It takes a lot of guts to run for public office, but for openly bi candidates, this is especially true.
Running as an openly bisexual candidate creates issues other members of the LGBTQ community may not face. People’s lack of understanding of bisexuality may lead to a candidate being mislabeled as straight, gay or lesbian in the press. Bisexual elected or appointed officials may have their sexual orientation challenged or erased completely, especially if the officials has a long-term partner.
Stereotypes about bisexual people cause people to doubt a bi candidates’ effectiveness. Victory knows that these stereotypes are untrue, and that if we want to achieve equality for all LGBTQ Americans, we must increase the number of openly bisexual officials at all levels of government.
The openly bi elected officials serving at local, state and national levels of government are proof that bi candidates do run and can win. In honor of Bisexual Visibility Week, check out these five openly bi officials:
U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona
Kyrsten Sinema represents Arizona’s moderate 9th congressional district. She is the first and only openly bisexual person elected to the U.S. Congress. During her congressional campaign, she was targeted by an opposing candidate in the primary race, who told potential supporters “she’s unfit for office because of her sexual orientation and because she’s single.” In Congress, Sinema is known as a moderate who reaches across the aisle to get things done. As a co-chair of the LGBTQ Equality Caucus, she is an original cosponsor of the Equality Act, which seeks to ban anti-LGBTQ discrimination in employment, public accommodations, education, housing, federal programs, jury service and credit.
Gov. Kate Brown, D-Oregon
Brown made history when she became the nation’s first openly bisexual governor. In an essay written for Out and Elected in the USA, she said “Some days I feel like I have a foot in both worlds, yet never really belonging to either.” During her term, she has signed legislation banning “conversion therapy” for LGBTQ youth, making Oregon the third state to do so.
Basilio Bonilla, Jr.
Bonilla is a member of the Board of School Directors for Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He came out in 2014, saying “We as a community need to do more to educate our communities as to what it means to be bisexual. They all know what it means to be lesbian or gay, but bisexuality to many is a new concept.” In April, Basilio proposed a motion to add gender identity and gender expression to the Bethlehem Area School District’s anti-discrimination and unlawful harassment policy. The motion was passed unanimously.
State Sen. Angie Buhl O’Donnell, D-South Dakota
Sen. Buhl came out in 2012 using the Victory Institute’s Coming Out Project to assist her. The Coming Out Project provides expert political and communications advice for elected officials who are ready to come out. She has since been honored by the White House as a “Harvey Milk Champion of Change, and started a social media campaign against South Dakota Senate Bill 67, which would have prevented people from bringing lawsuits against clergy members or business operators who refused to provide services to people arranging same-sex marriages. Its sponsor withdrew the bill after Angie’s campaign.
State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa, D-Wisconsin
Zamarripa came out as bisexual in 2012, saying “It has always been my goal in office to be transparent and honest with my constituents.” She also remarked that bisexuality can be “tough for people to wrap their minds around.” This year, she authored proposals to end constitutional restrictions on marriage in Wisconsin, and to recognize June 2015 as LGBTQ Pride Month.
These officials have understood and met the challenges bi people face, and their ability to overcome these challenges have led to them getting a seat at the table. All of these officials have created a safer and more welcoming world for LGBTQ Americans, as well as shattered assumptions about bisexual people everywhere.
When bi candidates win, we all win. This Bisexual Visibility Week, let’s salute these officials who are making their communities better for all.
Photo Credit: Krysten Sinema: Office of Kyrsten Sinema; Kate Brown: Office of the Oregon Governor; Basilio Bonilla, Jr.: Twitter/Bosilio Bonilla, Jr.; Angie Buhl O’Donnell: South Dakota Legislature; JoCasta Zamarripa: Wisconson State Assembly