No, I didn’t attempt to steal the bisexual pride flag
(but people I knew said I did, so did "the news")
By the artist formerly known as Faith Cheltenham, and the activist formerly known as thefayth
With my stepping away from bisexual community; I am returning home to those who love me; not something always found in bisexual, or LGBTQIA communities. The true upheaval for me personally is most profound in that I turn away from the concept of giving, entirely. thefayth is no more as I must admit I have no faith in humans, if I ever did. Further, I decline to serve with my body, my mind or spirit to provide such faith to humans without benefit to me first and always.
My bigger shame? Direct donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to advocacy between 2004-2017 focused on bi communities worldwide, while also working for free at same time; I should have picked one or the other!
My shame is particular, in that I feel, I may have been treated better if I’d been giving only to people of color, but maybe that’s not true either, because if people aren’t willing to name and accept your gift? Perhaps we always end up with scenarios like this.
Who knew that whole time I was donating there were people generating SO MUCH money via the same flag I helped promote for free? Who also knew that while I worked for no money usually 60-80 hours a week, while also donating and fundraising money for poorer bisexuals, I had become enslaved?
I have never taken a vacation, don’t eat out unless I’m traveling, don’t have any fun with money and I pledge….now, those days are done. I now reject being enslaved to their calls, where they share my number and my email, and sometimes even my location to generate more emotional labor, more time spent away from MY family, friends and long overdue healing with my mom (her birthday is 9/23 not ironically).
I refuse being enslaved to always paying for their room or allowing three people to share my personal space at every conference. Do you think that maybe it was always assumed someone else was paying because I was a Black woman? Even when they watched me run the card?
Sometimes I’d get grants to help that were miniscule in comparison to what I put out. Again, minimal tax benefit if you have income over $400k. I could have spent $30k on vacations and have much more fun with fewer people, fewer problems, and a similar tax burden outcome would be apparent.
Cool thing? It would have been harder to publish my stories and receipts if this all hadn’t happened. Well, not about everyone, especially the celebrities I hold dear….or have non-disclosure agreements with. The rest? Yes!
Now I can share the book contract that I asked Lani Ka’ahumanu and Loraine Hutchins if I could help re-write, and then got entirely erased from the process, along with my work as part of the end bit of 20th century of bi-activism (as far as their book Bi Any Other Name went).
Everything I did in their book update, L& L said the BLR did, but that BLR entity was also me. I built the website and first draft of the mission statement while Ellyn just sat there and lightly sexually harassed me. And of course I kept receipts including login proof that BiNet volunteers were the only users to admin the BLR mailing list during the entirety of its existence. And of course, proof of the sexual harassment too!
Meanwhile it was ALSO always me who paid for everything because I make money like people draw breath. If you watch Rain Man, you might catch similar effects to how I talk and speak. Before I did this money-making via working in mobile and tech and later, post-divorce, I wrote grant proposals and received support to work further this year with BiNet USA to develop bisexual federal funding (also done). Again, lucky and blessed but, it all went down right before the virus and the world changed dramatically overnight.
Same for me too I guess. Now? I JUST discovered how I can personally be an intersectional capitalist and must thank white/light-skin privileged bisexual communities for teaching me this lesson, however painful it was for the both of us.
Knowing and being formally diagnosed with hyperthymesia (the inability to forget), I must operate differently and not spend time with people who misuse this talent, or time, or in general abuse it so consistently as I have experienced in “activism”.
Like many other people with the same disability of highly superior autobiographical memory I may retreat from the public entirely. It’s something discussed regularly with my therapist who I’ve been grateful to have for several years via virtual session.
So I’m changing my name again, phone numbers, email addresses and refusing all contact with bisexual community: not after this, not after they once again try to leverage good action into bad; before participating in a white supremacist led digital lynching.
I think that this would have always happened, and I can’t think of a better controversy to leave bisexuals on a most racist note. For I was once enslaved to their belief that they are not racist, anti-Black and worst still, not transphobic. I can be wrong. Very
I found out a little while ago I’m intersex and I am now transitioning to being a multi-gender person. While doing so I have been told by white cisgender bisexuals how sorry they are that they "lost another one" and more terrible things I won’t repeat. Meanwhile, I’m so much happier with more gender for me than less. I am blessed!
And better yet, the next generation of BiNet advocates will never be forced to respond to white people’s virtual pride parties during the time of a virus killing poor and vulnerable folks as I needed to do with the store run by Jayne Shea. When I asked Jayne on Twitter it wasn’t my first try, and this was after she added me to her “virtual pride party” on Facebook many times.
