New York Times on bisexual experience and research

From the New York Times, 5th January 2014.

Bisexual: A Label With Layers

Tom Daley Comes Out as Bisexual, Igniting L.G.B.T. Debate

by Michael Shulman

Those six little words, tossed off like a request to please hold the mustard, were among the most deconstructed in Tom Daley’s YouTube video last month, in which the 19-year-old British Olympic diver announced that he was dating a man.

Leaning against Union Jack pillows, he continued, “But, I mean, right now I’m dating a guy, and I couldn’t be happier.” Mr. Daley’s message was sweet and simple, and gay rights advocates seemed thrilled to welcome an out-and-proud athlete into their ranks. (The cattier comments came later, when the “guy” was reported by numerous tabloids and blogs to be the screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, who is two decades his senior.)

But the cheers were premature, or at least qualified. Despite the trending Twitter hashtag #TomGayley, Mr. Daley never used the word “gay,” and there was the matter of his still fancying girls. While many commenters embraced the ambiguity (“I don’t care if Tom Daley’s gay or bi or whatever … He’s still fit,” one tweeted), others raised eyebrows.

Was it a disclaimer? A cop-out? A ploy to hold on to fans? Was he being greedy, as some joked? Or was he, as the video’s blushing tone suggested, simply caught up in the heady disorientation of first love, a place too intoxicating for labels? Read more…

“Bisexuality does exist, it is not a fiction, nor is it a phase”, Edward Lord’s key message to Civil Service equality conference

BiUK member Edward Lord presented a speech today at the Civil Service Rainbow Alliance conference 2013. He said…

I had the privilege of giving a keynote address to today’s Civil Service Rainbow Alliance (the national LGB&T staff network) conference at the Ministry of Defence. Also on the programme were Sir Bob Kerslake, Head of the Civil Service; Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions; Liz Bingham, managing Partner at EY; and Peter Tatchell.

Ed

 

I was invited to speak having been profiled last year by Stonewall as an LGB role model in its publication “Being yourself: sexual orientation and the workplace“, which gave me the starting point for my speech:

“Being an out politician can often mean acting as a role model not just within my local Council, but also in wider society: demonstrating that it is possible to be queer and play an active part in public life.

Indeed, I would argue that my sexual orientation and my understanding of the experiences of LGB&T people makes me better comprehend the diverse society in which we live and the discrimination which those from diverse backgrounds can face.

And it is on one element of discrimination, often within our own LGB&T communities, that I would like to focus my address today.

Of the seventeen Stonewall role models, I was the only one who identifies as bisexual; that is with the capacity to love people of more than one gender.

You may ask why that matters.

You may say “Don’t we all as LGB&T people suffer the same kind of discrimination in society?”

I would argue that we don’t and that there is a hierarchy where, in general, gay men, especially if they’re white and ‘straight acting’, have it a lot easier than lesbians, bisexual people and trans folk.

Bisexual people in particular often find themselves being made invisible both within and outside LGB&T communities.

Read more of this post

Pink News on bi visibility

Great piece on bi visibility in Pink News:

Comment: Why bisexual visibility could be one of the defining LGBT rights struggles of our time

by 
23 September 2013, 2:15pm

The_bisexual_pride_flag_3673713584-1

Today marks the 14th annual Bi Visibility Day, an event held to challenge biphobia by promoting the rights and legitimacy of bisexual people alongside the rest of the gay community. In this article, PinkNews writer Aaron Day reflects on his experiences growing up inside two closets, and explains why bisexual visibility could be considered one of the defining LGBT rights struggles of our time.

Bi Visibility Day (Sept 23) is now 14-years-old, which makes it approximately one year younger than the Transgender Day of Remembrance, and a whopping fifty years younger than the first ever recorded gay pride movement.

It was first launched in 1999 by US activists Wendy Curry, Michael Page, and Gigi Raven Wilbur. Their intention was to challenge the widespread assumption that people are either born gay or straight – an assumption that has so far led many to believe in the absolute nonexistence of bisexual people.

Curry, Page, and Wilbur are also responsible for the signature bi pride flag we all know today, with its distinctive tri-colour (pink, purple, blue) design. It is this symbol I have since come to identify with as a bisexual man – a symbol that enables me to feel welcomed as part of a open community after spending a great deal of my life feeling both isolated and disconnected from the rest of the gay world.

