Different for Bis: Research news – June 2019

Statistics from the USA suggest more and more people are identifying as bisexual – while the numbers for lesbians and gay men remain fairly constant.
Analysis of the US’ GSS statistics (roughly equivalent to ONS household survey data here) over the past ten years shows the number of people identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual growing across the decade, with the growth overall in the “B”.
In 2008 1.1% identified as bi while 1.6% as gay or lesbian; ten years later the lesbian and gay tally is 1.7% – not a significant variation surely. But the 1.1% of bis in 2008 had trebled to 3.3%.
While the number of people identifying as gay or lesbian has moved mildly up or down each year the proportion labeling themselves bi has grown a little every year across the decade.
But the numbers mask gender variation – gay male, lesbian and bi male figures have all varied up and down from year to year and it is the numbers of bi women that has driven the growth in overall bi numbers – with an apparent step change since 2016 where the increase in the proportion of women identifying as bi grows even faster.
Likewise a breakdown by age shows the bi surge as happening among under 35s.
And by race the proportion of people identifying as bi is greater among black and other groups than among white people – though by 2018 all three of those groupings show higher rates of bisexuality identity than of homosexuality.
However some of these figures need to be taken with a pinch of salt: the General Social Survey statistics at these levels of intersectional data come down to small sample sizes.
For example with the number of black bi people in the 2014 survey being 6 and in 2018 that being 14, the big growth rate could reflect just a very few individual experiences of what words are socially acceptable labels.

Bi Faith

The Pew Research centre in the USA has been crunching numbers on their 2014 Religous Landscape Study, to look at experiences of faith and explore what gay, straight or bi people say.
And bisexuals have the greatest sense of wonder about the universe: 53% of bis say they feel a deep sense of wonder about the universe at least once a week, ahead of gay and lesbian people on 51% and straight people on 45%.
The numbers are reversed when it comes to having a deep sense of spiritual peace and well-being though, with bis trailing (49-54-59). We’re blown away by the universe, but maybe a little bit more troubled by what is going on in it.
We were expecting that sense of wonder to be the other way round given 89% of straight respondents said they believe in God compared to 77% of gay and bi people – with 36% of straight people attending religious services weekly compared to 19% of bis and 16% of gay men and lesbians.
Barely half as many bis and gays think scripture is ‘the word of god’ as of straight people – 33% of gay and lesbian respondents compared to 38% of bis and 61% of heterosexuals.
It would seem likely that what causes such a gap is not something innate to being one sexuality or another, but the experiences that has brought over your lifetime of the attitudes faith groups have taken to your sexual orientation. The history of many religious groups lobbying against same-sex marriage, stigmatising homosexuality and bisexuality, equating HIV with being divine judgement against sex between men and so forth has pushed many bi and gay people away and with a clearer impact than the way that also hits their straight friends, family and partners.
The survey data is from 2014, with a sample size of around 34,000 people – 1,604 gay and bi people and 32,439 straight people. No-one was recorded as being of other orientations such as asexual.

Work is Awful

A new report from the TUC looks at LGBT workers’ experiences of sexual harassment in the workplace – whether with customers or clients or co-workers. And it highlights how things are different for bi workers – including having a different pattern of harassment by gender from lesbians and gay men.
Although in many areas there were differences between the experiences of men and women who responded to the survey, the experiences of bisexual men and women were similar across several different types of sexual harassment and sexual assault at work, including sexual assault and rape. Around one in five bisexual men and women who responded had experienced sexual assault at work (20 per cent and 22 per cent respectively) and one in ten reported being seriously sexually assaulted or raped at work (11 per cent and 10 per cent respectively).
TUC say:
“#MeToo has been effective in focusing the eyes of the world on the problem of sexual harassment at work. But the voices of LGBT people haven’t been heard clearly enough in discussions around this issue. We wanted to change this and foreground LGBT people’s voices and experiences in the ongoing debate and search for solutions. We therefore conducted the first survey of its kind on this issue.
“We found shockingly high levels of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
“Around seven out of ten LGBT workers experienced at least one type of sexual harassment at work (68 per cent) and almost one in eight LGBT women (12 per cent) reported being seriously sexually assaulted or raped at work.
“However, this is a hidden problem with two thirds of those who were harassed not reporting it; and one in four of those who did not report the harassment being silenced by fear of ‘outing’ themselves at work.
“Government must act urgently to put the responsibility for tackling this problem where it belongs – with employers. We need stronger legislation that places a new legal duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment, with real consequences for those who don’t comply.”
The report is available to read online at www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/LGBT_Sexual_Harassment_Report_0.pdf

BCN issue 155 coverThis originally appeared in

Bi Community News issue 155

Published July/August 2019.


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