Bisexual community hopeful as one of their own becomes a governor

Oregon Democratic Secretary of State Kate Brown celebrates President Barack Obama's projected victory after winning her race at Democratic headquarters in Portland, Ore., on Nov. 6, 2012. The sudden advent of an openly bisexual governor in Oregon may provide a chance to broaden understanding of America's bisexual community. Don Ryan, AP

Oregon Democratic Secretary of State Kate Brown celebrates President Barack Obama's projected victory after winning her race at Democratic headquarters in Portland, Ore., on Nov. 6, 2012. The sudden advent of an openly bisexual governor in Oregon may provide a chance to broaden understanding of America's bisexual community. Don Ryan, AP

Oregon Democratic Secretary of State Kate Brown celebrates President Barack Obama‘s projected victory after winning her race at Democratic headquarters in Portland, Ore., on Nov. 6, 2012. The sudden advent of an openly bisexual governor in Oregon may provide a chance to broaden understanding of America’s bisexual community.

“LGBT” has become a household term amid sweeping advances for gay rights, and yet the “B” sometimes seems like an awkward fit. The sudden advent of America’s first openly bisexual governor may provide a chance to ease the awkwardness and broaden understanding of the bisexual community.

Kate Brown, Oregon’s secretary of state, is in line to replace Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber when he steps down Wednesday amid an ethics scandal. Brown, serving her second term after many years in the legislature, lives in Portland with her husband and two stepchildren and has been open throughout her political career about being bisexual.

Her progress has been followed closely by bisexual activists across the country, including Ellyn Ruthstrom, who now serves on the board of Boston-based Bisexual Resource Center after 10 years as its president.

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“There are so few bi political leaders out there, so we pay attention to them,” said Ruthstrom, citing U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona as the other prominent example.

Beyond elective politics, the bi community continues to struggle to establish its appropriate place in the broader civil rights campaigns being waged on behalf of lesbians, gays and transgender people.

Within that movement, there was widespread animosity toward bisexuals a couple of decades ago, Ruthstrom said. “Now it’s not as overt, but there are still issues.”

She cited a phenomenon known as “bi-erasure” – in which bisexuals are not mentioned in speeches, press releases and news reports that refer to the LGT groups.

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