“I have a complicated relationship with my hometown”: Bisexuals+ share their #SouthernStories for #BiWeek

Today, GLAAD released an original video as part of both Bisexual Awareness Week (#BiWeek) and GLAAD’s Southern Stories program, which amplifies the voices of LGBT people in the U.S. South.

The video features members of the bisexual+ community: Lacey Kennedy, who works with AIDS Alabama to make schools safer for LGBT students and grew up in the Yellowhammer State; Sofia Peña, a community educator and the daughter of former migrant workers in the borderland of the Rio Grande Valley in Texas; and Jessica Piness, who grew up in South Carolina, but attends graduate school in Hattiesburg, Mississippi and is active with the city’s LGBT center, The Spectrum Center.


A video posted by @glaad on

All three people open up about coming to terms with their intersecting identities while living in the South, the fear or hurt they’ve experienced, the important issues—like safe schools, immigration, and reproductive justice—that pervade their lives, and their complex relationships with the U.S. South.

Jessica Piness, who is gender fluid and pansexual, tells GLAAD, “I definitely respect people who stay here and fight…People always need to stand up against injustice. But I tell a lot of my friends, I know I’m leaving, and I wish I could take you with me, because this state just doesn’t deserve you.”

Jessica adds, "I can be very reluctant to come out. I think there's a lot of fear as to how will this affect my perception in my workplace, how will this affect my perception in healthcare, for example. Just, how will this expose to me adverse effects, even potential violence?" Last year, Mississippi's Governor Phil Bryant signed the "licenese to discriminate" bill HB1523 into state law.

While their experiences have at times been “complicated,” a word both Lacey and Sofia use, they feel connected to Southern culture and are dedicated to making it an increasingly safe and accepting place for all people.

"There's a lot of great things about living in Alabama, we have a very rich culture here,” says Lacey, who is both trans* and bisexual. “I don't know if I feel like I would fit in if I moved somewhere else, as a Southerner. I hate feeling like I have to leave in order to be able to have access to a supportive environment." 

Sofia, a bisexual Latina woman, says of southern Texas, “The culture is beautiful and rich and there’s something so comforting about seeing the big ol’ 10 gallon hats, with the big ol’ belt buckles, and the sound of music playing…At the same time, I wish it was a little bit different. I wish that we could come here [and] not be afraid for our safety.”

Watch and share the video now:

GLAAD collected these stories while meeting with LGBT community members and leading advocates across Texas, Alabama, and Mississippi, as part of the GLAAD Southern Stories Tour to amplify their voices in order to accelerate LGBT acceptance across the U.S. South.

In late 2014, GLAAD commissioned Harris Poll to measure attitudes towards LGBT Americans. The report found that while the public is increasingly embracing LGBT civil rights and equal protection under the law, many are still uncomfortable with having LGBT people in their families and the communities where they live. Within these numbers we find that Southerners feel significantly more discomfort about their LGBT family, friends, and neighbors than is found in other regions of the country.

#BiWeek--co-founded by GLAAD, BiNet USA, and others to accelerate acceptance of the bi+ community--draws attention to the public policy concerns, while also celebrating the resiliency of, the bisexual community. Many within the bi community often face underreported or unreported issues and challenges; from health disparities to physical violence, anxiety, depression, poverty, and more, and at a higher rate than their gay, lesbian, and straight peers. Throughout #BiWeek, allies and bi+ people learn about the history, culture, community and current policy priorities of bi+ communities.

Check out glaad.org/biweek for more on how to celebrate bisexuality+.