Alan Cumming for bi visibility

Actor Alan Cumming has joined the ‘I am visible’ campaign to stop biphobia and bi erasure specifically. Read more on bi social network.


More on myth-busting

For a slightly less serious take on bisexuality myths (which we posted about last time), see:

Ten Totally True Things about Bisexuality

Bisexual comics

At BiUK we get excited about visual methods and the power of art and creative materials to portray things that words alone often can’t.

Yesterday The Advocate included the two bisexual-related comics below which provide a good example of this.

Kate Lethe draws and writes Kate or Die which includes a whole series relating to bisexuality.

Tara Mavery created Dirtheads and Gooch and is on the steering committee of the Los Angeles Bi Task Force.

Why does bisexuality need celebrating?

23rd September every year is worldwide ‘celebrate bisexuality day‘. Why, you might ask, does bisexuality require a day for people to take notice of it? In this post I will attempt to provide some answers to this question. There’s a list of events here if you want to celebrate bisexuality day in person.

The first reason for celebrating bisexuality relates to the notion of pride more broadly. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) pride events happen every year in many of the world’s major cities. These often involve LGBT people, and their supporters, marching through town in a parade of different sections of the LGBT community, each with decorated floats and banner.

The thinking behind LGBT pride is that, for much of recent history, being LGBT has been associated with shame. Only in the 1970s was ‘homosexuality’ removed from the American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) (which is used to assess ‘mental disorders’ in many countries), and it remained in the World Health Organisation International Classification of Diseases (ICD) as a ‘disorder’ until the early 1990s. Being LGB or T has been criminalised in many countries in the past, and remains so in 80 member states of the United Nations, still being punishable by death in some. The statistics on hate crimes remain frightening for LGBT people, and trans people in particular are attacked, stigmatised and ridiculed, even in the mainstream media. The pride movement is about raising awareness of LGBT people and about fighting for right to equality.

Obviously bisexuality is included as the ‘B’ in LGBT, so you might ask why it needs its own day in addition to more general LGBT pride events, LGBT history month and the various other celebrations of LGBT lives and identities which take place.

The reason for this is what is known as bisexual invisibility. This refers to the fact that bisexuality is often excluded or neglected in all kinds of ways, both in the world in general and within many LGBT communities.

A big part of the reason for bisexual invisibility is that human sexuality is often assumed to be dichotomous: that is people are seen as either attracted to people of the ‘same gender’ or of a ‘different gender’. Bisexual people are attracted to more than one gender (the ‘bi’ in ‘bisexual’ refers to them being attracted to both people of the ‘same gender’ and of a ‘different gender’), so they do not fit into this dichotomy.

Bisexuality draws attention to the problem with this dichotomous view of sexuality because bisexual people do not fit it. Also, some bisexual people say that they are attracted to people ‘regardless of gender‘, meaning that other things are more important to their attraction than gender is. That is challenging to those who think that sexuality is all about the gender of people we are attracted to, and not about other things such as the various aspects of people’s appearance or personality which we find attractive, the sensations we enjoy experiencing, the sexual roles we like to take, the scenarios we find exciting, the fantasies we find pleasurable, and so on. 

So how does bisexual invisibility manifest? Here are some common forms which you may well have come across:

  • Doubt being raised over the very existence of bisexuality, for example research studies which claim that certain forms of bisexuality (often bisexual men) don’t exist, textbooks which only cover ‘heterosexuality and homosexuality’, and journalism. This is despite the clear existence of bisexual communities, and statistics on the extent of bisexuality.
  • Bisexuality being seen as ‘just a phase’, or a time of ‘confusion’ on the way to a heterosexual, or lesbian/gay identity. Of course some people do identify as bisexual, or have relationships with more than one gender, before coming to identify as lesbian, gay or heterosexual. However, longitudinal research suggests that bisexuality is more often a stable identity than one which is relinquished for a different one over time.
  • Figures in history who had relationships with people more than one gender being interpreted as lesbian or gay, and their other-gender relationships or sexual encounters being ignored, leaving bisexual people with a lack of available role models. Also, historical LGBT activism being reinterpreted as LG struggles despite key involvement of bisexual and trans people.
  • LGBT organisations, or equality and diversity initiatives, dropping the ‘B’ so that bisexuality is included in the title but the rest of their materials default to ‘lesbian and gay’ or even just ‘gay’ and refer to ‘homophobia’ rather than ‘homophobia and biphobia‘ (bisexual people are often discriminated specifically for being bisexual, for example in the double discrimination they can experience from heterosexual and LG communities).

