless of where we live in the U.S.. Anyone can make a one-time donation, but only members making a monthly donation can vote on the final allocation of grant money.

Granting will start in 2021. These will be small grants, at least at first, but we hope they will have a meaningful impact. There will be a lot more information on the website about how to apply and what type of work will be eligible for funding as we get closer.

As exciting as making grants will be, the more significant impact may be participation in the organization Funders for LGBTQ Issues. The Funders is a membership organization for foundations and other grant-makers who fund LGBTQ work. The Visibility Impact Fund will be eligible to participate in The Funder’s programs, including being the first bi+ grant-maker to join “The Table,” part of the annual meeting hosted by The Funders. With a group focused specifically on how grant-makers could be more inclusive of the bi+ community at the table, we hope to see an increase in bi+ specific granting by foundations already active in LGBTQ funding.

As part of their work, Funders for LGBTQ Issues tracks annual funding and breaks it down in different ways, including by where funds are allocated by identity.

bi funding graph home page.png

I have been watching these graphs for many years. Bi+ specific funding stays very small and we know that the undedicated funds are not having enough impact because of the ways the bi+ community experiences poorer outcomes in health, mental health, employment, and intimate violence as compared to our lesbian and gay peers.

Attempts to educate grant makers have been tried over the years by different organizations and individuals. The most successful was a few years back with Arcus Foundation. However, even in this case, a couple of special grants were awarded for specific one-time programs and there was no change in Arcus’ normal granting programs.

Right now, there are no bi+ specific grants being written outside of health research programs. This is important because nonprofit organizations can choose to tailor their programming to meet the requirements of the grants they apply. One way to influence the work of LGBTQ organizations is to have bi+ specific granting. Of course, bi+ specific granting will also be available for bi+ organization to apply for as well.

I see no conflict here. We know that the amount of support our community needs is beyond what any bi+ organization can do by itself. The more organizations identifying how they can better serve the bi+ community, the better.

Paid staff and office space are only dreamed of by most bi organizations. Both of these are needed to create larger, more stable advocacy and support for the bi+ community. I hope that both The Visiblity Impact Fund’s direct granting and the work with other grant-makers will fundamentally change the way bi+ organization is funded.

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How Many Does It Take?

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. — Margaret Mead

Never doubt that one person can make a difference. — Ingrid Newkirk

Have you ever run across someone who is conviced there is no way to change anything? How about someone completely convinced by conspiricay theories of who is running things? Did you know they are two sides of one coin?

When we convince ourselves that nothing we do can make a difference or when we are convinced of conspiracy theories that small canals run the government, we are excusing ourselves from having to take action. If you truly believe there is nothing to be done about racist neighbors, abusive bosses, or how our government makes laws, there there is no reason to have a hard conversation, try to change employment laws, or work on a political campaign. After all, you’ve convinced yourself nothing will change, so why bother?

This weekend I saw a segment on CBS Sunday about an electrician who saw a need. He decided to help. He though other people might want to help, too, so he asked them. Now a retired woman’s home is being made safe to live in and the group of people working on it has been so energized they want to keep it going. That’s how change happens. One person takes an action instead of saying “nothing will ever change.”

A lot of the work in the bi+ community, the community of people attracted to more than one gender, happens because a person has an idea and takes action. Celebrate Bisexuality Day was the brain child of three activists fed up with having the bi+ community ignored at LGBTQ functions. Now it’s an international holiday that is also known as Bi Pride Day and Bi Visibility Day. See last weeks post for more information about that.

The book Bi Any Other Name by Loraine Hutchins and Lani Ka’ahumanu has had a significant impact for decades. For people in the 1990’s, before the internet connected us through social media platforms, the stories told in Bi Any Other Name were often the first time they had heard about the experiences of another bi+ person. It was an affirmation of identity and an assurance that you were not alone in the world.

At BECAUSE 2015, I talked during my opening remarks about the fact that showing up at the conference was a radical act. Showing up at any bi+ function or for bi+ leadership is a act that can have far reaching impacts. So much of our organizing happens in small groups where each person has made that decision to show up, and suddenly there are enough people to have a good discussion group or to host an event. Since our community is chronically underfunded, we depend heavily on volunteerism to get things done. Every person who shows up to contribute can be an asset.

In another example, I am working with a small group of people to try to change funding models for our community. Although we comprise over 50% of the LGBTQ community, bi+ specific funding has consistently been less than 1% of nonprofit LGBTQ funding according to the annual tracking reports by the Funders for LGBTQ Issues. This new giving circle we are creating will be both collecting donations to provife grants for bi+ specific programming and organizations while also being the first bi+ specific grant maker to join the Funders for LGBTQ Issues, where we hope to have an impact on the grant making of other organizations. More about this new organization next week!

