Interviewed by Alexandra Wang on August 4, 2018
Gigi Raven Wilbur is an activist in bisexuality, intersex, transgender, BDSM, and paganism; former member of the BiNet USA Board of Directors; co-creator of Celebrate Bisexuality Day; and recipient of the American Institute of Bisexuality Globe Award for contributions to the bisexual community. Gigi has a BA in Philosophy and a MSW degree from The University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work.
Alexandra Wang: Can you share a bit about your early experiences as a bisexual and intersex person?
Gigi Raven Wilbur: I realized I was bisexual when I was with a boyfriend and girlfriend. We kissed at a tavern. My father disowned me when I came out to him. He was a minister. I felt alone after I came out. I was one of the only bisexuals in my area.
I didn’t know I was intersex until I was in my twenties. I felt I was lied to by the medical community. I was born during the 50s. It was common practice for doctors to change a baby’s sex to either male or female. I had sexual reassignment surgery after I was born. The doctors had me keep my penis. I think I still have my vagina, but the doctors just stuffed it in me. I never felt or identified as male. As a child, boys and girls didn’t want to play with me, because I wasn’t male or female enough for them. Later, I wanted my vagina back. But doctors told me I could only be male or female. There should be an option for people who are intersex and who had sexual reassignment surgery to have their missing parts restored.
I also have dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Many people who are intersex have them. And I am active in the transgender community.
AW: What sources of support have you found?
GRW: I realized I wasn’t alone when I first attended a conference on bisexuality. And support groups such as BiNET have been great for me.
I have found support for my intersex identity within the pagan community. There were some festivals and events in the pagan community when you could wear any kind of clothing. I was nude, and some people thought I was male. I had to explain that I was neither male nor female.
They recognized me as an elder. Because of my involvement in the community, I had a ceremony that was for both males and females. My ceremony had both saging (for males) and croning (for females). This was the first time in my life that people acknowledged I was intersex.
Intersex people were respected in pagan cultures. They were often spiritual leaders and shamans.
AW: What advice would you give to bisexuals about coming out?
GRW: Be strong in coming out; people will be more willing to accept you. I wouldn’t come out where it is dangerous. Realize that you don’t have to do it alone. There are lots of support groups, such as BiNet USA and PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). My advice would be to join them.
My advice to intersex people would be to join support groups and be comfortable with your gender.
AW: Why does the bisexual community still struggle to be visible? Do intersex people face similar challenges?
GRW: We live in a world where we are often stuck with binaries, which applies to both sexual orientation and gender.
Because of this, historically, many people said that they were either gay or lesbian, when they were really bisexual. This is reflected in the media. Now more people are coming out as bisexual, including the youth.
Bisexuals still face lots of discrimination from the gay and lesbian communities. Many gays and lesbians hold the same beliefs about bisexuals. They believe that we have heterosexual privilege, and will leave them for someone who is straight.
Many of them believe that bisexuals always have threesomes or multiple relationships at once. I have had to explain that I can be monogamous. Once during Leather Jacket Pride, I was turned away for not being male enough. I explained to them that I wasn’t male or female.
There is more information now, because we have the internet. During the 70s, there were only maybe two books on bisexuality, and they were hard to find. There are lots of organizations now including the one Dr. Fritz Klein (1932-2006) founded, called American Institute of Bisexuality. Dr. Klein introduced The Klein Sexual Orientation Grid (KSOG) in his 1978 book, The Bisexual Option. The KSOG expands upon the earlier methods of describing a person’s sexual orientation by using a more detailed and informative system.
AW: What can be done to raise awareness about bisexual and intersex people and to increase visibility?
GRW: Educate people that there are many types of sexual orientation and gender. There’s more than just gay or straight, or male or female. Be comfortable with your sexuality and gender.
AW: What can school counselors and social workers do to support students who identify as bisexual?
GRW: As a person who previously worked as a counselor, I can offer many ideas. Counselors can have a sticker with the bisexual flag or the flag itself to show that they support students who are bisexual. You can buy stickers from the BiNet store. There are flags at the college where my wife works and students have been more comfortable in coming forward. Of course, they should have the LGBT and transgender flag too.
As a social worker, I learned that suicide rates among bisexuals are high because they often feel isolated. This is why having visible markers of support, like flags and stickers, is important. (Note: To date, there has not been research on suicide rates for people who are intersex.)
AW: You, Wendy Curry, and Michael Page created Celebrate Bisexuality Day. You said that it should be in September because that is Freddie Mercury’s birthday.
GRW: That’s part of it. Celebrate Bisexuality Day has three parts to it. Autumn equinox is on September 21st. The autumn equinox is important in the pagan community, because this is when we gather our crops. The pagan community believes that the autumn equinox is a “calling out day.” Having Celebrate Bisexuality Day during the autumn equinox would be like “calling out” to all bisexuals.” So, I thought what day wouldn’t be better than calling out day?” September 23rd is also my birthday.
[Note: In the northern hemisphere, the autumnal equinox occurs every year on September 21st to September 23rd.]
AW: What was it like when Celebrate Bisexuality Day was celebrated for the first time?
GRW: We had a conference in South Africa. Word of the day spread quickly! Much faster than we thought it would. It was practiced even in Australia.
AW: GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) created Bi Awareness Week (September 19th to September 26th) to reinforce Bisexual Pride Day. What can GSAs, school counselors, and social workers do to promote participation during this week?
GRW: Have events and have support groups. Have organizations visit the school during this week.
AW: What can be done so intersexism isn’t stigmatized in the medical community?
GRW: To make it clear, intersexism isn’t a condition that has to be “cured.” Surgery isn’t necessary for most intersex babies. There are only a few conditions where surgery is necessary because they’re life threatening.
Doctors should not play God and force babies to become male or female. People should choose their gender identity. Doctors shouldn’t lie to people who were born intersex, but had gender-altering surgery. Let’s remember the disgusting case of John Money and David Reimer, resulting in tragedy through these practices.
AW: You have a website called The Raven’s Lair. Can you explain the purpose of your website?
GRW: I have podcasts that are adult education training programs for BDSM, sex positivity, human sexuality, sex, gender, individual differences, respect, suicide prevention, and life coaching, lifestyle changes. I try to encourage people to understand their bodies on an emotional and physical level by being sex positive. I have podcasts on my website that teach people to understand sexual feelings and how to engage in sexual acts.
There is the podcast, Adult Bedtime Stories, where you can learn about orgasms and masturbation and how to have them. There’s also The Erotic Body Map Training Program, where you and your partner find feelings, and communicate them to each other. I have also had radio shows called, “The AfterHours,” “Queer Radio,” and “KPFT.”
Sex is such an important part of our lives, yet it’s stigmatized and never taught.
AW: How can people learn to be sex positive?
GRW: By thinking sex affirmations, correcting incorrect false beliefs about sex and by having erotic meditations every morning. This results in positive energy for sex.
AW: Which support groups would you recommend to people who are intersex, bisexual, have ADHD, and/or are dyslexic— and to their parents? What would be your advice for them overall?
GRW: BiNet has been great for me. I would recommend it to people who are intersex or if they identify as bisexual as well. There’s the United Kingdom Intersex Association and the Intersex Society of North America. The Intersex Society of North America encourages letting children choose their gender identity rather than gender-altering surgery at birth.
For parents, I would recommend PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). They have many resources, including resources for parents of children who are intersex.
Alexandra Wang has BA in English and an MSED in Guidance and School Counseling from Hunter College. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa Society and Chi Sigma Iota Honor Society for Professional Counseling and Professional Counselors. Now she interviews different groups about their rights and advice