BiUK Presents Important New Research Report On Bisexuality

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On February 15th, 2012 BiUK a British based umbrella organization for various bisexuality research projects and events – in collaboration with the Open University (OU) – launched The Bisexuality Report: Bisexual inclusion in LGBT equality and diversity (pdf).

This in-depth report, conducted by Meg Barker (Senior Lecturer in Psychology, OU); Rebecca Jones (Lecturer, Health & Social Care, OU); Christina Richards (individual and group psychotherapist within the NHS); Helen Bowes-Catton (PhD student in the Psychology Department at The Open University); Tracey Plowman (just completed an M.Sc. in Social Psychology at the University of Surrey) of BiUK with Jen Yockney (of Bi Community News) and Marcus Morgan (of The Bisexual Index), is the first of its kind in the UK. At the time of publication its recommendations have been endorsed by Stonewall, the Psychology of Sexualities section of the British Psychological Society, Pink Therapy, the Metro Centre, The Lesbian & Gay Foundation, Hertfordshire Foundation NHS Trust and the College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists (COSRT).

Meg Barker explained that The Bisexuality Report happened for three main reasons: The first was the publication, in 2011, of the Bisexual Invisibility: Impacts and Recommendations report by the San Francisco Human Rights Commission. Then second was a UK bi activist meeting in the summer of 2011 which many of the BiUK research group attended where BCN’s Jen Yockney suggested a report similar to the San Francisco one, but with a specifically UK focus. And the third was that there is now a big enough group, with just about enough time and expertise between them, to put something like this together.

While in theory Bisexual people are included in the acronym LGBT, the reality often is that the bisexual community’s issues and circumstances are not separately understood and addressed. Bisexual people are often rendered invisible in policy and practice, sometimes deliberately thru Bisexual erasure – despite evidence that bisexual people experience discrimination in education and in the workplace and are more at risk of mental health problems than their lesbian, gay or heterosexual compatriots. In addition being subject to homophobia (and in some cases transphobia) along with the rest of the LGBTQ+ community, bisexual people are also subject to a specific form of discrimination – Biphobia – from both the heterosexual as well as gay/lesbian community because they do not fit a problematic monosexual gay/straight model of sexuality. The report discusses these facts of life.

The Bisexuality Report while similar to the 2011 San Francisco report in focusing on the key areas of biphobia, bisexual invisibility, and the impact on health is updated to include specifically UK examples as well as international research. For example, the report includes an updated version of recent analysis of UK media depictions and how these often erase bisexuality by suggesting that people can only be gay or straight. Importantly, this 2012 report spends more time fleshing out the different groups who can fall under the ‘bisexual umbrella’. Diversity is a big theme in the report as we consider how issues may be different for different groups who may define (or be defined as) bisexual, and there is a section specifically on intersections between bisexuality and other aspects of identity, background and practice (including race, gender, age, geographical location and several other aspects).

Another unique aspect of The Bisexuality Report is that it concludes with a section on the positive aspects of the bisexual experience. Despite the many challenges of being bisexual in a culture which generally doesn’t recognize bisexuality and which discriminates against bisexual people, being bisexual obviously brings rewards as well as difficulties. Providentially a research study had recently been carried out on exactly this topic, including participants from the UK who were able to be included in the report.

This 2012 report is a very welcome and important addition to the cannon of Bisexual Theory & general Queer Theory as well as contributing to the fields of Queer Studies, LGBT Studies, Feminist Studies and Gender Studies. Additionally it serves as another important step along the road to ultimate understanding of the total spectrum of the human condition.

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