In honor of Bisexual Visibility Week, Satouka Basso, Senior Manager, Alumni Clubs and Events in Advancement at London Business School, spoke about her experience as a bisexual woman in business and how her experiences have shaped her actions. Discussing the difference between biphobia and bi-erasure, and how they intersect, she places a spotlight on the value of intersectionality and education on LGBTQ+ topics, particularly with regards to bisexual representation.
The kaleidoscope of human sexuality is as diverse as it is complex, with bisexuality occupying a unique and often misunderstood position within the spectrum. Bisexuality is the capacity to experience sexual, romantic, and emotional attraction to both men and women, or more broadly, to people of more than one gender. However, as a bisexual, biracial cis woman, I've often found myself wondering if our community truly understands the importance of including the "B" in LGBTQ+. Despite being a significant part of the LGBTQ+ community, bisexual individuals often face unique challenges, including biphobia and bi-erasure, even within the so-called "safe spaces" of the LGBTQ+ community itself. While significant progress has been made in recent years, there is still much work to be done to ensure that the bisexual community is fully embraced within the movement for equality.
Biphobia, defined as the fear or hatred of bisexual individuals, manifests itself in various forms. It can range from subtle dismissals of bisexuality as a legitimate sexual orientation to outright discrimination and violence. Bi-erasure, on the other hand, is the tendency to ignore or deny the existence of bisexuality, often through the false dichotomy of heterosexuality and homosexuality. Both biphobia and bi-erasure contribute to a culture of invisibility and marginalization that can be particularly insidious in the workplace.
Workplaces often mirror the broader societal attitudes towards bisexuality. Many bisexual individuals report experiencing discrimination, harassment, and other forms of mistreatment in their workplaces, primarily due to their sexual orientation. This discrimination can take many forms, from being passed over for promotions to being the subject of workplace gossip or slander. Furthermore, many bisexual individuals feel compelled to hide their sexual orientation in professional settings due to fear of discrimination or rejection, creating a culture of invisibility that perpetuates biphobia and bi-erasure.
Keep reading to find out some crucial ways in which the LGBTQ+ community can ensure they are including the bi community in the fight for equality.
It starts with education. Many people, both within and outside the LGBTQ+ community, still hold misconceptions about bisexuality. Bisexual individuals often face stereotypes that they are confused, promiscuous, or simply going through a phase. To combat these misconceptions, it's vital for the LGBTQ+ community and allies to educate themselves about bisexuality, acknowledge its validity, and actively challenge harmful stereotypes whenever they encounter them. As part of our Learning from others pillar in our LGBTQ+ & Allies staff network, Proud, I had the honour of being the first speaker in our storytelling series: “Starting a bi-alogue. Common misconceptions and the power of community from a bi perspective”. Not only was it cathartic to share my coming out stories (because when aren’t we coming out!), to share that it was my community that empowered me to embrace who I am and dispel common misconceptions; hearing after the event from my gay/lesbian and straight colleagues that they were surprised by how they (unintentionally) we are guilty of bi-erasure and how they will do better, was proof that education and sharing is so important.
Acknowledging intersectionality within the Queer community. Recognize that the experiences of bisexual individuals are influenced not only by their sexual orientation but also by their race, gender, and other intersecting identities. The LGBTQ+ movement must make space for discussions about intersectionality and actively seek the perspectives of those who belong to multiple marginalized groups. By acknowledging these intersecting identities, the movement can become more inclusive and empathetic.
Visibility matters. Bisexual individuals often feel invisible within the LGBTQ+ community. The B in LGBTQ+ is not silent! It's essential to include bisexual voices and stories in LGBTQ+ media, events, and discussions. This visibility not only helps combat stigma but also encourages others to come out and embrace their own identities.
Allyship can make a significant difference in the lives of bisexual individuals. Being an effective ally to the bisexual community requires an understanding of the unique challenges they face and a commitment to promoting inclusivity and acceptance. Allies can play a crucial role in challenging biphobia and bi-erasure by educating others about bisexuality, advocating for inclusive policies and practices in the workplace, and providing support to bisexual individuals who may be struggling with discrimination or invisibility. Allies are crucial in any movement for equality. Encourage LGBTQ+ allies to actively support the bisexual community.
The LGBTQ+ community, in particular, has a vital role to play in ensuring the inclusion of bisexual individuals in the movement for equality. While much of the LGBTQ+ movement has focused on the rights and struggles of gay and lesbian individuals, there is a growing recognition of the need to address the unique challenges faced by other sexual minorities, including bisexual individuals. This can be done by advocating for bisexual representation in LGBTQ+ leadership, including bisexuality in discussions and education about sexual orientation, and challenging biphobia and bi-erasure within the community.
Language is a powerful tool in shaping perceptions. The LGBTQ+ community should strive to use inclusive language that recognizes and respects the diverse spectrum of sexual orientations and gender identities. Avoiding erasure and exclusionary language is a simple yet effective way to ensure that bisexual individuals are acknowledged and included. Language such as gay marriage or lesbian couples when one person is bi, is simply wrong. As always, do not make assumptions in the community based on the ‘optics’.
In conclusion, the LGBTQ+ community must continually strive for inclusivity, recognizing that diversity within our own ranks enriches our collective experience. By actively embracing the "B" in LGBTQ+ and advocating for the rights and visibility of bisexual individuals, we can move closer to a world where everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, can live free from discrimination and enjoy true equality. It's not enough to be LGBTQ+ allies; we must be family, supporting one another on our shared journey toward a more inclusive and accepting future.