Bisexual Health Videos

There’s a brilliant set of videos on bisexual health available now on the Rainbow Health Ontario website covering friendship, partners, family and service-providers. Here’s one of them to give you a flavour.

See more…

It’d be great to do something like this in the UK in future. Take note all LGBT organisations who’re looking to up your B profile! Meanwhile thanks so much to Rainbow Health Ontario for this 🙂

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.

Where do we go from here? Addressing conflicts within LGBTQ etc. communities

Meg Barker reflects on recent debates about relations between bisexual and lesbian women in DIVA magazine, and considers wider issues of the ways in which we engage with such divisions within our communities.

The DIVA Article

Back in January Louise Carolin, one of the team at DIVA magazine, decided to write a piece about relationships between bisexual and lesbian women. She wanted to explore the fact that some lesbians are cautious about dating bisexual women, or even have exclusion criteria around bisexuality, and also about the sense of rejection and marginalisation experienced by bisexual women who come across such attitudes within lesbian communities, or from partners or potential partners.

Louise put a post up on the DIVA facebook page (January 18th 2012) entitled ‘why won’t some lesbians date bi women?’ and asked for comments from both groups. The post got 102 responses altogether which included a diversity of views. Of the original 80 comments, the majority were from lesbians and bisexual women who said they hadn’t experienced such exclusions or that they had good relationships; or questioning why it should make a difference whether someone is left for a man or for a woman and challenging myths around bisexuality. These positive comments received several hundred ‘like’ responses. There were also some accounts of painful experiences of infidelity or rejection, and some examples of biphobia (such as claims that there is no such thing as a bisexual person, or that all bisexual people are untrustworthy). There were fewer of these than the positive comments, and they were ‘liked’ less by other readers, but they certainly stand out for a bisexual person reading the comments.

Louise also interviewed me, as one of the authors of The Bisexuality Report to talk about these responses and to reflect, as a relationship therapist, on potential ways forward for bisexual and lesbian women who do come up against these issues in their relationships.

Following the publication of the article there have been several blogs and online discussions complaining about it (including two thoughtful posts on blogwasred and one on mercury_pheonix’s livejournal). Glasgow LGBT students’ association has demanded that DIVA reconsider their policies and practices around bisexual inclusion. Interestingly, they’ve suggested that DIVA editors read The Bisexuality Report – the very report that prompted them to contact me in the first place.

Most of the commentators don’t have too many problems with the article itself (although I’ll address some that they do have below). Rather, their problem is with the way in which it the article is framed. Whilst the title of the article is ‘why do you have to be a heartbreaker?’ (which could refer to either the bisexual or lesbian women involved in such situations), the front cover strapline is ‘bye biphobia – how to overcome your fears and date a bisexual’ which clearly suggests that intended readers are lesbians rather than bisexual women, despite DIVA being described as a monthly magazine ‘for lesbians and bi women in the UK’. Commentators pointed out that this is exactly the kind of bi invisibility which has been linked to feelings of alienation amongst bisexual people in countless studies. They were also concerned with the biphobic views expressed by some of the readers whose experiences were included alongside the article, and (in the case of the Glasgow LGBT student association) with an earlier piece of satire in the same issue of the magazine sending up the stereotype of bisexual people being ‘paralyzed by indecision’ (which could perhaps be read either as pointing out the ridiculousness of such stereotypes and/or as perpetuating them).

Addressing such conflicts

I am very interested in these debates, not just because of the content – which has such relevance for bisexual visibility and for relationship conflict – but also because of the process of how the debates are playing out. These processes are reflective of so many conflicts that we have seen in recent years, within LGBTQ communities and more broadly, when issues of marginalisation, privilege and oppression are being discussed.

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First Critical Sexology Up North Event on Celebrate Bisexuality Day!

Celebrate Bisexuality Day is 23rd September every year.

This year we will mark the day in Manchester with the first ever Critical Sexology Up North event, featuring two of the speakers from last year’s international BiReCon event: Christian Klesse and Anna Einarsdottir. To see short clips of them speaking go here.

 

Critical Sexology is a successful seminar series which has been running in London for nearly a decade. It is an interdisciplinary seminar series for psychologists, psychoanalysts, medical doctors, literary and cultural studies scholars, philosophers, artists, lawyers and historians with a critical interest in the construction and management of gender and sexuality in the medical, human sciences, discursive and cultural spheres. Established in 2002 by Iain Morland and Lih-Mei Liao, Critical Sexology has since held three seminars per year, with meetings taking place in London. The seminar is currently co-organised by Lisa Downing (University of Exeter), Meg Barker (Open University), and Robert Gillett (Queen Mary, University of London).

From 2011, one seminar out of the three we organise per year will be held at a university in a northern location. This first will be in Manchester in September:

23 September 2011, 2pm-6pm: Relationships

Venue: Manchester Metropolitan University, John Dalton building, room 0.05

Organised by Meg Barker in collaboration with Christian Klesse

Speakers:

Anna Einarsdottir and Brian Heaphy (University of Manchester) – Civil Partnerships

Christian Klesse (Manchester Metropolitan University) – Non-monogamous Relationships

Mark Carrigan (University of Warwick) – Asexual Relationships

Respondents: Eleanor Wilkinson (University of Leeds) and Hera Cook (University of Birmingham)

All details of the event are here, and a map to the venue can be found here, including a pdf of how to get to the venue.