Bisexual Queer Alliance Chicago ( BQAC ) is backing the "B" in LGBT as they provide a community for people who identify as bisexual and queer.
In October 2010, Brother Michael Oboza and Ed Negron founded BQAC. The group's mission, according to its website is to "educate, empower, and provide resources for bisexual and queer persons."
"We aim to do this by directly educating the bisexual and queer communities along with the general public, creating awareness of bisexual and queer issues, amassing and disseminating resources and information, and through charitable acts to the bisexual and queer community," the website reads.
BQAC President Noel Spain remembered coming as bisexual and wanting to explore Chicago's LGBTQ community, years ago. However, when he looked around, he felt like his bisexual identity was not fully represented. As a result, he started looking for resources, groups to join and other bisexual people. This led to him going on Meetup.com and creating a Chicago bisexual queer community in 2008.
Spain said Oboza and Negron joined that group and went on to take the group's purpose further, forming BQAC. The Meetup group currently serves as an arm of BQAC; a tool that allows for people to get involved and form a community.
"It's really important that we can be found and you can find community because there's so many people out there that simply can't find bi community and then they end up sort of questioning their own identity, especially when it's often not taken seriously as an identity," said Spain. "That's one of the things that we are trying to combat and overcome and legitimize bisexuality as an equal sexual identity right next to gay and straight and lesbian and get a seat at the table."
In 2014, BQAC became a 501( c )3 nonprofit organization. People can use the Meetup group as a platform to find out about local activities. BQAC also regularly holds events, such as bi discussion groups and bi movie nights, at Center on Halsted. On its website, BQAC also offers various bi resources.
"We're really building community and providing resources, even if those resources are other people who identify as bi, or queer or bi plus, somewhere in the spectrum, some non-binary sexuality," said Spain. "Being able to go to the Center and go to a discussion group and meet other people that identify as yourself can be a really powerful experience and something we want to make sure is offered up in Chicago."
Spain said another piece of BQAC's mission is to grow more leaders to continue furthering the overall mission. His personal mission to symbolically empower people, he added, can be seen in Chicago's Pride Parade when he is in character as Captain Bisexual. Donning the costume, which has a bi-flag as the cape, he marches with a flag that reads "bisexual justice." The term, he explained, means fairness and the role is meant to be a beacon for people to come out, feel safe, feel validated and build community.
"People don't feel safe coming out as bi, especially, maybe in these very large communities it could be even more difficult since there's such a large and well-established gay community and lesbian community and even trans community that people feel, essentially, crowded out or de-legitimized and sometimes that's reinforced by what you hear," Spain said. "Even just the language, the script that people use. All the time people are talking about pop-culture and people in Hollywood and they go 'is he gay or is he gay?' It's never said, 'maybe they're bi.' It's just not part of the script and that's the script that we're trying to change."
Spain emphasizes that people have difficulty saying the word "bisexual." He explained, the "B" in LGBT is skipped over and there is a sense that it is not accepted. The bisexual community, he added, underperforms every other sexual orientation, specifically in the matter of various health outcomes, and not finding community plays a part.
"It's really important to be able to create community for people and educate people," said Spain. "Survey after survey finds that the bisexual cohort is actually the largest cohort within the LGBT umbrella, as far as the number of people who identify as bi, but it seems paradoxical because you can't find one."
"There's a lot more growth to be had and ideas around sexuality that we need to push forward and bisexuality is key among them, and creating space for bisexual identity as an equal identity right along-side gay [and] straight."
For more information on BQAC, visit: bqachicago.org/ and www.facebook.com/BQAChicago .
To visit the Meetup group, visit: www.meetup.com/chicago-bisexual-queer-meetup/ .
See related story at the link: www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/BISEXUAL-BATTLES-MAP-report-shows-shocking-disparities-in-bisexual-community/56817.html .