Older bi invisibility

BCN 128 cover

This originally appeared in BCN issue 128, December 2014

There’s an unlovely focus on youth around the gay scene which was once summed up to me by a work colleague as “surveys must be interesting – all the age categories being under 30”.  It’s in part to challenge this that Stonewall have a new glossy coffee-table booklet about older LGBT people’s lives.

First the positive: this is a beautiful publication full of warm photos and life stories.  As LGBT liberation and equality work moves from the legislative change of the last two decades, exploring the lives of older queer people is valuable in highlighting their needs and where “we treat everyone the same” can miss out on challenges facing particular social groups.

Having earned lots of criticism for their record on bi and trans, Stonewall have been making a lot of noise about becoming ‘LGBT’ lately. Yet you might not know it from LGBT Voices whose 25 personal stories count as LGBT if we consider someone who “had a bisexual history” to be the full range of bi representation.  In seeking older LGBTs, Stonewall don’t seem to have managed to find older bisexuals.

It may be a lot of older people don’t identify as bi.  The pressure over time of relationship labels, the comparative respect different identities have socially, and growing up at a time when discussion of sexuality may have been less nuanced all plays its part.

Yet one of the factors in play in people’s choice of label has been how much more has been done on making being lesbian or gay ‘normal’.  Stonewall may have found their work over the last 25 years having focused hard on gay identity and deliberately airbrushed bisexuality has helped keep that pool of bi-identified older people for them to interview today small.

See www.stonewall.org.uk/documents/final_copy_lgbt_voices.pdf