Bi Research Group – Future Directions

Meg and Ange on behalf of BiBlio, the bi research group

The Bi Research Group (or BiBlio, as its yahoo group is called) is a growing group of people who are interested in
conducting research about bisexuality. A few of us are academics who research bisexuality as part of our postgraduate or other studies. The rest of us are an assorted bunch of academics and
non-academics who’re just interested in doing research which is useful to the bi community.

In 2004, for example, we conducted a survey of BiCon attendees to find out about the kind of people who attend BiCon and what they want from such an event. We’ve written this up as a paper which has been accepted by the
international Journal of Bisexuality and will be published, and made available to BiCon attendees, later this year. Some of us also hold recorded discussion groups at BiCons and BiFests on issues of importance to bi people (like what makes a bi ‘safe space’ or how bisexuals view gender) which we also try to write up and publish. Others contribute to the BiMedia group, analysing representations of bisexuals in TV, films, magazines and newspaper articles to see how we’re portrayed in society, challenging negative depictions in part through feeding back to media organisations, and producing the media column for BCN.

We also work at putting on events for activists, academics and other interested people to get together to discuss bi research issues. Every BiCon we run a workshop for such discussion, many of us attend BiFests hold sessions at the Bi Activist Weekends, and have more informal chats via our mailing list. This year there will be a bi panel at the Lesbian and Gay Psychology Conference, held in London on December 1st and 2nd (contact the BCN editor for details). And next year there will be an entire Bi Day as part of the Critical Sexology seminar series (www.criticalsexology.org.uk) where we will have workshops to help those new to doing bi research, as well as a panel discussion of some of the most well known and influential bi researchers of the past decade. If these events go well we are considering a bigger
international research conference for 2008.

At the most recent bi academics meeting (in April 2006) a few of us had a
discussion to consider possible future directions for bi research in the UK. Over the past few years, we’ve struggled to do the research projects on bisexuality that we would really like to do (and that would be really useful to the bi
community) because of our other work and life commitments, and have not had as much time as we would like to devote to bi research. One suggested solution is to instead focus on sourcing funding for people to focus on doing projects just on bisexuality (with the money and time to put into accessing participants and doing things on a larger, or more in depth, scale). We decided we would look into the possibility of generating funding bids, which can raise the money to pay
researchers or PhD students to do the kind of research we’d like to see done properly. Another answer is to encourage more people to get involved with bi research. So please do visit our yahoo page and sign up, or attend our workshop at BiCon this year if you’re interested!

On this basis, we’ve come up with some potential research projects about
bisexuality that we thought would be interesting and useful to conduct. Short descriptions of these are included below, and this is where you come in. We’d like to know which of these you would like to see carried out, and any other ideas that you have, so we can then prioritise seeking funding for bi research. We are very committed to the idea of conducting research by the bi community for the bi community with useful outcomes (like answering the kinds of questions that you have about bisexuality, or providing us with resources or statistics to support claims for equal rights or better
treatment).

Potential bi research projects

Documentary Project
This project would involve creating a documentary for people to use in bi awareness training (with organisations like lesbian and gay helplines, the NHS, etc.) and in sexualities teaching in schools and universities. We would record bi stories and create a DVD with an accompanying pack of resources that could be used by teachers or workshop facilitators. One idea would be to film consenting people at a bi event and intercut footage of workshops and socialising with stories from individuals which they could record themselves in a video diary booth at the event.

Community engagement
and inclusion
This project would investigate the different sub-communities within (and related to) the bi community. Who feels included and excluded by the bi community? Is there even a singular bi community or many overlapping communities? How do bis fit within the broader lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community? What obstacles do they face and in what ways might bi voices be marginalised? Another angle on this could be to investigate and document the inclusion and exclusion of bi people in queer and straight communities.

Bisexuality and mental health
A number of recent surveys, for example in Australia, have found that bi people face more mental health problems than heterosexual, lesbian and gay people. This has been linked to continued biphobia: the belief that bisexuality does not exist (people are really gay or straight) and the ‘double discrimination’ bis often face from both heterosexual and lesbian and gay communities. This project would provide us with the facts and figures on bi mental health in the UK and assess the mental health needs of bi people so that we can inform relevant organisations.

Bisexual families
and relationships
One thing we found in the BiCon survey was that bi people are involved in many different kinds of relationships and families. There are issues around this about visibility (with many monogamous bi people feeling that they are labelled as ‘straight’ if they are with an ‘opposite gender’ partner and ‘gay/lesbian’ if they are with a ‘same gender’ partner). Non-monogamous bis can experience added stereotyping as ‘promiscuous’ or ‘greedy’. Bis with families often have concerns about their level of outness and how their children will be treated. This project would focus on the kinds of families and relationship structures entered into by bi people. Particularly it would think about the ways in which bi people form networks or ‘families-of-choice’ which may or may not be based around blood relationships and how they do, or do not, choose to have their relationships recognised.

Bisexuals and gender
A comparative study of bisexuality in men and women, in order to analyse the differences between male and female bisexuals, their understanding, expectations and lived realities of bisexuality. Potential methodology: interviews, analysis of published texts on male and female bisexuals.

These were the main projects that those of us at the meeting thought up. There were also several other ideas which we didn’t flesh out in so much detail such as:

· looking at the often fraught issues surrounding bisexuality and sexual health,
· using large-scale surveys, like MORI polls, to obtain demographic information about bisexuals in the UK, and/or extending the work of the Bicon surveys

· thinking about how bis are (or are not) represented in UK and European legislation)
· continuing our studies into bi ‘safe spaces’, how we make ourselves visible (or invisible) as bisexuals.

We’re also keen to keep up to date on the bi research that is going on worldwide, and to keep feeding that back to the bi community (through BCN) so that you know what is going on in the world of academia. For example, a recent spate of biological psychology research has claimed that bisexual men do not exist, but there have also been more positive recent articles summarising the good research that is being done about bi men’s experiences (as well as bi women’s experiences, the experiences of trans bis, and many other groups). We aim to put together lists of relevant publications and experts in the field (in the UK and internationally) as an online resource for anyone interested in bi research, probably on bi.org.

So what are you waiting for? Let us know what you think of our ideas by writing to BCN, come along and meet us at BiCon, or join our discussion group online at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Bi-BLIO/

Bi Community News, BM Ribbit, London WC1N 3XX