In 1991, the Gay and Lesbian Community Action Council (GLCAC), a political advocacy group that later became OutFront Minnesota, published a needs assessment for bisexuals in Minnesota. The assessment’s author, GLCAC intern Joe Duca, collected survey responses from members of the bisexual community. The survey results outlined the isolation, misrepresentation, and hatred that Minnesota bisexuals faced from gay men, lesbians, and straight people.
The survey respondents wanted to join gay men, lesbians, and transgender people in an LGBT coalition. The group they proposed would meet shared goals, including new human rights laws and protections from hate crimes. They recommended adding “bisexual” to the names of existing organizations and events, such as the Twin Cities Pride event. The added term would improve bisexual visibility and affirm the coalition. Survey participants also wanted an annual event to bring the local, regional, and national bisexual communities together. In 1992, community organizers hosted the first BECAUSE conference in Minneapolis. Conference attendees learned about the diversity of bisexual experiences and enjoyed professional networking and socializing in a space that was expressly designed for bisexuals.
Throughout the 1990s, Scott Bartell, Bill Burleson, Arthur Freeheart, Lou Hoffman, Elise Matthesen, and other organizers helped BECAUSE grow into one of the nation’s biggest bi+ community events. From its inception, BECAUSE sought to include transgender issues in its programs. In 1999, BOP officially incorporated and became the “fiscal agent” responsible for hosting BECAUSE.
In 2000, BOP sought to commemorate the bi+ community’s progress over the past decade. It sponsored an oral history project that included a questionnaire based on the Kinsey Scale. Created by pioneering sexologist Alfred Kinsey, the scale became famous after Kinsey used it in two landmark studies of American sexuality: Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953).
The scale ranges from zero (exclusively heterosexual) to 6 (exclusively homosexual). In his studies, Kinsey discovered that almost half of those he surveyed fit somewhere in between zero and six. Bisexual activists have pointed to this study as evidence that bi+ behavior is more prevalent than society admits.
In 2002, BOP opened Minnesota’s first—and only—bisexual community center near the intersection of Lyndale Avenue and Lake Street in South Minneapolis. The center hosted social events and meetings and served as a resource center. Though short-lived, the center showed BOP’s great ambitions. In 2004, BOP organized the 8th International Conference on Bisexuality at the University of Minnesota, which further helped the group become a global leader of the international bi+ community.
BOP’s influence is evident in a 2005 book by Bill Burleson, a veteran BOP organizer. Bi America: Myths, Truths, and Struggles of an Invisible Community (Rutledge, 2005) focused on the bi+ community’s accomplishments across the country. It also highlighted how the community continued to face invisibility and hostility from the gay, lesbian, and straight majority.
After a three-year hiatus, BECAUSE returned in 2008 and sought to focus on becoming a national, rather than regional, conference for bisexual activism. In a 2012 interview with the Huffington Post, past and current BOP organizers shared their hopes for the group’s future. “The future of BECAUSE is in the hands of the people who volunteer to run it,” Lou Hoffman noted. Lauren Beach added that it continued to work toward a national focus while maintaining its role as an information center for bi+ people who seek to “come out” to their friends, family, and community.
For more information on this topic, check out the original entry on MNopedia.