Statement by the trustees and associates of BiUK: Pride in London

This is BiUK’s official statement on the inclusion of LGBT+ in UKIP in London Pride 2015:

The inclusion of LGBT members of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) in this year’s London Pride parade has been the cause of much debate and considerable distress amongst LGBT communities. It has divided friends, colleagues, and comrades. It has drawn out significant issues of principle about fundamental rights of freedom of speech and association, and about the absolute need to feel and be safe in queer spaces and events and to recognise multiple marginalisation and embrace the intersectionality between the many differing characteristics of queer people.

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New report: Bi’s of Colour

Following the Complicated report on bisexual people’s experiences of services last month BiUK is pleased to be able to announce yet another important piece of grassroots research on bisexual experience: The Bi’s of Colour Survey Report conducted by Jacq Applebee, founder of the Bi’s of Colour group.

The experience of bisexual people of colour has been woefully under-researched and neglected to date, with no UK studies focusing on this area. This is despite the fact that we know that people who experience multiple marginalisations through both their sexuality and their race or ethnicity have the worst mental health outcomes due to their experiences of intersecting oppressions, and discrimination on more than one dimension. This is, of course, a particularly vital issue in relation to bisexuality given that bisexual people in general have higher rates of mental health problems than either heterosexual, or lesbian and gay, people.

You can download the full report here: Bi’s of Colour Survey Report.

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The report provides a thorough overview of the study, as well as a useful commentary, by Jacq Applebee, on the findings. It supports previous research on bisexuality, such as the double discrimination that bisexual people experience from both straight and lesbian/gay communities, and the difficulties that they face finding communities and support. It also demonstrates important and concerning facts about the experiences of bi people of colour particularly, for example:

  • The whiteness of offline and online bisexual and LGBT spaces and groups, such that bi’s of colour often feel unwelcome, overly visible, or experience explicit racism and microaggressions, if they do access such spaces.
  • Specific negative experiences such as being hypersexualised (on the basis of both sexuality and race), exoticised and fetishised, or used as the token person of colour to demonstrate the supposed diversity of a community or group.
  • Being presumed straight due to a lack of awareness of the LGBT history within communities of colour, and colonialist assumptions.
  • Feeling excluded from certain spaces due to financial constraints, or because events take places in venues which many people do not feel comfortable in (university settings, or clubs and bars, for example).

Some people also spoke positively about their sense of inclusion in certain communities and groups which have been set up (some bisexual spaces, and QTIPOC spaces, for example).

The Bi’s of Colour study points to the desperate need for more sustained research in this area and far better resources to address the intersections between sexuality and race and ethnicity in general, and the experiences of bi’s of colour in particular. BiUK hopes to support such moves as much as it can, and we also call upon funded LGBT and mental health organisations to make this a priority.

New research on UK bisexual people’s experiences of services

This week an important new piece of research on bisexuality was launched: Complicated: Bisexual people’s experiences of, and ideas for, accessing services by the Equality Network.

It is the first UK wide research report to focus specifically on bisexual people’s experiences of accessing services.

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The report’s key findings were:

  • Bisexual people are highly unlikely to share their sexual orientation with services, most commonly because of fear of negative reactions.
  • 66% feel that they have to pass as straight and 42% feel they need to pass as gay or lesbian when accessing services.
  • 48% have experienced biphobic comments and 38% have experienced unwanted sexual comments about them being bisexual while accessing services.
  • The highest amounts of biphobia experienced are within LGBT services and NHS services.
  • 61% have experienced multiple discrimination. 35% said that they are disabled.

You can download the full report here. And a media reports about it in Bi Community News and Gay Star News.

Bisexual Asylum Seekers

Please do adapt this letter and send it on to your local MPs.

16 May 2015

Dear Mrs May,

Bisexual asylum seekers

As Trustees and members of Bi UK, a charity that supports research and activism regarding bisexuality, we were extremely concerned to hear of the case of Orashia Edwards.  It seems that this individual has been informed by immigration officials that he ought to pretend to be gay, and that he cannot apply for asylum as a bisexual. Orashia is at risk of persecution as a man who has same-sex relations, and it appears that this risk is not being taken seriously.

Since we became aware of this case, other bisexual asylum seekers have confirmed that they have been advised by Home Office officials as well as LGBT group advisers, to conceal the fact that they are bisexual and to pretend to be gay or lesbian, in order to have a chance of gaining asylum. At BiCon (the annual bisexual conference) in 2014, concern and outrage was expressed by 300 delegates at the AGM about the ways in which bisexual people are being discriminated against in the asylum process. Bisexual people who are fleeing persecution are not at any less risk than gays and lesbians.

We request that you confirm the following:

a) That there is no policy to exclude bisexuals from asylum on grounds of sexuality

b) That the government recognises that bisexuals can be just as subject to homophobia and persecution as homosexuals are, regardless of whether they have (or have not) engaged in heterosexual relationships in the past

c) That Home Office officials and others dealing with asylum seekers will be advised that bisexual people should have their sexuality treated with due respect, not assumed to be ‘really’ heterosexual, homosexual or lying about their sexuality

d) That bisexual asylum seekers should have their claims for asylum considered as carefully as for other asylum seekers.

We would also like to know what training officials dealing with asylum claims have had on LGBT issues that may be relevant, and how many bisexuals have applied for asylum since 2010.

We look forward to hearing from you about how you will ensure that bisexuals are receiving appropriate protection under the UK’s asylum system.

Yours sincerely,

Professor Surya Monro

and Dr Meg John Barker, Christina Richardson, Dr Caroline Walters, Dr Roshan Nair, Ed Lord, Dr

Helen Bowes-Catton, Dr Rebecca Jones, Kaye McLelland

New book out on Bi men from around the world

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Recognize: The Voices of Bisexual Men is a collection of short fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, reflective essays, critical essays and visual art produced by cisgender and transgender bisexual, pansexual, polysexual and fluid queer men from the United States, Canada, Chile, India, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The 70 contributors, ranging in age from early twenties to mid-seventies, explore the themes of: identity, challenging labels, liminality, institutions, angst, anger and critique, bodies and embodiment, religion and spirituality, traveling and relationships.

Find out more here.

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.

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.