Attention lesbians: bisexuals are as much part of the LGBT community as you
In February 2012 the Open University published The Bisexuality Report: a comprehensive overview of the issues facing bisexual folks in the UK today, and the second of its kind in the world after a San Francisco group published the Bisexual Invisibility Report last year.
The statistics on the health and happiness of bisexuals, in both reports, are absolutely dismal.
Bisexual people have worse overall mental health, and are more likely to suffer intimate partner violence, poverty, homelessness and abuse than our heterosexual, lesbian and gay counterparts.
We are more likely to be closeted, to feel suicidal, and to feel unhappy with our sexualities. We are less accepted by our families. We use more recreational drugs, drink more alcohol, and suffer from the biphobia of health providers (many of whom are positive in attitude towards lesbian and gay service users) – the combination of these factors with poor mental health suggests that physical health will also be worse for bisexuals.
Both reports have highlighted the double discrimination faced by bisexuals socially: the situation of facing oppression from both heterosexual society and the LGBT scene.
In addition, bisexuals suffer biphobia as well as homophobia and heterosexism: most commonly including bisexual erasure (the denial, exclusion and making-invisible of our existence and experiences), negative stereotyping and marginalisation, often from lesbian and gay people and in forms that are acknowledged as unacceptable for lesbian and gay sexualities.
The need for bisexual-specific support, to deal with the unique set of oppressions faced by bisexuals, is clear.
A thriving UK bisexual community has provided a vital support network for almost thirty years now. The annual BiCon attracts up to five hundred people, many regulars, for a residential weekend of workshops and socialising, while smaller one-day BiFests all over the country provide a space for people new to bisexuality the chance to discuss labels, coming out, common myths and much more – often for the first time.
It is not enough. People come to be bi community for a reason, and overwhelmingly that reason is that rampant biphobia in supposedly inclusive queer spaces is too prevalent and too much to bear.
In the past, bisexuals have had to fight for space in pride marches and deal with ‘gay-only’ door policies on clubs.
Today, many LGBT services have no bisexual-specific knowledge or resources, and many bisexuals report casual biphobia from people in LGBT groups: comments about ‘letting down the side’, ideas that we’re more likely to cheat or that bi women ultimately just want a man.
This has to stop. This awarding of gold stars, comments about sex with men being disgusting, about bisexuals being fickle and traitorous – this is enough. It is not funny any more. People are being alienated from spaces that should be safe for them, and they are being hurt.
Bisexual people have so much to offer queer communities. We’ve already been campaigning (erased under the banner of ‘gay’ rights) and running queer events at a grassroots, voluntary level for decades. We’re organised, and we get stuff done.
We’re more likely to live and love without concerns over labels, fixed identities and rules, and our experiences living as bisexual have led many of us towards a broader understanding of privilege and liberation.
The oppressions facing us as lesbian and bi women are the same: it is heteronormativity that is the enemy here, not the mechanics of individuals’ attractions.
Queer folks know the pain of having one’s sexuality and identity assumed, stereotypes, boxed and policed: we can do very much without new normativities in our communities.
By embracing and supporting a full spectrum of non-heteronormative sexualities, we as a community will be providing valuable support to one of our most marginalised groups, and we’ll be far stronger overall.