Today, however, I am also grateful for those I have met in both LGBT groups and societies who are more and more recognising what it means to stand in solidarity with the bisexual community. Support from both friends and family has been overwhelming, and I could not have asked for a more open and accepting environment in which to grow and mature as a person. Read more…

Media reporting of bisexuality

Meg has written about media reporting of bisexuality over on Rewriting the Rules.

This weekend I was contacted by a programme-maker with the following request regarding a series on sexuality. They said that they were putting together their bisexual episode and wanted me to contribute to the discussion of whether ‘there really is such as thing as being bisexual’. Read more…

 

Bifuriosity in the Huffington Post

There’s a great article today by Matt Stanley and Lauren Connors in the Huffington Post responding to a recent belittling piece they published about bisexuality. Nice mention for The Bisexuality Report too. Thanks Matt and Lauren!

Bisexuals – its seemingly okay for belittling blogs questioning our identity (or even if we exist) to not only be granted a voice, but to remain largely unchallenged. This fact has been uncomfortably highlighted by Daniel Warner’s recent exercise in hackery, creatively entitled ‘Bisexuality: Is It Fun, Non Committal or Just Plain Greedy?’.

We hope Daniel realises how short this falls from the mark for groundbreaking, or even ‘edgy’ writing. Being bisexuals ourselves, we can assure you that being called ‘greedy’ happens to us with a tedious frequency – imagine, if you will, the number of times a day you might have to read an irritating phrase like ‘float my boat’ or ‘cut the mustard’. Lazy writing aside, we thought we could take this opportunity to explain (for those of you who are ‘confused’ or can’t make up your minds) what bisexuality is and is not. Read more…

Bisexuality and depression

There’s a great new post up on Bisexuality and Beyond by Sue George on bisexuality and depression.

For long as I’ve been writing this blog, one of the main ways new people find it is by searching for “bisexuality and depression”. I find that really sad, but nothing like as sad as the statistics about bisexuality and mental health.

  • A major Canadian study found bisexual men 6.3 times more likely, and bi women 5.9 times more likely, to report having been suicidal than heterosexual people
  •  A large Australian study found rates of mental health problems among bi people to be higher than those among lesbians, gay men, or heterosexuals.
  •  The UK Mind report on the mental health and wellbeing of LGB people found that bi men and women were less at ease about their sexuality than lesbians or gay men, and less likely to be out.

Bisexuality and mental health is currently a big issue in the bi community. This summer’s BiReCon (the British conference that looks at current research on bisexuality) had bisexuality and mental health as its theme. Read more…

BiReCon 2012: Meg’s talk

Thursday 9th August 2012 saw the third biennial BiReCon event (#birecon2012 on twitter). Following the main findings of The Bisexuality Report, published earlier this year, the conference focused on bisexuality and mental health. Huge thanks to Rebecca Jones, Caroline Walters and Helen Bowes-Catton for organising such a wonderful event.

The full programme of the event is available here and we will be encouraging speakers to write up their presentations for BiUK and/or BCN over the coming weeks and months.

Keynote talks considered the individual and community implications of bisexual mental health, explored intersectionality and debates around ethnicity and sexuality, and outlined changes in the UK mental health system, drawing out possibilities for future bisexual mental health. In parallel sessions we heard fascinating explorations of the overlaps between stereotypes of bisexuality and the diagnostic category of borderline personality disorder, as well as an important consideration of eating disorders in bisexual men. One workshop covered bisexual people’s experiences of mental health services, which will be fed back to key National Health Service providers. Talks also dealt with understandings of sexuality more broadly, non-monogamous relationships, Shakespeare, and the importance of the bisexual community in relation to mental health.

For Meg Barker’s presentation on Depression and/or oppression? Bisexuality and Mental Health you can view the prezi presentation here, and listen to it (and Rebecca’s introduction to BiReCon) on these youtube clips.

 

 

 

Risk and resilience study

New Canadian bisexuality survey launched, dealing with biphobia and mental health. Great video here!

 

Bifurious!

