White House Bisexuality Briefing

Rewriting The Rules

On 26th September 2016 I attended a historic bisexuality briefing at the White House. Bisexual community leaders had met with the White House on previous occasions, but never before had the meeting been live-streamed, recorded, and made public during and after the event. There were well over a hundred bisexual activists in attendance, and the two hour event mixed together talks and panels on vital topics as well as some powerful music, poetry and other creative input about bisexual experiences.

It was extremely valuable to me to have the opportunity to learn about how bisexual matters are being discussed and engaged with in the US. Speakers emphasised many of the same issues that affect bisexual people globally: invisibility, discrimination from both straight and gay communities, and high rates of mental health struggles due to biphobia. However, it was also striking how much careful attention was paid to intersectionality. That is the idea that sexuality intersects with many other aspects of experience…

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British Bisexuality: Purple Prose out now!

Meg-John Barker reflects on the awesome new book on British Bisexuality…

Last week saw the launch of a book project that I’m very excited to be part of: Purple Prose.

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This collection, edited by Kate Harrad, brings together experiences from a diverse spectrum of bisexual folk in Britain today. It works as a how-to guide to British bi communities and identities, as well as providing a fascinating insight into the wide range of experiences under the bisexual umbrella.

A particular strength of the book is its focus on intersectionality. Most writing on bisexuality, including The Bisexuality Report which I was part of, focus on bisexual people as a fairly unified group: how they are represented, the challenges they face, bi-specific discrimination, etc. The problem with this approach is that bisexual experiences – like all experiences – are very different depending on other intersecting aspects of identity and experience such as gender, class, race, disability, geographical location, generation. Also, as Shiri Eisner points out, there are vital links between bisexual activism and feminist, trans and queer activism, anti-racism, and other anti-oppression movements, which are vital to attend to because a single-issue kind of activism can’t get us very far.

For these reasons it’s great to see a book in which at least half of the chapters are devoted to specific intersections (e.g. ‘Bisexual and disabled’, ‘Bisexual Black and Minority Ethic People‘, ‘Bisexuals and Faith’).

Even within these chapters there is a clear sense of the range of experiences that exist amongst any specific group, such as older bisexual people or non-monogamous bis, for example. In the chapter that I co-edited with Fred Langdridge, ‘The Gender Agenda’, we decided to foreground the experiences of non-binary bisexual people, given that there are already books about bisexual women and bisexual men, but none on this topic. While we included the voices of bisexual people of many genders, we gave specific attention to those who are non-binary in terms of both their sexuality and their gender. Even within that group we discovered many differences in relation to how they related to the term ‘bisexual’, how they experienced their gender and sexuality, whether these things changed over time or not, and how they were navigated in their close relationships and communities.

We still have a long way to go on bisexuality in Britain given that the biggest group under the LGBT umbrella still has the highest rate of mental health problems, and gets the least attention in policy and practice, both outside and within the LGBT sector. Purple Prose is definitely a step in the right direction.

New Research: The Voices of African Descent Bisexual Women

Kristin M. Brown writes…

Title: The Voices of African Descent Bisexual Women: Experiences Related to Identity and Disclosure, in Social Support Networks and Health Care Settings, in the US and UK

Researcher: Kristin M. Brown, PhD, MSW, MPA; Email <WomenResearch7@gmail.com>

Summary: Inaugural LGBTQ Scholars of Color Conference Presentation (April 2015, New York)

In this summary, I detail findings on the well­being of cisgender bisexual­ identified women of the African diaspora (ABW). As a member of the population, I collaboratively implemented this study for our empowerment. I conducted individual face­to­face interviews with six women in the United States in 2013, and eight women in the United Kingdom in 2014. I gathered information on quality of social support and health care, related to disclosure of bisexual identity, using qualitative research principles of grounded analysis. This study focused only with cisgender ABW, as researchers with prior and concurrent studies were focusing with transgender and lesbian women.

Read more of this post

Pink Therapy: Beyond Gay and Straight

On March 12th 2016 the UK LGBTQ+ therapy organisation Pink Therapy ran a conference on working with bisexual people. You can read summaries of the conference here and here, and view all of the talks on the Pink Therapy YouTube channel for the conference.

Bisexual Health Videos

There’s a brilliant set of videos on bisexual health available now on the Rainbow Health Ontario website covering friendship, partners, family and service-providers. Here’s one of them to give you a flavour.

See more…

It’d be great to do something like this in the UK in future. Take note all LGBT organisations who’re looking to up your B profile! Meanwhile thanks so much to Rainbow Health Ontario for this 🙂

BiUK response to Stonewall bi consultation

Back in February, several of us from BiUK were involved in a consultation between Stonewall and the UK bisexual community about how they could improve their work around bisexuality. You can read Bisexuality Report author, and head of The Bisexual Index, Marcus Morgan’s summary of this hopeful day here.

