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.

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…

Bi Visibility Day

Happy bisexual visibility day!

Here’s a link to a BiUK post from 2011 about why September 23rd is important:

https://bisexualresearch.wordpress.com/2011/09/23/why-does-bisexuality-need-celebrating/

Meg from BiUK will be taking part in this event tonight for bi visibility, along with Jen Yockney from Bi Community News.

BiVis

Check out Meg’s presentation for the event here:

http://prezi.com/envyesbgvkzd/the-bisexuality-report/

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…

BiReCon 2012: Meg’s talk

Thursday 9th August 2012 saw the third biennial BiReCon event (#birecon2012 on twitter). Following the main findings of The Bisexuality Report, published earlier this year, the conference focused on bisexuality and mental health. Huge thanks to Rebecca Jones, Caroline Walters and Helen Bowes-Catton for organising such a wonderful event.

The full programme of the event is available here and we will be encouraging speakers to write up their presentations for BiUK and/or BCN over the coming weeks and months.

Keynote talks considered the individual and community implications of bisexual mental health, explored intersectionality and debates around ethnicity and sexuality, and outlined changes in the UK mental health system, drawing out possibilities for future bisexual mental health. In parallel sessions we heard fascinating explorations of the overlaps between stereotypes of bisexuality and the diagnostic category of borderline personality disorder, as well as an important consideration of eating disorders in bisexual men. One workshop covered bisexual people’s experiences of mental health services, which will be fed back to key National Health Service providers. Talks also dealt with understandings of sexuality more broadly, non-monogamous relationships, Shakespeare, and the importance of the bisexual community in relation to mental health.

For Meg Barker’s presentation on Depression and/or oppression? Bisexuality and Mental Health you can view the prezi presentation here, and listen to it (and Rebecca’s introduction to BiReCon) on these youtube clips.

 

 

 

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.

New UK bisexuality research

Caroline Harvey explains her new study:

Learning To Get Bi? Analysing Postmodern, Poststructuralist, Queer Theoretical, and Sexual Geographical Perspectives on the Construction of ‘Bisexuality’ and ‘Bisexual’ Sexual Identity. 

How is Bisexual Identity and ‘Reality’ Constructed Within the Straight/Gay Binary of the Modern Western World?”

Basically I’m attempting to analyse and construct a ‘basic’ understanding of how bisexual men and women are able to formulate and be confident and comfortable in their bisexuality when the majority of the Western world and subsequent policy, legislation and even general ‘common-sense’ understandings of sexuality tend to be very much dominated by and regulated within the binary of straight/gay and lesbian identity. Hopefully this work will highlight the impact of biphobia, bi-invisibility and the very real ignorance and avoidance that bisexual people encounter on a regular basis. The usual stereotypes which can be evidenced by both hetero-/homosexual communities can often be over looked or seen as acceptable in many sectors of society, and therefore this work intends to challenge and question why this is acceptable.

The dangerous and damaging consequences of biphobia and bisexual ‘avoidance’ cannot be ignored and the fact that despite Western society insists and promotes the gay/straight dichotomy, bisexual men and woman continue to live their lives as such, being proud and comfortable in doing so and I would asset proves that rather than (as at present) being deemed as an afterthought, bisexuality, queer identity, gender fluidity, gender fucking, pan sexuality, omnisexuality and any other of the myriad of explanations and representations that individuals choose to describe themselves as thus therefore needing to be awarded their proper and deserved place in society.

One point I find especially pertinent is that until 1967 ‘homosexual acts’ between 2 men was deemed illegal, whilst in 2005 civil partnerships between same sex couples came into force. Bisexuality seems to be in a similar position; whilst not criminally illegal or legislated against (although ostensibly morally so) how long will it take for bisexual identity to gain its rightful acceptance in society.

I am also aiming to use the blogs of bi men and women in order to gain insight into and trace if/when changes and transitions in attitudes occur and so if anyone knows of something/someone which could be of use in my research I would be extremely grateful and they can contact me on: caroline.harvey@research.sunderland.ac.uk

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.

 

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.

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.