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.

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!

Call for Papers: EuroBiReCon Amsterdam July 2016

Bisexuality and (Inter)National Research Frontiers

First European Bisexual Research Conference (EuroBiReCon)EuroBiReCon is a conference for anyone with an interest in contributing to, or finding out about, current work on bisexuality. The conference aims to bring together academics, professionals, activists, and bisexual communities. It builds on BiReCons held in the UK every two years organised by BiUK (www.biuk.org) – see the BiUK website for information about past BiReCons. This year it will take place on Thursday 28 July 2016 at the University of Amsterdam, which will be followed by a three day community organised event (EuroBiCon).

We proudly announce that Prof. Surya Monro (University of Huddersfield) will be the keynote speaker at the EuroBiReCon. She has written multiple books on sexual diversity including Gender politics: Activism, citizenship and sexual diversity (2005) and Sexuality, Equality and Diversity (2012 with Diana Richardson). Her book Bisexuality: Identities, Politics, and Theories is due to be published in 2015.

We welcome papers from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines including social sciences, health sciences, arts and humanities, therapeutic practitioners, activists and others. We encourage contributions from postgraduate students, early career academics and more senior academics from Europe and beyond.

We invite papers and workshop sessions that include but are not limited to the following:

  • Bisexuality, wellbeing and health (including mental health and sexual health).
  • The implications of bisexual identities and labels.
  • Bisexuality, space and communities.
  • Bisexual people’s access to, and experiences of,health and other services.
  • Inclusion and erasure of bisexual people in politics and activism.
  • Representations of bisexuality in media, culture, and literature.
  • Intersections with other aspects of experience such as physical disability, age, race/ethnicity, nationality, gender (both trans- and cis-gender), sexual practices, religion, education and social class.
  • Bisexuality and relationship styles (e.g. monogamies, polyamory, swinging, open couples and non-monogamies).
  • The role of technologies in bisexuality and forming bisexual spaces and communities
  • Methods for researching bisexuality
  • Public engagement in bisexuality research.

During the day there will be opportunities to:

  • Find out about issues affecting bisexual people
  • Hear from experts about cutting-edge research on bisexuality
  • Discuss ways in which organisations can better work with, and for, bisexual people, drawing on good practice
  • Take part in workshops on specific issues

If you would like to present at EuroBiReCon, please provide a 250 word abstract and a brief biography (max. 100 words), by 26th February 2016 to Emiel Maliepaard (e.maliepaard1@gmail.com) and Dr Caroline Walters (carolinejwalters@gmail.com).

If you are interested in facilitating a workshop, roundtable, or panel discussion at BiReCon, which can include data gathering for current projects or research, then please email Emiel Maliepaard (e.maliepaard1@gmail.com) and Dr Caroline Walters (carolinejwalters@gmail.com) with a brief description of your proposed session by 22 January 2016.

Language: For logistical reasons, the conference’s common language will be English, and abstracts must be submitted in English. If you wish, you can send us your abstract in another language, provided that you also submit it in English. It is highly recommended that presentations during the conference are in English. However, we are exploring possibilities to use translators to provide space to people who would like to present in their mother tongue.

Funding: EuroBiCon and EuroBiReCon are community organisations so unfortunately there are no funds for presenters or travel expenses. However, EuroBiReCon will provide an excellent opportunity to network with others working in the field, to share good practice, and there will be spaces available to conduct research which fits within the ethos of the event.

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.

New book out on Bi men from around the world

Recognize_cover_2

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.

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

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.

Bisexuality Talks at EuroPride 2014

Last weekend (20th to 22nd June) was the beginning of EuroPride 2014 that was being held in Oslo, Norway. Alongside the usual parties, parades and merriment, they organised a series of talks that they were holding at Pride House to discuss a range of issues relating to LGBT communities. A few months ago BiUK received an email inviting a member of the group to participate in two of the discussions they were organising on bisexuality. I went, as did Marcus Morgan of the Bisexual Index. We participated in two sessions called ‘Bisexuality: Make Up Your Mind’ parts one and two (though on the website they hadn’t included the word ‘bisexuality’ in the title). I was disappointed they had chosen this title since it draws on so many negative stereotypes of bisexuality that lead to it being questioned as whether or not exists. I later discovered that the name was being used ironically, though I think that people aren’t ready for that yet since general under standing on the topic is so poor.

Saturday arrived. The place seemed full of people getting busy to attend talks, chat with people and hopefully gain some new information. Our two sessions were up on the third floor in a big room that had a wall of books behind the speakers. The sessions were divided so the first was talks from four speakers (me on behalf of BiUK focusing on research, a local Norwegian academic, Marcus on bisexual activisms and a representative from a Swedish LGBT health organisation), while the second session was a panel discussion of six that included some extra speakers that are therapists and work for LGBT charities. Before the session began, I was rather chuffed as there were 55 people in the audience, which seemed promising as there were four other discussions on at the same time.

My talk focused on presenting the Bisexuality Report (Barker, Richards et al. 2012) as I thought that much of this information might be new to those in a Norwegian context. I explained the aims of the report, as outlining the experiences of bisexual people and supporting this with academic research. This enabled me to explore some of the complexities of defining bisexuality, particularly as more people might be behaviourally bisexual or feel that way without claiming the identity itself. I focused on outlining biphobia, probably introducing the word to the majority of the audience, and trying to explain the variety of ways that it can manifest including in the title of the talks. I alerted them to research indicating that bisexual people often suffer worse mental health than either lesbian or gay individuals. Then rounded off with some recommendations of ways that they could implement more inclusive practices and policies on bisexuality. I felt this was a good introduction. However I shortly discovered my comments were uncomfortable for some of the other panellists.

