I first met Dr. Fritz Klein in 1992 when I was a teenager. He was unlike anyone I had ever come across. Fritz was bubbly and yet serious and had a way of talking to you that made you feel safe. He was the first adult with whom I’d ever spoken about bisexuality, and he talked with me in a way that I found relatable and accessible. Fritz didn’t bombard me with jargon or political theories. He didn’t preach to me what my sexuality should or shouldn’t be. Instead, we talked about sexuality in a way that was relatable to my life. It made me a little uncomfortable to discuss same-sex attractions, but officially we were talking about bisexuality because it was his area of research.
In hindsight, I have to chuckle because he had totally figured out I was bi well before I did. I didn’t want to figure it out at the time because AIDS was still a terrifying and largely untreatable disease, and HIV was the number 1 cause of death for American adults under 44. In the early '90s, coming out — even to yourself — was scary and society was homophobic in a way that young generations today can’t even fathom. To his credit, Fritz didn’t push. He simply made sure to gently plant the seed in my head that if I were to eventually figure out that I am not straight, that would not only be ok, it would be wonderful!
Wonderful was a word Fritz liked to use a lot.
When I did finally come out, I knew exactly where to go and where to find support. Fritz Klein founded the world’s first bi group, the New York Bisexual Forum, in 1974 and 8 years later started a second branch in San Diego. I joined the San Diego Bisexual Forum in 2000 and was soon immersed in a welcoming, affirming community that gave me a tremendous amount of strength and a feeling of connection as I went out into the world, discovering and growing into my bisexuality.
Fritz was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1932. Although his family fled to New York as Naziism took over their homeland six years later, Fritz returned to German-speaking Europe as an adult to study medicine and soon decided he wanted to specialize in psychiatry and study human sexuality. That placed him firmly in the intellectual and cultural tradition of the pioneers of the LGBTI movement like Magnus Hirschfeld, who founded with first LGBTI organization, started the first LGBTI publication, and started the first LGBTI academic journal.
Similarly, Fritz founded the world’s first bi organization, wrote one of the first books on bisexuality, and started the Journal of Bisexuality — which remains the only academic publication dedicated to bisexuality. Both Hirschfeld and Fritz Klein were activists who believed that empirical science was an important tool not just for understanding ourselves but for creating a more just society, freeing and empowering LGBTI people to lead fulfilling, rich lives and be true to themselves.
Fritz’s first book, The Bisexual Option, was designed to be a useful primer accessible to the general public. It was one of the first attempts by a bi activist to push back against bi erasure by creating bi visibility. Just as bi.org continues to do today, it highlights examples of bisexuality from the real world and the world of fiction. Like The Bisexual Option, bi.org avoids the jargon and complicated theory that bogs down so much of LGBTI discourse. Not everyone has the educational privilege to understand esoteric academic concepts, speaks English as a first language, or shares the same narrow set of political beliefs. And yet, everyone deserves access to quality information that is relevant to their needs.
The American Institute of Bisexuality (AIB) was founded to continue his life’s work of bi community building, creating bi visibility, and expanding on and spreading knowledge about bisexuality. Bi.org was launched in 1996 (then bisexual.org) by Fritz as the main education and outreach project of the AIB. At the time, the internet was a very different place, and for many bi people, bisexual.org was the only resource available.
Like Fritz and those who formed a community around him, bi.org is here to tell the bi people around the world that they are not alone, that there are bi people everywhere, and that bi people are indeed "wonderful." Because that’s the truth. As much progress has been made with LGBTI rights, we bi people are still too often inundated by profoundly negative messaging about bisexuality. If we aren’t being told by the media or loud voices on the internet that we’re greedy, indecisive, not queer enough, old fashioned, too modern, not open enough, too open, or that we’re just vaguely untrustworthy, we are being told that our bisexuality puts us at higher risk for mental illness, suicide, and abuse.
While data about health disparities are important for things like government programs to address them, the bi community has so much more to offer than tragedy. Fritz understood the joy of being bi and believed that experiencing that joy should also be a part of any bi person’s journey.
Fritz wanted to tell the stories we didn't, and still don’t, often hear about in the media, on the internet, or in real life. Bi.org is here to talk about all the incredible bi people in loving and healthy relationships, all the bi parents, the bi students, the bi people just living their lives. After all, despite what you may have heard, bisexuality isn’t rare or exotic or uniquely complicated. It is often simply wonderful.
I tend to think of Fritz more than usual this time of year because December 27th was his birthday, and he used to throw fantastic holiday/birthday parties. In true bi fashion, he did not choose one occasion over the other and instead combined the two causes for celebration. This year, Fritz would have turned 90, and I can only imagine what a grand occasion he would have put together for us to celebrate. Fifteen years ago, the Celebration of Life party he arranged for his friends and loved ones after his passing was epic. There was funny and sexy live music by The Wet Spots, great food, and even better company.
I will always miss Fritz’s warmth, wisdom, and kindness. His remarkable energy and desire to destigmatize bisexuality, advocate for the bi community, and also be a joyful participant in that community changed my life forever and will never cease to inspire me. I am so pleased that one of the many ways that I can honor his life is by continuing the extraordinary project of bi.org.