In an era when same-sex marriage is legal in 35 states and even corporate heads are coming out, Paula Brewer says bisexuals are still questioned by their own LGBT community.
"Even they can't wrap their heads around it," she says. "We make everybody uncomfortable."
Brewer, of Observatory Hill, is helping to run the new eBIcenter out of the Gay and Lesbian Community Center Downtown as a place for bisexuals to connect and to find resources that, she says, have too rarely been focused on the B in LGBT.
eBIcenter sounds like, and is meant to symbolize, an "epicenter" for local bi people. It holds meetings on the first Sunday of every month, working as both a peer support group and a social group, with about a dozen people in attendance. It's a place to trade stories and resources, Brewer says, but its full mission of promoting understanding and acceptance of bisexuals is still being formulated.
The effort has gotten a lot of support from GLCC head Lyndsey Sickler, Brewer says, but too often "within our own community we're supposed to shut up and stay in the background. There are certain people who literally don't believe bisexuality exists."
Some, including members of the LGBT community, view bisexuality as a behavior, not a sexual identity — a phase instead of a lifelong preference, or some sort of gateway to less commitment and a greater temptation to cheat in relationships. Brewer admits that "for some people it is a transition," an experiment that fails to stick.
Not for Brewer, now in her mid-40s. She grew up in rural Butler County and wasn't even exposed to the idea of bisexuality until college. But, "just like every other person," she says, when she was younger she knew her own feelings.
"Bisexuals tend to come out much later in life. It's a little more complicated. A lot of people accuse us of being confused, in a derogatory way: ‘Either pick heterosexual or homosexual. You're sitting on the fence.' Because, in our society, if you're attracted to the same sex at all, you're gay."
She's been married to a man for 17 years, but that changes nothing, she says. "People will argue with bi people: ‘Hey, if you're a woman and married to a man, you're a heterosexual.' If I had never had sex, I would still be a bisexual. I think I know who I am."
She's even experienced jealousy from gays and lesbians who say, Look, you've got acceptance by society. There's practically a fetish for bisexual women in porn.
"It appears on the surface to be positive," Brewer says. "It's not positive." It's just another form of sexual objectification — "very hostile, very negative.
"If we were accepted by the community, we wouldn't be killing ourselves at the rate we are."