Last month Stonewall published a report of that consultation which you can download here.

Here is BiUK’s response to Stonewall’s report, also downloadable as a pdf here.

CAMPAIGNING AGAINST BIPHOBIA

BiUK’s response to the outcome of Stonewall’s consultation with bi communities

  1. BiUK remains supportive of Stonewall’s decision to consult with bi communities with a view to becoming more proactively engaged with challenging biphobia in the United Kingdom. We also welcome Stonewall’s acceptance that some of its actions over its first twenty five years, whilst claiming to represent the interests of bi people, often led to greater marginalisation and exclusion of people who identify as bisexual, or may have identified in this way had they not been made to feel unwelcome as bi within lesbian and gay communities and spaces.
  2. BiUK was pleased to receive the short note prepared by Stonewall following its consultation session with around 40 bi activists and others in February 2015. Like others though, we regret that it took until late July for the note to appear, some three months after the promised circulation date of Easter.
  3. In terms of the contents of that note and the actions Stonewall proposes to take internally and externally, we of course welcome any steps which will seek to challenge biphobia in L&G and straight communities and to enhance bi visibility within Stonewall and beyond.
  4. In particular, we support Stonewall’s proposals to empower its staff to be bi allies and role models. We regret however that Stonewall has failed to acknowledge that at present none of its trustees or senior staff identify as bisexual, nor did it propose to take steps to rectify this situation. Stonewall has undertaken at least two trustee recruitment exercises in the last twelve months and on neither occasion did it identify that bi people were under/un-represented on its board. BiUK notes that this is in stark contrast to the efforts Stonewall has made to recruit both a trans trustee and senior staff member, which we nonetheless fully support.
  5. We would also ask Stonewall to recognise the difficulty that is presented by asking comparatively junior staff to take the lead on engagement with bi communities. Whilst we welcome the fact that the staff coming to BiCon 2015 to continue Stonewall’s conversation with bi communities are bi identifying, and the engagement of the same staff in liaising with bi organisations, it is problematic that they are not in a position to commit Stonewall in policy and resource terms.
  6. Turning to what Stonewall proposes to do externally, we welcome the initiatives identified in the note, particularly by empowering bi role models and campaigning against biphobia within lesbian and gay communities. Our deputy chair, Edward Lord, has already offered to assist Stonewall in securing some funding for this work and our chair, Meg John Barker, has made some content suggestions for the anti-biphobia campaign.
  7. In supporting this work, however, we expect to see Stonewall pay more than just lip service to bi people. We would hope that graduates from the bi specific role models programme would be used by Stonewall in its work in schools and workplaces to ensure that Stonewall role models are more fully reflective of the wider LGBT community.
  8. In terms of the proposals to hear, listen, and engage more with bi people, we look forward to hearing much more about how Stonewall proposes to make this a reality as we are yet to see any significant evidence of active engagement with bi communities. BiUK, as the UK’s national organisation for bi research and activism through its expert academic trustees and associates wants to reiterate its comprehensive and open offer to partner with Stonewall to ensure that its publications, campaigns and programmes are fully reflective of the needs and experiences of bi people and in line with the most up to date research data available.
  9. We were disappointed that Stonewall’s most recent research-based report, Unhealthy Attitudes, did not make use of this offer. BiUK would certainly have emphasised the need to tease apart the data from LG and B people given what we know about how bi people generally suffer more in these areas, and how amalgamating data erases this difference and means that resources rarely get to bi people. It would also have been nice to see some reference to ‘The Bisexuality Report’ and to the recent Equality Network ‘Complicated?‘ report which dealt with very similar issues in the bi community specifically.
  10. Finally, whilst we accept entirely that this will take time to get right, we are disappointed that the next report from Stonewall is not planned until late 2016, potentially almost two years since the first consultation event. We would urge Stonewall to consider an interim report in early 2016 and also recommend that Stonewall establishes a small bi advisory group to assist it to remain focused on speedy and effective delivery. We would naturally be willing to participate in such a group.

Dr Meg John Barker

Chair, BiUK

August 2015

The Bisexuality Report in Metro

Today’s Metro included a great article about biphobia which included numerous mentions of BiUK’s Bisexuality Report.

Many thanks to journalist Francesca Kentish, and to clinical psychologist Siri Harrison for some great insights throughout the article.

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‘Just a phase’? This is why we need to talk about biphobia

Unless you’ve been in hiding for the past 40 years, chances are you know what homophobia means.

The same can’t be said for biphobia.

Simply put, biphobia is when people are prejudiced towards bisexuals.

It’s pretty similar to homophobia, except people often aren’t aware it’s happening.

Bisexuals often face added discrimination from people within the LGBT community as well as discrimination from heterosexual people.

Chances are you will have seen biphobia on TV or heard someone make a biphobic comment without even realising it.

Ever heard someone jokingly say bisexuals are greedy?

