A landmark report by Stonewall was in the Guardian newspaper, (including online) and quite possibly other serious UK papers yesterday. It’s a depressing report, concluding that most lesbians and gay men expect to experience homophobia in all/most aspects of their daily lives.
For the majority of my readers who don’t live in the UK, Stonewall is a “professional lobbying group” which “put the case for equality on the mainstream political agenda by winning support within all the main political parties”.
Now, what I have to say in the following post is in no way to lessen the fact that this report is important, or that lesbians and gay men have a tough time. They do. The idea, for instance, that gay teenagers (and those who aren’t gay at all but are “different”, or don’t fit in to gender stereotypes) suffer more homophobia (much more, it seems) than they used to, is frankly terrible. That we are all (yes, bi people too) meant to sit back and take random homophobic comments from all and sundry. It ought to be enough to make queer people want to act. Do something like, oh I don’t know, join Stonewall…
That notwithstanding, the attitude Stonewall seems to have drives me up the wall. As a campaigning organisation, it says it promotes equality and justice for Lesbians, Gay Men and Bisexuals. Huh. If they have ever done anything for bi people, except when they couldn’t avoid it because of our same-sex behaviour, I’ll be mighty surprised.
The mystery of the vanishing bisexual
Everything this report says about lesbians and gay men is true for bisexuals too. And, as they apparently asked 1,658 lesbians, gay men AND BISEXUALS then surely some of their findings must apply to bi people too. Except that we don’t know. The word bisexual only appears three times in this report (ie “The last five years have seen a catalogue of legal changes benefiting lesbian, gay and bisexual people”; “In 2007 Stonewall commissioned YouGov to survey a sample of 1,658 lesbian, gay and bisexual people across Britain.” Plus once in the conclusion in a similar fashion.) Elsewhere, we are noticeably absent. For instance: one in five lesbian and gay people expect to be treated worse by police than a heterosexual…. Nine in ten would expect to face barriers to becoming foster parents because they are lesbian or gay. Etc.
Now, if they had separated out the bisexual responses, or put bi responses in with the lesbian and gay ones, fair enough. But they didn’t. “Bisexual” is simply a word here, put in as a sop to us, a token that means absolutely nothing. Really, they mean lesbian and gay, and people who are having same-sex at the moment who they count as really lesbian or gay.
Do they not realise that, if a doctor, MP, schoolchild, panel of foster-parent approvers, etc etc etc knows someone is bisexual they very probably think a) they are lying to us/or themselves and are really gay; b) they are oversexed and highly promiscuous, therefore dangerous to society and children in particular. Therefore, bisexuals are considered at least as bad as someone who is in a committed same-sex relationship and quite possibly very much worse.
For myself, I remember going to the doctor and being grilled about why I didn’t need any contraception, didn’t I want a boyfriend… etc. Pretty much the same as a lesbian would be grilled I suppose – but I wasn’t one. I imagine (probably correctly) that if I said I was bisexual they would have been even keener that I take a contraceptive pill!
I wonder if the people who wrote up this research have ever read the Mind survey that shows bi people having worse mental health than lesbians, gay men, or certainly heterosexuals? That they were extremely unlikely to tell health care providers they were bisexual, had little support from friends and family, were poorer and so on. I wrote about it on this post.
This survey took place in Britain about British attitudes, but I think much of it is likely to be true for you too, wherever in the world you live.