Bisexual invisibility is common in the mass media where bisexual people are very rarely represented. When a soap opera character is attracted to more than one gender they are nearly always shown as going from being straight to being lesbian/gay (like Syed Masood in Eastenders), or vice versa (as in Bob and Rose). The film Brokeback Mountain was described as a gay Western despite the characters also having close and/or sexual relationships with their wives. Newspaper articles about married male politicians who have been found to have male lovers almost invariably describe them as ‘really gay’, whereas celebrity women who have lovers of more than one gender are often presented as ‘really straight’ and having female lovers for the titillation of men.

Common everyday forms of bisexual invisibility include bisexual people being told to ‘make their mind up’, being assumed to be ‘really’ lesbian/gay or straight (perhaps on the basis of the gender of their partner), or being questioned about their experiences in order to ‘prove’ their bisexuality.

‘Celebrate bisexuality day’ is one means of increasing the visibility of bisexuality as a sexuality, and of developing awareness of bisexual invisibility and biphobia. Hopefully this will help in addressing biphobic hate crime, biphobic bullying in schools, and the distress experienced by many bisexual people due to discrimination and lack of acknowledgement of their identities.


Spanish Translation: (Thanks to Manuel Sebastia)


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The Bisexuality Invisibility Report

There’s a great new blog post about the Bisexuality Invisibility Report over on RadicalBi. Well worth a read.

This report was the model for The Bisexuality Report which BiUK are currently working on, focusing on the UK situation for bisexual people. That will be published at the beginning of 2012 and will be available here.

It’s My Story: Getting Bi

Tom Robinson’s Radio 4 show about bisexuality is now available to listen to online. Lots of interesting stuff about bi invisibility, biphobia and double discrimination.

There’s also a blog from the producer of the programme which is worth a read.

Vote bi at the LGF Homo Heroes awards!

Each year the Lesbian and Gay Foundation runs their ‘Homo Heroes‘ awards to recognise and celebrate the heroes of the LGBTQ communities. This year there are bi-related nominations in four out of the seven categories: most appropriate given that the awards night is happening to day before Celebrate Bisexuality Day on September 23rd. Many of BiUK’s own heroes are included in the shortlists…

Natalya Dell has been shortlisted for volunteer of the year for her fantastic work organising BiCon 2011 and many previous bi events, as well as her major role in UK bi activism.

Marcus Morgan has been shortlisted for Role Model. Marcus set up bi visibility group The Bisexual Index and recently spoke for bi people on TV’s Vanessa show, as well as organising bi events and speaking for bi community for many years.

Jen Yockney has been shortlisted for Community Champion for all her wonderful work editing the longest running bisexual magazine, Bi Community News magazine, organising the long-running social & support group BiPhoria, and so much more.

Bi Community News magazine itself has been shortlisted in the community organisation category.

Do your bit towards bi visibility and vote today! Voting is open until September 7th.

BiUK will be there on the night and will report back here.

BiCon this week

The annual UK bisexual conference, BiCon 2011, is happening from 1-4 September 2011. All details can be found on the BiCon website.

BiUK will be facilitating a workshop on all things research-related on the afternoon of Friday 2nd. Hope to see you there!

New York Times – Bi Men Do Exist!

The New York Times last week published an article reporting that bi men do exist. The history of this research is that a group of Northwestern University researchers previously conducted a study which – they claimed – cast doubt upon the existence of bisexual men. They now seem to have taken a U-turn on this in a study using a similar, but somewhat more rigorous, methodology.

Read the New York Times article here.

Read the research here.

Read the original New York Times article here.

Read the original research here.

Read some criticisms of the earlier research here.

Monosexual privilege checklist

Radical bi has put together a very interesting monosexual privilege checklist of all the privileges which are associated with being attracted to only one gender (or claiming an identity on the basis of such attraction, such as heterosexual, lesbian or gay).

BiUK would be interested to hear people’s thoughts on this – seems like a useful awareness raising tool.