Combatting bi-erasure: Why Bi Visibility Day matters more than ever in a working-from-home world
By Sandy Downs on Wednesday, 23 September 2020
It was a privilege to speak at a joint panel event for bi visibility with GSK and Standard Chartered this week. We focussed on raising awareness, understanding, and celebrating the Bi+ community, including an explanation of bi-erasure, some myth-busting, and a discussion about what corporate diversity & inclusion initiatives can do to support bi people. With attendees from all over the world, and from all three companies (Chime, GSK, and Standard Chartered), the session aimed to educate and engage.
‘Bi-erasure’ might be a foreign term to the vast majority of people, but on Bi Visibility Day (23rd September 2020), it’s a word which should be front and centre of the LGBTQ+ / D&I conversation. It refers to the tendency to ignore or remove all evidence of bisexuality – this happens historically, with the likes of Shakespeare, and currently, including frequently with the likes of Tom Daley and Lady Gaga.
The impact of this is vast. Bisexual mental health is significantly worse than that of straight people, lesbians, or gay men, and there’s a sore lack of representation and role models in the main stream media. Funding for bisexual organisations is scarce, making up a minute fraction of LGBTQ funding in the UK. Films, TV, and adverts fail to adequately represent the bisexual experience; shows like Schitt’s Creek and Brooklyn99 are rare rays of hope. When I asked at a panel a year ago, nobody could name an advert which spoke to them as a bisexual.
And in the new world of agile working, the threat of bi-invisibility looms even larger. It’s no longer possible to come out casually at the coffee machine, or catch up with members of the LGBTQ network on the walk to the printer. LGBTQ employees must face a choice when building any new relationships: come out ‘officially’ on Zoom, or stay in the closet. This is exacerbated for bisexuals who often have their sexuality decided for them based on their relationship; a happy bisexual in a monogamous relationship will likely be quickly labelled straight or gay on revealing the gender of their partner, even by the most well-meaning of audiences.
So what does this mean for those trying to combat the problem? It means you can’t forget the B in LGBTQ. While at a policy level, policies targeting the LGBTQ community like equal parental pay and the inclusion of adopted children in parental policy will help across the board, LGBTQ events or initiatives run the risk of actively excluding bisexual colleagues. It’s vital that, both during bi-visibility week and throughout the year, LGBTQ events have bisexual representation, bisexual speakers, bisexual topics, and bisexual attendees. If you’re looking for more immediate actions, try the below.
- Donate to Bi Pride UK, including choosing them as your designated charity on Amazon Smile
- Do your reading – check out the Bisexual Research FAQs, any of the research on the Bisexual Index, or Mind’s resource on being a bisexual ally
- Call out anything you see on social media. Reporting posts make it less likely that targeted individuals will see harmful posts, so reporting posts for queerphobia improves the digital world for LGBTQ people across the board