A major new report documenting the bisexual experience in Britain has found that bisexuals suffer some of the worst mental health problems of any group within the LGB&T spectrum, as well as an “equality gap”
According to the report published by the Open University on wednesday, under the leadership of Dr Meg Barker, Senior Lecturer in Psychology with that organization, bisexual people have the worst mental health problems including higher rates of depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide – and this result appears to hold consistently both in the UK and internationally.
These issues are the result of “biphobia” – a form of discrimination that is wholly separate from other forms of discrimination such as homophobia or transphobia – and bisexual invisibility.
Attitudes towards bisexual people are also found to be more negative than those towards other minority groups, with them often being stereotyped as promiscuous, incapable of monogamy, a threat to relationships and spreaders of disease. These attitudes may play a role in the degree to which bisexual individuals are regarded in the workplace, and even act as a brake on promotion.
According to Dr Barker: “Government policy and equalities agendas generally consider lesbian, gay and bisexual issues together. However bisexual people often face prejudice from within lesbian and gay groups as well as heterosexual communities. They are invisible – not represented in mainstream media, policy, legislation or within lesbian and gay communities. Government and communities need to single out bisexual people as a separate group in order to address this equality gap.”
Stonewall Policy Officer Alice Ashworth said: “We’re delighted to endorse this report, which builds on Stonewall research looking at the distinct experiences of bisexual people. Bi people will be pleased to know that researchers really do understand their needs. Now it’s important for service providers, the media and employers to take those needs seriously – we hope this important work helps them to do that.”
For the Government, Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone said: “This Government is committed to tackling discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people; our action plan – published last March – made this absolutely clear. We will consider the findings of this report as part of our ongoing work to promote equality. There is no room for prejudice of any kind in today’s society.”
The launch of the report was accompanied by five key recommendations and out-takes from pressure group The Bisexual Index. These are:
– There’s more than two choices: widen your assumptions, be inclusive of bisexuality!
– equal health means equal for all: recognise the need to treat bisexuals differently, as equals!
– bisexuality is simple from day one: bisexuality is simply attraction to more than one gender, pass it on!
– in the office closet for a reason: value your lgbt staff, all of them!
– homophobic crimes target bisexuals too: bisexuals receive homophobic hate too – record us and reach out!
The Bisexuality Report: Bisexual inclusion in LGBT equality and diversity was written by Meg Barker, Christina Richards (Senior Specialist Psychology Associate at the West London Mental Health NHS Trust), Rebecca Jones (Lecturer in the Faculty of Health and Social Care at The Open University), Helen Bowes-Catton (PhD student in the Psychology Department at The Open University) and Tracy Plowman (independent scholar) – all of BiUK, with Jen Yockney (of Bi Community News) and Marcus Morgan (of The Bisexual Index).
The full report is available online.
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