LGBT history in the making: Stonewall bisexuality consultation

On Saturday 7th February several members of BiUK attended a historic event: the first consultation between Stonewall UK and bisexual communities. The day went very well and we were left very hopeful about possibilities for working together more closely in the future.

Marcus Morgan, from The Bisexual Index, has written a great summary of the day here.

Biphobia in the pansexual community

Sali Owen (twitter: @SaliWho) writes:

As awareness of non-binary gender identities has developed, some members of the queer community have chosen to identify as pansexual rather than bisexual. Pansexuality is sometimes defined as attraction to people of all genders, which is also the experience of many bisexual people. More often than not, however, people define their pansexuality in relation to bisexuality. In response to the question: “What does pansexual mean?” I’ve seen countless people reply: “I’m attracted to people of more than two genders. Not bisexual.” The implication is that bisexual means binary attraction: men and women only.

Since I came out in the late 90s, I haven’t seen one bi activist organisation define bisexuality as attraction solely to men and women. Bi and trans* issues began to grow in recognition at the same time. When I use ‘bi’ to refer to two types of attraction, I mean attraction to people of my gender and attraction to people of other genders.

I also frequently see cisgender pansexuals managing to be both transphobic and biphobic in their definitions. They say pansexuals are different to bisexuals because pansexuals are attracted to “men, women and transgender people,” as if binary trans people aren’t really men and women, and bisexuals couldn’t possibly be attracted to them anyway.

Despite the presence of bisexuals at every queer demonstration since Stonewall, we’ve always been told by the lesbian and gay community that we’re somehow not queer enough. This pushes many bi people who are active in the queer community to identify as lesbian, gay or just queer. Being forced to pick a closet by both the straight and gay communities results in bi people having significantly higher rates of mental health problems than straight and gay people. This is why it’s so upsetting to see internalised biphobia leading many pansexuals, most of whom until recently identified as bisexual, telling us we’re still not queer enough. Gay and straight people aren’t being pressurised into giving up the language they use to describe their attractions and neither should they be. As usual it’s only bisexuals being shamed into erasing our identities and our history.

The most frustrating thing to me about the current bi vs pan discourse is that it’s framed as a cisgender vs genderqueer debate. This has never been the case. In reality, many genderqueer people identify as bisexual. At least three of the most influential bi activists, researchers and academics are genderqueer. Meg John Barker, founder of BiUK; Jen Yockney, founder of ‘Bi Community News’; and Shiri Eisner, author of ‘Radical Bi: Notes For a Bisexual Revolution’, are all non-binary. They’ve spent years at the forefront of campaigns, lobbying for queer rights. To say bisexuality is binary erases the identities of these revolutionary bisexual genderqueer activists, and it erases the identity of every marginalised genderqueer bisexual they’re fighting for.

I have no problem embracing more labels to better describe our attractions and our gender politics. We all have every right to use the labels that fit us. Some people identify as both pan and bi depending on context, but I can’t consider doing this before the implicit and explicit biphobia within the pan community is rejected. If your definition of pansexuality relies on redefining my bisexuality and negating it, I can’t support that. If you need to prove your queer credentials by vehemently clarifying that you’re not bisexual, you’re doing to me exactly what the lesbian and gay community does to both of us.

New research on bisexual women’s mental health

Lisa Colledge writes:

On 14 January 2015, sexual health researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) published a new UK study in the Journal of Public Health showing worse mental health in UK bisexual women than lesbians, based on data from the Stonewall 2007 Women’s Health Survey. The link to the full paper (permanent open access) is here.

PubHealth

This paper was publicised in the following press release, which was sent to 40 media targets covering local, national and international general news (print, radio, television and online) plus general health, mental health and LGBT publications.

At the time of writing it had been picked up by 12 news websites (including Daily Mail Online), featured on the LSHTM news and Bi Community News websites, and sent via 20 Twitter accounts to more than 157,000 followers.

Bisexual women have worse mental health than lesbians in the UK

Largest UK survey of its kind finds bisexual women more likely to self-harm, have eating problems and feel depressed

Read more of this post

LGBT manifesto – out today

BiUK was proud to be involved in producing the LGBT manifesto along with other members of the LGBT consortium. We ensured that it linked nicely with the key recommendations of The Bisexuality Report. Please do share this on and use it if you find it helpful.

Manifesto

You can download the pdf here: LGBT Manifesto v1.0

There are also websites for the LGBT manifesto and the trans manifesto.

BiUK interviews

BiUK members have taken part in a couple of interviews during the last week that you might find interesting.

Meg Barker was interviewed by biscuit magazine here.

Caroline Walters was interview by BiCast here.

Minister acknowledges work with bi communities in addressing mental health challenges

Helen Grant (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport) was recently asked what discussions the UK Government Equalities Office has had with LGBT mental health service providers in the last year. Here is her response (reposted from www.theyworkforyou.com):

Ministers and officials from the Government Equalities Office regularly meet a broad range of LGB&T stakeholders, including mental health providers and other organisations with an interest in this area, to discuss key issues and priorities for the sector. Topics raised include the mental health needs of LGB&T individuals, areas of discrimination and issues with service provision.

In the last year, officials have met with organisations with an interest in this area including: the Albert Kennedy Trust, Bi Community News, Bisexual Index, BiUK, Broken Rainbow, GALOP, GIRES, METRO Centre, PACE, Press for Change, Stonewall, Stonewall Housing, The Lesbian and Gay Foundation (LGF), The LGBT Consortium, and The National LGB&T Partnership. The LGBT Consortium, the National LGB&T Partnership and BiUK are umbrella organisations who raise issues on behalf of their wider membership. Officials also sit on the Parliamentary Forum on Gender Identity where mental health issues are regularly raised. Officials have also had meetings with NHS England andPublic Health England at which they have discussed mental health issues.

