The Bisexual Index

How To Include Bisexuals

< Famous Bisexuals, Including Dead Ones | Articles | The Invisible B At The BBC >

This article is written addressed to any organisation that wants to include more bisexuals, and can't understand why bisexuals aren't feeling included by them. But it isn't an easy check-box list of things to do ("add the B", "use more purple on the website").

Although we can state in simple language that doing so isn't just adding "and bisexuals" to all your existing documents, including bisexuals is more complicated than that, and the way that an organisation needs to change its thinking and language to do so is going to be very dependant on the sort of organisation you are. Before we explain why, it's probably best to first understand why you want to include us.

Where should we go?

Sometimes if you don't want to include us, we can take our business elsewhere. A charity that states it collects money for, say, lesbian and gay homeless people and not bisexual people will be unsurprised if bisexual people decide not to donate to it.

Sometimes if you don't want to include us, we can't take our business elsewhere. The made-up example in the paragraph above becomes dangerously exclusionary if the local non-LGBT homelessness charities insisted on passing over LGBT people because they assumed the "LGBT" charity was covering them, not realising they were in fact an "LG" or "LGT" organisation.

If you think that those examples sound very improbable, please remember that if someone thinks they're excluded, then that makes them excluded. It doesn't matter if an anti-bullying helpline thinks "we offer counselling to gay and straight children" is a convenient shorthand - what matters is how that is read by someone who feels they are neither and desperately wants someone who won't judge or condemn them. This might sound like we want a "special invite" to feel included, but consider this: once upon a time 'gay' groups became 'lesbian and gay' groups to make it clear they weren't excluding lesbians, so why now do they think it makes sense to go back to 'gay'.

Are you paid to cover us?

A lot of funding going to LGBT organisations is intended for LGBT use, but ends up being used primarily for LG use. LGBT organisations shrug and say "we don't have the bisexual users, or they donít' make themselves known to us, so..."

The fact is, they do have bisexual users/clients/customers/supporters. But the air of tokenism, of silencing, of exclusion keeps people from saying things like "As a bisexual I was glad to feel included". Somehow.

Surveys have shown that there's a lot of bisexual people out there who just simply don't come out as bi. Can supposedly LGBT businesses and organisations afford to not include them?

How to include bisexuals

Stop and think about what bisexuality means. It's not as simple as cutting/pasting the words "and bisexuals" in to a set of policy documents, web pages or a mission statements. Bisexuals aren't just "gay people who also have sex with other genders", any more than gay people are simply "straight people with different-sex attraction instead of same-sex attraction". Consider these points, for starters:

A Class Apart

For example, Stonewall's otherwise excellent Challenging Homophobic Language for schools contains no mention of bisexuality other than "lesbian, gay and bisexual" or as "LGB". Less inclusive still is their Supporting lesbian, gay and bisexual young people guide which includes a flowchart on what to do if someone comes out, that starts with "I think I'm gay" and goes on to explain how to reassure them that it's okay to be gay.

Here's the thing - bisexual teens aren't gay. They're terrified of being gay because the media and society is bombarding them with homophobia. Even when the message is "it's okay to be gay", that message is actually "despite the fact that people will hate you for it, some of us think it's okay to be gay". The last thing they want to do in order to come to terms with being attracted to the same sex as themselves is call themselves "gay", because that means denying they're attracted to people of different genders to them. That would mean accepting the myth that same-sex attraction wipes out and over-rides different-sex attraction.

Dear Stonewall - Bi People Aren't Gay. Get over it!

Why should coming to terms with their identity require bi people to deny their identity? Where's the advice on how to spot biphobic bullying?

Some people say "Oh, LGBT, what next! Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, questioning, intersexed, undecided, asexual, straight, whatever". True, there are other groups who could arguably be included sometimes. But that doesn't mean that LGBT is somehow unwieldy or confusing as a term. Please resist the "slippery slope" argument!

Two's Company. Any Two.

Bisexual people can have partners who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, straight (as can all of those too, shh!). So adding "and bisexual" onto safer sex advice for gay men doesn't magically make it safer sex advice for gay and bisexual men. It's no good assuming we'll go and also read the straight folks leaflets, sometimes it's stressful enough being brave and picking up one piece of paper in the library with the word "GAY!" emblazoned on it.

Here's another example from an email we recently got:

The local advice for new parents has a tiny advert for the local "gay parents group". No website, just a mobile phone number. It's probably voicemail, I think - so to get details I'd need to leave my own phone number. I don't feel secure doing so if I don't know that they mean "gay" to include "bisexuals". Bi parents who are in opposite sex couples that we know have been made to feel unwelcome on Pride, and although my wife and I are both bi, we look very straightish and so it'd be easier to keep our heads down and feel isolated but anonymous rather than risk biphobia targeted at us personally and then feel excluded, and still isolated.

People want to include us. They don't understand why we don't feel included. Hopefully this article has given some reasons, for others, and how to combat them, please read the rest of our website, especially the FAQ.

< Famous Bisexuals, Including Dead Ones | Articles | The Invisible B At The BBC >