Jo Swinson marks Bisexual Visibility Day

Bisexual Pride Flag23 September every year is Bi Visibility Day. Why, I hear you ask, do we need such a thing in these tolerant and accepting times? Didn’t we just pass same sex marriage?

Well, actually, there is still a fair amount of homophobia around. And if you are bisexual, you can actually experience  discrimination even from within the LGBT community.

A couple of years ago, The Bisexuality Report produced by the Open University and contributed to by LGBT+ Lib Dems’ Jen Yockney gave a snapshot of what life can be like for bisexual people in the UK. Many of its recommendations aim to tackle marginalisation of bisexual people and to promote a wider understanding of the specific problems they face.

Last year on Bisexual Visibility Day, LGBT+ Lib Dems’ Dave Page wrote an excellent post in which he outlined why this day is needed:

It’s needed because most people assume everybody’s either gay or straight. In the Lib Dems, people tend to assume I’m gay because I’m heavily involved with LGBT+ Lib Dems and most of the men who do that are gay. When I’m out with my female partner, people tend to assume we’re straight because most male-female couples are straight; when I’ve been out with a guy, people have tended to assume we’re both gay.

It’s needed because some people get upset or feel betrayed when their assumption about my sexuality turns out to be wrong, and blame me rather than themselves. It’s needed because some people get uncomfortable around bisexuals, as if we’re some different species it’s hard to relate to, rather than people who generally feel the same about gender as most people do about hair colour – we might have a preference, but it’s not a deciding factor in who we find attractive.

It’s needed because when a celebrity comes out as bi, people assume they’re doing it to be trendy or for attention, whereas they’re celebrated for their bravery when they come out as gay. It’s needed because there are a load of damaging stereotypes about bisexuals being nymphomaniac, untrustworthy, greedy, prone to cheating, or even psychotically violent. Many of these stereotypes even come from the gay and lesbian communities, even though a good number of gay and lesbian people have slept with different-gendered people while still identifying as gay or lesbian – peoples’ sexual identities being a damn sight more complicated than what they’ve been doing with their genitals recently.

It’s needed because even most organisations that refer to themselves as LGB or LGBT tend to concentrate almost exclusively on lesbian and gay people; bisexuals are tacked on as an afterthought, or bundled in with L&G people, while 2012’s ground-breaking Bi Report clearly demonstrates that bi people have different needs and outcomes than L&G people do. Stonewall have a very poor record of support for bi people and described mixed-sex civil partnerships as “a matter for heterosexuals” rather than something which affected a bunch of people they invite donations to support; most of their bi work was a direct response to a heavy “Some People Are Bi” community lobbying effort.

Liberal Democrat Equalities Minister Jo Swinson welcomed the day:

I’m proud that this has been a momentous year for LGBT equality. The first marriages of same-sex couples have taken place in England and Wales, and the UK has once again been ranked number one in Europe for LGBT rights.

Sadly some prejudice remains, which is why I’m very pleased to welcome Bi Visibility Day. It’s an opportunity to celebrate the lives and experiences of bisexual people throughout the country and tackle the barriers and challenges they can face.

I hope that Bi Visibility Day 2014 is a great success and gets more people thinking about the B in LGBT.


* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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