The Bisexuality Report in Metro

Today’s Metro included a great article about biphobia which included numerous mentions of BiUK’s Bisexuality Report.

Many thanks to journalist Francesca Kentish, and to clinical psychologist Siri Harrison for some great insights throughout the article.

IMG_1927

‘Just a phase’? This is why we need to talk about biphobia

Unless you’ve been in hiding for the past 40 years, chances are you know what homophobia means.

The same can’t be said for biphobia.

Simply put, biphobia is when people are prejudiced towards bisexuals.

It’s pretty similar to homophobia, except people often aren’t aware it’s happening.

Bisexuals often face added discrimination from people within the LGBT community as well as discrimination from heterosexual people.

Chances are you will have seen biphobia on TV or heard someone make a biphobic comment without even realising it.

Ever heard someone jokingly say bisexuals are greedy?

That’s biphobia.

Or that bisexuals should make up their minds?

Biphobia strikes again. Read more…

Advertisements

Bisexuality in UK news

This week bisexuality has been in the UK news as conservative MP, Daniel Kawczynski has come out as bisexual. Interestingly, for the first time it seems, Daniel himself came out to his association rather than being outed by the press having previously claimed a different identity. Also, the media reporting – and the response of his political party – have been positive, and have used the word ‘bisexuality’ rather than slipping into assuming this means that he is gay – as in the case of past media reporting of bisexual politicians.

Following the story, Radio 4 interviewed BiUK member, Edward Lord, about his own experience of being a bisexual public and political figure. You can read his blog about this, and follow links to the story and radio interview, here.

ed

On Monday this week, I accepted an invitation to be interviewed by Eddie Mair on Radio 4′s PM programme (minutes 46-52) to give a response to the decision of Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski to come out as bisexual.

I guess I was asked to appear because I, like Mr Kawczynski, am also an elected public official who happens to be bi, and who was profiled by Stonewall last year along with sixteen other lesbian, gay and bisexual people as a role model (see pages 26 and 27). Read more…

 

 

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…

Frank Ocean

Bimagazine.org piece: Ocean’s of Love Letter: Is one black man loving another man the revolutionary act of the 21st Century?

Sex, Politics, and Stereotypes: BiUK’s response to Julie Bindel, June 2012

In a recent article for the Huffington Post, Julie Bindel asks ‘What makes some of us uncomfortable with bisexual women’? She goes on to answer her own question by rehearsing a series of negative stereotypes about bisexual women, suggesting that they are apolitical, hedonistic, trendily transgressive sexual tourists, testing out their fantasies on unsuspecting lesbians and straight men. Interested only in the pursuit of pleasure, they are not to be trusted personally or politically, and indeed may not exist at all. If bisexual women had ‘an ounce of sexual politics’, she asserts, they would stop having sex with men and make a positive choice to identify as lesbians. Instead of this, they hedonistically pursue their sexual desires at the cost of their political integrity.

We would like to make two points in response to this article. First, a growing body of academic research and bisexual activist literature, both online and in print, and including work by Paula Rodríguez-Rust, cited by Bindel in her article, consistently demonstrates that for many people, identifying as bisexual is as much a matter of politics as it is of desire. As one bi activist told us:

Personally, I have definitely made a positive choice to identify as bisexual. I could easily identify as either lesbian or straight, but it’s politically important to me to identify as bi. My identity as a bi woman is grounded in my feminism, my conviction that gender and sexuality are socially constructed, and my commitment to LGBT equality. It’s deeply political- it’s just a different political position from Julie Bindel’s!

(Claire, bisexual activist)

Clearly, while many women who experience attraction towards people of more than one gender choose to identify as bisexual, many others choose to identify as lesbian or straight. All of these are valid choices, which may be made on the basis of deeply-felt political convictions. Bindel’s polemic, however, dismisses all viewpoints other than her own as apolitical, and swiftly resorts to name-calling. Bindel would most likely object, and rightly so, to a critique of radical feminism that relied for its credence on tired old clichés about cropped hair, boiler suits and man-hating, and dismissed lesbian separatism as an apolitical choice based on a failure to engage with the complexities of twenty-first century gender relations. It’s disappointing, then, that she dismisses political bisexuality in such terms.

Our second point is concerned with the impact on bisexual people of the publication of articles such as Bindel’s, which clearly promote biphobia. As we outlined in our recent publication The Bisexuality Report, research has repeatedly shown that bisexual people are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicidality than lesbian, gay or heterosexual people, and that this may be linked to the negative stereotypes about bisexuality which circulate in popular culture. These statistics are of great concern to UK bisexual communities and their allies, as well as to mental health practitioners, and for these reasons, bisexuality and mental health is the theme of BiReCon, our biennial conference, in August this year.

By recycling harmful stereotypes about bisexuality in the defence of political lesbianism, Julie Bindel contributes to the biphobic cultural conditions that contribute to high rates of mental distress among bisexuals. By dismissing bisexuals as universally apolitical, she betrays her own ignorance of approaches to contemporary sexual politics other than her own.

Helen Bowes-Catton for BiUK

Read more:

New Statesman response

Stereotypes bad for bi people

From the Academic Bi mailing list

Researchers publishing in the The Journal of Bisexuality say a variety of unfounded assumptions often driven by the media contribute to a culture of Biphobia that affects all bisexual people. The studies show that the Bisexual community is diverse and subject to discrimination from gay/lesbian and straight people alike, which negatively impacts the health and social lives of people who identify as bisexual.

Denise Penn, a director with the American Institute of Bisexuality (AIB), spoke with GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) about her thoughts on these recent studies, and how to end stereotypes about bi people in the media.

Penn, who says that bisexuality “is sometimes forgotten” by the public, is very pleased with the increasing diversity of LGBT characters in the media, but notes “there’s still a lot of progress to be made.” Often when a character is portrayed as bisexual, “the stereotype lingers that it’s a person who is confused, or someone who has a man and a woman on the side, or who has a woman and a man on the side.”

Read Full Article Here:
http://www.glaad.org/blog/study-shows-stereotypes-about-bisexuality-are-harmful

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.”

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.

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)

¿POR QUÉ LA BISEXUALIDAD NECESITA CELEBRARSE?

Read more of this post