By: Suzany Manimaran
On Sept. 22, the eve of Bisexual Day of Visibility, a group of individuals from all over the Greater Toronto Area came together for Hamilton’s first ever Biphoria, an event for bisexual identifying artists and performers to showcase their pieces.
“It was two years ago that I had the first show in Toronto,” said Catherine McCormack, Biphoria creator. “What I saw was that there was this huge gap around queer events which weren’t centred around alcohol and drinking and that way of reacting or dealing with our oppressions.”
Biphoria was a night of art and performance that was created and curated for and by those who identify as bisexual. Performances focused on stories about isolation and invisibility, identity crises and the ensuing anxiety in coming out. Many performers noted the immediate bond and sense of community the storytelling built between the audience and performers.
“We don’t see it at the time,” said performer Perth Sandiford, after the event. “But we are exchanging culture and growing culture, in this case queer culture, through storytelling.”
“We have a world that tells us bisexuals that we don’t exist that comes up with you know ridiculous stereotypes, and uses that unfortunately to pit people in the queer community against each other.”
Through stories that were told, whether it were song, spoken word or stand up comedy, bisexual artists brought to light some of the major issues and stigmas facing the bisexual community today.
“I came out as bisexual in an era where it polarized a room,” said Micheal Thorner, another performer. “So [my] song kind of spoke to the orientation process that the small town Catholic moved through.”
Many artists talked about bi erasure and bi invisibility in gay and lesbian spaces, where bisexuality is heavily stigmatized at times.
“We have a world that tells us bisexuals that we don’t exist that comes up with you know ridiculous stereotypes, and uses that unfortunately to pit people in the queer community against each other,” said McCormack.
Several artists spoke about the complicated relationship that bisexuals have with labeling themselves, and about the stigma that comes with the label. Many bisexual individuals struggle with having their identity erased while in monogamous relationships and being framed as indecisive.
“The bi community often suffers because of the dominance of the gay community and the lesbian community,” said Valizan, who performed with his troupe, Shades of Araby. “Events like Biphoria help create community, strengthen community and show people there is a community they can come to if they need.”
But it is increasingly difficult to find queer spaces and community, even within bigger cities. “With the increasing gentrification in Toronto a lot of queers are getting pushed out. Look at The Village,” said Perth Sandiford, referring the LGBT-oriented Church-Wellesley neighbourhood in Toronto. “How many bars recently were torn down to make room for condos?”
Biphoria was ultimately a night of vulnerability, resilience and hope among a community often ignored.