News Feed: Landmark report on bisexual discrimination published this week

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.

Jane Fae

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4 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Jennifer said,

    Thanks for publicising this! and for your blog in general which is v cool 🙂

    These issues are the result of “biphobia” – … – and bisexual invisibility.

    That line isn’t quite right. Without re-reading the report I can’t cite exactly how the writers put it… but to clarify from my own understanding, I’d say those two factors are being flagged up as ways that bi people’s experiences differ significantly from lesbian & gay people’s.

    It’s not that they’re the main 2 mental health obstacles for bi people, because that would be to omit heterosexism & homophobia(1).

    I’d suggest too that biphobia would not exist in the same way without homophobia. If gayness weren’t such a loaded cultural issue in the first place, then bisexuality would have a lot less baggage. E.g. it wouldn’t be stigmatised as a “failure to choose sides” if the situation hadn’t been construed as “sides” in the first place.(2)

    So for both these reasons, it’s misleading to talk about bi people’s mental health & cultural status as if it could be completely separated from the anti-gay prejudice which L, G & B people all have to deal with.

    However, for some purposes, it’s essential to look at the L, the G and the B separately. And part of the importance of recognising bisexual invisibility and anti-bi prejudice is precisely because they are reasons why you can’t lump LGB people together for research & strategy purposes.

    (1) Just wanted to acknowledge here that I’ve recently been getting more iffy about prejudice-terms of the genre “x-phobia”. They’re imprecise anyway, but also see discussion @ &

    (2) in fact, a bit tangential, it’s my impression that some of the prejudice aimed at bi people is similar to prejudice aimed at non-binary trans* people (and potentially any trans* person) – the transgression being a refusal or failure to fit the perceived “available boxes”. In that sense, biphobia is not “wholly separate” from transphobia either; there’s something similar underlying both (with flavour in the area of “how DARE you not stay in your box?! Not allowed!!!!”).

    h.t.h. 🙂

  2. 2

    […] The full report is worth a read, as it includes the testimony of many bisexual people and a helpful discussion for understanding the identity’s many possible variations. Given researchers are still wasting time on whether bisexuality even exists — it does — further examination for the unique experiences of bi people can further an understanding of all people’s sexualities and the way society treats them. (HT: Jane Fae.) […]

  3. 3

    MK said,

    It is very unique discrimination if one chooses to be out. Here is what I experienced as a bi male.
    1) In undergrad a straight female teacher wanted me to “prove” my sexual orientation by having sex with her (sexual harassment)
    2)In grad school I was called a coward for not identifying as gay (straight female) was ridiculed by a lesbian student on the job in school, in class by a gay student, called “one of those people by a gay teacher, and had a debate with a gay professor why I don’t just come out as gay until a teacher who knew revealed that I dated mostly women.
    3)An argument with a gay director who said male bisexuality was utterly impossible.
    4)My last boss called me “a liar and coward and I don’t deserve respect.” and a series of other things like “pick a side”. Almost all of my co-workers were gay men. – I eventually just quit.
    – and there is a long list of other things outside of professional environments.

    But these things occurred in very progressive liberal circles art school and design professional environments. It is no wonder that almost all the bisexual men I have known closet themselves.

  4. 4

    MK said,

    Bi-people, trans-people and genderqueer prejudice:

    I will add that in school a “person” became a student named Al. I really did not know if he was a she or he at all. I was asked to escort Al and asked the teacher if Al was a he or she. I decided “he” and Al finally said “hey dude! Your he-ing me!” Oops! I will admit that I felt anxious and uncomfortable with the gender ambiquity. Hense I have some idea as to where biphobia comes from when aimed at me. I have a very masculine body and have both “masculine” and ” feminine” behaviors. I asked a good friend what her gay friends think of me, she said “it is always a debate as to whether you are gay or straight, until I tell them.”

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