Legally Bi: The Inaugural Column

There are a lot of bi people out there. And a lot of lawyers. But bi lawyers? Are there really so many of us?

As with every corner of society, once you start peeking beneath the surface, you’d be surprised at how many of us are bi. If you are like me, you are also dismayed at how invisible they (we) remain, despite our impressive numbers.

In the hope of elevating our existence, our work, and our issues, I embark upon this series, a new regular column for Legally Bi.

In this inaugural column, I introduce myself as a bi lawyer, one of many across the world, who exist but whose voices are often buried in the cacophony of so many others, competing for a piece of LGBT and legal discourse.

And yet, as with all things (as I alluded to in an earlier column I wrote for, on rejecting the harmful zero sum game narrative), I would ask: does it really have to be a competition? Does making the space for bi voices to be heard, both within and outside the law and legal and political communities, really take anything away from anyone else? Of course not.

Does omitting our voices really result in any harm? Yes, in many forms, some with life-and-death consequences.

In this new “Legally Bi” series, I will explore various examples of such harms of bi erasure in law and politics. On a positive note, I will also raise up examples of times when the visibility of bisexuality and bi voices within legal and political discourse has made a positive difference, not just for the bi community, but for society as a whole.

In future columns, I will address such subjects as:

  • Bi-Lawrriors: My story, and the story of Bi-Law
  • The history of bi erasure in law and politics
  • The comparative lack of bi visibility in LGBT rights discourse
  • The harms of bi erasure (with a focus on issues such as the unique hurdles the bi community may face, in contexts of parental rights and asylum law)
  • The “bi” place at the legal and political table: why bi people shouldn’t give up on changing the system from within
  • The importance of “bisexual” as an umbrella term in legal and political discourse
  • The intersectionality of bisexuality and other legal issues and identities
  • Binaries and fluidity in bi and trans legal and political discourse
  • Bi discrimination as sex discrimination
  • Bi bridge-building: when we face discrimination from “our own,” and how we can respond through bridge-building rather than through adversarial in-fighting
  • Judicially bi: the problem with the (lack of) bi judges
  • Legislatively bi: the celebration of bi lawmakers across the United States
  • The bi-polyamory overlap: non-traditional family protections and other legal issues facing polyamorous bi people
  • Bi poverty, health, and other disparities, and how bi policy can address them

I will introduce myself in more detail in the next Legally Bi column I write. For now, suffice it to say that I am an LGBT-rights lawyer, and a woman who has been out, as bi, for a quarter century. In my work, as a bisexual lawyer and policy advocate, I have addressed many of the above issues, in various settings and to various degrees. I have worked with wonderful and inspiring bi advocates and lawyers around the world, with whom I have shared the collective excitement and frustrations at being still in the beginning chapters of making the legal and political world a better, more bi-inclusive, one.

Although mine is just one perspective out of many, I look forward to sharing my thoughts, from the law to the personal and political, about the importance of law and politics to the bi community and about the reciprocal importance of bi people to legal and political progress. Although I will not be giving legal advice through this column, I am open to addressing a number of legal issues the members of the bi community care about. So if you have requests for a future column, please feel free to reach out to me, with subject line “Legally Bi” at [email protected] (because I’m a female lawyer, get it? I was told upon graduating from law school in 1997 that only male lawyers could use the title “Esquire” after their names, and my response was not only to get a plaque for my desk with “NANCY MARCUS, ESQUIRE” in big letters, but to immediately adopt the email handle, “msquire”).

I’d like to close this inaugural column with a final thought: in democratic society, the law does not belong to lawyers and judges and politicians. The law belongs to the people. It is a fragile thing, this society governed by the rule of law. As such, it is incumbent upon us all to ensure that, in the words of Thomas Jefferson — a man who was deeply flawed, but who was also integral to the creation of many positive legal and political protections through constitutional democracy — and as emblazoned across the walls of the Jefferson Memorial:

“I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and Constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”

So, all of you bi folk out there committed to legal and political progress, to equal liberty, and to the as-yet-unfulfilled promises of laws and constitutions past and present, you too are BiLawrriors. Let’s fight together to be visible and counted, to secure equal protections and respect under the law, to be an active part in the political process, and to keep ourselves informed about the issues that affect not just us, but all those whose voices are too often silenced or unheeded.

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One Comment

  1. R C Reply

    Growing up the question was always ” Well…what are you?…gay or straight?. There was never a sense of being settled within oneself with this expectation from both communities, and there was always the perception from others that we were undecided and confused. I actually believed I had to choose one camp or the other for most of my youth as we were viewed with distrust by both the straight and queer communities.

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