As a director of the American Institute of Bisexuality and the president of amBi, Ian Lawrence-Tourinho is out and proud about his bisexuality, and a tireless bisexual advocate – but he admits it took him a while to get there.
He began his involvement with bi activism in 2000, after returning to San Diego, where he’d gone to college, after what he calls his “disastrous first relationship with another man” in South Africa.
“I was a little lost bi guy,” he says.
Getting involved in the local bi community – organizing conferences, working Pride events, etc. – helped him “make sense of things” and find his “place in the world.” But when he moved back to his hometown of Los Angeles in 2004, he was in for a shock.
“I assumed LA would have a huge bi scene,” he says, “but instead it was a desert.
Like many other bi people, he “slipped into a pattern” of moving back and forth between the gay and straight worlds. “I never got to show up as my whole self,” he says.
All that changed in 2008, when he joined amBi, a social network for bisexuals and allies. Two years later, he received an email saying the group would disband if nobody new stepped up to take over the leadership positions. He stepped up – and under his guidance, the group “really took off.”
That led to his involvement with the American Institute of Bisexuality, a charity dedicated to promoting research and education about bisexuality. As part of his work there, he launched bisexual.org, which has since become the most-trafficked bi resource on the internet.
In 2014, he was branded “the new face of bisexuality” by the New York Times, when they put his picture on the cover of their magazine after an interview.
“That was my ‘big coming out.’ I think it’s funny now, but at the time I really wondered how it would impact my life to have my sexuality THAT out there.”
Currently, he’s working with amBi to organize the first-ever official Bi Pride celebration in the U.S., which will take place at the West Hollywood Park Auditorium on Sept. 22. He says it’s an important step toward helping the bi community – which he points out is actually “a slight majority of the LGBT community by identity” – gain some long-deserved visibility and acceptance.
“Being bi is about a lot more than sexuality,” he says. “It’s a culture of in-between, of understanding multiple viewpoints, of navigating between worlds.” For him, the mission is all about “bringing that bi in-between perspective to the world.”
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I’ve been out since Thanksgiving, 2001. My mom was saying cruel things about my girlfriend, and I had to make a few things clear. Mess with my friends, let alone my partners, and look out.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
Dr. Fritz Klein. He was a pioneering sex researcher and activist who did so much for the bi community.
What’s Los Angeles’ best nightspot, past or present?
I used to enjoy Fubar back when it was truly trashy.
Describe your dream wedding.
I already had the first part of it. My husband and I got married almost exactly a year ago in a small ceremony on Kauai. I should have invited everyone I know! We’re going to do a part two in Brazil — “My Big Fat Voodoo Wedding.” My husband follows candomblé.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
The environment. How can we take care of any other issues if we don’t have a healthy planet?
What historical outcome would you change?
The Treaty of Versailles and the way the end of WWI was handled. Despite President Wilson’s promises of “Peace without Victory,” what came after was a mess. The GOP blocked Wilson’s better intentions, the British and French went to town, and the way things were handled was very unjust and hypocritical. That led directly to WWII and was a root cause of many problems that we continue to see in the Middle East.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
The death of Michael Jackson.
On what do you insist?
Kindness. There are few things I value and respect as much as genuine kindness.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
A video of Geoffrey Owens talking about the dignity of work and working people.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
Something with a bad pun in it. Like “Bi on Life.”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
I’d offer everyone the glorious option of becoming bi.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
While I do believe there is more to life than we understand on a sensory level, I think there is enough mystery to the world we can see, measure, and perceive to keep us occupied for millennia.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
I don’t know if this is good advice because it won’t win you any popularity contests, but social media has really degraded the level of discourse. Every day I see my LGBT friends up in arms about news topics that they’re digesting in ways that aren’t quite accurate. LGBT orgs routinely fundraise based on hyperbole and exaggerations. Oh, and we have to stop letting ourselves be trolled.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
Enlightenment. Also, really good bulgogi with banchan.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
That our sexuality is all about sex while straight people’s is holistic.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
“3” by Tom Tykwer
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Social niceties that compel people to be “friendly” at the cost of being genuine or honest.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
I’d really love to be a father. I’d love to get drawings from my kids to hang on the refrigerator.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
That computers and the internet are going to take off. I totally didn’t see that one coming.
Why Los Angeles?
I am a 4th generation Angeleno. I’ve thought about moving somewhere else, but the combination of weather, landscape, and the incredible variety of interesting people here — I just haven’t found another place that can beat it. Not in the U.S. anyhow. I do hear the call of Barcelona and Berlin from time to time.