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.

pp

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.

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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.

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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!

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

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Disturbing findings on bisexuality and domestic abuse

Bisexual Women Almost Twice As Likely To Be Abused As Straight Women

They are also three times as likely to be raped, according to the first-ever nationwide study on domestic violence and sexual orientation.
The first nationwide study to break down domestic violence rates by self-identified sexual orientation has found that lesbian and bisexual women are at higher risk than straight women, with bisexual women facing especially high rates.
The study [PDF], conducted by the CDC in 2010 and released Friday, found that 35% of straight women had experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by a partner at some point in their lives. But 43.8% of lesbian women had experienced one of the three, as had a full 61.1% of bisexual women. Researchers interviewed a total of 9,709 women — 96.5% of them identified as straight, 2.2% as bisexual, and
1.3% as lesbian.
Bisexual women were also the most likely to have been raped by anyone, partner or not — 46.1% of them had experienced rape at some point, compared with 13.1% of lesbian women and 14.7% of straight women. And they were more likely to report that domestic violence had negatively impacted their lives — 57.4% of bisexual women who’d experienced violence said they also suffered aftereffects like missing work or having symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Only 33.5% of lesbian women and 28.2% of straight women said the same. Read more…

An Introduction to “Bisexuality, Gender and romantic Relationships”

Emma Smith updates us on the findings of her recent research:

As we all know bisexuality is often a neglected, somewhat invisible identity in academic work on sexualities. Although, in recent years, there has been a minimal interest in bisexuality as a sexual identity it has thus far been nowhere near the extent to which research on heterosexuality and homosexuality has been conducted. It is for this reason that my research project entitled “Bisexuality, Gender and Romantic Relationships” explores the lived experiences of five bisexual women and their experiences of love and romantic relationships. This is an area which has been explored in the context of heterosexual relationships (Giddens, 1992), lesbian relationships (Rothblum, 1993) and gay relationships (Katz, 2003) but like in many other fields bisexuality and the relationships of bisexuals have been somewhat overlooked.

Bisexuality as a sexual identity has been a contested issue throughout society for many years; often being perceived as ‘greedy’, ‘indecisive’, ‘half gay’ etc. but this research project aimed to document the real life experiences of bisexual women in order to create and share a better understanding of what it means to be bisexual, the misconceptions surrounding bisexuality and romantic relationships and the issues
this can create in personal relationships as well as societal relationships.

Sexuality is often predominantly defined by the gender of a person’s romantic interests; by its definition identifying as a bisexual rejects this notion and therefore, the bisexual women interviewed choose partners based on individual traits regardless of gender. Although some traits could be stereotypically defined as masculine or feminine, the women involved in this research project agreed that gender is not a defining factor in searching for love and romantic relationships. However, the participants also agreed that their sexuality is often perceived by other people based on the gender of their current partner and this has been a recurrent theme throughout their entire adult life and has resulted in significant impact on both their romantic relationships and relationships between friends and family.

Although many organisations and events promoting the validity of bisexuality as an identity; most recently BiCon, BiFest and BiReCon have all been major contributors to promoting bi-friendly communities, it is clear from the experiences shared by the five self-identifying bisexual women interviewed that there are still many barriers to overcome in order to achieve acceptance of bisexuality as a valid sexual identity. However, it is also apparent that these women feel strongly about their identity and, despite the negative stereotypes that often come with it, are proud to be bisexual.

Hot bi babes: Stereotypes of bi women

Following the previous post on Jessie J, a new blog post is out today on radicalbi about media depictions of bisexual women. Here is a quote and a link to the rest of the article.

“In an article called Curiouser and Curiouser: the Strange ‘Disappearance’ of Male Bisexuality, British gay journalist Mark Simpson writes about biphobia against bi men, and compares their status to that of bisexual women. “It’s unques­tion­able,” he argues, “that female bisexuality is today much more socially acceptable than male bisexuality, and in fact frequently positively encouraged, both by many voyeuristic men and an equally voyeuristic pop culture.”… In this section, I would like to look a bit deeper into this “positive encouragement” and to question whether it really is so positive.

Simpson, of course, is right. Female bisexuality truly is encouraged by voyeuristic men, as well as by voyeuristic (male dominated) media. Spelling out media presumptions, Simpson writes that as opposed to male bisexuality, female bisexuality is considered “almost universal. It’s as natural and as true as it is wonderful and real and… hot!” And indeed, it seems that the main context in which female bisexuality appears in mainstream media is that of “hotness.”

In this section…, I want to be looking at media representations of female bisexuality in attempt to show the ways in which it is depicted, and the terms under which it is allowed to appear in mainstream culture. I wish to argue that while female bisexuality seems to be ‘encouraged’ on the surface, this encouragement applies to only one form thereof: that palatable to straight men. Bisexual women are presented in hypersexualized* contexts, as sexual objects for the hegemonic** straight male gaze, while directly or covertly appealing to a quasi-pornographic fantasy of a (2 females and 1 male) threesome, and while also reassuring us that these women are not really bisexual, but are rather simply behaving so for the satisfaction of the presumed male spectator.”

Read more…

Jessie J and bisexuality

Interesting article in The Independent on Sunday yesterday by Jane Czyzselska about Jessie J and the problems with bisexual and lesbian representations in the media.

Jane Czyzselska: Jessie J gets the Rock Hudson treatment

Poor Jessie J. The ridiculously successful “Do It Like a Dude” singer speaks openly as a proud bisexual, sings a song about being true to yourself, then someone comes along and ruins it all by claiming she’s a fake.

According to a new, unauthorised biography, Who’s Laughing Now? The Story of Jessie J, not only is The Voice star allegedly a lesbian, she’s also had the thumbscrews put on her by her record company, Universal, who apparently forced her to hide her Sapphic ways in favour of a bisexual image or risk her contract.

Read more…

Bisexual stereotypes

Interesting post over on the F word about possible responses to stereotypes about bisexual women being there for the titillation of heterosexual men.

Bisexual women more depressed

A new study has found, again, that bisexual people suffer more from distress than straight or gay people. The study by Lisa Lindley and colleagues is reported in the American Journal of Public Health and found that the results only held for bisexual women. The research discovered that women who were strictly identified as straight or gay did not have the same risk factors for depression as those who were attracted to both sexes. Once more this was felt to be linked to bisexual invisibility.

You can read more about the study on the George Mason University website, where Lindley is based.