The Guardian’s habitual bi-erasure

BCN 117 cover

This originally appeared in BCN issue 117, Feb 2013

As I’m an analyst by trade I thought it’d be entertaining to see how The Guardian generally handles bisexual issues by typing a few search strings.

This is what I found:

  •     When searching for the term ‘bisexual’, the tag ‘gay rights’ appears in the results. How helpful!
  •     There are 160 articles containing the term ‘marriage equality’ and 979 articles containing the term ‘same sex marriage’ compared with 2,254 articles with the term ‘gay marriage’, which has its very own tag on their website. How kind!
  •     There are 749 results for the term ‘bisexual’ without the term ‘gay’ compared with 26,727 articles with the term ‘gay’ without the term ‘bisexual’. It’s worth noting that some of those could be about people with the surname Gay.
  •     One ray of sunshine: there are 6,684 results for the term ‘gay couple’ as compared to 6,862 results for the term “same sex couple”. There’s a good Guardian(!)

Other news agencies, notably Pink News, have recognised that the term ‘gay marriage’ is not inclusive of their bisexual readers, so have switched to the more inclusive term ‘equal marriage’.

There have also been countless blog posts written by bisexual campaigners (including by the editor of this fine magazine, Jen Yockney) patiently explaining why using language which appears to be exclusive of bisexuals is not helpful, so the Guardian’s staff can’t pretend that this information simply isn’t available.

Stonewall Policy Officer Alice Ashworth said: “We know from our research that bi invisibility in the media is a significant problem, with too few positive role models for bisexual young people. YouGov polling commissioned by Stonewall found that one in six people in Britain think broadsheet newspapers are responsible for prejudice against lesbian, gay and bisexual people so it’s important that newspapers take their representation of bisexual people seriously.”

I personally am not going to stop reading the Guardian but would welcome their comment on this article as a way to let their readers know if they intend to do anything to rectify this particular issue.  I asked the Guardian to comment on these findings but unfortunately they were unable to meet the deadline.

Vicky Syred



The Guardian responded after this was published saying:
“We don’t have specific guidance on issues around same-sex or other relationships but journalists are expected to follow the Guardian‘s editorial guidelines, our style guide and the Editors’ Code overseen by the PCC — which has a section on discrimination — to ensure accuracy and fairness in our reporting.
We are mindful of sensitivity and continually review how we use language, although I’m not aware of any previous concerns raised on this subject. We hope the Guardian has long been seen as supportive of equality issues as well as promoting a diversity of voices.”