During last night's Strictly Confidential conversation, the first question I was asked is "What does 'bilerico' mean?!" I get that a lot and with all of our new readers and contributors, it seemed like the perfect time to share the answer.
First it's important to know that it's actually three words combined. Bil-Eri-Co. How the word came into existence though, that's the story...
My best friend in the whole wide world is Japanese; her name is Eri. (You pronounce it like "airy") Fifteen years ago, we met in a library. She'd been in the United States for about two days and she and a friend were trying to check out some movies so they could watch them and work on improving their English. At the time her English wasn't that hot, honestly. I could hear them talking as they wondered what the clerk wanted them to do so they could walk out with the videos. They were obviously getting aggravated, so I stepped in since I spoke Japanese. I translated for the young ladies and got everything squared away for them. We started talking afterwards about their experiences here in the States. Eri was by far the most talkative and animated. I gave her my phone number and she and the friend stopped by my apartment the next day to watch one of their movies. I forget what the movie actually was, but I remember how smitten I was by one of the most kind, friendly and genuinely funny women I have ever met. Little did I know that she would become an integral part of my family to this day.
Eri moved in to my apartment a few months later. After several years of living together through demeaning jobs, nightmare boyfriends, holidays, our 21st birthdays and both of our constant struggles with our own kin, our self-identified family was extremely important to both of us. And then Eri's visa ran out. Her family had run into a tough financial situation and she couldn't afford to finish her degree. She had to return to Japan.
While she was back in the Land of the Rising Sun, we wrote to each other constantly (this was pre-email) and sent each other care packages. She would want things only available in the US and I'm in love with Japanese snacks. (Have a pocky, you'll see what I'm talking about!) We used to laugh that will all of our costs to ship internationally, we should really create our own business.
We'd call it Bil and Eri's Company - Bilerico.
Fast forward a few years until it was time to join the internet revolution. I started out using AOL and when I signed on I tried to use the screen name that I often used to play computer games - Bileri. It was taken! (I wrote the user later and found out he was an American in California named Bil - yeah, another one L Bil! - and he'd married a Japanese woman named Eri. Coincidence? I think not!) Since my first choice wasn't available, I remember our joke and signed up as Bilerico - a handle I still use whenever I sign up for any website.
A few years later one of Jerame's friends bought me my own domain. I had a Geocities homepage (remember those?!) so I redesigned the site - with Jerame's help of course! - and the site was born. The site lounged around in various incarnations for several years until 2005 when I started blogging. Since we were one of the first domain names purchased in the 90's, our search engine placement has always been rather high. The traffic kept pouring in due to our coverage of Indiana LGBT politics, Alex joined us another editor, and eventually we decided to go national with the site.
And in an homage to our history (and to capitalize off our brand recognition), we decided to rename the site The Bilerico Project. Just as Eri and I have had a constantly evolving relationship, so has the site changed and improved through the years. A Project is never really finished - and neither are we.
But the name Bil-Eri-Co is a constant reminder to me of how important our self-made families truly are. It helps to inspire how I treat the other contributors - like a family. We may be spread out across the world and we may not always agree with each other, but the guiding principal for Bil-Eri-Co stands firm...
We are family.