Spotlight On The Cleveland Bisexual Network
BY KAYLEE DUFF
Bi+, a new bisexual-centered social group, is dedicated to offering a space for resources, support and community for bi+ folks across northeast Ohio.
The Cleveland Bisexual Network (CBN) was founded in 2017 by local advocates Eris Eady and Elaine Schleiffer, to be a resource to bi+ (“bisexual, pansexual, queer or otherwise neither-gay-nor- straight”) folks in northeastern Ohio. Frustrated with the lack of social groups or community resources for bi+ people, the two community organizers took matters into their own hands to build the network they needed.
In 2019, the CBN is introducing Bi+, a community group at the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland. “Bi+ will be a space for gathering resources that bisexual folks need, hosting healing conversations about the stigma we face and offering support for bisexual folks from all backgrounds and of all identities,” co-founder Elaine Schleiffer explained. “We believe that holding space for our community to connect, relax and enjoy time together is just as important as setting up other social, health and community resources for our community to access.”
Bi+ is the very first bisexual-centered community group hosted by the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland. The Center has been around for over 40 years now. Having that space is absolutely critical to the safety and the visibility for non-gay queer folks. It is no secret that bisexual people face criticism and discrimination in both straight and queer spaces; they’re told they “don’t belong” because they aren’t “queer” or “gay enough.”They aren’t always adequately represented at community pride events or by LGBTQ+ organizations. That a bisexual- centered community group is being hosted in the Center is a real step forward in terms of visibility and support.
“Hosting a group at the Center gives us a regular physical meeting space, access to the Center’s resources and networks, and also the chance to help the Center become more bisexual-knowledgeable and bisexual-friendly,” Elaine said. “We are so grateful to have been welcomed there and to have found a partner in our journey toward building community.”
In addition to being shunned out of straight and queer spaces, bisexual people face other, more alarming, obstacles. According to multiple studies, bisexual- identified people face higher rates of harassment and violence (including sexual violence and domestic violence) than gay or lesbian people. Bisexual folks also have unique health and social risks compared to other members of the LGBTQ+ community. And the statistics continue.
A group like Bi+ and an organization like the Cleveland Bisexual Network gives bi+ people a space to create safety that they lack elsewhere, and to find the support that they need in one another. “The relationships we build amongst ourselves are validating, affirming and necessary. We believe that the best way to resource our underserved community is to center the experiences, resilience and strength that already exists in our community,” Elaine said. “Having a safe way to gather and pool our experiences is a great first step toward increased visibility and broader cultural support.”
The CBN and Bi+ are welcoming, affirming and safe spaces to meet new friends, find great resources and engage in conversations with people who understand, Elaine emphasized. “We strive to offer opportunities for bisexual people to connect, to socialize and to have fun in spaces where we are supported, seen and safe.”
So if you’re a bisexual person living in northeast Ohio, check out Bi+ and bring all your bi pals. Bi+ meets once a month (every second Tuesday night) at the LGBT Community Center. Check out the Cleveland Bisexual Network group on Facebook for more information.
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