(This essay is over the word limit, but as this is the first draft I hoped that I could cut it down during my editing) Scotland was recently found to be the best place in Europe for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) protection laws, such as equal marriage and adoption laws for those in same sex relationships. However, despite seeming like a LGBT utopia on paper, the real truth behind Scotland’s LGBT community is far less perfect.
The truth is, people who identify under the B part of the LGBT label aren’t made to feel as welcome as their fellow sexual minorities, a fact mirrored in the LGBT community all over the world. These people are bisexuals, which means that they experience attraction to both their own gender and other genders. When we live in a society where 49% of young people identify as “not 100% heterosexual” (and only 6% totally homosexual), it seems shocking that bisexual people experience the high levels of discrimination that they do, whether that be through excessive stereotyping or other negative ideas about bisexuality.
Nevertheless, we live in an age where only 8% of bisexuals feel “very much” a part of LGBT society. One reason that bisexual people are often not seen as a real part of the LGBT community is because they can always just “choose to be straight”. Many lesbian and gay people believe that because bisexual people are attracted to more than one gender, they can escape homophobia by only choosing to be attracted to the opposite gender.
However, this argument completely ignores the fact that bisexual people are often in committed same-sex relationships, so the discrimination they face from this being invalidated because of the presumption that they “could have avoided it” is ludicrous. In fact, people who identify as bisexual are in same-sex relationships more often than other-sex relationships on average. After all, homophobia tends to be directed at people in same-sex relationships, regardless of their sexual orientation, so a bisexual person in a same-sex relationship could just as easily be a victim of a horrific homophobic hate crime.
Same-sex intercourse is illegal in some 72 countries in the world and is punishable by death in 10, laws which do not just affect gay people. Any sort of homosexual relationship is still widely seen as “wrong” or “dirty”, so what makes bisexual people immune to this hatred? Some argue that bisexuals have privilege because they can pass more easily for straight, and while within a heterosexual relationship are able to bypass much of the oppression they would experience if in a homosexual one.
While this is definitely true in some circumstances, such as for bisexual people in so-called “straight-passing” relationships, to argue that all bisexual people are inherently privileged because of their ability to be attracted to the opposite gender is plainly wrong. In fact, many bisexual people experience victimization specifically because of this fact, especially from the LGBT community itself. It is no coincidence that bisexual people are both one of the most excluded groups and have the highest prevalence of mental health issues.
Being excluded from both heterosexual society and LGBT groups, bisexual people experience a double dose of ostracisation, even in spaces that should be considered “safe”, like places specifically for LGBT people. This leads to many issues, like a study in 2010 by the American Journal of Public Heath which found that bisexual people had higher rates of mood disorders than people of other sexual orientations: 60% of women had a history of a mood disorder, which contrasts with just 30% of heterosexual women and 45% of lesbians.
Furthermore, in a study conducted in Canada by the San Francisco Human Rights Commission found that bisexual women were more likely to be smokers and binge drinkers than lesbians, and were also more likely to have higher rates of mental distress and lower general health, even when other factors were controlled for. Bisexual men are also affected, with 34. 8% of bisexual men being suicidal, compared to 25. 2% of gay men and 7. 4% of straight men.
Some people who are against bisexual people having a larger role in the LGBT community voice concerns that bisexual people don’t need to be part of the community because they can take part in heterosexual society and feel welcome there. However, these mental health figures clearly show that bisexual people do not feel welcome in either place, with the authors of the 2010 study saying: “negative attitudes about bisexuality are present not only among the “dominant” heterosexual population, but among lesbian and gay populations as well, resulting in a “double stigma” for bisexual people”, which they believe has led to the shocking rates shown.
The obvious solution seems simple: simply allow bisexual to feel welcome in the LGBT community. Another problem that leads to bisexual people being shut out of LGBT circles is the sheer amount of negative stereotypes that exist surrounding bisexuality. One prominent lesbian internet personality called Courtney Brooke Adams even went so far as to say “lesbians don’t date bisexuals because lesbians are probably smarter in a sense that we know what we want and we go after it; that’s why we’re gay”.
This is just one example of the portrayal of bisexuals as confused people, who can’t make up their minds and are indecisive. Another widespread stereotype about bisexual people is that they tend to abandon their partners for those of another gender, and they aren’t loyal at all. For example, some people believe that if a bisexual woman is in a relationship with a woman, she will always realize that she actually prefers men, and so leave her partner for a man (or vice versa).
An example of this line of thought is another lesbian YouTuber, who said: “If you’re with a lesbian you know that they’re going to be going for you, for a woman, but if you’re with a bisexual there’s always that chance that they might go back to a guy”. This point of view is simply ridiculous. Say, for example, instead of bisexuals being attracted to more than one gender, they are instead attracted to more than one eye colour. In this circumstance it would be laughable to assume that someone attracted to more than one eye colour would automatically always leave their partner for one of another eye colour, so why is gender any different?
The last, and possibly most damaging stereotype, is that bisexuals lie about their sexuality. For bisexual women, it is often thought that they are actually straight, but pretend to be attracted to women to appear more interesting or desirable to men. For bisexual men, it is often thought that they are actually secretly homosexual, but too scared to “come out properly”, so all bisexual men are partially closeted homosexuals. Pano Tsaklas, a gay internet celebrity, even said “a bisexual is a liar who lies to themself about their true sexuality”.
This is plainly wrong. There are about 220,000 bisexual adults in the UK – surely they can’t all be liars? Why are these stereotypes damaging? For one, they paint bisexuals as people who are indecisive in all areas; people who lie and are disloyal habitually. Who is more likely to succeed: someone viewed as confused and irresolute, or someone who is not? Who is more likely to be promoted: an openly bisexual worker, or their closeted colleague?
These stereotypes can seep into all areas of daily life, and make bisexual life harder than it already is. It is because of this fact that bisexual people must feel welcome in LGBT circles, as they have no other place to feel safe from these stereotypes. To conclude, bisexual people experience many challenges within and outside of the LGBT community. Challenges like the stereotyping of bisexual people and an increased prevalence of mental illness are only worsened by not finding acceptance in groups of other sexual minorities.