Lib Dem MBE Jen Yockney talks about discrimination faced by bisexual people

Last year Manchester Lib Dem Jen Yockney won the first MBE for services to the bisexual community. In the current issue of Big Issue North, she features in an article about bisexual people, highlighting the discrimination that they face, even within the LGBT community itself.

For example bi people earn less than their lesbian and gay peers. We are more likely to experience domestic violence and stalking than our gay friends. And we are less likely to feel we can be out at work – bi men are about four times less likely to be out at work, and given the impact on your income you might argue they are sensible to be cautious.

Despite the myth of bisexuality as a stepping stone towards coming out as gay or lesbian, Yockney says that at the Biphoria group as many attendees previously thought of themselves as gay as those who had considered themselves straight.

When I was first coming out 25 years ago the received wisdom was that bisexuality was kind of half gay, with an implication of having half the struggle, half the problems. That never made sense to me. After all, you never got half queerbashed! If you’ve a strong, secure sense of yourself as bi you can get through that but it’s silencing for a lot of people. And because you can’t tell by looking, that silencing makes bi people much more isolated.

LGBT services are mostly focused on gay needs, so much so that I’ve known bi people seek help and be turned away because they were in mixed sex relationships, even though the problem they were facing was because of their partner’s biphobia.

Bi people have tended to be squeezed out, welcome only while we’re in same-sex relationships. I’ve known so many bi staffers quit gay organisations over the years because of attitudes among co-workers.

Jen is more optimistic about the future, though:

Naturally in all statistics we are using a broad brush: experiences like isolation and sexuality-based prejudice aren’t exclusive to or universal among bis. The Bisexuality Report helped throw how it is different for bis into sharp relief and there has been a change in the five years since it came out: even at the simple level like the LG Foundation becoming the LGBT Foundation.

Now, while we’re on the subject of Jen, here, for entirely gratuitous reasons, is her video showing how quick and easy it is to get to the Manchester Gorton by-election HQ. Jackie Pearcey needs your help. 

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7 Comments

  • awesome post xx

  • Lorenzo Cherin 8th Apr '17 - 2:40pm

    It is a real source of delight to me to read things like this, as it is a real cause of perplexity to me to even think that such lack of understanding towards people based on their orientation or attraction to other fellow adults, is ever felt or expressed!

    The sexuality ,or relationship centred lifestyle, of some of the most extraordinary people , is often not ordinary !

  • Richard Hall 8th Apr '17 - 2:56pm

    Brilliant post. We tend to look at the LGBTQ community as a monolith – of a group that as suffered equally, but there is a remarkable amount of bigotry inside the community itself.

    The “half gay” remarks are bigoted and ignorant, as is the tendency for lesbians to be treated as outsiders in the gay community because they aren’t men.

  • Simon Freeman 9th Apr '17 - 8:53am

    You’d think the world would have grown up by now. Why can’t we all just get along together and let people be themselves.

  • Diane Reddell 9th Apr '17 - 3:18pm

    I agree with Simon – get rid of the labels and respect people for who they are without judgement

  • I don’t think the problem is labels.

    Labels are, in the end, words, the building blocks of language, they are why as a species we are so hugely widespread and successful. Labels aren’t the problem; some of the connotations that as a society we’ve charged those labels with are.

    For this particular topic – the problem isn’t the word bisexual; the problem is biphobia.

  • Bisexuality is consistently overlooked by society, media and politicians. And yet the prevalence of people who might feel they are varying degrees of bisexual is potentially huge. Much more needs to be done to bring the word and understanding of what bisexuality means to the fore. It doesn’t help that there are elements in the LGBT community (some of them very senior) who have seriously held the bisexual cause back through their own bigoted attitudes.

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