I’m pretty sure I walked into a trap set for many other women of color influencers during the run up to the election: speak up and get attacked - repeat. Saw Chrissy Teigen get attacked the next week by people also claiming they care about her. When in reality, they’re Trump supporters coming for her about the quarantine and her lack of support for re-opening the economy.
It reminded me of how a lot of advocates called BiNet a “venerable institution” when while back Heron Greensmith caused real trouble when they stole my work and got the True Colors United Fund (TCU) to allow them to present it.
I prepared a proposal, did unique research, turned it in, and had it accepted by their Executive Director. Then I was notified by TCU that they’d compared notes with Heron, who said they could do the presentation themselves with a friend.
How many Black people are expected to allow treatment like this, where our work specific to communities most vulnerable is stolen and stolen again by white hands for further white gain?
I put that question to TCU and told them some day I’d ask it in public; but generally speaking, Cyndi Lauper saved my life as a 5-year old when I was ready to take it.
I ain’t never gonna be mad at Ms. Lauper; that’s never happening and I was pleased as punch to tell her as such a while back; for which I was most grateful.
I’m always going to support her and the work TCU does is even more critical these days. LGBTQIA homeless kids need them so much right now. Doesn’t change the fact that Heron’s actions hurt and cost money, time and energy. When Heron was confronted about this? They basically told BiNet, we'd be welcome at our own training.
Then I said nothing, out of respect and the reality being that Bi 101 trainings are good for everyone. At same time, Heron and their colleague split money that was intended for more than just them; folks working with us thought their rent was covered via the work they’d helped me with on the training. And then it just wasn’t.
So that’s why I went on to create non-disclosure agreements (NDA) for myself if I continued to do bisexual work; to prevent those I worked with from being further misused through me via researchers, celebrities, corporations and/or other institutions. When previous work was lifted from BiNet USA there had been no outrage - just celebration of another opportunity for visibility.
This dynamic has been harmful.
This is wrong and I call upon all bisexuals, especially those of color, to refuse to do free work when wealthier bisexuals profit off that same energy while living in zip codes they don't share with you.
No more calls, no more panels, no more stuffy rooms they forgot to get fans for, and no more "hey this is last minute, but can you?" and no more, "let me get to you when I'm done with my dinner" or "secured my tenure".
Let them pay you, always for your time. I earned that for the both of us, but before me there were millions of Black, Brown, Native and Indigenous bisexual men, women and non-binary beings who died during the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis, only to be erased by the same community that claims them. Those ancestors, and those kin? They earned me, and every other bisexual, pansexual, fluid, queer, ace, intersex and trans person of color, the right to keep saying no unless your time is pre-paid.
At this time, there is $40 million in bisexual funding in research with many of the Twitter-beloved white bisexuals participating while never once mentioning their accessing of that funding (use grants.gov to search for "bisexuals").
This has ramped up during the virus- which is why I think they’re all so desperate to give back with little baby bi giftlists- as they’re currently on numerous private listservs getting paid good money to consult on Black, Brown, and Indigenous bisexual communities.
I got in there too- and I immediately went back to Black bisexual men offering them the opportunity to take lead on research about them, and offered to give them the money to host a mini conference; few other bi femmes do that. And it should continue to stir Black, Brown and Indigenous outrage that so MANY white people dictate funding intervention and implementation targeting people of color, always.
White bisexual researchers need real activists of color to make them look better and more diverse, now even more so because, my loves? Didi Delgado said it well, “SUPERWHITE.”
So white they asleep while they woke, and so white they sparkle quite literally across the internet glittering and glittering. Meanwhile the true center of bisexual disparity is fluid people of color.
And what about these people on the #BiTwitter internet? They live in towns with real money, and often are working towards or have completed multiple degrees; basically hella rich to most Black people, Brown folks, Native and Indigenous, immigrants and many most vulnerable. Wearing bi people of color like cloaks, these same wealthy white bisexuals even now use people of color time and energy during the time of the virus, while WE sunkissed folks report higher rates of death than our white peers? What else can I call these folks but goddamn greedy light bisexuals? #GGLB
If selling flags drops more money in white bi pockets, how can it ever possibly trickle down to people of color when most bi community meetings remain white in majority, and every bisexual non-profit besides BiNet USA has a white majority board and is ALSO white led?
