Older bis’ stories

New free case studies about older bi(ish) people.

There are some brilliant case studies available about lesbian and gay people’s experiences as they grow older. They make the case really powerfully for why sexuality continues to matter in later life. Case studies can be particularly useful in training and education, to help people understand experiences that may be very different from their own. But, until now, there’s been a real shortage of case studies about bisexual older people (and there is still a shortage for trans older people). People researching LGBT issues in later life say that finding bisexual older people to talk to is particularly difficult.

So about three years ago, I and two colleagues – Kathryn Almack and Rachael Scicluna – decided to try do something about this, even though we didn’t have any funding to do a conventional research study. Over a period of 2 years, we managed to interview 12 people aged over 50 who either identified as bisexual, or who had bisexual histories but did not identify as bisexual. We wanted to talk to some people who didn’t identify as bisexual because we know that many more people behave bisexually than identify as bisexual. We also wanted to reach people who weren’t connected to organised bisexual communities, to try to reach the most diverse group of people we could. We were only partially successful in this – 8 of the 12 participants were not connected to bisexual communities, but they were not diverse in terms of ethnicity (all were white British) or educational background (most were university-educated). However, they were diverse in terms of gender, with four trans and one pangender person taking part, and they were also diverse in their experiences of disability, level of income, and in where they lived within England. Their ages ranged from 51-83, with an average age of 64.

In reporting our findings, we wanted to prioritise the practitioner-focused outputs over the more academic ones. The first thing we have produced is therefore a set of case studies from the interviews. We summarised what each person said in their interview under two headings ‘life story’ and ‘ageing’ and then sent it back to them to make any changes or corrections. The report is produced with a Creative Commons BY licence, which means that anyone can freely use or rework the contents, as long as they acknowledge the original source. You can see it here: https://bisexualresearch.files.wordpress.com/2016/07/looking-both-ways-report-online-version.pdf There are some suggestions for how people might use the case studies within the report itself – one possibility is in general bisexual visibility work, simply to make the point that older people may have bisexual histories and/or identities. We’re delighted to have heard already that Opening Doors London (the main voluntary organisation working with LGBT older people in London and beyond) are planning to use them. I’ve got some printed copies which I’d be happy to send out to anyone who can use them. We’d also love to hear any feedback from BCN readers – please do get in touch on Rebecca.Jones@open.ac.uk

Rebecca Jones