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.

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.

Media reporting of bisexuality

Meg has written about media reporting of bisexuality over on Rewriting the Rules.

This weekend I was contacted by a programme-maker with the following request regarding a series on sexuality. They said that they were putting together their bisexual episode and wanted me to contribute to the discussion of whether ‘there really is such as thing as being bisexual’. Read more…


Bifuriosity in the Huffington Post

There’s a great article today by Matt Stanley and Lauren Connors in the Huffington Post responding to a recent belittling piece they published about bisexuality. Nice mention for The Bisexuality Report too. Thanks Matt and Lauren!

Bisexuals – its seemingly okay for belittling blogs questioning our identity (or even if we exist) to not only be granted a voice, but to remain largely unchallenged. This fact has been uncomfortably highlighted by Daniel Warner’s recent exercise in hackery, creatively entitled ‘Bisexuality: Is It Fun, Non Committal or Just Plain Greedy?’.

We hope Daniel realises how short this falls from the mark for groundbreaking, or even ‘edgy’ writing. Being bisexuals ourselves, we can assure you that being called ‘greedy’ happens to us with a tedious frequency – imagine, if you will, the number of times a day you might have to read an irritating phrase like ‘float my boat’ or ‘cut the mustard’. Lazy writing aside, we thought we could take this opportunity to explain (for those of you who are ‘confused’ or can’t make up your minds) what bisexuality is and is not. Read more…

BiNet wins google battle

After a campaign by BiNet USA and bisexuals worldwide, Google has removed bisexual from its list of banned words.

BiNet USA is pleased to confirm that Google Inc. has unblocked the term bisexual from its search algorithm. Now that “bisexual” is allowed, terms such as bisexual quotesbisexual rights, and bisexual parenting are automatically suggested to Google users.

“It’s not every day one of the biggest companies in the world changes its mind, but we are thankful that Google now sees bisexual people just like everyone else,” said BiNet USA President Faith Cheltenham“It will take time for bisexual search terms to be ranked as they were before the ban, but now bisexual people and their allies have a fighting chance to be seen, heard, and understood.”

Read more…

Bisexuality and depression

There’s a great new post up on Bisexuality and Beyond by Sue George on bisexuality and depression.

For long as I’ve been writing this blog, one of the main ways new people find it is by searching for “bisexuality and depression”. I find that really sad, but nothing like as sad as the statistics about bisexuality and mental health.

  • A major Canadian study found bisexual men 6.3 times more likely, and bi women 5.9 times more likely, to report having been suicidal than heterosexual people
  •  A large Australian study found rates of mental health problems among bi people to be higher than those among lesbians, gay men, or heterosexuals.
  •  The UK Mind report on the mental health and wellbeing of LGB people found that bi men and women were less at ease about their sexuality than lesbians or gay men, and less likely to be out.

Bisexuality and mental health is currently a big issue in the bi community. This summer’s BiReCon (the British conference that looks at current research on bisexuality) had bisexuality and mental health as its theme. Read more…

Google furthers bi invisibility

There’s a very useful article over on The Huffington Post about Google’s block on the word bisexual. Unlike the words lesbian, gay or trans, Google has blocked bisexual from its auto complete and instant search features. This means that if you type the word into a Google search you don’t see the other words which people have commonly searched for alongside bisexual, and you don’t get an instant sense of the million of web pages related to  bisexuality, bisexual communities and bisexual resources.

This has very real impacts, for example the article mentions one man who searched on Google to find out whether anyone was in his situation (by looking to see whether anyone had searched for bisexual and suicide). Finding nothing he assumed he must be alone.

Well done to BiMedia for noticing the blockage of bisexuality a year ago, and to BiNet USA for picking up on it now.

The president of BiNet USA, Faith Cheltenham, writes a fascinating analysis of this situation, in relation to bisexual invisibility, and calls on Google to change their policy. BiUK certainly support this call, and the research summarised in The Bisexuality Report would suggest that this is exactly the kind of area where we need to increase bisexual visibility.

Deconstructing images of bisexuality in the media

For the next 8 weeks bitchmedia will be publishing blog posts about examples of bisexual invisibility in the media. Definitely one to watch…

“Bisexual people are suffering, and the media continues to treat them as a joke. We have plenty of bisexual visibility when it’s dramatic, when it’s titillating, when it’s controversial. But we don’t have nearly as much bisexual visibility where it counts—honest, realistic portrayals of bisexual people that counter stereotypes and create an environment of support and equality.

Over the next eight weeks, I will explore both progressive and problematic depictions of bisexuality in order to see how far we’ve come and how much progress still needs to be made. Together, we will look at examples in film, television, music, celebrity culture, and new media. And, with any luck, we will be able to start a discussion about what the media could be doing to increase realistic and positive depictions of bisexual identities and, by extension, advance bisexual acceptance.”

The Bisexual Index on relationship recognition

The Bisexual Index has written a very thoughtful piece on the place of bisexuals in same-sex marriage and civil partnership debates, calling for the law to change to recognise both ‘same-sex’ marriage and ‘opposite-sex’ civil partnerships, and exploring the reasons why bisexual people wanting recognition of partners of a different gender to themselves might well opt for civil partnerships over marriage if that was possible.

The post includes comments from OutRage! and Stonewall about the continued invisibility of bisexual people in their policies and activism on these matters, such as the use of terms like ‘gay marriage’ and ‘heterosexual civil partnership’ in OutRage!’s campaign, and Stonewall’s consideration of ‘opposite-sex’ civil partnerships not being within their remit (despite being an LGB organisation).

Quote from The Bisexual Index:

“The way the law is currently written does not mention sexuality, but instead the genders of the people. Why can’t the people campaigning for equality understand that the way to amend the law isn’t to talk about ‘gay vs. straight’ but instead to address the genders – remove the genders from the law and it’s not just gay and straight men and women who’ll have equal love, but all of us.

Equality isn’t saying ‘gay and straight people can marry’, or ‘same-sex and opposite-sex couples can marry’.
Equality is saying ‘people can marry'”

Read the full post here.

Update on The Bisexuality Report

Things are going very well with The Bisexuality Report since its launch on February 15th.

The launch itself was a great success with attendees from many organisations, groups and political parties. The Metro Centre and Stonewall (who sponsored the event) gave great speeches about how useful the report would be, and the Government Equalities Office were extremely positive. We are now working with them (and BCN and The Bisexual Index) on five key recommendations to prioritise putting into practice.

So far there have been over 20,000 downloads of the report from the various places it is available online (here, on The Bisexual Index, and through the Open University)! Also, the American Institute of Bisexuality is keen to put the report on a free memory stick to give out at the various sexology conferences that are happening this year (along with the Stonewall report on bisexuality in the workplace and the San Francisco Bisexual Invisibility report). We hope to give the report out at BiReCon and the LGBT health summit as well.

The report also made it into various newspapers, magazines and radio programmes. We’re keeping a list of media reports here.