In the UK there is a general lack of visibility of bisexual people and with it a lack of support (financial or otherwise) for advocacy groups for bisexual people. There area also few studies on the experience of bisexual people and the way socio-political and cultural structures impact their lives. In addition, biphobia and bi-erasure within LGBTQ+ communities tends to limit the full inclusion of bisexual people.
Biphobia and homophobia
Around 50% of people experience biphobia when accessing public services including the NHS. Some of the issues raised are shown in the quotes below from the largest UK study to date on bisexuality.
However, it is important to remember that biphobia is not the only form of sexual orientation discrimination that bisexual people face. They also face general homophobia, especially when in same-sex relationships.
Being yourself and accessing services
Being open about one’s sexual orientation can be necessary and important when accessing services, in order to ensure that needs are met appropriately. Some people even exclude themselves from accessing services because they fear being in a situation where they need to come out. While it should be up to each individual person to decide if they want to ‘come out’ and who they want to tell, the Equality Network believes in
bringing about a society where everyone feels able to live openly and be themselves. No bisexual person should feel as though they need to hide who they are for fear of negative reactions and treatment.
Mental health and disabilities
Although there is a dearth of literature on bisexual people, some recent studies show that bisexual people are more likely to be affected by mental health issues and disabilities compared with lesbian and gay people. In addition, the self-reported health is much worse among bisexuals and those identifying with another non-heterosexual identity.
Intersectionality and biphobia
The study called ‘Complicated? Bisexual Report’ published in 2010 showed that about half of respondents reported that the kinds of biphobia they experience are different because of other aspects of their identity, especially their sex and gender identity. Some of these respondents also noted that the kinds of prejudice they face also depend on the identities of those who discriminate against them. Many respondents said that bisexual women are disproportionately targeted for abuse. Some respondents said that they experience more, and feel at higher risk of, sexual assault and feel generally unsafe because they are bisexual and female. It should be noted that this is one of the few studies that looks at intersectional issues.
Bisexual inclusion: how to improve services
- Training for staff on bisexuality – use resources from Stonewall, put together flyers and leaflets. If you need additional guidance contact the EDI Team.
- Increase knowledge of what the bisexual community needs by running surveys and engagement sessions.
- Avoid making assumptions, ensure staff LGBTQ+ networks or other services accessed by the LGBTQ+ community have awareness around bisexuality.
- Specifically talk about biphobia when delivering equality and diversity training that covers sexual orientation.
- Support local bisexual health and well-being groups. Consult and work in partnership with these groups.
- Promote Bi-Visibility Day to raise awareness.
- If you work in an organisation ensure there is senior level support for all sexual orientations which acknowledges bisexual identities. It can often be very hard for people who are bisexual to come out in the workplace because of biphobia from across different communities.
- Ensure language interpreters used by a service are aware of the needs of bisexual service users.
- Try to be flexible with terminology, not all bisexual people accept the binary (attraction to those who are male or female, and not other genders).
- Have bisexual inclusive literature in areas accessed by service users, to show support and acknowledge the wide user base of patients and other service users.