I fell into despair shortly after the second speaker began her talk: ‘The Invisible Bisexuals’. I will say that she was not speaking  in her native Norwegian but rather stilted English, so perhaps I should temper some of my reactions, as I’ve heard her opinions are more nuanced in Norwegian. She opened stating that she identifies as a lesbian, which has shaped her research and therapeutic practice. I wondered why she was asked to speak on the panel, though I knew that it can be a matter of limited numbers and who is available. My frustrations rose when she claimed that in her thirty years of being a practising therapist in Norway she had never met a bisexual person, or at least none of her clients had ever come out to her. This supported her argument that socially bisexuals are invisible, which can be true unless you look to the existence of bisexual communities that seemed lacking in Norway. In addition she was unsure how to discuss bisexual people because they are an excessively invisible population. She rounded off her talk with a statement addressing my talk that the term ‘biphobia’ was not helpful as instead we should think about broader social and structural issues through the term ‘heteronormativity’. I was given a chance to respond and explain that they are both useful but rather different and both much needed concepts.

When Marcus took the stage he did a point by point deconstruction of some of the hair-prickling talk we had just heard, in a speech that was infused with anger and humour. I can’t do justice to the way that he delivers his talks, and so will mention some of his key points. Bisexuals are not invisible, as he rightly indicated he is not invisible, but rather they are erased by others and society. Using the word ‘gay’ to refer to all LGBT people erases bisexuals and trans (see Meg John Barker’s blog post). This persistent and prevalent erasure of bisexual people and of biphobia probably encourages people not to identify as bisexual. Indeed bisexual people belong to both the LGBT community and to the SB (straight-bisexual) community, making it harder to neatly categorise them. Marcus’s talk managed to combine complex points yet made the audience laugh.

The final speaker was from a Swedish LGBT organisation RFSL and outlined that his his talk would focus on bisexuality, stigma and its challenges. He opened claiming that the problem with debate on bisexuality is that it often stops at questions of invisibility, which he thought arose from a binary view on sexuality and particularly gender. It seemed promising that we would learn some useful information on bisexuality in a Swedish context. However the rest of the talk was given to outlining the aims of his organisation, ways that they taught in schools and the need to deconstruct gender norms. I do agree that this is important work that needs to be pushed further, particularly at a school level, but it didn’t focus on the topic at hand which was frustrating.

On the whole this session seemed to be a mix of productive and frustrating as it was off topic, and at times biphobic. It was a shame that there was not more time for questions since there were so many people attending, though we did have the panel discussion in part two, which fortunately the other female academic did not attend. After this panel, people came up to Marcus and I thanking us for our contribution and helping them to realise there were more bisexual people.

The second panel went much better on the whole, in part as there were six discussants that limited the amount of time anyone could speak. Our chair for this session worked for the organisation LLH, who had put on the event and stated that she was so excited for this event as an out bisexual person, who had heard limited discussions on the topic within the community. Out of the six panellists only three were bisexuals, while the other three were gay men from various LGBT health organisations, and all of us were white and I was the only woman.

The discussion was varied and somewhat stilted partly as only three of us focused on bisexual issues and I promoted work done by BiUK drawing their attention to the report and research guidelines. Marcus spoke as an activist. The third from a Norwegian organisation discussed the complexity of identifying as bisexual due to the prevalence of biphobia and instead many people preferred the term queer. The three gay men spoke on behalf of the various LGBT organisations. One discussed the need to deconstruct gender norms rather than issues on bisexuality. A therapist spoke on how he had also met few bisexual people in his years of practice, and was unsure how he could address their specific needs. The third spoke from an organisation based in Norway that focused on LGBT youth and their health needs. He offered a refreshing contribution as stated that his organisation didn’t do enough or think enough about bisexual people often making jokes at bisexual identity in training when they wouldn’t about L, G or T. He found the session useful hearing about research happening elsewhere and thinking about strategies that they could implement within their organisation.

On the whole my impressions from the day were mixed. I was frustrated at having lesbians and gay men speak on behalf of bisexuals without having spoken to bisexual people (see Marcus’s write up). I had hoped to hear more about work being done on bisexuality in a Scandinavian context, though we did learn about a Norwegian LGBT report (2013) that outlined that bisexual people have worse mental health though people on the panel did not know what to do with these findings. It was frustrating to have to explain many of the basics on bisexuality and biphobia, but I’m glad that people – including the panellists – listened and asked questions. I was left cautiously optimistic.

Maybe next year we won’t be invited, as they will find more bisexual people from Norway to talk at their event enabling them to run one in Norwegian.  Maybe next year there will be a more complex and nuanced discussion on bisexuality rather than a ‘yes bisexual people do exist’. Maybe next year they can find therapists who are willing to find bisexual clients and offer them support. After the panel, several people spoke to me about wanting to improve their research in Scandinavia on the bisexuality, and hopefully having something like BiReCon there. Yes it was far from perfect, but I’m glad that we went since Marcus and I highlighted that bisexual people exist, outlined biphobia and demonstrated that research is being done. I see us being invited in the first place as a sign that they want to have the conversation on bisexuality. Now for them to find their own way.

New article on bisexual counselling competence

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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.

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