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Must Bisexuals Lie?

By the Australian Bisexual Network

bisexual2.jpg - 9.49 K A 1996 feature on the Australian Bisexual Network

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Less than a year before the new millennium arrives, in the age of HIV/AIDS and safer sex campaigns, of anti-gay violence education programs in schools, of openly queer politicians in our parliaments and 30 years of activism following the Stonewall riots that spawned "gay liberation", bisexual men and women are being given the message that they must lie about their bisexual identities and conceal their bisexuality.

This is not some new campaign strategy of the health professionals or some plot of the religious right to hide them away from society. Gone are the cries of "be out and proud" or "stand up and be counted".

This message of deceit comes from within the very heart of Sydney's most out and "in your face" organization, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Ltd. (SGLMG).

It is the 21st birthday of Mardi Gras and the theme of the 1999 Mardi Gras Festival is, ironically, diversity. However the ongoing rejection of people who identify as bisexual from SGLMG membership can only be viewed as a form of sexual apartheid.

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In 1996, SGLMG members voted to only grant people identifying as homosexual, gay, lesbian or transgender, automatic membership. Those membership applicants who ticked the box for Bisexual, Queer, Heterosexual or Other, faced, at the least, having to prove their worthiness to be members, and, at the most, outright rejection.

This move was supposed to reduce homophobic violence and sexual harassment at the Mardi Gras and Sleaze Ball parties caused by those attending from outside the gay and lesbian communities.

Since this decision came into force, the Australian Bisexual Network has been contacted by bisexually-identified people who have been rejected from SGLMG membership.

They have been rejected even after submitting evidence of their involvement in and commitment to the causes of the gay and lesbian communities. Even when they have taken advantage of the "Appeal Process" and have appeared before the Board of Mardi Gras, their applications for membership have been rejected.

If this were not enough, the Australian Bisexual Network has evidence that bisexual members who joined before the 1996 policy change have also had their membership renewals rejected simply because they ticked the bisexual box on the form.

There is evidence as well that heterosexual women who've ticked the "lesbian" box have been given automatic membership, no questions asked. One can assume this has also occurred where straight men have ticked the "gay" box and been granted membership.

Most states and territories have legislation that forbids discrimination on the grounds of sexuality, sexual orientation or lawful sexual activity (Western Australia being the exception, which has none).

However in New South Wales, bisexuals and heterosexuals are not covered by the existing legislation which only covers homosexuality and another law that covers transgendered people.

bisexual1.jpg - 10.69 K Members of the Australian Bisexual Network at Sydney Mardi Gras The Australian Bisexual Network is amazed that in 1999, an organization that was founded on a desire of a marginalized group in society (we were all gay in 1978) to fight to achieve the most basic of human rights and equality, now selects its membership solely on a tick in a box for particular sexual identities while rejecting those who do not conform to their ideal.

Where is the social justice in that? Where is the reward to those in the community who have given of their own free time and out of their own pockets to help and support the diverse members, groups and businesses in what makes up Australia's gay, lesbian and queer communities?

The Australian Bisexual Network does not object to Mardi Gras' desire to make the parties safe from violence and harassment and to have a membership policy that would help to achieve this. The Australian Bisexual Network has continually promoted the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival and Sleaze Ball, endeavoring to work with bodies within the queer community.

We cannot remain silent while an unjust policy grants memberships to people who lie about their sexuality and who may have no involvement in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities except at party time, while those that are involved and who are open and honest are rejected for no other reason other than they identify honestly as bisexual, queer or heterosexual.

While more and more groups around the world are becoming inclusive, there is bias in Sydney that advocates exclusion based on sexual identity politics. The current Mardi Gras membership policy only gives the message to people who identify as bi, queer or straight, to lie on their application form.

The Australian Bisexual Network assures it welcomes debate on this issue and would be happy to enter into discussions to resolve this matter for the benefit of all parties.
Australian Bisexual Network / Australian Bisexual Youth Alliance Email:

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