24-year-old Camille Beredjick is bisexual and proud. She writes about it on her Tumblr, vlogs about it on her YouTube channel, and even reps the B in LGBT at her day job working as a Youth Engagement Associate for the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), an organization that works to make things better for LGBT students, their parents and teachers.
Camille is a passionate advocate, which is why she was invited to attend a Bisexual Community Public Policy Briefing at the White House on Monday (September 22), to talk with members of the Obama administration about the unique needs of the bisexual community. MTV News caught up with Beredjick to hear the whole story just in time for Celebrate Bisexuality Day (CBD) today (Sept. 23).
Just a quick White House selfie!
Wait, why do bisexuals need help from the White House?
"This was meant to be a conversation about how policy could better support the bisexual community," Beredjick told MTV News. "We were kind of their sounding board to help with that, which was great."
"...When you hear these harrowing statistics of the horrible health disparities that bi people face," Beredjick explained, "and economic difference, and all these terrible things bi people have to face, I'm like, oh my God, I have it so good...I got so lucky that I only struggled a little bit, but I had an accepting family and found support really quickly, and there are so many other people who don’t have that. Especially the young people that I talk to to through YouTube and through Tumblr."
Those "harrowing statistics" are no joke: Recent studies have found that Bisexual youth and adults face a much higher risk of health issues including cancer, STDs and depression; face significantly higher rates of poverty; and experience substantially higher rates of domestic violence and sexual violence than gay male, lesbian, or heterosexual people. The community is now working to collect additional data.
There was also a rally outside the White House in support of the bi community during the briefing
"I sat at the education table because the organization I work with (GLSEN) does work in that field," Beredjick explained. "But we also had people talking about immigration and healthcare and workplace equality and many other things."
The White House policy briefing was the first step to developing better policies and education around issues affecting bisexuals for schools, doctors, employers, and even immigration officers -- since bi people also face a unique set of challenges when it comes to immigration reform (in some cases bi people have actually been been forced to "prove" their sexual orientation to avoid being deported).
Beredjick also recalled that the keynote speaker at the event said some things made her think of politics in a whole new way. "Sometimes we're made to think it’s the other way around," she said, "but cultural and social change is actually what can get things moving, so that people in politics and higher places can mobilize from that and respond with policies and procedures."
So, did she get to meet POTUS?
"I did not -- if only!" Beredjick said. "He had other things that he was doing -- maybe at the next one."
"We did get to speak with some officials within the Obama administration and representatives from the Department of Justice and other people who were really listening and really wanted to be there," she said. She couldn't say who, since the meeting is still officially "off the record" for the White House, but she did reveal that the list included several prominent LGBT representatives from within the Obama administration.
"It was great having people there who could really identify with us, and who also had the power to take what we were saying and make that into tangible change," Beredjick explained.
What's the future for Bi youth?
Recent studies have also shown that bisexual youth have it especially hard.
According to an extensive report on bisexual youth from Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and BiNet USA, nearly one in four bisexual youth reported frequently or often being excluded by their peers for being different -- by both gay and straight communities. As a result, the study notes that bisexual youth "reported much lower levels of happiness, and were less optimistic about their potential for achieving their ambitions."
"I've heard so many stories of young people having to fake not being bi for a long time," Beredjick said. "... Their gay and lesbian friends reject them because they're bi, and then their straight friends do the same thing. There's a lot of overlap in terms of the issues that LGB people face overall...but because bisexuals often face that kind of dual discrimination from straight people and lesbian and gay people, that’s something that I can really strongly identify with."
"Bi-erasure can be so, so toxic especially in those early, formative years where you're figuring yourself out," Beredjick continued. "...I think internalized homophobia is stronger in the beginning, but then you start going back and forth like, 'well maybe I'm gay but I'm not doing it right. Maybe there's a community for me if I'm the right kind of gay but I don’t feel the right kind of gay'..."
"I've been there, and it's awful...I think we just need to tell people, 'there's vocabulary out there now, there's community, there are other people who have been through this.' And events like this [White House visit] are really critical in making that change happen."
Beredjick said that things are much better for her now than they were when she first came out around 7 years ago -- she has a supportive friend network, a supportive community online and a supportive family -- and she told MTV News that she's grateful to the bisexual activists of the previous generation who helped make that happen.
"I realize it's because of people who came before me, and the people who made sure that people of my generation knew this was regular, and this was a thing that was valid and okay. Because of those people who led the movement, we're now at a place where there's a meeting at the White House that’s only for the bisexual community, and that’s incredible."
"So I feel really humbled to be a part of that kind of next generation," she said, "while recognizing that so many people that I just shared that room with [at the White House] were the ones doing the work decades ago, who made it possible for me to be where I am right now."
That's also why she's so dedicated to making things better for the next generation of bisexual youth.
"If I can do even one, tiny thing," she said "...if raising my hand at this big meeting at the White House makes it easier for some bi kid ten years younger than me to come out, then I'm gonna raise my hand."