Friday, July 25, 2014

Bisexual, Asian, Out & Proud at NYC Pride 2014

Last year, I missed Pride season in two countries, so this year I was excited to be celebrating it in the most culturally diverse city I've ever lived in - New York City. When they announced the Grand Marshals for this year’s event, they listed three people I absolutely adore. As a fan of the entire cast of Orange is The New Black, I loved that Laverne Cox was one. As an online student of The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, I was excited that Rea Carey was going to be representing. Jonathan Groff, whose voice/ grin/ face I love, made the team of three. Initially, I was annoyed that there wasn't a bisexual grand marshal. Was it that they didn't have a viable candidate? Did they not have the budget? Did they not know how to be allies?

BiNet USA’s Faith Cheltenham initiated a petition for NYC Pride to become bi-inclusive and I got on board. Alan Cumming, Amber Heard, Margaret Cho, Anna Paquin, Evan Rachel Wood, Missy Higgins, Raul Esperanza... are only a few of the amazing bisexual celebrities that could have been representing the Bi Community. It wasn't because of the lack of options, from my perspective. There was a lot of conversation online about how the bi community was entitled to representation because Pride was Brenda Howard’s idea to begin with. Coming from a history of having to be the person to create a bisexual space within the LGBT community in India, this perception was new to me. If I've wanted to be included, I've needed to show up and be visible, vocal, out and proud – I've needed to be my own representation.

Instead of being upset about the lack of a Bisexual Grand Marshal, I decided to do the one thing I could. The only thing in my control is how I perceive and allow things to effect me. So I changed my own perspective to see how the Grand Marshals who were chosen did represent aspects of my own identity. Laverne Cox inspires me to be a voice of honesty; Rea Carey inspires me to be a better eloquent leader; and Jonathan Groff inspires me to follow my dreams. That is good enough for me for the moment.

At the Rally on Friday night I met some of the people who were going to be up on stage. I spoke to them about Bi Visibility and they were welcoming and supportive. I also met with volunteers and executive board members who were responsible for putting together Pride Events. They were incredibly nice and almost whoever I met, took a few moments to sit with me and talk about inclusiveness and about how they could do better at being bi visible. Rea Carey wore a Bi Pride pin as she gave her speech, we also had a conversation about how The Task Force helped me as an activist through their online classes and about how we (she included) needed to use bi inclusive language. Susan Sarandon, pointed at my pin and said that we needed more bi pride going around! Betty Who gave me a big tight (tall) hug and was excited to do the picture with me. Well Strung, the adorable boy band, were more than happy to show some bi pride too!

At the Rally that night and at the Dyke March the next day I was caught off guard by women who noticed my Bi Pride pin and said that we needed more of it. For the first half of the Pride March, I walked with NYABN. Somehow, I ended up walking by myself holding the bi flag, at the front of the group. There were moments of silence for me to reflect on how I got to being right there and my own history with bi pride. I looked at the group of people around me and realized that from where we stood (and walked), we existed, and we were visible, vocal, out and proud. In my mind, I still felt that my struggle with my Queer Indian Community isn't over. We're still fighting for equality in India and that was on my mind the entire time.

Two thirds of the way through, I decided that it was time for me to go represent with the Queer Asian Contingents. I ran back about 30 city blocks to join SALGA NYC and walk back up with them. (That was when I realized that I had on the wrong shoes for Pride!) Right behind them walked Q-Wave, the first Queer Asian group I connected with in NYC. There is a sense of cultural pride intertwined with who we are as South Asian queers, and that again was a new experience and I embraced it. At one point, I tied the bi flag to the side of the SALGA float to walk with a friend of mine and she smiled and told one of the other organizers – SALGA finally has its own Bi Flag.

That there was my personal moment of Pride.

I've always had one label, but now I've got a few more. For the first time ever, my cultural identity matters within a queer space. The experience of NYC Pride, has helped me realize that it is important for me to identify as an Asian Bisexual and I feel the need for more bi visibility within the existing Queer Asian spaces, with which I feel the most affinity. You can be sure that I will be doing something about it. I am also realizing that this movement for increased bi visibility is where I belong, and possibly the reason for me being here right now. It is within my DNA to be the change I wish to see in this world, and I have promised myself to have the courage to follow my destiny.

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Apphia K. is a bisexual activist from India and is a force to reckon with. She believes in being brave, empowering the people around her, changing the world, unconditional love, real hugs and laughing out loud.