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.

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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

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.

Quick wins for bisexual inclusion

For the purposes of this post, I’m going to assume that people do want to include bisexual people when they are talking about ‘LGB people’ or ‘LGB&T people’. I’m going to assume that when they fail to do so, it’s a slip-of-the-tongue, a habit that they want to change. So here are some suggestions for rewordings for common slips-of-the-tongue and the pen.

Although I’m focussing specifically on bi inclusion here, I’ve tried to be trans*-inclusive within this focus, but would especially welcome corrections or additions to this. I’m not trying to cover ‘quick wins for trans* inclusion’ here, but I am trying to ensure that what I am suggesting about bi inclusion is not trans*-exclusive. And of course other suggestions and comments on anything here are very welcome. What have I missed? Do you agree? What other quick wins might there be?

C.d. Kirven with the Trans Pride Flag while Get Equal flies the Bisexual & Rainbow Pride Flags

(cc) Melissa Kleckner https://www.flickr.com/photos/bimagazine/8621541099

 

Don’t describe someone as ‘gay’ just because they have a same-sex partner

… because many bisexual people have same-sex partners and don’t describe themselves as ‘gay’. Use the words people use to describe themselves.

This applies to public figures too – Oscar Wilde, Lord Byron, Tom Daley and whoever the latest male politician or sportsman is to have hit the media for having a male lover. Obviously, if they do now describe themselves as gay, then so should you. But if they don’t, then don’t. You could describe them as bisexual or as being attracted to more than one gender or just talk about what has happened without using sexual identity labels. But, best of all, use whatever words they use to describe themselves.

Don’t say ‘gay and straight relationships’ or ‘same-sex and heterosexual relationships’

… because that excludes people in bisexual relationships. Depending on what you actually mean, try ‘all types of relationships’  or ‘LGB and heterosexual’ or, to some audiences, ‘queer and straight’. You might try ‘same-sex and different-sex relationships’, if that’s the distinction you’re really interested in, but that isn’t very trans*-inclusive, because it implies that two people are either the same or different sexes, and sex can be more complicated than that.

Bisexual people in different-sex relationships are not ‘in a heterosexual relationship’ because they are not heterosexual. A heterosexual relationship is something that heterosexual people have. Well, subject to the point above about using people’s own terminology – if bisexual people in a different-sex relationship do want to describe their relationship as heterosexual, then of course they can, but don’t impose that label on them.

Don’t use ‘gay’ as a shorthand for LGB or LGB&T

… because most bisexual people don’t think of themselves as gay – if you say ‘gay’ they feel excluded. ‘Gay’ as a shorthand to include trans* people really doesn’t work well. And some lesbians really don’t like it either. In more formal writing, such as policy reports and research findings, it’s easy enough to avoid using ‘gay’ in this way  – just use LGB or LGB&T or LGBTIQQA or any other such acronym that is appropriate to your context. In speech and some types of media it can be harder to find replacements for ‘gay’ as a shorthand. ‘Queer’ works in some contexts. ‘Non-heterosexual’ works in others.

Don’t forget biphobia (and transphobia)

… because while bisexual people may experience homophobia, they also experience biphobia too. Try ‘homophobia and biphobia’ or ‘homophobia, biphobia and transphobia’. Or, depending on the context, ‘hate crimes against LGBT people’.

There’s more discussion of biphobia and how it differs from homophobia here.

Don’t say you talked to ‘LGB&T people’ if you only talked to lesbians and gay men

… because that suggests that LGB&T people really means lesbians and gay men. Say ‘lesbians and gay men’ if that is who you talked to.

If you had hoped to talk to B and T people as well, but not managed to do so in the end, you could say that. But the fact that you know that there is more to LGB&T than L and G doesn’t make it legitimate to generalise from L and G to LGB&T.

Don’t always subdivide your group of LGB people by gender (e.g. ‘lesbians and bisexual women’ versus ‘gay and bisexual men’)

… because that erases bisexuality by making it sound as if gender is always the most the important difference between LG and B people. Try looking at the bisexual women and bisexual men together as one category. Or see whether some other subdivision, such as race/ethnicity, age or social class is more important.

 

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.

The Advocate on Bisexuality and Fluidity

A useful article in The Advocate on bisexuality and fluidity:

Exploring the Umbrella: Bisexuality and Fluidity

A growing body of research indicates that for some people, sexual attractions change over time. But that’s not an endorsement of ‘reparative therapy,’ nor is it a bad thing for our movement.

For years, much of the case for LGBT rights has been based on the argument that sexual orientation is fixed and immutable — baby, we were born this way, and it’s wrong to discriminate against us for something we didn’t choose.

But an increasing body of social science research posits that a sizable number of people experience some degree of fluidity in their sexual and romantic attractions: being drawn to the same gender at one point in their life, the opposite gender at another. Researchers emphasize that this is not something that can be imposed from without, as “ex-gay” therapy would attempt to do, but something that occurs from within. Although our supporters already recognize that why we love who we love is irrelevant, embracing fluid orientations may call for a new approach in advocating for our rights.

The research to date indicates that fluidity is more common among women than among men, but scientists note that this could change as studies continue. Reliable data has only emerged in recent years, but there are now several studies that have found that 10 to 14 percent of American women describe themselves as mostly, but not completely heterosexual, and 6 to 9 percent of American men who self-identify the same way, says Lisa Diamond, a professor of psychology and gender studies at the University of Utah. Studies in other countries have found the same general range, she says.

“It’s far more common to be someone who is a little bit attracted to the same sex than someone who is exclusively attracted to the same sex,” says Diamond, author of the 2008 book Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women’s Love and Desire. Read more…

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…

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…

New edition of Bi Women out today

The new edition of Bi Women magazine is available below and on their website.

Bi_Women_V31-4_Fall_13

Interview with Meg Barker at BECAUSE

Bi Cities has put up the interview they did with Meg Barker when they were over at the first US BiReCon, and BECAUSE conference, earlier this summer.

Meg talks about BiReCon, The Bisexuality Report, mental health, and more.

http://blip.tv/bicities/235-dr-meg-barker-because-2013-6626420