By Cornelius A. Fortune
In recognition of International Celebrate Bisexuality Day on Sept. 23, 2005 BTL brings you this special community profile. International Celebrate Bisexuality Day has been celebrated since 1999.
For Staci Hirsch, the problem wasn't if she was coming out, or if there'd be an interesting anecdote she could relate years later; it was pretty much settled: everyone had a coming out story, so she decided to tell her best friend and her father, preparing for the worst: something worthy of a Lifetime special, or a "very special Oprah," complete with mournful piano music, and a string section to go with her moving images and television commercials.
"I've got something to tell you," she told her friend.
"Okay." He braced himself.
"Yeah, I know. Do you want another beer?"
Fine, she thought. I'll have my dramatic experience with my father.
They talked a couple of days later over coffee.
"Dad, I've got something to tell you," she said.
A pause. "You mean you're not a lesbian?"
"What do you mean, not a lesbian?"
"If you were a lesbian, then everything would be okay because men are horrible creatures."
She was crestfallen.
Where was the drama?
"No," she said. "They had to be reasonable. I was looking for drama, high drama – a play. I didn't even get the script read."
Hirsch, the cofounder of Identity Solutions, a private practice dealing with everything from couple's counseling, life coaching, and child evaluations, defies categorization. She is an African-American bisexual woman, with a bi-husband, an interracial daughter, and she just so happens to be a practicing Jew.
"I like the idea that I don't have to go through an intermediary to get to God. The Jesus guy seems like a nice fella and all that," she said, "but I don't need a secretary."
She's blunt; she's funny; she's insightful and wise, sometimes in the same sentence.
Born and raised in Chicago, she received her BA from St. Paul University, and her doctorate from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology. She has worked with adults and adolescents, primarily with LGBT teens who have a history of abuse. "The profession found me," she said.
She's thrilled that the LGBT community has progressed, but has mixed feelings about the push for marriage.
"It's become this pissing match. We've lost the practicalness of this ideological battle," she said. "We need to stop asking for acceptance in the straight community. I don't walk into Klan meetings and say: 'Love me!' It's just not going to happen. It's not practical."
She believes partner benefits are more important.
"Being able to afford insurance, being able to put my female partner as the other parent on a child's birth certificate…I'm concerned about this classical stuff," she said. "These are more important than whether or not I can stand in front of Judge Falwell. I think we need to politically rethink our strategy."
Hirsch is not the prototypical LGBT activist, it's hardly her style. "I'm not the type of person to leap around, be on 17 committees, yada, yada, and volunteer. I prefer to do my stuff, very quiet, very subtle."
Sometimes this even includes writing.
In an article written for Friends Alliance, a human service agency organized and managed by people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS, she wrote about the current public hysteria amongst middle-class African-American females concerning black men on the "Down Low."
She laughs. "The Down Low thing was a pet peeve of mine," she said. "I think a lot of the 'Down Low' stuff is very sexist, very homophobic, very bi-phobic. It's about behavior, not how someone self-identifies."
The women who watch Oprah are sometimes an irritant to her. "What they get caught up on – especially the middleclass black woman – they run around saying: 'I ain't got no man, they're all gay,' what have you…and they want to blame some outside source. Let's not make it a national issue and develop public policy around it. All these categories – all these boxes – distract us from talking about our fears about sexuality."
But as much as she doesn't like Oprah and "The Down Low," she hates the abuse of children even more.
"It boggles my mind how poorly we treat our most vulnerable citizens," she said. "My goal is to put myself out of business."
If putting herself out of business means helping her clients help themselves, she's all for it.
In Judaism, she said, it's called Tikkun olam, which means "repairing the world." She wants to do this one family at a time, and has 20 years experience.
The popularity of shows like "Will & Grace," "The L Word," and "Queer as Folk" baffles her still – it's polarizing.
"These shows are very popular, yet we have this weird backlash," she said. "Maybe we need to stop and regroup because what's happening is that we're losing what ground we've gained."
For more information about Identity Solutions, contact 313-737-1504 or visit http://www.identitysolutionsnow.org.