Bisexual Governor Kate Brown Talks Openly About Surviving Domestic Violence, Shuts Down Opponent’s Ignorance

Kate Brown, Oregon’s current governor, has already made a mark in history; she’s one of the few openly bisexual women in public office in the US (others include JoCasta Zamarripa, Kyrsten Sinema, andMary González, who is pansexual). This week, she worked for another kind of visibility when she came out as a survivor of domestic violence during a debate with her Republican opponent, Dr. Bud Pierce. Brown’s open declaration is important in part because bisexual-identified women suffer disproportionately from domestic and intimate partner violence; in 2015 the Williams Institute found that 56.9% of bi women reported experiencing intimate partner violence in their lifetimes compared to 32.3% of heterosexual women and 40.4% of lesbians. Oregon bisexual activist Lynette McFadzen told LGBTQ Nation “We believe we will see more people coming out, seeking support, finding their bi community, and literally saving their own lives because of Gov. Brown sharing her story.”

Brown’s discussion of her experiences also matters because she used it to refute the ignorant, victim-blaming and harmful claims of Dr. Pierce that “A woman that has a great education and training and a great job is not susceptible to this kind of abuse by men, women or anyone,” a dangerous assumption that contributes to domestic violence going unnoticed and overlooked. Brown responded that “I’m honestly not even sure where to start. I grew up in a middle class family. I went to law school… This is not just about [having access to] power. This is about making sure women are not discriminated against because of their gender, because of their race, and because of their sexual orientation.”

Brown’s point is underscored by the high-profile case of Amber Heard’s abuse at the hands of her husband Johnny Depp earlier this year; despite the immense privileges Heard has access to, she was still emotionally and physically abused, as well as being smeared in the press and subject to specifically biphobic character assassination, which is unfortunately commonplace and which can serve to justify and normalize the abuse of bisexual women.

The gossip website Hollywood Life alleges that jealousy over her former romantic attachments was the cause: The A-list actor was uncomfortable with his estranged wife’s “lesbian friends.” The site claims, “Amber’s bisexual past was reportedly a big problem.” If you didn’t catch the sneaky suggestion of infidelity, the National Enquirer is happy to clear it up any confusion: “Johnny was surrounded by women who kept him fretting about his bisexual bride’s lesbian past!” According to the mag, the “other women” in question included photographer Tasya Van Ree, to whom Heard was formerly engaged, and model/actress Cara Delevingne.

The year so far has been characterized by highs and lows for the bisexual community; the coming out of numerous public figures like Amandla Stenberg, Mara Wilson, Bella Thorne, Rebecca Sugar, Stephanie Beatriz, Lord Ivar Mountbatten of the British Royal Family, and even Wonder Woman. A survey just this week found that the number of people in the UK identifying as bisexual rose 45% in three years. The White House held its first-ever open bisexual community briefing this year. However, as is the case for so many vulnerable and marginalized groups, like trans women, visibility doesn’t mean that problems go away — in some cases, hypervisibility can increase danger. And unfortunately, it doesn’t mean stigma is over, either; a controversial story in the YA lit community this month showed us that, with trade publication Voya Magazine warning readers that YA novel Run includes “many references to Bo [one of the main characters] being bisexual and an abundance of bad language, so it is recommended for mature junior and senior high readers” — even though Bo doesn’t have sex in the book and heterosexual characters do, making the content warning specifically about her sexual orientation.

Kate Brown’s brave explanation illustrates the tension of the current point in history; she’s gained access to legislative power and made history as the first openly bisexual governor in the US, but is still subject to at least some of the same violence that the bisexual community as a whole faces. Brown also faces election this November, when she’ll fight to stay in office where she can attempt to address the fact that “more than half of Oregon women and girls experience domestic or sexual violence during their lifetime.”

Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1043 articles for us.

9 Comments

  1. I’ve been so distracted by the general election that I’m behind on local political news here in Oregon. It’s good to hear that Brown is being vocal about important issues like domestic violence

    • Gov. Kate Brown didn’t mention any specifics, it’s a pretty personal issue. “I know what it feels like to be a victim of domestic violence,” Brown said.” If you followed the links posted in the article, you could have found that quote very easily.

  2. And she’s pro common sense gun control–like background checks and tracking gun purchases. So some gun folks burned her in effigy-

    SHE SAID–“If these extreme groups continue to burn mannequins of me, an effigy, every time I stand up for the safety of Oregonians, then they’re going to run out of mannequins,”

    Hurrah Gov. Brown!

  3. Kate democrats want to waste money and commit evil sin against God by giving medicaid to youth and children to change the way God created them. Jesus warned all of us :………….Read Matthew 18 Verse 6….but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

    You are using medicaid to allow youth to change form male to female and vice versa.

    ALBANY — The New York State Health Department has signaled that it intends to allow transgender youths to receive Medicaid coverage for hormones that forestall puberty, wiping away prohibitions that have been criticized by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups.

    The move, announced on Wednesday in a proposed rule in the State Register, would allow minors who are being treated for gender dysphoria to receive Medicaid payment for pubertal suppressants and cross-sex hormone therapy, which mimic the biological chemistry of the opposite gender. Previously, the state had covered such hormone treatments for adults, a change that took effect last year.

    Obama claimed he wanted everyone to have healthcare. He overhauled healthcare so lgbt can pretend they are married and get healthcare. Kate Brown you are supposed to be for the people using God’s word………………………………Kate none of us can get out of hell if we do not believe…………… Luke Chapter 16……….. 23and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” God please help me to believe in you and repent and come to heaven with you at your timing…Amen In Jesus name.

    • As a lifelong agnostic, I wish to personally thank you and your cohorts for exponentially increasing the ranks of the nonreligous. Keep it up, and the Abrahamic faiths will be extinct within the century.

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