In the last year, the Minister for Sport, Tourism and Equalities met representatives from the Lesbian and Gay Foundation, LGB&T Consortium, PACE Health, Stonewall, Broken Rainbow, the METRO Centre, and BiUK on 10 October 2013; and representatives from GIRES, Gendered Intelligence and the Gender Identity Clinic in Hammersmith on 15 October 2013.

On 12 June 2014 the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport visited Birmingham LGBT Centre which hosts mental health services. The Secretary of State also met leading LGB&T representatives on 30 June 2014 including Stonewall, Lesbian and Gay Foundation, LGB&T Consortium, GIRES, and Gendered Intelligence. Health issues were discussed at all events.

The invisible stereotypes of bisexual men

Alon Zivony & Thalma Lobel update us on their recent research

Bisexuals face two broad social problems: public invisibility and discrimination. Invisibility refers to the lack of representation of bisexuals and knowledge about bisexuals in society. In either the media, the sciences, and even in the LGT community – people are nearly unaware of the existence of bisexuals and the issues that affect their lives. Discrimination refers to prejudice and stereotypical attitudes towards bisexuals. For example, the notion that bisexuals are closeted gay\lesbian, untrustworthy, confused, and hypersexual.

At first glance, these two phenomena (invisibility and discrimination) seem paradoxical. How can invisibility and discrimination coincide? In other words, how can someone discriminate against a group they are not familiar with? The answer may be surprisingly simple.

In our study we evaluated social stereotypes of bisexual men in light of bisexual invisibility. Participants were presented with two characters on a first date and asked them to evaluate one of the characters (based on answers to various questions). Whenever the evaluated character was described as bisexual, he was evaluated as being confused, untrustworthy, and unable to stay in a relationship. In other words, he was evaluated based on negative stereotypes associated with bisexuals.

In another experiment we asked participants to indicate what are the stereotypes associated with bisexual men. In light of bisexual invisibility, it is not surprising that participants had little knowledge of these stereotypes. For example, only 20% of participants knew that bisexual men are often considered as closeted gay. Only 7% of participants knew that bisexual men are often considered as confused.

But we found something surprising as well. The results showed that prejudiced individuals knew even less about these stereotypes that non-prejudiced individuals. In other words, prejudice not only coincided with lack of knowledge, but was correlated with it. The meaning of this finding was spelled out for us by one participant. He wrote: “I’m not familiar with any specific stereotypes of bisexual males. I do sometimes feel that they are actually homosexuals, but are afraid to identify as such due to social stigma.”

In other words, this participant holds stereotypical beliefs about bisexual men, but did not know these beliefs were considered stereotypical. But, if stereotypes don’t come from knowledge about bisexuals, where do they come from? We think that these stereotypes are the result of misconceptions regarding sexuality and gender in general. For example, as men and women are considered as completely separate and “opposite” genders, people automatically imagine bisexuality as two dual attractions that work in opposite directions. The implication of that image is a constant conflict and turmoil. This is how bisexual stereotypes can be both common and unknown.

This situation actually makes things worse for bisexuals: people don’t try to suppress their prejudicial beliefs and behaviors unless they know they are prejudicial. Also, you can’t fight stereotypes unless people know they are stereotypes. This leads us to the conclusion that education is the solution for both bisexual invisibility as well as discrimination against bisexuals.

Bi and trans inclusion in Prides

A new post about bi and trans inclusion in Prides, over on Rewriting the Rules:

Will gay rights and feminist movements please return to your assumptions

New article on bisexual counselling competence

wlco20.v007.i01.cover

Brooks, L. M. & Inman, A. G. (2013). Bisexual Counseling Competence: Investigating the Role of Attitudes and Empathy. Journal of LGBT Issues in Counseling, 7 (1), 65-86.

Researchers have identified factors that contribute to counseling competence and multicultural competence, yet there continues to remain a gap in bisexual counseling competence. Negative attitudes faced by bisexual individuals have significant implications for their psychological well-being and identity development. It is important for clinicians to explore their ability to empathize with this population and their attitudes toward bisexual clients. This study sought to determine whether clinician empathy and attitudes toward bisexuality were significant predictors of perceived and actual competence with bisexual clients. The study surveyed 101 clinicians. Multivariate multiple regression analyses revealed that only attitudes toward bisexuality were significant predictors of perceived and actual bisexual counseling competency. Implications and limitations of the study are discussed.

Bisexual Health Awareness Month

Activists and researchers in the US have dubbed this month ‘Bisexual Health Awareness Month’ to highlight the health disparities faced by bisexual people.

Ellyn Ruthstrom draws on the extensive evidence that now exists in this area to report that:

  • Forty-five percent of bisexual women have considered or attempted suicide, followed by bisexual men (35%), lesbians (30%), gay men (25%), and much lower rates for heterosexual women and men.
  • Bisexual women are twice as likely to have an eating disorder than lesbians.
  • Bisexual women report the highest rates of alcohol use, heavy drinking, and alcohol-related problems when compared to heterosexual and lesbian women.
  • Bisexual men and women report the highest rates of smoking of all orientations.

They also created this useful summary image:

BiHealth

 

You can read the full post about the Bisexual Resource Centre initiative here.

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