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Social Theatre with an Edge
At least 148,000 people opposed Northern Ireland’s "conscience clause" before Amnesty International gave it an official stamp of disapproval. Calling it a “conscience clause” is fitting; isn't it interesting how a group mind consisting of entire governments and countries still lacks a conscience? Imagine a girl complaining about how they can't take same-sex partners out on dates, only to hear, "Well, it's not so bad. Just go out with guys instead."
Bisexuals are all too familiar with getting insensitive responses like that whenever we complain about our plight.
It’s time to be heard on stage and everywhere else! Richmond, Virginia has the great fortune of attending the first performance of By the Bi on March 22. Ireland needs to hear this voice more than ever. With your help, By the Bi can make its European debut in Ireland!
By the Bi sheds light on bisexual invisibility by extending an honest look at the unique issues that bisexuals face, including the stereotypes that flourish in such darkness. Through spoken word, dance, and visual art, performers reveal the harm that not only accompanies this invisibility, but the tragedies that remain unseen as Downs and Barbour describe below.
I invite you to take a closer look at the minds behind this wonderful project. Stay in the know via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!
The play is produced by Blazing Change Players, a theater company co-founded by Caroline Downs and Morgan Barbour in September 2014. Both of them were seniors at Virginia Commonwealth University when they established the company and co-created the show. Directed by Downs and choreographed by Barbour, By the Bi reflects the theater company’s devotion to acting as “an educational theatre company with a focus on social change” while “[providing] a remarkable platform for social change.” By the Bi also exposes how the social and political injustices that plague bisexuals relate to inequality that affects all of humanity.
1.) Does By the Bi focus on stereotypes alone? How does By the Bi explore the unique issues that bisexuals face?
Caroline: By the Bi focuses not only on stereotypes that bisexuals face, but it also addresses the disturbing statistics showing the heartbreakingly high rates of depression, suicide, drug abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, and rape that go along with being bisexual. We address how society's view and isolation of any sort of bisexual culture contributes to these statistics. We also address much more personal issues that bisexual young adults have to deal with in their life. When a young person is constantly told that they are just greedy, confused, slutty, attention starved, or, the worst of all, not real, it causes a lot of inner turmoil and conflict. It can lead to a lot of pain and isolation, and in most cases, a lot of self hatred has to be dealt with. No one wants to embrace a part of them that makes them a social outcast, so it's hard when that is such a big part of who you are. We are working to expose not only the hurtful stereotypes and statistics that society's view point of bisexuals causes, but we are working to give the public an inside look at the personal, inner-struggle that bisexual young adults face in trying to figure out who they are, what their place in the world is, what part their sexuality plays in that, and how it affects the people in their life.
2. The brochure mentions how “[your] co-founders have been friends and peers since 2011, but didn’t think to form a company or begin writing By the Bi until one day, Caroline lamented about the severe lack of representation for bisexuals (and other members of the LGBTQ community) in contemporary media.” What specific inspired that musing?
3. When did you first realize that a lack of visibility was a huge problem not only in the world at large, but also in the LGBTQ community?
Caroline: In college, I was always glad to meet members of the LGBTQ community because I felt like we were all part of the same tribe: the LBGTQ tribe. But upon talking with them, even those who were my closest friends, and even my GIRLFRIEND at the time, I quickly realized that they did not consider me a part of their community. One of my serious girlfriends was so uncomfortable with my sexuality that she refused to call me bisexual and always called me a lesbian. She would get upset when anything alluded to my ability to be attracted to men. I just never quite fit in with the LGBTQ crowd at my school, because they never quite accepted me. They figured just because I could "pass for straight" I didn't understand their struggles, even though I AM NOT STRAIGHT and could never masquerade as such no matter who I choose to be monogamous with. They seemed intent on remaining ignorant to my own struggles that accompany bisexuality. They invalidated an entire part of my identity, many of them without even realizing they were doing so. Which is why this project so desperately needs to be seen by members of ALL communities.