If selling bisexual visibility is key to community, why should anyone ever volunteer, donate, or participate without getting paid from the money those flags generate in their cities and states? Y’all probably want to dig into those questions if you choose to continue to identify as bisexual.
For me as a trans and intersex person, pansexual feels a bit more fitting and currently less triggering. In pan community spaces I'm not attacking transphobia because it's not there like it is in the bisexual communities I'm so familiar with; someone should keep doing something about that. Won't b me.
May my rage at bisexual communities continue to shake the assertion that the work of Black activists has no value when at the same time white people run so quickly to steal, capitalize, and use it against us. Did not GLAAD and Bisexual Resource Center jointly announce their intent to run a social media campaign I created and THEN invited them to join? Y’all SUPERWHITE, even you light ones of color!
May all Black activists be more aware of the particular vulnerabilities of Black bisexuals, pansexual, fluid, and no label types have when dealing with bisexual capitalists who would rather sell flags and get pats on the heads from gay people than make real change for anyone, in particular people of color.
What has capitalism ever done for anyone besides institute systems of slavery? You better believe I’m here to steal from that and any idea that sees skin enslaved to the whims of white capitalism. I realize belatedly that Black capitalism might mean something quite different: making money off every pain point I've ever had; literally as these white folks right now cannot cook, can’t clean and they sure tf cannot bake.
Unless we walk away and start charging for our labor: this can and will always happen again and again - the enslavement of people of color to the whims of white liberals who dictate their support for us while breathlessly staying centered on their own white selves. Or are the people of color delivering food and packing groceries not risking their very lives for white wealth as I write this?
So to sum up, white bisexuals who steal from Black people helped establish and generate a narrative that led to outrage by bisexual trolls no one had ever met, which then led to bisexuals folks people did know repeating those lies as truth, which then got reported by “LGBT Media” and mainstream media outlets similarly.
Those same “press” outlets wouldn’t allow me to comment, would not return my calls or emails to provide comment or clarification as is often the case for “feuds” created by media involving women of color. When what I actually experienced was a hyper-form of social media abuse, supported by an online community frequently accused of trolling. Talk about #FakeNews! They neatly tried to cover it up, but to me, I believe something akin to our own bisexual Stonewall just happened.
Black bisexuals, bi men, bi trans folks and many who support the most vulnerable are in my inbox like “yo we support you”, and to them, I remind: support 4 me looks like putting yourself first before these wealthy white peoples need to be visible.
Laugh at them when they say they bleed pink, purple and blue. Mock them (safely) when they drop a white tear over being erased from the words of a program, when Black bisexuals have been erased from the fight against HIV to the point that white bisexual researchers have grants to study Black bisexuals jointly with their lesbian Black friends.
When they call you a flag stealer, make it worth it by utilizing the opportunity to destabilize white-led capitalism by establishing in public domain what didn’t clearly exist before. Then run, as white folks don’t handle people of color messing with their money all that well...but, be sure to leave a few breadcrumbs sopping with truth for those still interested in their own freedom too.
Back to the controversy….when I was talking licensing it was the same offer made to other bi folks- to take independent vendor opportunities into folks at corporations. This was work I had already set up for cool bi designers to benefit; coming out of a conversation around Target and bi pride flag sales. That offer could only work for folks using the flag for community use which is why I also asked after that too. And when the board of BiNet USA voted on pursuing community trademark last September, I of course had the entire board meeting filmed for backup!
We aimed to set the record bisexual on Michael Page’s involvement and finally establish the mark as fully exclusive for bisexual community use. Not that they’ll ever thank me, but our statements have gone and done that for all time and led to an immediate increase in use of the flag.
Have I admitted yet to having trust issues? Basically when you’re one of the only humans on earth with the ability to remember everything, other humans who cannot remember anything will often accuse you of “stealing” and/or "lying" repeatedly. So you film them, you screenshot, you have a tool that saves every tweet about you to a spreadsheet so folks can’t delete their mistakes as easily as you can share them.
Then you sell out by sailing away: taking your work and history with you, seeking openly to publish the truth of these so-called “liberal” communities. (Working book title: From “Cancel Queen” to Cancelled: My Time Making Black Lives Matter In LGBTQIA”)
The last time something like this happened publicly with an LGBT org I helped bring back from ashes ends up as the origin story of how I met the Black Lives Matter (BLM) co-founders. My appreciation to that network of organizers for showing up by inbox, in social, in text, and on my phone over the last few days and weeks. I was grateful for the opportunities to draw further attention to the massive amount of work Black people are doing for Black people that's currently going unseen (see pandemic baking trends, need for white LGBTQIA to center selves).
