What the president of Pride Winnipeg thinks about walking in the 2022 parade as the first known bisexual leader

The Pride Parade this weekend will be Barry Karlenzig’s first as President of Pride Winnipeg – and it may also be a first for the organization.

Karlenzig was named chair after the Winnipeg Pride Parade in 2019, the last year the big event took place due to the pandemic.

In preparation for a 2022 comeback, Karlenzig has discovered in internal records that, at least on paper, he appears to be the first sitting president of Pride Winnipeg to represent the “B” in the acronym 2SLGBTQ (two-spirited, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer).

“It surprised me a bit, because there are so many people who identify as bisexual in Canada,” he said.

“Then part of that was also – and still is – is that true? Is there someone who, maybe because he was president in the 90s, decided to identify as gay because being bisexual was still a faux pas?”

Pride Winnipeg celebrates its 35th anniversary this year. Karlenzig has been involved for the past decade in one way or another.

Karlenzig poses with the bisexual flag at The Forks on Friday ahead of a busy weekend including the Winnipeg Pride Parade on Sunday. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)

As awareness of gender and sexual identities evolves, some might expect broader acceptance of people who exist beyond binary lines, including non-binary, two-spirit or bisexual identities, he said. declared.

But that’s not necessarily the case, Karlenzig said — he still faces biphobia, including within the queer community.

“I still have people coming up to me and saying, ‘Hey, why can’t you pick a side?'” he said.

This question was once asked by a delegate attending an international conference for queer organizers, Karlenzig said.

“If this happens in 2022, go back to 1996, 1997, when Pride [Winnipeg] became an incorporated entity…. Maybe there were more…individuals in the organization who identified as bi or pan or poly or gender non-conforming, and unfortunately at that point you were this Where this.”

The Canadian Community Health Survey suggested that there were 900,000 gay, lesbian and bisexual people in the country in 2018, or around 3.3% of the population. Slightly more (1.8% versus 1.5%) identified as bisexual than as gay or lesbian.

Women were twice as likely to identify as bisexual as lesbian or gay, while gay men were nearly 50% more likely to identify as gay than bi.

Rusty Souleymanov is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Manitoba and researches 2SLGBTQ issues. (Submitted by Rusty Suleymanov)

Younger people were also more likely to identify as bisexual: 36.2% of bi respondents were in the 15-24 age group; 13.7% of heterosexual people belonged to this age group.

Despite what appears to be a growing number of bisexual people, they are less likely to date those closest to them, the survey suggests.

“We know that bisexual people are much more likely to hide their identities,” said Rusty Souleymanov, assistant professor in the University of Manitoba’s faculty of social work.

“Clear categories like ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ are acceptable to us, acceptable to society, so once you bring in something more complex like bisexuality, society kind of pushes that away, and I think that’s is what is at the heart of it all.”

8:20March is Bisexual Health Awareness Month

Bisexual, pansexual and queer people face unique stigma in society. Guest host Emily Brass talks with Rusty Souleymanov, Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Manitoba, about potential barriers to care as part of Bisexual Health Awareness Month.

A 2019 analysis by Pew Research in the United States suggested bisexuals had dated a fifth of the most important people in their livescompared to three-quarters of gay and lesbian respondents.

Suleymanov said bisexual and pansexual people face unique social and generational pressures to conform to a monosexual identity – an attraction to only one sex.

On Friday, Winnipeg artist James Culleton paints a rainbow walkway at The Forks. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)

“We see this kind of bi erasure a lot,” said Souleymanov, director of the Village Lab for Community Health Research at the U of M.

“Bi-erasure is the problematic denial by some people of the existence of bisexuality, so sometimes you hear, ‘Oh, are you really bisexual? [you’re] just gay or lesbian.'”

This erasure has an impact on community health. Bi people have less access to services tailored to their unique sexual, social and educational health needs, Suleymanov said.

One study found that bisexual women and men reported a six and seven times greater risk, respectively, of suicidal ideation during their lifetime compared to heterosexuals.

Souleymanov’s research suggests that there is a need for more informed policy, culturally appropriate resources, inclusiveness training for healthcare providers, and greater de-stigmatization campaigns.

“Gender identities are really not static. They are more flexible, and this social space also evolves over time,” Suleymanov said.

“That’s what’s so beautiful about the category of bisexuality. It really destabilizes…our notions of monosexuality, our notions of homosexuality.…It’s important to recognize that people can find themselves at many intersections.”

Barry Karlenzig, right, and his partner Emery Wilson are engaged. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)

Karlenzig is proud to be perhaps Pride Winnipeg’s first bi-president.

He also feels responsible for advocating for the rights of trans, non-binary, and Black, Indigenous, and other queer people of color.

“I am cis[gender] white bisexual man, which, yes, still isn’t equal rights, but it’s a lot better than a lot of our BIPOC community and a lot of our Indigenous communities,” he said.

“It’s up to me to take that privilege and that power…to help build the rest of the acronym.”

The Progress Pride flag adds a chevron to the traditional rainbow design that includes black and brown stripes to represent people of color, while light blue and pink stripes represent trans and non-binary people. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

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