In June of 2014 bisexual and allied health researchers and activists from across the US met to form a new group, the Bisexual Research Collaborative on Health (BiRCH) at a meeting on bisexual health research chaired by the Fenway Institute in Boston MA USA to promote discussions of bisexual health research and combat bisexual erasure. The new organization’s plans include finding methods to raise public awareness of bisexual people’s health issues and planning a national conference on the topic.
I am a member of America’s contingent faculty—a scholar-activist committed to social justice and ecological wellbeing. Seven years ago, two years after obtaining my doctorate, I was sleeping on my mother’s couch. I have not had health insurance for the last nine years and am still awaiting approval from my state’s health exchange for ACA assistance.
I have had asthma since 2003. I earn too much to receive social service subsidies and too little to keep my head above the rising financial waters without the support of family and friends. I live among other poor and working class people of color, many of whom are living with mental and/or physical illnesses, substance addictions, and the results of the structural violence of social inequality. I am also a black bisexual man.
So when I received the invitation to Boston for a meeting at the large and impressive Fenway Institute—a research division of Fenway Health, an organization committed to “enhance the wellbeing of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and all people in our neighborhoods and beyond through access to the highest quality health care, education, research and advocacy” with total net assets for 2013 of nearly $44 million according to its latest annual report—to form a bisexual health research agenda, I considered it a big deal …
The one-day meeting, which was a who’s who of bisexual research, LGBT public health research, and LGBT practitioners, included a few bisexual activists and junior scholars. I lost count at the number of people with Ivy League affiliations, academic journal editorial board memberships, White House experience, or principal investigator experience on large research studies. And I wasn’t diligent about counting from among the approximately twenty-five (25) bisexual, gay/lesbian and heterosexual attendees the numbers of bisexual men or people of color but there were a few of both.
The need for community-driven bisexual health research is too high for imperialist, competitive politics … This has been painfully evident in LGBT movement politics. Many middle class and wealthy gays and lesbians of European descent have pursued LGBT issues directly related to their self-interest and in ways most advantageous for them—leaving to their own devices the queer others of the sex and gender justice movement e.g., poor and working class people, people of color, bisexuals, transgender people, sex workers, the incarcerated, etc. The mainstream pays lip service to people like me—my neighbors, friends, and family.
When asked about her experience of the meeting, Kerith Conron, ScD, MPH, Research Scientist, Center for Population Research in LGBT Health, The Fenway Institute declared, “Our meeting was a unique opportunity to integrate three key aspects of my life: social justice, community, and sound science.” How the group continues to integrate those three elements will tell us everything we need to know about who wins, loses, or “runs a Boston”.
In addition to now being a founding member of BiRCH, Dr. Herukhuti is a clinical sociologist, cultural studies scholar, performance artist, and neotraditional African shaman who focuses on sexuality, gender, and spirituality themes within Africa and the Diaspora. an adjunct Professor at Goddard College, he recently organized the successful Bisexual Institute at the 2014 Creating Change Conference.
He is the author of “Conjuring Black Funk: Notes on Culture, Sexuality, and Spirituality”; co-editor of “Sexuality, Religion and the Sacred: Bisexual, Panexual and Polysexual Perspectives” with Dr Loraine Hutchins; and is co-editor of “Recognize: The Voices of Bisexual Men” with Robyn Ochs.