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Bisexual Organizing Project

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Bisexual pride flag

The bisexual pride flag. Photograph by Peter Salanki in San Francisco, June 28, 2009.

The Bisexual Organizing Project (BOP) is a nonprofit group that has supported Minnesota’s bisexual, pansexual, fluid, queer, and unlabeled (bi+) communities since 1999. BOP promotes bi+ identities as an option for those who do not fit under gay, lesbian, or straight labels. Through its flagship event, the annual BECAUSE conference (Bisexual Empowerment Conference, A United Supportive Experience), it provides one of the nation’s key forums for the discussion of bi+ issues. BOP also represents the bi+ community at Twin Cities Pride and other events of interest to LGBTQ+ communities.

In 1991, the Gay and Lesbian Community Action Council (GLCAC), a political advocacy group that later became OutFront Minnesota, published a needs assessment for bisexuals in Minnesota. The assessment’s author, GLCAC intern Joe Duca, collected survey responses from members of the bisexual community. The survey results outlined the isolation, misrepresentation, and hatred that Minnesota bisexuals faced from gay men, lesbians, and straight people.

The survey respondents wanted to join gay men, lesbians, and transgender people in an LGBT coalition. The group they proposed would meet shared goals, including new human rights laws and protections from hate crimes. They recommended adding “bisexual” to the names of existing organizations and events, such as the Twin Cities Pride event. The added term would improve bisexual visibility and affirm the coalition.

Survey participants also wanted an annual event to bring the local, regional, and national bisexual communities together. In 1992, community organizers hosted the first BECAUSE conference in Minneapolis. Conference attendees learned about the diversity of bisexual experiences and enjoyed professional networking and socializing in a space that was expressly designed for bisexuals.
Throughout the 1990s, Scott Bartell, Bill Burleson, Arthur Freeheart, Lou Hoffman, Elise Mattheson, and other organizers helped BECAUSE grow into one of the nation’s biggest bi+ community events. From its inception, BECAUSE sought to include transgender issues in its programs. BOP officially organized in 1999 as a “fiscal agent” responsible for hosting BECAUSE in the future.

In 2000, BOP sought to commemorate the bi+ community’s progress over the past decade. It sponsored an oral history project that included a questionnaire based on the Kinsey Scale. Created by pioneering sexologist Alfred Kinsey, the scale became famous after Kinsey used it in two landmark studies of American sexuality: Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953).

The scale ranges from zero (exclusively heterosexual) to 6 (exclusively homosexual). In his studies, Kinsey discovered that almost half of those he surveyed fit somewhere in between zero and six. Bisexual activists have pointed to this study as evidence that bi+ behavior is more prevalent than society admits.

In 2002, BOP opened Minnesota’s first—and only—bisexual community center near the intersection of Lyndale Avenue and Lake Street in South Minneapolis. The center hosted social events and meetings and served as a resource center. Though short-lived, the center showed BOP’s great ambitions. In 2004, BOP organized the 8th International Conference on Bisexuality at the University of Minnesota, which further helped the group become a global leader of the international bi+ community.

BOP’s influence is evident in a 2005 book by Bill Burleson, a veteran BOP organizer. Bi America: Myths, Truths, and Struggles of an Invisible Community (Rutledge, 2005) focused on the bi+ community’s accomplishments across the country. It also highlighted how the community continued to face invisibility and hostility from the gay, lesbian, and straight majority.

After a three-year hiatus, BECAUSE returned in 2008 and sought to focus on becoming a national, rather than regional, conference for bisexual activism. In a 2012 interview with the Huffington Post, past and current BOP organizers shared their hopes for the group’s future. “The future of BECAUSE is in the hands of the people who volunteer to run it,” Lou Hoffman noted. Lauren Beach added that it continued to work toward a national focus while maintaining its role as an information center for bi+ people who sought to “come out” to their friends, family, and community in the future.

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Bisexual Organizing Project. About.
http://www.bisexualorganizingproject.org/about.html

Burleson, William. Bi America: Myths, Truths, and Struggles of an Invisible Community. New York: Harrington Park Press, 2005.

Hutchins, Loraine, and Lani Kaahumanu. Bi Any Other Name: Bisexual People Speak Out. Boston: Alyson Publications, 1991.

Kinsey, Alfred C., Wardell Baxter Pomeroy, and Clyde E. Martin. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders, 1948.

Kinsey, Alfred C., Wardell Baxter Pomeroy, Clyde E. Martin, and staff at the Institute for Sex Research, Indiana University. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders, 1953.

Van Cleve, Stewart. Land of 10,000 Loves: A History of Queer Minnesota. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012.

Related Images

Bisexual pride flag
Bisexual pride flag
Bisexual Organizing Program (BOP) logo
Bisexual Organizing Program (BOP) logo
Biangles (bisexuality pride symbol)
Biangles (bisexuality pride symbol)

Turning Point

BOP is formally established in 1999.

Chronology

1991

The Gay and Lesbian Community Action Council publishes a landmark bisexual community needs assessment.

1992

Minneapolis bisexual community organizers host the third national BiNet USA Conference. They are inspired to organize a regional conference in Minnesota the following year.

1996

Art Freehear, who had been a leader in BOP, leads a workshop on challenging the gender binary.

1998

Philanthrofund, an LGBTQ+ community fundraising organization, establishes the Bi Resources Fund to support BOP and other bi+ community organizations and events.

1999

The Bisexual Organizing Project officially organizes as the “fiscal agent” responsible for hosting the BECAUSE Conference.

2000

BOP sponsors an oral history project and survey to preserve the history of the local bi+ community. The survey transcripts were transfered the Minnesota Historical Society.

2001

Dr. Taimur Rashid Malik conducts a second Bi+ community needs assessment.

2002

BOP opens the doors of the first Bisexual Resource Center in Minnesota, located near Lyndale Avenue and Lake Street in Minneapolis.

2004

BOP hosts the Eighth International Conference of Bisexuals at the University of Minnesota.

2005

Bill Burleson, a key BOP organizer, publishes Bi America: Myths, Truths, and Struggles of an Invisible Community.

2012

Building on Burleson’s work, BOP publishes a third bisexual community needs assessment.

2012

BOP organizers celebrate twenty years since the first BECAUSE conference in an interview with the Huffington Post.