You may not know his name, but Alan Jessop is as much a Canberra icon…
Today, Thursday 23 September, is International Bisexuality Day and this week, around the globe, we celebrate bisexuality and seek to accelerate greater acceptance of the bi+ (bisexual, pansexual, fluid, no label, queer, etc.) community.
Over the past few years, there has been a surge of acceptance and inclusion for the LGBTIQA+ community but, unfortunately, this is not always the same for the bisexual community.
Despite making up a substantial portion of the larger community, bisexuality and the issues bi+ people face, are often under and/or misreported.
Meridian works all year round to ensure representation that reflects the diverse experiences, triumphs and challenges of the bi+ community.
However, this week we want to specifically celebrate and draw attention to the experiences of the bi+ community, while also celebrating the resiliency of, the bi+ community.
What is Bi+?
Bi+ is an umbrella term and according to a well-known bisexual activist Robyn Ochs the working definition is “a potential for attraction romantically and/or sexually to people of more than one gender. Not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree”.
There are many labels and micro-labels that fall under this umbrella including bisexual, pansexual, queer, omnisexual, bicurious, polysexual, etc. The plus acknowledges all the identities that fall within this umbrella.
While the term bi+ is relatively new, people who are attracted to multiple genders are not. First Nations people who experience attraction to multiple genders have been living on this land for thousands of years, before western frameworks of sexuality, social constructs and colonial language were imposed.
My good friend Edan said to me that being bi+ was great now she had it all figured out.
“I’m in a happy relationship and I don’t feel the need to treat or see my sexuality as any more of an issue than it would be if I was straight, but it has taken me a long time and a lot of courage to get to this space.”
“I sometimes try and think of being bi as having a funky taste in music or being really passionate about Italian cheese—people may be surprised and intrigued when you tell them, but not in a bad way, and if they turn their noses up, they’re the weird ones.”
So this International Bisexuality Day, let’s think about being bi+ as the opportunity to get away from the idea that people’s value depends on their bodies or how the opposite sex thinks they look.
Bisexuality helps us stop thinking about the world in categories and judging people based on certain characteristics. Girl/boy, woman/man, gay/straight…they’re all just words we use to describe people who are in fact so much more than those words.
We need to acknowledge that this journey may not be ideal or easy for many in our community. Biphobia and Bi-erasure very much exist and this causes poor health outcomes for those impacted.
Biphobia is prejudice, invalidation, and discrimination against multi-gender attraction. It can be interpersonal, internalised, and systemic.
Biphobia in Australia is widespread, with the most recent Australia Talks survey (60,000 participants) showing that 44% of Australians would not want to have a romantic relationship with someone who is bisexual, based on their sexuality alone.
Biphobia can look like assuming a bisexual man is gay and can therefore not truly love his wife or be a trustworthy partnership. Biphobia exists within the general population, as well as within the LGBTIQA+ community.
Bi-erasure is a type of biphobia, and involves the ignoring, removing, or denying of a person’s experience of attraction to multiple genders.
An example of bi-erasure could be the labelling of a person as ‘straight’ or ‘gay’ based on the gender of their partner. Bi-erasure can be seen in everyday interactions, in entertainment, in media, in data collection, and in many other instances.
Bi-erasure is often unintentional, but continual erasure has harmful impacts on the health and wellbeing of bi+ people. Honestly, how many times did David Bowie have to state he was bisexual for the media to finally acknowledge it?!
Bi+ people’s experiences are unique and are very different from their lesbian and gay counterparts. Unfortunately, this includes experiencing biphobia, coming out to partners, feeling a lack of connection to the community, and encountering poor interactions with health services (mainstream and LGBTIQA+ specific).
Bi+ people have the poorest mental health outcomes of any sexual identity, are the least likely to come out to their medical provider and have the highest rates of sexual assault. The greater LGBTIQA+ must empower and supports this valuable, and sometimes vulnerable, part of our community. Make sure you remember to send some love out to your favourite bi+ people this week.
Meridian has a community-based peer-led approach to bi+ health in all our initiatives. We welcome our growing and evolving bi+ community. We actively tackle biphobia in our health promotion and provide support services to meet the unique needs of bi+ people.
This International Bisexuality Day, we call for more research that accurately reflects bi+ people’s unique experiences to ensure that there are more services across Australia that are specialised in bi+ health. This includes an intersectional understanding of the diversity of language, experiences and identities of bi+ people.