Sunday 23rd September will mark this year’s bisexual visibility day. The aim of bi visibility day is to raise awareness of the issues faced by bisexual people, and to raise awareness of our existence more generally. Bisexual people face erasure in society, in the media and in our personal lives. Bisexual peopel are often perceived as ‘really straight’ if with someone of a different gender, and ‘really gay’ if with someone of the same gender. We can face homophobia from the straight world and biphobia from the gay world – where there is sometimes pressure to ‘pick a side’
Bisexual people also face unique oppressions,. Bisexual men and women are more likely to experience domestic violence than their gay or straight counterparts. In the 2010 US National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 61% of bisexual women reported experiencing intimate partner violence, compared to 44% of lesbian women and 35% of straight women. 37% of bisexual men had also experienced this violence, compared to 26% of gay men and 29% of heterosexual men. Heron Greenesmith, of the Movement Advancement Project, suggests this may leave them at a higher risk of domestic violence (Outfront, 2017). Such findings highlight the importance of the work done by charities like Galop, the LGBT+ anti-violence charity.
Our invisibility extends into popular culture. Bisexual characters in film, TV and literature are few and far between. Bisexual actors such as Alan Cumming are frequently mislabelled as gay. Even when bisexual characters are portrayed, the word ‘bisexual’ is often avoided at all costs, for example, in Netflix series Orange is the New Black. More recently there have been more positive portrayals of bisexuality, such as Rosa Diaz’s proclamation “I’m bi” in Brooklyn Nine Nine and Darryl Whitefeather’s coming out song ‘Getting Bi’ in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Desiree Akhavan’s Appropriate Behaviour was also refreshing in its portrayal of a bisexual character.
Want to support bisexual visibility day? Think about printing a bi flag for your window/desk this week, sending an email round to your colleagues highlighting the day or sharing something on social media.
Bisexual Rep, LGBT+ Staff Network and LGBT+ Officer, University of Bristol Unison Branch
Do you identify as LGBT+ and work at the University? We’d love to have you as part of our network!