BobBI (Barbara) Keppel was born on December 6, 1932 in Washington, DC. She graduated from Oberlin College in 1955, but spent a year abroad at University College, London, where she remains a lifetime member of the Debating Society. A mother of two, she was a social worker for nearly 30 years.
BobBI did not come out as bisexual until she was 43 years old. Throughout college, she only considered herself heterosexual. As she aged, she embraced the fluidity of her sexuality, and began looking for ways to model that fluidity for others. Of all her accomplishments within the bisexual community, BobBI is most proud of creating the Sexual and Affectional Orientation and Identity Scales (SAOIS) with Alan Hamilton. SAOIS draws on the Kinsey and Klein scales of sexual orientation to help users map out their sexuality across time. She uses the model in workshops, classes, and seminars to demonstrate the variety of sexual identities.
In 1991, BobBI contributed to the anthology Bi Any Other Name: Bisexual People Speak Out, a book that propelled the bisexual rights movement forward. That same year, she co-founded the Unitarian Universalist Bisexual Network, which later merged into Interweave, the Unitarian Universalist queer organization.
A prominent activist for safer sex, BobBI has presented and hosted workshops at leading conferences throughout the country. From 1999-2005, she was a safer sex advisor for the Bisexual Health Project in Boston, MA. In 2003, she was the first safer sex presenter at the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists’ conference. She also presented on safer sex at the National Joint Conference on Aging in 2004.
BobBI is also a devoted fan of folk music. In 1962, she co-founded the Omaha Folk Song Society. Her home became a gathering place for people interested in folk music. As they crossed the U.S., fellow “folkies” could share music in exchange for a bed and meals. Although BobBI no longer lives in Omaha, the group she founded till gathers monthly to share music.
BobBI currently lives in Portland, Maine, where she is a member of The Harbour Singers, a hospice choir that sings to people in end-of-life care. She claims that while her eyesight has deteriorated, her “vision of a better world for bisexuals+ is unlimited.” OUTWORDS interviewed BobBI on a pristine Maine morning in August 2016. Afterwards, buoyed by BobBI’s flinty strength and ineffable optimism, they enjoyed a feast of lobster rolls at a park overlooking Portland’s Back Cove.