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June 01, 2016 News » Cover Story

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Language, Identity & Ginger Snaps
An evening with the 1 to 5 Club
By Alex Springer
Photos by Shauna Brock

Family is a term that used to be strictly tied to biology. As our society has evolved, however, this word has had the luxury of evolving right along with it. In fact, it's one of the few existing words that Salt Lake City's 1 to 5 Club can use to accurately define itself—the evolution of language has been unkind to those who don't identify as gay, straight, lesbian or transgender. The 1 to 5 Club is fighting an uphill battle, but this small family is up to something big.

Co-founded by Shauna Brock, the 1 to 5 Club holds bimonthly meetings at the Utah Pride Center to support one another and discuss issues surrounding the bisexual community. "The name comes from the historical significance of the Kinsey Scale, which ran on a spectrum of 0 to 6, with 0 being completely heterosexual and 6 being completely homosexual," Brock says. "Kinsey himself was a bisexual, which also ties back into the name of the club." Brock was prompted to help create the club because she was surprised to see that the B in LGBTQ didn't get a lot of representation in the larger community—the first Pride Festival that she attended was still called the Gay Pride Festival. "I felt erased, dismissed and censored," she says.

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For those who maintain a cursory knowledge of the LGBTQ community's fight for equality, it might be hard to believe that a stigma of exclusion could exist within their own ranks. For decades, LGBTQ groups and movements have fought tooth-and-nail to get where they are today, and the fight is far from over. Based on that evidence, one would think that the bisexual community would have as much of a voice as that of the gay, lesbian and transgender. The reality is that those who identify as bisexual are often met with uncertainty and even derision within the communities that claim to be fighting for unconditional equality regardless of sexual identity. Many bisexuals expect the Pride Festival and the LGBTQ community to act as places of inclusion in a world that is still struggling to accept the concept of sexual fluidity. As the members of the 1 to 5 Club reported, that is seldom the case. This creates a disconnect that has, according to a study conducted by the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, resulted in elevated levels of depression, anxiety, poverty and domestic violence within the bisexual community.

The 1 to 5 Club exists as a refuge for precisely this reason. As we passed a package of gingersnaps back and forth, it was easy to see how such unexpected dissonance created a sense of alienation and frustration among the 17 people in attendance. Our discussion covered everything from the erasure of bisexuality among historical LGBTQ activists to the often-absurd legislation that is currently under scrutiny. Perhaps the most profound discourse that arose during the discussion was the inability that our language has to accurately define sexual fluidity, along with the consequential fallout. Since our legal system is based on that same imperfect system of communication, it makes legislation that impacts the bisexual community very murky and exclusive. "It was hard to hear our supporters argue that sexuality is innate and unchangeable to the Supreme Court," says club attendee Matt Conway, "According to the court, if there was any clear evidence that a person would change their sexuality or gender identity over the course of their life, then they couldn't protect that person." Joni Alexandria, a member of the 1 to 5 Club's sustainability committee, responded, "Being sexually fluid is innate, but how do you demonstrate that in court? So-called 'rational thinkers' require binaries—they need to put walls around things, and that is always problematic."

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While legal language will always struggle to find a place for ambiguity, society's use of language becomes the biggest impediment to inclusion. A large percentage of bisexual or sexually fluid people struggle with their identities because they aren't armed with the right language to accurately describe themselves, which forces them to rely on the language that others would choose for them. Attendee Grayson Moore explained how this disconnect "shifts the emotional and mental labor to those who don't match the cultural default." When someone identifies as sexually fluid, they are often forced to rationalize their identity to others simply because it doesn't fit within the culturally accepted defaults of gay, straight, lesbian or transgender.

As an example, Brock shared a story about a 1 to 5 Club presentation that she was running for the Pride Center. She used the term "biromantic," which caused a woman in the audience to approach her. "I never understood why I was in love with my husband, but didn't want to have sex with him until you used those words," she said, "I divorced him and I'm happy with my partner now, but if I knew that term then, I would have been a hell of a lot more happy."

"Words are just words, and they're never going to work exactly the way we want them to," says attendee Lux Knudsen, "But if we give people the opportunity to learn from us, it gives us all an opportunity to grow." This is why the 1 to 5 Club is so important to the LGBTQ community. By raising awareness of the fact that a large part of the LGBTQ population is still struggling to accurately define their sexual identity, they are making an impact. The Utah Pride Center is one of the only national Pride Centers that provides support and budget for bisexual programs like the 1 to 5 Club, and their presence at this year's Pride Festival means that those who may be struggling to define their sexual identity have an inclusive resource that is dedicated to helping them—which is exactly what families are for.


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About The Authors

Carolyn Campbell

Carolyn Campbell

Bio:
Campbell has been writing for City Weekly since the 1980s. Her insightful pieces have won awards from the Society of Professional Journalists chapters in Utah and Colorado.
Enrique Limón

Enrique Limón

Bio:
Editor at Salt Lake City Weekly. Lover of sour candies.

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