Different for bis? The latest bi research – summer 2018
Stonewall bi the numbers
New research by YouGov for Stonewall published as the “LGBT in Britain: Home and Communities” report reveals that three in ten bi men (30 per cent) and almost one in ten bi women (8 per cent), say they cannot be open about their sexual orientation with any of their friends.
This is compared to just two per cent of gay men and one per cent of lesbians.
That makes us around ten times as closeted in social spaces as our lesbian and gay friends – a chastening thought and another nail in the coffin of the old claim that “it’s easier to be bi”.
Further they note that a third of bi people (32 per cent) aren’t open about their sexual orientation to anyone in their family, compared to eight per cent of lesbians and gay men: four times the rate of living in secret.
Stonewall also report on bi exclusion in LGBT spaces:
“More than one in four bi women (27 per cent) and almost one in five bi men (18 per cent) have experienced discrimination or poor treatment from others in their local LGBT community because of their sexual orientation, compared to nine per cent of lesbians and four per cent of gay men.”
Amongst comments quoted in the survey are:
“I am being treated as though I’m faking it because I’m bisexual but currently with a partner of the opposite sex.” – Jordan, 27 (North West)
“As a feminine bisexual woman, I have often been ‘read’ as straight and therefore frowned upon in LGBTQ spaces. For example, I was once refused entry to a famous London LGBTQ bar while in a group with friends who were mostly queer men of colour, and have received sarcastic comments from staff
members at a local LGBTQ club. I believe very strongly that many LGBTQ spaces are not welcoming to people of colour, older trans people and visibly disabled people, and have heard many testimonies to this effect e.g. fetishization, rude comments, not being allowed into clubs by door staff, not having events that cater to your needs, being misgendered or assumed to be heterosexual.” – Sylvia, 20 (South East)
“Bisexuality is misunderstood within the LGBT community and sometimes you can be treated as just confused.” – Abeni, 22 (West Midlands)
US research published in the journal Pediatrics this spring suggests that queer teens have higher rates of teen pregnancy than their cishetero peers, and those who identify as bisexual have a nearly fivefold increased risk of becoming pregnant.
That young lesbians are more likely to get pregnant than young straight women is counter-intuitive, but again we find one of those stats where the figures are more markedly different than the statistical norm for bi people than for gay and lesbian people.
The sample sizes aren’t huge. 7,120 teens are in the sample, and the overwhelming majority of young women identified as completely heterosexual and reported no same-sex partners (84%). The remainder split among completely heterosexual identity but with same-sex partners (2%), mostly heterosexual (11%), bisexual (2%) and lesbian (1%).
The researchers observe, “The higher teen pregnancy prevalence among sexual minorities was partially explained by childhood maltreatment and bullying. One additional variable, the earlier age of sexual minority developmental milestones, was a significant risk factor for teen pregnancy among sexual minorities.”
And bis finding it harder to find and own a label seems to be a part of it, perhaps because of the feelings of not being bi, gay or queer enough to own a label and find support. The report notes:
“Lesbians reached sexual minority developmental milestones at the youngest age, whereas bisexual and mostly heterosexuals reported the highest amounts of sexual orientation–related stress, being the least out about their sexual orientation, and having the least LGB social activity involvement.”
Homeless and victimised
New research from Canada reinforces findings we have seen elsewhere and reported in past BCNs – that bisexual people are more likely to experience violence and abuse than both gay and straight people.
Statistics Canada – their equivalent to our Office for National Statistics – note that “In 2014, overall, there were more than 100,000 incidents of violent victimization involving a bisexual victim and more than 49,000 incidents involving a lesbian or gay victim, corresponding to rates of 267 and 142 incidents per 1,000 population, respectively.”
With the rate for heterosexuals at 69 that makes bis twice as likely as lesbian or gay people to be attacked, who are in turn facing violent vicitimisation twice the rate of straight people.
They go on to observe that, “While rates of violence were higher among LGB people in general, findings show that bisexual individuals were particularly over‑represented as victims of violent crime […] bisexual Canadians were almost nine times more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to report experiencing sexual assault”
Past research has shown different challenges for bis by gender – though it is overwhelmingly only about men and women. Whereas bi men seem to suffer more in discrimination in pay, bi women’s experience of violence and stalking seems to be higher, which Canada’s report also finds:
“Notably, women were more likely than men to be sexually assaulted and, unlike other types of violent crime, the self‑reported rate of sexual assault has remained unchanged between 2004 and 2014. Prior analysis of the 2014, GSS shows that even when controlling for other factors, individuals who identified as LGB were more than twice as likely to be sexually assaulted as those who identified as heterosexual.
“Further, bisexual women were four times more likely to report experiencing violent victimization (327 versus 75 incidents per 1,000 population) and seven times more likely to report experiencing sexual assault (208 versus 29 incidents per 1,000 population) than their heterosexual counterparts in the 12 months preceding the survey.”
They also find that “Bisexual individuals were significantly more likely than their heterosexual and lesbian or gay counterparts to report experiencing hidden homelessness at some point during their lifetime (18% versus 8% and 12%)”
Manchester Metropolitan University hosted an afternoon mini-conference on bisexuality and the asylum process this Spring.
Looking at research in the UK, Canada and Spain papers presented highlighted how the invisibility and lower social acceptance of bisexuality may contribute to a disparity between outcomes between bi and gay people.
There is a perception that bi identified asylum seekers are less likely to be being accepted as fleeing persecution by authorities than those who identify as gay or lesbian.
In related news, the Home Office has for the first time published statistics looking at asylum claims by bisexual and gay people. They warn that the data consists of “statistics that are in a testing phase and are not yet fully developed”
They note that 12% of relevant stats are muddied by either having originally being tagged as LGB-related when they were not, or not tagged when they should have been.
The data shows the number of asylum claims where sexual orientation was raised as part of the basis for the claim, the outcome of these claims and the number of appeals.
A few statistics stand out. Of all the countries named, only for Uganda are a majority of asylum claims related to sexual orientation; Cameroon and Tanzania each have around a third of all claims citing sexual orientation.
What it doesn’t tell us is the split between bisexual and gay or lesbian claims, let alone between success and failure.