Again to go back to this "kerfluffle", I was making no money off bi flags all these years, and neither was BiNet, and our corporate conversations were just a way to get cooler t-shirts to market and see bi vendors get paid. Via the Zazzle Store that BiNet ran, we made about $400 over the last decade, and usually we turned the store credit into business cards for bisexuals we were working with.
Looking at many of the bi stores launched since 2014, I now see my original design gifted for bisexual communities in many of them. Also the point, and I mean it’s a nice design my bi heart. I worked forever on that placement like FOREVER, talking not hours, but days and weeks to nail that branding. Then it was given over to see how many could use it; also the point.
In part because for many years most bi orgs have paid deference to BiNet by at least not selling the actual flag when we weren’t. The idea being we are trying to make more for the community collectively and if we compete with the mark of one org that could be tricky some day….Oh look!
But back when I posted and said “no we weren’t stealing anything” on Twitter and Facebook people chose not to believe us and a clout chasing war began where bisexuals began to increase followers with attacks against me, BiNet USA, and our friends and allies. Predominantly white women, white people, or their friends of color; mind you nearly everyone of those speaking have current and present issues with many other Black people than me. Those staying silent thru this? Same.
Meanwhile, the same thing is happening all over to Black women including Meghan Markle who married in with the British Royal Family. But, when the bisexual community saw it happen, they jumped in like real and true racists. So deeply anti-Black that the non-Black woman who personally incited threats against me as a Black trans and intersex mom even called it social "justice"; doing so for community. This after I personally sent money when I barely had it over and over to Seattle. Subsequently, I was taught an important lesson, and if Seattle is protested for some time to come? #DoBlameTheBisexuals.
For I now pledge to never again serve humanity, and unless my name or that of the corporate sponsor is on it, I’m not paying or doing work invisibly without it serving me first. Doing so harms Black people, with myself first to get hurt.
Further, I believe I have proven to myself that donations without works are a form of harm in their own way. People need to do the work of saving themselves, for themselves; the only other option is for them to become slaver.
And in this case? This Faith without free work is made a more free Black person; and more just to myself, my son and all those I love. Doubly so for the board of BiNet USA, now free to coordinate and generate what they think bisexual futures might look like with decades of experience as bi and pan people of color.
Sadly, I do believe there was benefit to some bisexuals and the supremacy they hold dear in promoting a false story that would hurt me and, a narrative that would hide the high levels of personal theft, intellectual property theft, cultural appropriation, sexual harassment and/or extraordinary difficulties already personally previously experienced with:
Gary B. North
Dr. Lauren Beach
Seattle Bisexual Women and Non-Binary Network
The Bisexual Resource Center
The Bisexual Organizing Project
American Institute of Bisexuality
ambi social network
+ more who with this message, I inform of my intent to seek restorative justice via my own choosing and not theirs, and in my own timing.
I name them to mark them to be safe from harm, and kept well and good. I would appreciate the opportunity to lay to rest what can often be misconceptions, misunderstandings, or inabilities to connect across intersections of self. Not failings per se but yet, my experience of harm dictates my need to speak back, clearly and firmly. The above folks have harmed me and I would advise Black people act accordingly to avoid them or participating in their work; until such time their name is removed from the above list.
Those named above are all people who have taken words written by me and removed my name to put their name on my work or otherwise utilized me poorly and against my benefit, often while never telling me (see DARVO).
And my goodness, the stories of the racism, misogynoir anti-Blackness, transmisogyny and more that I’ve experienced with all of them? Equally impressive chapters. For all of them, I have good screenshots, their emails and primary witnesses. Now I turn to write the tales of 20th century advocacy in my time of cancellation.
TO BE CLEAR: I was able to write off donations previously made (which I made via PayPal, venmo, and traceable record) so I’m never asking for my money back or to be paid for a decade and one half of non-stop free work….but maybe, even a cent of credit, please?
Bisexual visibility for too long has come at the cost of bisexual viability- meaning if you have degrees, live in a house you own, or have wealth privilege, you should not get to ask people without the same for any free stuff related to advocacy in the community you both share.
That means Nothing, nada, not a thing except for how you can help them others or donate to those poorer than you; never speaking on our behalf while we openly exist as fluid people of color. For many in bisexuals communities, it’s been proven that the complete opposite is norm. You’ve had bisexual doctors calling bisexual homeless people to post their social media for them. Meanwhile, the homeless stay homeless and the bisexual doctors stay rich and even more visible.
