The blog of Monty Moncrieff
London Friend Chief Executive
23rd September 2013 - Bi Visibility Day
September 23rd is Bi-Visibility Day, a day of international action and events to raise the profile of bisexual people and the issues affecting them worldwide.
Although included in the LGBT acronym many bisexual people will tell you that the B can often feel tokenistic, and that discussion of sexual orientation in an LGBT context more generally focusses on lesbian and gay concerns, omitting bisexual experiences. It’s reflective of the fact that bi people can still face a lack of understanding or even hostility from both lesbian & gay as well as straight communities.
The excellent Bisexuality Report published in 2012 highlights some of the specific prejudice faced by bisexual people, including this invisibility as well as the denial of bisexual identities (“oh you’re just confused”) and the negative stereotyping associated with bisexuality (“you just want to sleep with everybody”).
I’ve seen this omission happen time and again. For many years I’ve provided training on LGBT awareness and at one point I invite participants to consider how society views LGB & T people. Amid a string of negative words and concepts that are perpetuated about LGBT people bisexuality scarcely features, surfacing only as ‘wanting the best of both worlds’, or the less pleasant ‘greedy’ notions. Highlighting this omission from thought is a pertinent way of reminding healthcare professionals to acknowledge and affirm bisexual identity when disclosed.
Poorer health outcomes
The Bisexuality Report outlines a number of areas where bi people experience poorer health outcomes than lesbian and gay people. Levels of alcohol and drug use are greater again than the already significantly higher than average levels within lesbian and gay people. Bi people were more likely to experience higher levels of mental distress such as depression or anxiety. Levels of self-harming were greater, and bi people were also more likely to experience harassment at work. Bi people were also less likely to have disclosed their sexual orientation to healthcare professionals.
It’s no surprise that these experiences are strongly linked to experiencing biphobia and bisexual invisibility. The report also includes a number of recommendations to tackle invisibility and raise awareness to improve health and social outcomes for bisexual people. Even for those of us used to working with LGBT issues there are some ideas here to make us think and reflect on how well we include bi issues within our work and services.
The Equality Network, an LGBT organisation based in Scotland, is currently conducting research on the experience of bisexual people accessing services. The findings will be used to inform a report for public bodies on how to improve bisexual inclusion. You can take part here.
At London Friend we strive to improve our own awareness of bisexuality and the issues affecting bi people within our own services, our training to professionals, and in our support for our volunteers. Strategically, through the National LGB & T Partnership, we work with BiUK, the national organisation for bisexual research and activism.
You can follow @BiVisibilityDay on Twitter here.