The popular urban myth goes like this: One can be either a Beatles fan or a Stones fan, but not both. Sometimes, Elvis subs for the Stones in this equation. However, the real oddity is that this cultural divide places the Beatles firmly at one end of the music spectrum, and gives them an antithesis. It’s illogical, of course, to create a nemesis for something as complex as music. Though we pride ourselves in our logical abilities, our human brain is far from infallible.
According to recent research conducted at Harvard Medical School, our need to categorize things in opposition to each other as black or white, good or evil, and gay or straight is not entirely our fault. Our brains acquire new information and access old information by creating categories, which are stored in individual brain cells.
In the words of the study at physorg.com, “Categories are a cornerstone of complex behavior, because they give meaning to the sights and sounds around us.”
Thus, bisexuality presents a bit of a problem for the individual human brain. It is tempted to see heterosexual and homosexual experiences as opposites, and, therefore, a person could not possibly have an appetite for both. Many bisexuals face scrutiny, and even criticism, as a result of the conundrum their sexuality poses.
Teri Kline, Cochair of this year’s BECAUSE (Bisexual Empowerment Conference: A Unique Supportive Experience)—the Midwest’s premiere bisexual event—states, “The bi community is kind of pushed in the closet, and the door shut, because it can’t quite possibly be for real. There just seems to be the attitude of, well, ‘If you’re bi, you just haven’t made up your mind yet,’ or ‘You’re seeking the security of saying you like the opposite sex.’ And I don’t think either the hetero or the gay community takes bisexuals seriously.”
BECAUSE Volunteer Coordinator Tina Rolfes expands on the issue: “There are a lot of myths about bisexuality that just aren’t true—number one, that we’re all promiscuous, that we’ll basically do anything or anybody. I haven’t come across that much [prejudice], but some people in my life have had a lot of people come down on them about their sexuality, that they’re just ‘going through a phase.’”
However, the accepted scientific viewpoint is apt to describe human sexuality as a wheel, with many different modes of expression. Psychiatrist Dr. Fritz Klein, who became interested in bisexuality early in his career, eventually published the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid in 1978. A more expansive system than the Kinsey Scale, it includes sexual experiences, but also sexual attractions, fantasies, social preference, lifestyle, and self-identification. Until his death in 2006, Klein was a dedicated activist for bisexual rights who advocated cultivating a supportive, social bisexual community. Accordingly, Klein supported BECAUSE by serving as its keynote speaker in 2002.
BECAUSE, which debuted in 1992 and ran annually until 2004, is back after a three-year hiatus. This year, it has teamed up with the University of Minnesota, so events will be held on campus at Coffman Memorial Union.
The 2008 conference—with the theme “Label This!”—addresses the multifaceted and complex bisexual experience through a series of workshops. Topics include politics, BDSM, coming out, safe sex, and spirituality, but Bisexuality 101 is a perennial favorite. The workshops are rated for age-appropriateness, and day care is available, so BECAUSE is open and welcoming of all ages.
Kline explains, “It’s not just for bisexuals. This is for everybody. This is for straight people, gay people, bisexuals, people who don’t know, transgender individuals, people who are open. It’s open-minded, period.”
In addition to providing a wealth of information about bisexuality, BECAUSE functions as a safe, supportive social gathering—a rare thing for the bisexual community.
Kline states, “I think it’s important, because it gives the bisexual community as well as its allies a place to be recognized for who they are, and gives them a presence.”
People travel great distances to attend each BECAUSE conference, so it is a chance to see old friends, as well as meet new people. The event usually has attracted 100 to 500 people. But it hasn’t been held since 2004, so attendance this year is expected to be higher.
Coffman Memorial Union
Univ. of Minn.
300 Washington Ave. SE, Mpls.