In 1998, Michael Page designed the Bi Pride Flag to increase the visibility of bisexuals within the LGBT community and within society as a whole. In a BiFlag.com blog, Page discusses the symbolism of the components of this flag:
“The pink color represents sexual attraction to the same sex only (gay and lesbian), The blue represents sexual attraction to the opposite sex only (straight) and the resultant overlap color purple represents sexual attraction to both sexes (bi).
The key to understanding the symbolism in the Bi Pride Flag is to know that the purple pixels of color blend unnoticeably into both the pink and blue, just as in the ‘real world’ where most bi people blend unnoticeably into both the gay/lesbian and straight communities.”
In the above quote, Page discusses how bi individuals are often invisible within various communities and this has been termed ‘bi invisibility’. Therefore, it is of paramount importance that bi individuals are visible and supported within our society.
In relation to bi visibility, from 1999, Bi Visibility Day has been celebrated annually on the 23rd of September. There are various events held across the UK (as well as internationally) to encourage and promote bi visibility. This day also highlights biphobia which is the fear or dislike of someone who identifies as bi.
When considering biphobia, Stonewall, the largest LGBT charity in Europe, state that bi individuals suffer from dual prejudice. This is from within the LGBT community and outside of it. This prejudice can lead to mental health problems and risk-taking behaviours. Therefore, the aim of Bi Visibility Day is a reminder that we need to address biphobia whenever and wherever we see it.
Bi visibility in the workplace
Stonewall’s Top 100 Employers Report 2020 found that only 27% of bi respondents were comfortable being out to all colleagues. Furthermore, the same report identified that only 18% of bi people could identify a bi role model in their workplace. In summary, this report highlights the need for bi individuals to feel more comfortable with bringing their authentic selves to work as well as having identifiable bi role models in the workplace.
In the final section of this article, our Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, Dr Allán Laville and RUSU Diversity Officer, Rachel Wates, share their personal experiences.
Experiences of Dr Allán Laville, Dean for Diversity and Inclusion:
‘When we talk about biphobia, we need to remember the marginalisation that bi individuals experience both within and outside of the LGBTQIA+ community – most commonly, in the form of microaggressions.
In the past, I have been on the receiving end of bi microaggressions such as ‘you just haven’t made your mind up yet’, and ‘are you more likely to cheat on your partner because you’re bi?’. These microaggressions aim to invalidate the identity of bi individuals as well as making inappropriate judgements.
In order to raise awareness, Rachel Wates, RUSU Diversity Officer, and I will be creating bi inclusion training sessions for staff and students for 2021. If you have any ideas on what you would to see included in this session, please do get in touch.’
Experiences of Rachel Wates, RUSU Diversity Officer:
‘My name is Rachel Wates and I am your RUSU Diversity Officer for this year. One part of my campaign is to host events and raise awareness on bi visibility. My reason for starting this campaign was mainly drawn from personal experience. I only came out at university right at the end of my 4-year course at the age of 22. I think at this age most university students are aware and comfortable with their sexual identity. (If you’re reading this and you’re still unsure of what you define yourself as then don’t worry – there is no rush). I am not exaggerating when I say I struggled to find what label I would adhere to amongst the spectrum of sexual orientations. Pansexual…queer…questioning… bisexual. Yes, bisexual. Bisexuality just seemed to fit for me, and I started feeling comfortable saying it out loud. When I came out my family and friends were happy for me… and I have a feeling some of them may have even known before I did! This was a really positive experience as I was so happy to have people within close proximity who understood all of me.
Unfortunately, this took a turn when I had won my FTO Election. Someone had posted on the anonymous forum ReadingFess that they thought I was just pretending to come out as bisexual for “diversity points” and that it was “convenient she just happened to come out right before elections”. They also stated, “as an LGBT member they had been thinking about this for a while”.
This greatly upset me at the time. I remember thinking if I had known that the reaction of me coming out would have been negative, then in hindsight I think I would have just stayed in the closet. I didn’t have any proof that I was bisexual, all I had was the emotions and feelings I had in my heart and brain. I felt invalidated and hurt. Especially as though maybe some of this hate had been written from an LGBT+ member themselves. I honestly felt lost. A part of me wished I had never said anything at all.
However, I soon realised after that I was not the only one who had experienced this. Now I know this wasn’t just someone being mean to me online – this was a type of discrimination known as bi erasure. had mentioned this multiple time in my FTO Campaign, however, ironically, I had never experienced it until I had actually won. Bi-erasure or bisexual erasure is the tendency for societies to ignore, remove, falsify or reexplain evidence of bisexuality. I learnt from a committee member of the LGBT+ society that there is a term called “straight-presenting” meaning that you are typically seen in heterosexual relationships, however this doesn’t invalidate your bisexuality.
The Stonewall School Report 2017 found that 75% of LGBT+ pupils have never learnt about or discussed bisexuality in schools and that LGBT+ pupils from their teachers at school and even their friends would just refer to them as gay or lesbian.
This is why I am hoping to start in this training and start on my Bisexual Visibility Week and bisexual training. I don’t want anyone to go through what I went through and I am hoping that we can all work together collectively as staff and the student body to make everyone feel validated regardless of orientation. I believe that we can all work together as a community to help students know bisexuality is real, we cannot let internet bullies win and that no staff or student is alone.
Thank you for reading about my experience. If you wish to email me my email is firstname.lastname@example.org or come say hi to me if you see me on campus.’