Revisit Lani Kaʻahumanu’s Moving 1993 Speech on Bisexuality

The March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation took place on April 25, 1993. Bi folks were explicitly included in the official name of the march thanks to bisexual and feminist activist and writer Lani Kaʻahumanu, who organized and fought for bisexual inclusion in the march and rally. Of the many speakers at the march’s rally, Kaʻahumanu was the only out bisexual and the only person to speak explicitly about bisexuality. The ways she loudly and proudly celebrated bisexuality on that stage are just as powerful and moving today — during 2023’s Bi Week — as they were back then in 1993, when bisexual folks were often excluded from mainstream events and conversations about queer liberation.

Her speech can be viewed in full on C-Span and starts around the 5:44:31 timestamp. “Aloha, my name is Lani Kaʻahumanu” she begins as she takes the mic, “and it ain’t over til the bisexual speaks.” What follows is an eloquent speech that sounds like part essay, part spoken word poetry on bisexual identity, pride, and love. Kaʻahumanu also urgently and sharply critiques mainstream gay politics that exclude bisexual and transgender people. “Recognition of bisexual orientation and transgender issues presents a challenge to assumptions not previously explored within the politics of gay liberation,” she says. “What will it take for the gayristocracy to realize that bisexual, lesbian, transgender, and gay people are in this together, and together we can and will move the agenda forward. But this will not happen until public recognition of our common issues is made, and a sincere effort to confront biphobia and transphobia is made by the established gay and lesbian leadership in this country.”

Thirty years later, her words — especially about trans folks — still hold so much truth and resonance.

A transcription of the full speech lives on Kaʻahumanu’s website and is formatted like a gorgeous poem. Here’s an excerpt:

Bisexual pride
speaks to the truth
of behavior and identity.

No simple either/or divisions
fluid – ambiguous – subversive
bisexual pride challenges both
the heterosexual and the homosexual assumption.

Ten years before she gave this speech, Kaʻahumanu co-founded BiPOL, the country’s first bisexual political action group. A year later, Kaʻahumanu was at the center of a major action by BiPOL at the 1984 Democratic National Convention in an effort to increase bisexual visibility. As a publicity stunt, BiPOL nominated Kaʻahumanu for the office of Vice President. The day before the DNC, BiPOL hosted the country’s first official bisexual rights rally. Kaʻahumanu’s 1993 speech is the culmination of the decade plus of work she was already doing in the name of bisexual people.

Though the full video of the 1993 rally is over six hours, it’s worth watching other parts as well. In many ways, it’s a fun time capsule of queer culture and history. The band Betty! Eartha Kitt! Judith Light! There’s quite the crew of performers and speakers. But Lani Kaʻahumanu‘s speech really does stand out in the ways it centers and celebrates bisexual people. It’s a great slice of history to look back on thirty years later during a week meant to bolster bisexual visibility and pride.

Happy Bi Week 2023 from Autostraddle!

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya

Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is the managing editor of Autostraddle and a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Orlando. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 816 articles for us.


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