Dear Anderson Cooper,
I’m writing you today because of what I saw from the audience a few weeks back at the HRC/CNN Town Hall. I’m writing you because I like you, because you have been one of my heroes, and, yes, like 95% of the world, one of my crushes, for more than a decade now.
It was a huge honor to go to the debate as part of the board of the organization BiNet USA alongside our brilliant president thefayth, and I was ecstatic to be present for such a historic event. I’m also so grateful for what you must have done behind the scenes to make it happen.
But what I saw from you the other week at the town hall — repeatedly leaving out bi+ people in your language, using the wrong language to refer to trans people, and standing by while a trans woman of color protestor was violently removed by security — made me want to reach out to you. It made me want to reach out to you not just because what you did was morally wrong. I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you know that. I’m going to guess that you feel you just had a bad night and want to put it in the rear view. But I can’t let you do that, not if I want to sleep at night. And not in good conscious in my duties as a board member of BiNet USA.
I’m reaching out to you because I want you to know that what you did was also a serious strategic mistake. For the sake of millions of LGBTQ people around the world – not to mention for the sake of our democracy, the climate, and the millions of poor people and people of color under attack by this administration – I hope that you recognize it isn’t too late to make things right. It’s not too late to go on your show and have a segment in which you talk about how important and valid bi+ and trans people are in the LGBTQ world, that you recognize our specific needs and that we are actually more at-risk in many ways than gays and lesbians, and that you want us to be part of the movement and the upcoming election. You can feel free to reach out to our organization, BiNet, if you’d like. IThere are a ton of bi and trans organizations out there. Our leaderships were in the audience. You can reach out to HRC, if you’d like, to find thousands of us, out there organizing every day.
Because you are, whether you like it or not, a gay icon, and one of the biggest things that scares bi+ people away from being active is that we are constantly made to feel less than by the gay and lesbian community. Something like that could help us feel safer. And there are a lot of very scared and alone bi+ people out there watching CNN who WANT to help fight for LGBTQ rights but just aren’t sure if they are welcome, or if anyone actually means the B when they say LGBTQ.
According to the Williams Institute at UCLA, there are more bi+ people than there are gay and lesbian people in America. And though there is a lot of overlap between bi+ and trans people, the Institute estimates there are a million and a half trans people. Extrapolating from their numbers and updating to the current population, that means are maybe 6 million bi+ and/or trans folks (and again, many are both!) in the U.S. alone, especially because young people are identifying as bi+ in bigger and bigger numbers every year.
You and I both know that these numbers could have made all the difference in the past election. And they can, and will, in the upcoming one.
Let me talk about bi+ people for a moment in particular: Bi+ people are notoriously closeted, especially in the sorts of geographical areas where we need the most help. I have heard gays and lesbians often like to say that this is evidence of our cowardice, while at the same time telling gay and lesbian kids that it’s okay to wait to come out until it’s safe. Well, it’s often not safe for us to come out ever. This isn’t just because of rampant biphobia in the straight community. It’s also because the gay and lesbian community, who we often approach first, doesn’t exactly welcome us with open arms. I remember the literal parties people threw when you came out of the closet publicly, Anderson. Imagine for a moment if your announcement was met with at best a shrug, and at worst a claim that you were misguided and you would come out as bi eventually. Would that make you want to go out and be active?
If you could do something to help us feel less invisible, Anderson, you could help transform the lives of 6 million people who are sitting out there, often feeling isolated and alone. These people could be even more politically active, too, if they felt empowered and included. They could be the difference in this coming election. Instead of signaling to your cis gay brethren that it’s okay to ignore us, furthering divisions among the LGBTQ community, you could own up to your mistake. It could mean so much to so many isolated bi+ people out there who feel alone, who feel like maybe they are not welcome to join in the fight.
Let me tell you a story.
I am a bi+ American. Five years ago, I was invited to attend a writer’s retreat for LGBTQ people. Attending the Lambda Literary Emerging Writer’s Retreat is a huge honor for writers, and I was thrilled, but I also wondered if I belonged. You see, I had just started dating a woman. I wondered if this disqualified me from being part of the community. I reached out to a member of the staff and asked him – a trans queer guy – if I could still go. He laughed and told me of course I could. In fact, I especially should!
I was so heartened by this. I hadn’t always been welcomed by the gay and lesbian community. I’d been called a half-breeder so often I started to tell it as a joke myself. I’d literally been kicked out of bed by a gay man when he learned I was bi. I’d been told I’d figure out I was gay someday, even after I’d tried and failed to be gay. I’d been told to my face that I didn’t exist, over and over and over again, by straight and gay alike.
And the retreat was fantastic. At least on the professional side of things. I met people who became lifelong friends. I got wonderful help with my writing.
But also, on one especially booze-filled night, while attending a party, a gay cis man approached me and said, “Hey, are you the one going around saying you are bisexual?” I got the sense I probably shouldn’t respond to him, but I told him that I was.
I’m not going to go into the awful things he said to me, because they need not be repeated, but what I will say is that it was another three years before I could be involved with Lambda Literary again. This wasn’t because I was a coward. It’s because I was not safe there. It was another three years before I started working in the writing community and with Lambda to amplify bi+ voices, and to amplify all LGBTQ voices. It was another three years before I felt like I could come back into the organizing fold.
Let me ask you: if someone treated you like that, how would you react? Would you continue fighting for that organization?
Anderson, there are six million people like me out there who could be working in their respective fields to amplify LGBTQ voices, but who maybe are not, exactly because of the kinds of things you pulled the other night. Organizations like BiNet are fighting to do this work, with so few resources it would shock you. And now, you are making it harder for us.
Please, can you make do something to make it easier on us?
What you did at the debate, Anderson, was akin to what that guy did to me that night. At least he had the nerve to tell me what he thought to my face. You simply made us feel invisible. This election is too important for infighting, sir. Think of it: at a historic event for all of humanity, you essentially told six million people, or more than half of LGBTQ Americans, that we didn’t matter. That we should stay home. That we do not count.
Thank you for listening, and for helping to put on that historic event. Let’s make it even more historic by doing the right thing and owning up to your mistakes. If you’d like to learn more about bi+ Americans first, I’m happy to put you in touch with some experts.