They try to avoid the term “bisexual” at the Tuesday night meetings of Bi Plus. Spread out on the mismatched furniture in a small Norris room, five students decorate invitations for an upcoming event and talk about how difficult it is to define their club with a single name.
“’Bisexual’ can be really controversial because it implies that there’s two genders, and the sexual part can also be bad because of the idea that bisexual people are hypersexualized,” said Christie Stiehl, a Communications sophomore who founded the group, which has a diverse membership. “So it’s people who are bisexual and people who are attracted to more than one gender no matter how you identify.”
She started the group Fall Quarter because she couldn’t find an outlet for people who were attracted to multiple genders. Although the campus Rainbow Alliance aims to meet the needs of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, Stiehl found the group wasn’t a perfect fit for her and worried that the campus didn’t welcome bisexual students.
“There’s a stigma and bi phobia in both the straight community and the gay community,” she said. “They both think that you’re either being bi for attention because it’s trendy for a girl, or that you’re just transitioning to being gay but you don’t want to come out and say it yet.”
Bi Plus offers an hour-long discussion each Tuesday in Norris’ LGBT Resource Center for everyone who is attracted to multiple genders or may be questioning their sexual identity.
Just a handful of people attend each week. But students said the group helps them escape what can be a judgmental society.
“[I like] just going somewhere that reaffirms who I am and that it’s okay,” said Lyzanne Trevino, a Weinberg sophomore.
To help her reveal her sexual identity, Trevino once brought her roommate to a Bi Plus meeting.
“On the way home I was like ‘So, what did you think of the meeting?’ and she said it was fun and she wanted to go back,” Trevino said. “And I was like, ”Yeah, um, I’m bi’ and she was just like ‘Okay’ and that’s…how it went, because something there brought it up for us so it was easy for me to go along with.”
Though the group’s small size limits its activism, Stiehl hopes to keep spreading the word and eventually sponsor a bi visibility week to educate the campus about bisexual issues.
At its core, though, the group’s seeks to provide a safe, welcoming community.
“When you’re with straight people, you feel weird being like ‘Oh, she’s so hot.’ And then when you’re with lesbians and there’s this really hot guy and you’re like ‘Oh, he’s so hot,’ it’s really awkward,” Weinberg freshman Caroline Perry said. “So it’s like the place where you don’t have to conceal any part of your identity.”
Stiehl said she remembers one time when she watched the HBO series The L Word with several girls who identified as lesbians, and one of the bi characters dated a guy.
“All the girls were like ‘Ew, gross,’ and it makes you feel shitty because you’re like, ‘That could be my life. I’m attracted to guys, I could be in a heterosexual relationship,’” Stiehl said. “So just that we can talk [in Bi Plus] and know that were not going to be ostracized or people aren’t going to not understand is a good environment.”
Group members said that meeting like-minded students is as important as talk about specifically bisexual issues, if not more.
“I think we have important discussions about bisexuality and other things of that nature, but I also think it’s just cool just having that sense of community,” Perry said. “It just builds this idea that there are other people like you in the world. I don’t think we have to talk about bi issues for the group to like make a positive contribution.”