4. What was your favorite part about being involved in this performance?
Morgan: It’s difficult to nail down one particular bit. We have received such a positive reception to the show from people of all different walks of life. We don’t just have die-hard theater people and our parents cheering us on; we’ve received support from gay and straight people alike, from people who have openly stated that gay rights in general. But particularly, bisexual invisibility has never even been on their radar. I’ve had so many conversations with people hailing from more countries than I can count in the past few months. While their reactions have been varied (they range from enthusiasm to gratitude to confusion to disgust), the very fact that this show is working as a vessel to facilitate that kind of dialogue is phenomenal. Of course, the creative side is lovely; it’s a dream come true to see these beautiful pieces of text and dance come to life before our eyes, but the effect we’re having on people overall is just phenomenal. For the first time in my life people are talking – really talking – about bisexuality. That’s what makes good theatre, in my opinion. A work of art that can truly engage your audience on a visceral level.
5. What was the biggest challenge that you faced during the creation and performance of By the Bi?
Caroline: Honestly, one of our biggest challenges was finding people to work on this project with us. Thankfully we found the amazing cast that we did, and I could not be more honored to work with them. They have been so committed and such brilliant forces of positive energy since day 1. However, not many people showed up throughout the audition process, and I think the very issue we are combating played a big role in that. People just didn't understand what bisexual invisibility was, and knowing it was a play about bisexuals made a lot of people uncomfortable. They assumed it was something raunchy or over sexualized which is not at all the case. It is exactly that kind of education deficient ignorance that we are trying to combat.
6. How does By the Bi address the fetishization of bisexuality?
Morgan: That’s a hot button topic for us throughout the show. We tackle it in a number of ways by showing how it occurs, how it can be internalized, and its lasting and very damaging effects on bisexual youth. You know, it never ceases to amaze me how many people who, upon finding out I’m bisexual, take it upon themselves to immediately ask me if I’ve “had a lot of threesomes” or inform me that I must be crazy in bed. Recently, someone asked me why I felt the need to create By the Bi because when he thought of bisexual women as “hot” and why on Earth would I have a problem with that?! My sexuality is not some fantasy for you to get off to. It is a part of my identity, a part that allows me to be romantically and sexually attracted to both men and women. It certainly does not dictate how many people I choose to sleep with, and it certainly does not give you permission to ask incredibly invasive questions about my intimate life when we’re practically strangers. Statistically, over half of all bisexual women will be raped in their lifetime, compared to one out of six women (across all sexual orientations). I hope those numbers give you as much pause as they give me. The idea that bisexuals, particularly women, are these overly sexualized creatures is damaging on more than one level, and it needs to stop.
7. How old are the “voices” featured in By the Bi? I ask this because when I first realized that I was bisexual, the lack of visibility and bi-specific literature made my self-discovery much more confusing. It’s one of the reasons why I am so excited about this production!
Caroline: Most of our pieces focus on the young adult demographic, but we also include several pieces that show the journey to adulthood, beginning with events that take place in childhood that later lead to significant moments in young adulthood.
8. How does the anti-gay "conscience clause" in Northern Island impact the lives of bisexuals?
Morgan: The amendment directly states that services may be denied to any gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender identified person. There’s this (incorrect) idea that because we date both men and women, we can pretend to be straight and, as a result, aren’t affected by laws such as these. Bisexual people are not heterosexual. That should be a no-brainer, but apparently it needs to be said. We will never be heterosexual, even when we engage in relationships with members of the opposite sex. This amendment infringes on the rights of bisexual peoples as much as anyone else within the LGBT community. It is a direct assault on our identity. If it passes, then it is a message from Northern Ireland that people like me are lesser, second-class citizens who are not worthy of the same rights and freedoms as heterosexuals.
9. What is your response to the people who say that bisexuals aren't hurt/included in the bill because bisexuals can pursue heterosexual relationships?
Caroline: My response to those people that say that bisexuals are not hurt or included in the bill because they can pursue heterosexual relationships is that that is just plain ridiculous an untrue. First of all, bisexuals are never in a "hetero" relationship because THEY ARE NOT HETEROSEXUAL. It is not a heterosexual relationship, it is a relationship between two people, one of whom is heterosexual and one who is bisexual. Secondly, who you enter into a relationship is not always as much of a choice as people like to make it out to be. You can not help who you meet, or who you fall in love with. You can not simply CHOOSE to ignore the part of you that is attracted to the same sex. You cannot just SHUT OFF your sexuality like a light switch. It does not work like that.
#Real #ByTheBi #CarolineDowns #MorganBarbour #VCU #BisexualVisibility #WeArentMythologicalCreatures
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