That’s biphobia.

Or that bisexuals should make up their minds?

Biphobia strikes again. Read more…

New Book Published: Surya Monro’s Bisexuality: Identities, Politics, and Theories

BiUK trustee and Purple List-er Surya Monro‘s new book Bisexuality: Identities, Politics, and Theories has just come out.

Monro

Bisexuality has been largely erased from studies of sexuality and gender, and people who desire others of more than one gender often remain invisible. This book sets a new agenda for considering sexualities and genders, by focusing on the lives of people who are bisexual or who have other identities that are not heterosexual, lesbian or gay, in an international context. What are bisexual people’s lived experiences? How can these be understood using social and political theories? What are the implications of bisexuality for future theorising and research? In addressing these and other questions, this book maps out under-explored territory. It does so by looking at topical themes, including sex and relationships, community, the commodification of bisexuality, and activism. The book also shows how understandings of bisexuality can usefully inform the social sciences in areas such as identity construction, social inequalities, postcolonial relations, and citizenship.

“Despite the interesting discussion about sexual fluidity that has captured academic attention, sexual identity categories remain the basis of identity construction and politics for most of us in Euro-American nations. For students and professors wanting a wide-ranging and thoughtful overview of bisexuality, one need look no further then Surya Monro’s ambitious and engaging book.” -Steven Seidman, State University of New York, United States

“This is a must-read book for anyone in the field of sexuality. Not only is it the first academic book for years to deal with the woefully invisible topic of bisexuality, but it is also of much broader appeal given that it synthesises and integrates sexuality theories and research in a way that is both sophisticated and engaging. The global perspective of the book also sets it apart, and will provide a strong foundation for future scholarship and activism in this area to build on.” – Meg John Barker, The Open University, United Kingdom

Would you like to buy this book? Or are you able to support research into bisexuality and sexuality more broadly by asking your library to buy one? Please order it here.

BiUK Celebrated in the Purple List

We were delighted today to see three members of BiUK celebrated in the first ever Purple List: Biscuit magazine’s list of ‘people who make the world a little brighter for bi* people’. BiUK research associate Caroline Walters, and BiUK trustees Surya Monro and Meg John Barker were all recognised on the list for their work, as were a number of other brilliant bi activists, writers, and celebrities.

The Purple List was conceived as a counter-balance to the high levels of invisibility around bisexuality, and the double discrimination experienced by bi people, meaning they are often not recognised in similar LG(BT) awards ceremonies and honours lists, despite bi people making up half of LGB people.

We look forward to seeing other people – including further BiUK members perhaps! – celebrated in future editions of the list, as we’re assured that it will be published every year from now on, recognising the work of different people each year. As Biscuit says, there are many ‘awesome people who give their time, energy, cash and resources to make life a little bit better for bisexual people’. It’s great to see that acknowledged in this way. Thank you Biscuit.

Public Health England to report on lesbian and bisexual women’s health inequalities

Lisa Colledge writes…

Public Health England (PHE) is producing its first ever report on UK lesbian and bisexual women’s health inequalities. The report will inform a national action plan to improve the health of lesbian, bisexual and other women who have sex with women (LBWSW). Writing will be completed by end-December 2015 and the report will be published on 8 March 2016 (International Women’s Day).

The report is being researched and written by PHE staff, guided by an expert advisory steering group. This group has met twice so far, to discuss current knowledge, terminology, scope and suggested methodology. A systematic review of 23,000 initially identified publications is currently under way.

The next step is an academic symposium to discuss the initial literature review findings, on Monday 14 September 2015, 2–4 p.m., Warwick University. This is open to academics and service users with expertise in lesbian and bisexual women’s health and wellbeing issues. If you have expertise to contribute, please attend – contact the project lead Dr Heema Shukla (Heema.Shukla@phe.gov.uk).

Alongside the PHE literature review, the LGBT Partnership is organising autumn workshops with LGBT community groups to gather evidence on LB women’s health interventions, especially best practice. Workshops will happen in the North England, Midlands, South England and London regions, working with local partners (e.g. LGBT Foundation, Birmingham LGBT, Consortium, London Friend, Metro and East London Out Project). Information gathered at these workshops will feed into a separate report addressing good practice for LBWSW women’s health interventions.

After the main PHE report is published, the LGBT Partnership will hold a workshop in spring 2016 to communicate report findings to local LGBT community groups, and explore how the report can be used to improve local services.

I’m on the expert steering group and aim to ensure the report represents bisexual women’s concerns as well as it can. I’ll publicise details of the information-gathering workshops as soon as they’re available. I want as many bi people as possible to attend these workshops and make their voices heard.

This is the first time a government-sponsored report has addressed UK bisexual and lesbian women’s health concerns. Public Health England wants bi women’s health issues to be well represented. The report will feed into action to improve bi and lesbian women’s health. Let’s make the most of this great opportunity!