Tuesday 15 April 2014

Manchester Council takes another step in recognising bisexuality

Until not so long ago Manchester City Council had the non-existence of bisexuals as a matter of policy. No, really: in service use monitoring, equal opportunities policies and suchlike, the official line was "at those times a bisexual is lesbian or gay they are covered by those policies and at those times they are heterosexual..."

Things are improving.

They've just published the annual Communities Of Interest report, which is a kind of "here is the evidence base" document on diversity concerns for the council and for voluntary and private sector organisations they work with. This has been published for many years now, and each time has a section on LG(B)(T).

This is the first time there's been a bi section. Previously we were a subset of lesbians, which, hmmm.

Full report here. Flick past the first 64 pages and you come to:
9.3 Bisexual community
Recent research carried out by BiPhoria in Manchester has suggested that being visible, being included and being acknowledged are some of the main issues for Manchester’s bisexual community. Bisexual people can often experience discrimination from both the gay and heterosexual communities, and at an LGBT Discussion Day event, hosted by the Council in 2011, BiPhoria found that people wanted bisexuality to be referenced explicitly in literature and wanted services to engage more with the bisexual community. This has been a key action for the group since 2011. Bisexual ‘invisibility’, along with bi-erasure and biphobia are recognised as the most common challenges for bisexual people.

Biphobia may be characterised as taking four key forms:
––Similar to homophobia
––Similar to heterophobia
––Structural or institutional biphobia
––Internalised biphobia absorbed from a culture of the first three.

Manchester has one of the highest profile bisexual communities in the UK and is home to BiPhoria, and the bisexual magazine Bi Community News. As with any other group that experiences oppression, bisexual people may also encounter additional prejudice due to intersectional marginalised identities, for example bi women, black bisexuals, or bisexual genderqueer people.

Stonewall’s 2009 report ‘Bisexual People In The Workplace’ reflected that the positive impact of LGBT Staff Networks on lesbian and gay employees does not extend to bisexual staff. Research published by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency in 2013 showed that bisexual staff are significantly less likely to feel they can be ‘out’ in the workplace than lesbians or gay men:

The Bisexuality Report (Open University, 2012) reflected that these challenges for many bisexual people also extend into areas such as crime and policing, where homophobic hate crime monitoring may fail to address and recognise bisexuals’ experience of biphobia and homophobia.

It's fun to see my "four flavours of biphobia" model, albeit in very condensed form, in a council document.  It's also a bit scary to think that I wrote it about twenty years ago, citing certain Manchester City Council services as examples of institutional and structural biphobia.

Though it is frustrating that there are no specific actions for the council and its partner organisations to take up, I hope this sets a good marker down illustrating some of the key issues for bis and the evidence base underpinning those on which to build in future years.