I’ve rarely felt so popular in the LGBT community. People were crowding around our table trying to get their hands on what we had to offer. They were lingering to chat and tell us their stories. They were coming back for more. Suddenly, bisexuality was delicious. What were we doing?
On National Coming Out Day (Oct 11) the Bi Writers Association teamed up with BiRequest (New York City's largest bisexual discussion and social group), and tabled in the lobby of our LGBT Center, in an effort to educate about bisexuality.
Bisexual literature can be a hard sell in the lesbian and gay community, and the Center specified that if we wanted to be in their lobby, we had to do “passive tabling” and wait for people to approach us. How to make sure they would come over? I had several bags of party snacks, a box of microwave popcorn and a few bottles of soda and juice left over from my recent Celebrate Bisexuality Day party, so it occurred to me that we could attract visitors to our table and make friends by offering fun snacks to the crowd of people that come to the LGBT Center every night.
It worked! Almost everyone coming into the LGBT Center came over to see what was going on at our table. We greeted them by wishing them a happy National Coming Out Day and said that we were celebrating with party snacks, offering them to go ahead and take some. Some picked up literature right away. Most started with snacking on our popcorn, chips, pretzels, candy or soda, and then getting curious about our handouts. But if they didn’t pick up the handouts on their own, I would say, “and here is some lovely literature on bisexuality,” handing them our basic fact sheet debunking myths and explaining truths about bisexuality. I had also made up a Bisexual Resources sheet (listing local and national groups as well as bi press and special resources) and put out a few other fliers.
Instead of being shunned, we became very popular with everyone streaming into the Center for the LGBT career fair workshop, the therapy dog training session, the wannabe mommies and the LGBT recovery group meetings or strolling out of the SAGE meeting room. Plus the assortment of queer folks who come just to hang out with friends in the lobby, in front of the building or to use the bathroom before jumping on a subway. Fellow tabler Efrain Gonzalez even thought to bring doggie treats for the therapy dogs! He also snapped a few photos of our table (see slideshow.)
Several people I’d never seen at a bi group meeting came out to us as bisexual, bi or queer (but in the bisexual ballpark.) Several gay/lesbian people said they had a bisexual partner or had lots of bi friends and were very cool with bisexuality. One woman saw the flier for my Examiner column and quipped, "sounds like a fun job examining bisexuals all day!' One guy told me he loved my outfit and all my colors--I was wearing fuscia and purple to go with the bisexual flag we had draping our table. One guy said he didn’t believe in bisexuality: “you like boys or you like girls and that’s it!,” he said with a flaming flourish. (For the record, I enjoy flaming flourishes.) His friends, a group of lobby loungers who had already come back for several helpings of our soda and snacks, got on his case. Eventually, I saw him reading our fact sheet. One SAGE senior refused to take any literature, saying since he wasn’t bi, he didn’t need to read about it. I responded that I read up on gay, lesbian and transgender info because we’re all part of the same community and I want to be informed, then managed to hand him our fact sheet. Maybe he’ll read it, maybe he wont. But even people who didn’t take any literature, loved our snacks.
I’d say 90-95% of the people who went in or out of the lobby, when we were "open for business" from 5:30-8:30 pm, stopped at our table and took something: snacks, literature or both. And everyone went away liking us. We made lots of friends, made a good impression as a friendly, fun, generous bunch, and educated with our literature.
I’m always thinking about ways to get the lesbian and gay community to be more inclusive of us bi folk. I think, so far, this is the best idea I’ve ever had. My next articles will be on throwing your own tabling event, in case you’d like to try it, with samples of our handouts.
Also, see my article on Tips for coming out bisexual.