Teaching The Difference

Creating Engagement Around Bisexuality

For bisexual activists, what is most tiring?

This weekend I was invited to take part in the 2x panel discussions about bisexuality at EuroPride in Oslo.

Of seven panellists, three were bisexual people.

The remainder included representatives of LGBT organisations with the usual generalised remit to support bisexual people as part of LGBT. One of these admitted that they didn’t do enough to engage with bisexuals and said they would commit to actively seeking out bisexual engagement in the future.

The rest were rather non-plussed as to why they didn’t meet bi people, the stand-out star being the university professor who presented a slideshow entitled “The Invisible Bisexuals” based on the fact that in 30+ years of being an LGBT counsellor she had never (as far as she knew) met an out bisexual person.

Not that after 30 years she decided she was doing something wrong and went out and educated herself or sought out the bisexual community. No. If we’re not wearing bisexual pride t-shirts it’s our own fault if no-one thinks we might be here.

I am unbelievably tired of this attitude.

I am tired of LG(T) organisations adding the B and then sitting back and thinking it’s the bi community’s duty to engage them, rather than seeking us out and asking us our priorities.

I am tired of LGBT charities that fight homophobia and transphobia and that’s the whole list isn’t it?

I am tired of “but when we say gay we mean gay and bisexual, so other than this sentence we’ll never say bisexual”.

I am tired of “gay and bisexual means we cover bisexuals. We’d never need to say ‘bisexual’ or ‘straight and bisexual’ because we’re only interested in the gay issues facing bi people”

I am tired of hearing that biphobia (if it’s acknowledged at all) is an entity entirely contained within homophobia.

I am tired of institutional biphobia.

And I wish I was more surprised that this is still going on.

Bisexuals are not invisible. We are erased. Invisibility is an active effort – making oneself hide or taking on a disguise. We aren’t doing that. We’re being deleted.

But what can be done about it? I’m not sure the solution is just to encourage more and more people to be visible – as this just reinforces the idea that the visible bisexuals are the only bisexuals, and that bisexuals are a tiny minority that exists within the LGBT community. There’s a role for visibility increases, sure, but it reminds me of the way that sharing photos of starving children on Facebook may well raise awareness, but doesn’t cook anyone a tasty and life-saving dinner.

It’s not enough to be seen in the crowd. We have to be on the platform, in the boardroom, among the patrons.

And although I wish it wasn’t up to us to shoulder our way in, history shows us that these structures will generally not suddenly realise their oversight. We shouldn’t have to, but I’ve realised if we don’t they won’t.

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