CW: asylum, mental health.
Today is Bi Visibility Day and we've asked Vaneet Mehta, a bi activist, to tell us what it means to him. This year, Vaneet's hashtag #BisexualMenExist trended worldwide and helped countless people see themselves reflected in society.
Today is Bi Visibility Day, a day that has been celebrated since 1999. This is a day to recognise bisexual history, celebrate the bisexual community, and talk about the issues and experiences that bisexual people face. While bisexual people have come a long way since 1999, there are numerous issues that still persist, issues that are rarely highlighted or discussed within the LGBTQ+ community.
According to Stonewall’s statistics, when looking at LGB people, bisexual people are more likely to experience anxiety, self-harm and suicidal thoughts when compared to their gay and lesbian counterparts. In every category, bisexual women were worse off by a fair margin. And these findings are replicated in numerous other studies in other countries, too.
Bisexual people experience both the homophobia that gay and lesbian people face, along with biphobia.
This disparity between different groups in our LGBTQ+ community often isn’t talked about but it is important that it is, as it shows the specific impact that biphobia has on bisexual people’s lives. Bisexual people experience both the homophobia that gay and lesbian people face, along with biphobia. And when they experience discrimination, there are fewer places for them to turn to.
The LGBTQ+ community often isn’t a safe space for bisexual people. Historically speaking, bisexual people were often shunned from these spaces. For example, the London Lesbian and Gay Centre banned bisexual groups from using the space. But this isn’t just a historical issue. According to Stonewall’s statistics, 27 per cent of bi women and 18 per cent of bi men noted the discrimination they faced within their local LGBTQ+ community because of their sexual orientation. This is compared to just 9 per cent of lesbians and 4 per cent of gay men.
This is likely to factor into why 50 per cent of bi men and 43 per cent of bi women stated that they never attend LGBTQ+ specific venues and events, compared to 33 per cent of lesbians and 27 per cent of gay men. The safety in these spaces just isn’t there; they aren’t made for bisexual people.
Bisexual people noted this and started creating their own spaces, and there are a ton of great spaces online and in person for bisexual people. The Bisexual Index, Bi Survivors Network, Biscuit, London Bisexual Meet-up, Bi Pride UK, Bi Community News, BiCon, to name a few. But then a new issue arises: funding. There are reports in the US that show that, despite bisexual people making up roughly half of the LGBTQ+ community, less than 1 per cent of funding goes to spaces specifically made for bisexual people.
While the climate has improved for bisexual people, we still see the same topics arising again and again. ‘Bisexual people are transphobic’, despite the fact that bisexual doesn’t mean attraction to cis men and cis women but simply attraction to more than one gender, inclusive of all gender identities. ‘Bisexual people are cheaters’, simply because our attraction goes beyond a single gender. ‘Bisexual people are secretly gay/straight’, perpetuating the idea that bisexuality is just a phase.
I have had my sexuality questioned, both in person and online, from outside and inside the LGBTQ+ community.
These are all things I have seen online, constantly. I have had my sexuality questioned, both in person and online, from outside and inside the LGBTQ+ community. I have been asked how I know I’m bisexual, had my dating and sexual history quizzed, and asked which gender I prefer like they’re trying to gauge my ‘true’ sexuality. It becomes exhausting and frustrating to deal with. I spent so long questioning my own sexuality and now I have finally come out, I have everyone else questioning me instead.
We experience constant discrimination, are robbed of our spaces and are denied our existence. And yet people still believe that bisexual people have it easier. They think of bisexuality as a duality, a combination of gay and straight. They believe that our partial straightness gives us a level of privilege, but as all these statistics (as well as many others) show, this couldn’t be further from the case.
But this issue is so prevalent, it can even lead to death. Due to these stereotypes around bisexuality, bisexual asylum seekers are less likely to be granted asylum in the UK. There is this idea that if the person in question is capable of hiding their same-sex attraction in any form, they can return home and live out a safe existence. But in fact, they are sent home to their deaths. This fundamental lack of understanding on bisexuality puts lives at risk, especially for bisexual people of colour.
I spend a significant amount of my time within the community trying to educate people on bisexuality. I try to use my platform to dispel the myths and create awareness on the struggles we face. I do my best to support bisexual people, creating visibility in any way I can. This year, my hashtag #BisexualMenExist trended worldwide and helped countless people see themselves reflected in society. I’m hoping that my book on bisexual men, along with the T-shirts I helped create, will amplify this further. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done, but to ask bisexual people to do all of it isn’t good enough.
Those who claim to be allies to the LGBTQ+ community need to interrogate which members they are helping and how.
It is time for change. Those who claim to be allies to the LGBTQ+ community need to interrogate which members they are helping and how. Other members of the LGBTQ+ community outside the B need to show solidarity to their bisexual siblings.
Bisexual people need help, support and resources to continue to help some of the most vulnerable people in our community. Bisexuality is not a phase. For many, it is their end point. For others, who knows? Sexuality is a spectrum, it is fluid, it’s free, and it is time we embrace and accept that.