For Bi Visibility Day, Deborah Allan, solicitor at Shepherd & Wedderburn, discusses the challenges still facing bi people today and the progress being made towards ensuring the "B" in LGBTQ+ is respected and celebrated.
For the last 20 years, Bi Visibility Day has been celebrated on 23 September. It’s a day to take stock: to reflect on the progress that has been made in championing bi rights, but also to remind ourselves of the very real challenges bisexual people still face on a daily basis.
Bisexual people are often forgotten about or dismissed, both outwith and within the LGBTQ+ community. There exists a form of "double discrimination". We’re deemed not gay enough for the queer community, but not straight enough for the heterosexual community. The negative stereotypes are pervasive. We are called greedy, incapable of monogamy, promiscuous, confused, indecisive ("it’s only a phase…") and manipulative. There are even those who deny our existence.
Stonewall has found that three in ten bi men and almost one in ten bi women say they cannot be open about their sexual orientation with any of their friends (compared to 2% of gay men and 1% of lesbians). The statistics are worse for those bi people with other marginalised identities – bi people of colour, bi disabled people, bi trans people and bi people of faith. It is unsurprising then that bi people experience high levels of anxiety, depression and lower levels of happiness and life satisfaction than gay or straight people.
Thankfully – as a result of the tireless work of many – progress is being made. As a young bi female solicitor in the Scottish legal profession, my experiences (on the whole) have been positive. There have been a few uncomfortable bumps in the road, however these have ultimately led to some illuminating conversations and positive action plans.
Whilst I’m still not 100% comfortable with my identity, I try to wear my bi-ness as a badge of honour, both in my personal and professional lives.
Being my true self in the workplace has opened up various doors for me. I’ve networked with (and befriended) some incredible people who I would not have ordinarily met and I’ve (hopefully) positively contributed to the process of creating a more inclusive Scottish legal profession.
There is currently a powerful movement towards genuine inclusion in the Scottish legal landscape. It’s a privilege to be working under the first President of the Law Society who is openly a lesbian, who is a driving force for equality. In my firm, I have the unwavering support of senior partners – who go out of their way to ensure our work place is inclusive and supportive. People who are supporting the initiatives, not because there’s a business case for diversity and inclusion, but because it’s the right thing to do.
We’ve come a long way, but there’s a lot more work to do. Now is not the time to be complacent.
The "B" in LGBTQ+ is no smaller than any of the other letters. Bi identities are valid and must be respected. Please use Bi Visibility Day to celebrate and raise bi voices. Read, listen, watch content produced by bi people – give them the platform they deserve. Please don’t assume someone’s sexual orientation based on their current partner. Please reject the negative stereotyping and reflect on any bias or prejudice (whether conscious or unconscious) you may have.
I’m always happy to openly share my experiences – to let anyone reading this know that you have the right to be proud to be your authentic self. Your identity is valid and I will celebrate that with you.