I and too many other people of color remain denied for much credit in bisexual and LGBTQIA communities across the globe. And yet? I have every single email, tweet, image I ever created and all evidence that thefayth once lived and believed in advocacy…..ya know #OnceIWasYoung.
Along with so many stories I never told and should.
Better still? I am unbought, unbossed, and unowned. And with how much weight I’ve lost, most don’t even recognize me when I cross their path in the street, so I think I’m good with living my best life and returning once more to the closet. I ask for privacy during this time of transition, as I re-closet for my safety, that of my child and our ability to have a future. Any receipts and reflections about my conversations with "Michael Page"? Look for it in a book, that you buy. Did I mention? I’m a capitalist now.
…….But I’ll publish this letter before I say peace and remove this blog too.
My thanks to the board of BiNet USA for their support and helpful clarifications in this piece. Any mistakes, always: mine. Thanks to so many of you for so many inspirations and while I go underground at this time, keep an eye for X. I believe that if I can’t leave my mark, I might as well not have one. As always I appreciate everyone not sharing my new name, new email addresses or new phone numbers should you be blessed enough to receive them.
I am removing all content of mine from the internet and leaving the not-so-social “social media” for real life. I am also intentionally “re-closeting” or choosing to no longer publicly be associated with the “LGBTQIA community” and/or "bisexual community"; and ask that media, community leaders and any others direct all BiNet USA biz to firstname.lastname@example.org and kindly leave me, alone.
With the support of the BiNet USA board, I will be pulling all creations for BiNet USA from online including newsletter systems, social media channels as well as the blog at BiNet USA which will be retired as well. The rest of my presidency at BiNet USA centers on transitioning files, strategies and opportunities to Juba and the board he works to build to support his efforts, especially those around further strategy implementation and interventions specific to bisexual men.
If they should ever ask about me?
For now you can tell them: I’m the artist formerly known as Faith Cheltenham, and the activist formerly known as thefayth.
I take my new name in honor of another Black artist and activist who once also rejected the full sale of himself for white marketing, who like me loved purple, was frequently called problematic, and showed them his ass every chance he got. Cannot wait till you see mine draped in a flag. Good book cover right?
Don’t worry for me, but do save up a small bit to buy my content, apps and inventions as I’m pursuing publishing deals vs continuing to share on the internet in ways that do not benefit me.
It was hard for me that some folks defending me online refused to take my calls to clarify the entirety of this situation. In doing so, they further inflamed the conversation and thus got added to the above dead to me list. Again if you haven’t read it, here’s NA4QWT:
My number and emails are changed now. I don’t want to hear from anyone I have not given the number to. If you want to make amends, treat Black people as equal, or even your better...or were you gonna claim all that diversity just for you? Treat Juba and other BiNet organizers better than you did me; we both already expect that since he’s a cisgender Black dude, and I'm definitely not.
I've coined the term “cisculinity” to help track how that effect might be supportive of communities so deeply invisibilized like bisexuals. I’m grateful for #bimen and to be part of a history of recognizing them; as well as non-binary, fluid and multi-gendered pan people like me.
I’m grateful to have met Juba and call him and so many bi+ people of color a friend, after a long road to find him, and the many accomplices we cherish. I wish him well on his future with BiNet, and know his experiences with Anything That Move position him even better than I, to navigate bisexual waters with more experience, age and most excellent wit while he drops knowledge like it's casual for your mind to explode with such greatness. We are lucky to have another Black person in leadership at BiNet USA, especially him.
In closing, let me remind you once again, of my great lesson; one critical for many Black people during the time of the virus when our parents, grandparents, and all our kin are dying, being thrown up against walls and violently trolled.
B not led by white friends, and take care in letting white and light people call/tag/post about you as friend without taking the time to name them as I have done with those who harmed me fiscally, spiritually, emotionally, and/or professionally. Or the same thing might happen to you as a Black person still alive after the year 2020.
FKA Faith Cheltenham
Many thanks to everyone who tried to be heard about the truth of me; as you now may realize truths are complicated, messy and like rinsing the blood out of sheets, take time and care. Possibly several books or anthologies.
To my real friends, fam? You know how hard I’ve worked to be free and to set these boundaries. I appreciate all you've done; and your love especially.
The bisexual community slave is free!
The bi community slave is free!
The bi+ community slave is free!
Brother X’s bornday.
"I'm going to tell it like it is. I hope you can take it like it is." - Brother Malik el-Shabazz