“I’m bi, actually” - Celebrating Bisexual Awareness Week 2023
Date: 19 September 2023
To recognise Bisexual Awareness Week 2023, our Equality and Diversity Manager Emma Sutton writes about her own experience with bisexuality and what it means to them today...
I have identified as bisexual since the age of 14. Bisexuality is defined as attraction to more than one gender. In my personal experience, however, when disclosing my bisexuality, people often to say "oh so you're attracted to both men and women?" and tend to forget that non-binary and gender fluid people exist. For this reason, in the past year or so, I've started to use the term pansexual. Pansexuality is defined as the attraction to people, regardless of their sex or gender identity. So, although the term bisexual does not specifically mean a person is not attracted to all genders, I personally like that the term pansexual often opens a conversation and feels more inclusive towards the trans community. In all honesty, I'm comfortable with and use the labels pansexual, bisexual and queer interchangeably or will quite often simply identify as "not straight".
I've been out at work, to those I've worked closely with, for about six years now. Although conversations initially (and expectantly) lead to some questions and curiosity, I've always felt this was done in a genuine and respectful way. I'm happy and proud to say that the only impact being open about my sexuality at work has had is in a positive way, in that I'm free to be myself around my work colleagues. I want to thank those staff, and you know who you are, for seeing me as a whole person, and for their acceptance of my sexuality as just another part of who I am - not a label.
On bisexual awareness day, as someone who is attracted to more than one gender, I thought I'd share some facts as well as some common experiences within the bisexual community.
In the Rainbow Britain Report 2022, which looks at attraction and identity in Britain, it found that just 53% of Gen Z identified as exclusively straight with 14% identifying as bisexual or pansexual. Other studies suggest that, of people who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual, bisexuality accounts for approximately 50% - you could argue that the B is the biggest letter in the LGBTQIA+ community!
Many people in the bisexual community, however, feel it is treated as the smallest letter and is often lost amongst the gay and lesbian communities. Hence the title of this story, which I’ve taken from the Netflix teen drama Heartstopper, based on graphic novels by Alice Oseman, where one of the main characters has to continually correct people, telling them he is bisexual when people assume, because he has a boyfriend, that he is gay.
I've listed below some examples of common experiences of people who identify as bisexual:
- Assumption of sexuality based on current/latest partner – bisexuality is my sexual identity regardless of my partner’s gender identity
- Assumption of heterosexuality if you have children (this one isn't just for those of the bi community!)
- Being called "confused", "greedy" or told to "pick a side"
- Assumption that attractions to people of the same gender is "just a phase" or the opposite and that it's a "steppingstone" to coming out as lesbian/gay
- Bisexuality in women, specifically, is often treated as an invitation by heterosexual men to ask about sexual details
- Seen as more likely to be unfaithful in a monogamous relationship
- People feeling that bisexuality requires "proof" or a history of relationships with more than one gender to justify its validity
- The bisexual community can experience discrimination from both the heterosexual and LGBTQIA+ communities and can be seen as a threat or traitors to the cause of gay and lesbian communities
I'm lucky and grateful that the people I surround myself with are open, accepting and that, for the most part, my sexuality (regardless of the labels I use interchangeably) is accepted as a part of who I am. But this hasn't always been my experience, and often isn't the experience for many people who identify as bisexual. It can be a fight on all fronts to be acknowledged, let alone accepted in society, as bisexual.
I hope this story goes some way to raise awareness to the issues faced by the bisexual community and recognise the fact that bisexuality makes up a huge number of our LGBTQIA+ community. The research undertaken in relation to the Gen Z community suggests that many more of our younger generation are comfortable being open about their identity, and that should bring hope to all for the future of the LGBTQIA+ community.
This story has also given me an opportunity to celebrate my identity, increase bi-visibility and be loud and proud about being "bi (or pan or queer or not straight), actually!"
To recognise Bisexual Awareness Week 2023, our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager Emma Sutton writes about her own experience with bisexuality and what it means to them today...