I think there are two imporant things to keep in mind as you wonder what impact you will have. First, you need to find something you are passionate about. Second, you need to find something you have an aptitude for. I heard a local gay activist speak at a conference for LGBTQ college students, and he shared a wonderful story. He had started his activism in college, just as many of the people in the room were. He shared the many different things he worked on: events, outreach, fund raising, writing, and more. He said that he had ended up in development (aka fund raising) for an LGBTQ foundation because he discovered that he was really good at asking people and organizations for money. The money side wasn’t where he ever imagined he would end up, but his passion was improving LGBTQ experiences, and his strength was raising money so that’s what he did.

This in no way says you shouldn’t try new things and develop new skills! We find our aptitudes, or things that come naturally to us, by learning the basics of many different things and discovering what comes easily. When I was in college, I was struggling with the artistic skills necessary to become a theatrical costume designer. However, I had discovered that lighting design, which in many ways is painting in three dimensions with light, came very naturally, as did the technical skills needed to be successful. M college advisor asked me: why would you choose to do something that is hard for you, when you have found something you enjoy that comes easily. It was such a profound question. There are so many things in life that will be difficult. When something you enjoy comes easily, I think we should take advantage of that.

So, when I look at how I want to have an impact on the lives of bi+ folks, I know I like nonprofit policy and budget discussions. I enjoy writing and presenting. I have many skills and a temperment that lend themselves to running events. So I focus my work on things that I enjoy and that I have aptitiude for.

Please join me next week when I share exciting news about the new bi+ giving circle as well as more information about funding the work that benefits the bi+ community.

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Leadership Lessons from Bi+ Visibility Day

September is Bi+ (or Bisexual+) Visibility Month. Specifically, September 16 – 23 each year there is a social media awareness push (#BiWeek 2020) leading up to International Celebrate Bisexuality Day on September 23. Celebrate Bisexuality Day is also know as CBD, Bi+ Pride Day and Bi+ Visibility Day depending on the group and the location. CBD was first celebrated in 1999 and has since grown to be included in many calendars and lists of important LGBTQ dates.

I bring all this up for a couple of reasons. First, its important for leaders to honor and recognize the importance of annual events like this. Repeated events people in our community can anticipate helps create the structure we build a community culture around. In this case, a time when we are focused on connecting within our community and being more visible outside our community. It’s like Pride and National Coming Out day rolled together. This is my favorite CBD meme which highlights visibility:

Image Description: Captain Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek Next Generation with Worf in the background on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, saying: “I told you September 23rd the bisexuals all uncloak.”

The second reason I bring this up is that this day has an ongoing discussion between leaders of different experiences about what it means and what is the most appropriate name. I was recently witness to such an discussion about the different names for the day, the reasons for each, and what the day meant to different people.

The discussion answered a nagging question for me: how did we end up with so many different names for one day? More importantly, the discussion was a living example of something started with a particular vision that has been adapted and altered to have more meaning for communities with different experiences.

Among the things I learned in the discussion was that using the word “celebrate” doesn’t cross cultures or languages particularly well. Celebrate always made sense to me, just like Pride Festivals make sense to me. We experience so much push back about our identities that having a time we focus on our Pride about being who we are (June) and a time we celebrate ourselves (September 23) are a way to counteract the constant negative messages we encounter every day. However, I’ve also been told that the concept of visibility literally translates better between languages and cultures better than labeling it a celebration so we see Bi+ Visibility Day more often in other countries.

Here in the U.S., this idea of a celebration doesn’t work well for some parts of our community where celebration seems premature. This is true for some communities of color in the U.S. where the need for visibility felt more true to their experiences of intersectional oppression within their racial community for being bi+ and within the bi+ community for being a bi+ person of color.

This kind of evolution happens with organizations, too. Back in June and July I wrote about mission statements and strategic plans. I mentioned that they can and will change over time. Its important to let things change or you risk becoming out of touch with what the community needs. We’ve seen this recently with the protests that started with the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Many organizations have pivoted their work to support and participate in a sudden shift of collective attention to racism and anti-blackness. At these times, supporting collective action and understanding the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement to our community are vital.

So I wish you all a happy beginning of Bi+ Visibility Month and encourage you to be on the look out for the social media push that will start the nineteenth. Re-posting/retweeting as well as writing your own contributions are great ways to participate, especially during this year when COVID keeps us from gathering together.

There is a website that collects and publishes a list of events happening for CBD. You can look for things you are interested in participating in or submit your own events to be included. I suggest looking at 2019’s listings to see a truly impressive representation of bi+ community around the world from back when we could all gather in person.

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