September 17, 2019 at 3:06 pm PDT | by Susan Hornik
WeHo set to celebrate Bi Pride, September 21

For the second year in a row, The City of West Hollywood along with the Human Rights Campaign LA and the amBi bisexual social community will host the City’s Bi Pride Celebration on September 21, 2019, in the West Hollywood Park Auditorium.

The social event is part of three days of programming around Bi Visibility Day, also known as International Celebrate Bisexuality Day, which takes place on Sunday, September 23, 2019.

About the Organizer 

Ian Lawrence-Tourinho (Facebook)

Ian Lawrence-Tourinho, Executive Director of the Bi Foundation and Lead Organizer of amBi Los Angeles – a social group for bi people across LA County that is helping put on WeHo Bi Pride—is thrilled about the upcoming event. 

“Last year’s Bi Pride really made me appreciate the importance of simple, understandable, positive messaging,” Lawrence-Tourinho acknowledged. “As a community that is so often actively erased from public discourse, the importance of that kind of bi visibility almost can’t be overstated.”

Lawrence-Tourinho hopes that this event creates a lot of visibility for Los Angeles’ dynamic bi community and energizes people in California and beyond. 

“I was at an LGBT conference in Korea earlier this month and it warmed my heart to hear from activists working in places as far away as Thailand and Mainland China. They heard of our 2018 event and that it inspired them. One of my hopes is that people in other cities and countries will start hosting these kinds of celebrations as well, bringing our bi community together in a spirit of joy. I think our movement is ready to.”

Across the world, events around Bi Visibility Day have tended to be very grassroots affairs, such as community art festivals and talent shows, noted Lawrence-Tourinho. 

“At one point, last year’s event was possibly going to be called ‘Be Here,’ which would include a series of panel discussions mixed with slam poetry and music performances. All that is beautiful too, but we eventually realized that with the city of West Hollywood’s support, we had a chance to do something bigger – and yet simpler.”

When people hear “Bi Pride,” they have an idea what that means, said Lawrence-Tourinho. “They imagine fun, celebration, and a chance to really feel good about being bi. That promise brings out a diverse crowd from all walks of life.”

Last year, more than twice as many people attended as they anticipated. “We really got a sense of how much pent-up demand there is for an event like this. And so Bi Pride 2019 is going to be a bigger and better. “

Sprouts, Starbucks, The Abbey, and Trader Joes are donating food and drink. There will also be some organizations with tables. “But we didn’t want this to be a dry ‘org fest’ with a bunch of nonprofits handing out flyers,” said Lawrence-Tourinho.

The organizers didn’t want the event to be corporate. “Instead, we insisted that everyone exhibiting at our little festival have something to offer the community – something fun, interactive, and of relevance. Expect a lot of games and giveaways.”

He continued: “We’ll also have a few short speeches from politicians and community leaders and then we are going to take to the streets! We will be marching down the main drag of West Hollywood with the world’s largest bi flag, being as fabulously and visibly bi as the world has ever seen. After that, we’ll return to the Auditorium for ‘Glow,’ a dance party that takes place all in black light. I can’t wait!”

Mike Szymanski (Facebook)Bi Pride: Mike Szymanski

Los Angeles Blade talked to attendees about the importance of bi pride and the challenges they face as a bisexual. 

“Bi Pride is important because bisexuals are usually overlooked or caught up in LGBT and completely forgotten,” said Mike Szymanski, who co-authored “The Bisexual’s Guide to the Universe.” 

Szymanski doesn’t always feel recognized for what he identifies as. “It’s a constant struggle getting people to understand that you can be bisexual and not have partners of all genders to be considered so. And the pansexual label makes it even more complicated. It’s pretty simple really, I’m potentially (and have been) attracted to all genders. I don’t have to be with all the same time to be satisfied. I don’t understand why it’s so tough for people to understand it.”

He added: “When I’m at a gay pride event with my partner, we are considered a gay couple, not a bi couple. But when we are at Bi Pride, finally we can be in a parade and be seen as a bi couple! But it still takes a lot of explain to some people.”

Jon M. Gibson (Facebook)

Bisexuality is Beautiful: Jon Gibson 

Being bisexual isn’t often celebrated in a loud way, acknowledged Jon Gibson. “There is a lot of uncertainty projected upon someone who considers themselves ‘bi.’ I’m using quotations because that’s the reaction I get from most people when my being ‘bisexual’ comes up in conversation. 

“People don’t often immediately accept the idea of being bi in the same way someone can proclaim themselves gay or straight. Lots of questions follow, often phrased with ‘Are you sure you’re not just gay?’ or ‘Are you just a straight boy experimenting?’ cadence of disbelief. To proudly celebrate being bi without persistent scrutiny is a really lovely sentiment, and that’s why Bi Pride is valid and poignant to me.”

Gibson has noticed that dating apps now reflect words like “heteroflexible” or “homoflexible.”

“These are much more common than bisexual. While those terms are completely fair, they also punctuate the stigma attached to the term bi, because you can be bisexual on a sliding scale. Sexuality isn’t an evenly cut pie chart; most everything in life doesn’t naturally split straight down the middle. There is still an incredible resistance to adopting the word ‘bi,’ because if everyone accepted the sliding scale of sexuality, we wouldn’t need all these extra descriptors.”

Gibson compared his sexual identity to what he likes to eat. “Sometimes I desire sourdough bread, sometimes Hawaiian hits the spot, sometimes you just really crave pumpernickel. That’s natural and awesome and totally bisexual. Bisexuality is as beautiful as all other sexualities, but it’s definitely one of the much more scrutinized identifiers. It’s ok if you “did some stuff in college’ and still have those desires. Feel great about being bi—there are a hell of a lot of us here to support and love you!” 

Lysa Canino Bertsche (Facebook)

Misunderstood: Lysa Canino Bertsche

Lysa Canino Bertsche feels that bisexuality is still the most “misunderstood” category of LGBT. “We’re seen as ‘being unable to make up our mind’ and if a bisexual woman ends up in a relationship with a cis man, she’s told she’s ‘just straight.’”

Bertsche is perturbed by the introduction of pansexuality to culture. “These days, we have a new term that is further polluting the problem, ‘pansexual,’  which means ‘loving everyone regardless of gender.’ And that implies us bisexuals somehow discriminate. As if we eliminate a potential sexual partner because they’re trans. That’s not true. A bisexual is attracted to male or female. Nowhere did bisexuals ever qualify what male or female means.”

Bertsche just came out this year, at the age of 48. “Prior to me coming out, my challenge was whether or not I even should. Like, my thinking was ‘am I even real? Am I even VALID?’”

Kyrin Veritas (Facebook)

Being Seen: Kyrin Veritas 

Kyrin Veritas enjoys attending bi pride events to feel seen. “It is much the same as what my friends of mixed-heritage say, ‘you never feel accepted in either community.’ As a single femme, most do not know I am also attracted to women. As one who is attracted other femme types primarily, it is often an exercise in rejection to find out who is eligible.”

Jen Billock

“Bi pride events are important because it helps us feel supported, included, and proud of who we are. One of the main challenges I face as a bisexual person is people assuming I’m a lesbian or straight or “not gay enough” to be bi, because I don’t have a 50/50 preference split. It’s very alienating and sometimes makes me hide who I really am from people because I don’t want to feel judged. I’m not “confused,” I’m just a fluid person.

Jen Billock. (Provided by Billock)

I think bi pride is important so we can come together and show that we exist and we’re proud of who we are and who we choose to love.”

© Copyright Los Angeles Blade, LLC. 2019. All rights reserved.