What is bi-erasure? Is it really an issue? At LGBTQYMRU, we pride ourselves on being inclusive for all parts of the LGBTQommunity so we asked our guest reporter, Alistair James, to find out more. Here’s what he had to say.
As a white gay man I’m almost definitely the most over-represented part of the LGBTQ+ community. I don’t have to struggle to find people that look like me and share my experiences. I can name you any number of stories about gay men in the the news, and in film and TV that I can identify with somehow. I acknowledge this privilege. But I’m aware this doesn’t apply for everyone and I want to understand why some people in our fabulous community - specifically the B section in LGBTQ+ - feel simply erased.
Stonewall’s 2020 Bi Report highlights a number of concerning things. It says the Bi community faces discrimination from inside and outside the LGBTQ+ community, with many also feeling excluded from our spaces and events contributing to greater levels of loneliness and isolation. And that’s before the pandemic. The report also shows Bisexual people are significantly less ‘out’ to both friends and family than gay men and lesbians, with some citing reasons such as long standing negative stereotypes around greed and infidelity.
Megan Pascoe lives in Cardiff and is a Stonewall Cymru Bi Role Model. She came out when she was 20 after getting into her first relationship with another girl. It was a positive experience, but Megan says issues around bi-phobia and stigma contribute towards Bi-erasure.
“I think the main problem is from the LGBTQ+ community. I think if our own community doesn't understand us, then how are we going to expect people who aren’t, to understand us?”
“It’s a tough thing because if you're told that it doesn't exist you think, ‘Should I even bother coming out if you're not going to believe me? You just think that I'm straight or gay.’ It makes you feel like your sexuality isn’t valid.”
Libby Baxter Williams is from Biscuit, an organisation advocating for the community. She says Bi-erasure stems from a history of looking at things in a binary, and in most cases is due to an unfamiliarity rather than wilful ignorance.
“The feeling of being ‘in limbo’ (not being ‘straight or gay enough’) is a common one. To find out it [the LGBTQ+ community] isn’t necessarily as welcoming as you expected can be quite a blow.”
And this, she says, contributes to greater levels of depression, anxiety and eating disorders in the Bi community.
“It sounds like quite a stretch, but the data does bizarrely enough support it. There are definitely links.”
Research by Stonewall, the Royal College of Psychiatrists and others has made similar observations.
And while both Meg and Libby agree a lot more needs to be done to remove harmful stereotypes, both feel things are changing for the better. Charities and organisations, like Stonewall, are directing more funding towards bi issues and there is greater representation, which Libby says has a trickling effect. But both say it’s on everyone to make a change.