Women are already often victims of violence and sexual assault, simply for being female
This is a problem for all women, but according to the Human Rights Campaign, 46 percent of bisexual women have been raped, compared to 17 percent of heterosexual women and 13 percent of lesbians. Add to that the fact that bi+ women often feel underrepresented in the LGBTQ community, and you’re left with anger, resentment, and nowhere to turn.
Not in Denver. As one of very few bi+-oriented organizations in the nation, and the only one in Colorado, PAVES, the Polysexual Alliance for Visibility, Education, and Support, is giving bi+ people a place turn.
“The mission of PAVES is to, through outreach and awareness campaigns, ensure that polysexual/bisexual+ individuals know they are not forgotten and are never alone,” explained Codi Coday, the group’s president.
“I would say the biggest problem influencing bisexual women is their hypersexualization and objectification simply for their sexual orientation. This attitude leads to bi women experiencing higher rates of sexual assault, domestic violence, PTSD, and injury, and not having supportive spaces free from sexual advances. PAVES is addressing this problem through education for the community and by creating supportive spaces that are free from these sexual advances.”
The group offers a variety of support for the bi+ community, including socials and outings an online community, and resources for those who don’t feel like they can turn to other queer spaces for support.
Coday makes sure that bi+ people from all walks of life have a place where they feel accepted, and as a result, she has helped many bi+ women. Tired of feeling either harassed and sexualized or unwanted and ignored, bi+ women turn to PAVES and similar organizations to find a safe space.
“Sometimes when I go to spaces as a pansexual individual I am not welcome,” explained Hannah Kratin, a cis woman who identifies as pansexual and found support within the PAVES community. “I was angrily posting about it on Facebook and someone said, ‘you should go to this group,’ and I started going and found a home and group of friends.”
All of this support is welcomed by the bi+ community, a group used to being underserved. Coday admits that despite the fact that bi+ people make up such a big part of the queer community, they are often neglected and even denied basic recognition and respect by their peers.
Much the way bi+ women often face prejudice in the straight community and deal with labels such as slut and cheater, they face a similar problem in the queer community.
“Bi+ people are so underserved because there is a big problem with biphobia in the LGBTQ community that is supposed to support us,” explained Coday. “There are so many harmful misconceptions bisexuals deal with, including that we don’t even exist, that we don’t deserve a place in the LGBTQ community, that we are greedy, indecisive, or that all bisexuals are cheaters. Unfortunately, these attitudes exist in the leadership of LGBTQ organizations too, so they don’t fight for us, and bisexuals don’t get the support they need.”
The prejudice is a real threat, and for bi+ individuals who may pass as straight in their daily lives, it is hard to share the same feeling of community that gay men and lesbians get to rally around. PAVES provides that connection for those who may not have it otherwise.
“I don’t have a lot of bi or pan friends in my life, so being in PAVES I’ve created bonds with people who know what I’m going through, and it really helps because I feel more comfortable in my identity,” Kratin told OUT FRONT.
It is fitting that PAVES is run by a woman, someone who understands constantly living with oppression and being aware of threats. Coday realizes first hand what bi+ people, especially those who identify as female, face.
“As a bisexual woman, I know what it is like to go through hypersexualization, sexual assault, and domestic violence, and feel alone without support just because of my sexual orientation,” she told OUT FRONT. “My story is one I hear all the time from bisexual women, and that’s why it is so important to PAVES to change the status quo.”
Those issues might be doubled in the bi+ community, but thanks to PAVES and efforts like theirs, a positive shift is starting to occur in LGBTQ consciousness. If Coday and her group have anything to say about it, bi+ marginalization among Colorado queers and bi+ fear from female community members will be things of the past.