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Bisexual Movements  
 
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Although bisexuals have played an important part in the glbt movement for equality, they often have had to hide their bisexuality because of a lack of acceptance from many lesbians and gay men, who believed that bisexuals would rely on heterosexual privilege to escape stigma. More recently, however, the bisexual movement has been accepted as part of the larger glbt movement and bisexual organizations now flourish.

Bisexual Involvement in Early Gay Rights Groups

Although specific bisexual organizations did not develop in the United States until the 1970s and in Europe until the 1980s, individuals who were attracted to both women and men were involved in many of the early gay rights groups on both sides of the Atlantic. However, most were not open about their bisexuality, either because they did not feel the need to assert a separate bisexual identity or because they feared being ostracized for having different-sex relationships.

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For example, the vice president of the Society for Human Rights, the first known male organization in the United States (established in Chicago in 1924), was bisexual and married. He had to keep his bisexuality a secret, however, as the group denied membership to bisexuals, believing that they would be less committed to the cause.

Bisexual women and men also joined the Mattachine Society, the Daughters of Bilitis, and other American homophile organizations founded in the 1950s and 1960s. The first gay college group, Columbia University's Student Homophile League, was established by Stephen Donaldson (born Robert Martin), an openly bisexual student, in 1966. With his support, other campuses soon created similar organizations, leading to the development of gay groups on college campuses throughout the country in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

But, as with the Society for Human Rights, bisexuals were not always accepted in the homophile movement during the 1950s and 1960s. It was feared that they would retreat to the closet (even though many lesbians and gay men in the movement were not entirely open themselves) and had less to lose than lesbians or gay men. Yet many of the people who sought the assistance of homophile organizations were bisexual.

In contrast, bisexuality was often accepted and, at times, celebrated in the gay and sexual liberation movements of the early 1970s. Both radical gay groups such as the Gay Liberation Front and organizations that consisted mainly of heterosexually-identified "swingers" such as the Sexual Freedom League encouraged sexual fluidity and experimentation, believing that people should be free to love regardless of gender.

But gay liberationists who were bisexual still often felt compelled to represent themselves as gay in order to challenge compulsory heterosexuality and avoid suspicions that they were "selling out."

Early Bisexual Groups

By the early 1970s, many bisexuals were tired of having to hide an important part of themselves. Being involved in the lesbian and gay movement had taught them the importance of coming out and organizing; now they recognized the need to come out again and establish their own organizations.

The National Bisexual Liberation Group and Bisexual Forum were formed in New York City in 1972 and 1975, respectively, and the San Francisco Bisexual Center, the world's first specifically bisexual institution, opened in 1976. Bisexual groups also developed in the 1970s in Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, and Washington, D.C.

The 1980s

Many of the early bisexual groups in the United States were run by and for married men and all had disbanded by the mid-1980s, as many bisexual men turned their attention to the growing AIDS epidemic. While the first wave of bisexual organizations were folding, bisexual women were starting to found their own groups to support each other and to counter the hostility they increasingly received from many lesbian communities.

Many of these bisexual women had been active in lesbian groups until the growing influence of lesbian separatism made them outcasts. But despite rejecting an exclusive lesbian politics, they remained committed to feminism, women's culture, and women-only spaces. Indeed, feminist principles were central to the bisexual women's groups formed in the 1980s: the Boston Bisexual Women's Network, the Chicago Action Bi-Women, and the Seattle Bisexual Women's Network.

The 1980s also saw the creation of mixed-gender bisexual political groups in a number of U.S. cities, including San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Boston, and the establishment of the country's first regional bisexual organization, the East Coast Bisexual Network.

The San Francisco group, the Bay Area Bisexual Network, produced the first U.S. bisexual magazine, Anything That Moves: Beyond the Myths of Bisexuality, from 1991 to 2000. The East Coast Bisexual Network, which has since changed its name to the Bisexual Resource Center, serves as a national clearinghouse for bisexual material and publishes the Bisexual Resource Guide, an international listing of bisexual and bi-inclusive groups.

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