Great article by Petra Davis in August DIVA magazine about biphobia:

It seems there’s a lot of anger floating around in bi space at the moment. Recent debates over Jessie J’s sexuality have left many bi women feeling bruised at the claim that her bisexuality was an invention to cover up her lesbianism, and Jessie’s angry denial was interpreted by some lesbians as homophobic. The argument raged over social media, reviving ancient debates on bisexuality as privilege, as deception, and as titillation – and when bi people complained that these assumptions were biphobic, they were accused of a victim mentality.

Sound familiar? Here’s more: Staceyann Chin’s recent piece for the Guardian, Why Chasing Straight Women Still Thrills Me, characterised the “not-so-straight”, the “almost-gay”, as frustratingly unable to commit, terrible in bed, selfish and unaware of the politics of our choices. Chin spoke of the “average lesbian gathering” where conversation invariably turns to the trauma done to dykes by women “unwilling to make the dive into lesbian sexuality permanent”, as though women who sleep with women are morally obliged to continue – as though bisexuality is still, somehow, disloyal.

I decide to hold a virtual gathering of my own, a sort of angry online dinner party. My friend Georgina sighs: “I just felt really fatigued when I read that. We’ve had this so many times; the surprise is gone; it’s just bullshit that this continues. It’s exhausting: really, again?”. Read more…

Sex, Politics, and Stereotypes: BiUK’s response to Julie Bindel, June 2012

In a recent article for the Huffington Post, Julie Bindel asks ‘What makes some of us uncomfortable with bisexual women’? She goes on to answer her own question by rehearsing a series of negative stereotypes about bisexual women, suggesting that they are apolitical, hedonistic, trendily transgressive sexual tourists, testing out their fantasies on unsuspecting lesbians and straight men. Interested only in the pursuit of pleasure, they are not to be trusted personally or politically, and indeed may not exist at all. If bisexual women had ‘an ounce of sexual politics’, she asserts, they would stop having sex with men and make a positive choice to identify as lesbians. Instead of this, they hedonistically pursue their sexual desires at the cost of their political integrity.

We would like to make two points in response to this article. First, a growing body of academic research and bisexual activist literature, both online and in print, and including work by Paula Rodríguez-Rust, cited by Bindel in her article, consistently demonstrates that for many people, identifying as bisexual is as much a matter of politics as it is of desire. As one bi activist told us:

Personally, I have definitely made a positive choice to identify as bisexual. I could easily identify as either lesbian or straight, but it’s politically important to me to identify as bi. My identity as a bi woman is grounded in my feminism, my conviction that gender and sexuality are socially constructed, and my commitment to LGBT equality. It’s deeply political- it’s just a different political position from Julie Bindel’s!

(Claire, bisexual activist)

Clearly, while many women who experience attraction towards people of more than one gender choose to identify as bisexual, many others choose to identify as lesbian or straight. All of these are valid choices, which may be made on the basis of deeply-felt political convictions. Bindel’s polemic, however, dismisses all viewpoints other than her own as apolitical, and swiftly resorts to name-calling. Bindel would most likely object, and rightly so, to a critique of radical feminism that relied for its credence on tired old clichés about cropped hair, boiler suits and man-hating, and dismissed lesbian separatism as an apolitical choice based on a failure to engage with the complexities of twenty-first century gender relations. It’s disappointing, then, that she dismisses political bisexuality in such terms.

Our second point is concerned with the impact on bisexual people of the publication of articles such as Bindel’s, which clearly promote biphobia. As we outlined in our recent publication The Bisexuality Report, research has repeatedly shown that bisexual people are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicidality than lesbian, gay or heterosexual people, and that this may be linked to the negative stereotypes about bisexuality which circulate in popular culture. These statistics are of great concern to UK bisexual communities and their allies, as well as to mental health practitioners, and for these reasons, bisexuality and mental health is the theme of BiReCon, our biennial conference, in August this year.

By recycling harmful stereotypes about bisexuality in the defence of political lesbianism, Julie Bindel contributes to the biphobic cultural conditions that contribute to high rates of mental distress among bisexuals. By dismissing bisexuals as universally apolitical, she betrays her own ignorance of approaches to contemporary sexual politics other than her own.

Helen Bowes-Catton for BiUK

Read more:

New Statesman response

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