Most LGBTQ people I know are pretty good at reading signals. If you’ve grown up experiencing a level of discrimination or prejudice growing up, it becomes second-nature to risk-assess your environment before revealing something about yourself that could put you in danger. Or at very least, make things awkward. Some same-sex couples will get used to quickly scanning a room before holding hands, or glancing behind before kissing their partner goodbye. Others sadly escue public affection altogether. I have discussed this many times with straight people, who are frequently unaware of this. “I can’t believe that is still necessary in 2020!” they’ll say, with an even-mixture of genuine surprise and performative allyship.
It is with this same surprise that many lesbians and gay people react when I talk about how difficult it can be being bisexual in LGBTQ spaces and how the majority of biphobia I’ve experienced has been from other LGBTQ people. As Chief Executive of one LGBTQ organisation and Chair of another, married to a woman with a mixed, queer and straight friends group, it’s not uncommon that people aren’t quite sure where to put me. Though I’m still surprised by what can only be a human desire to categorise, assign and file. I imagine this sort of thing is comforting if you can be filed neatly, less so if you fit somewhere in the middle.
After seeing an advert for the Chair position at MindOut I had a scan of their website and noticed they ran a peer support group, specifically for bi people. This kind of intervention is very welcome within the community, as bi people experience some of the worst mental health of all LGBTQ people.
On another, more personal level, seeing the group prompted me to apply for the position. I hadn’t attended the group but that wasn’t really the point. It was a signal that MindOut acknowledged the existence of bi people. Sometimes, that’s really all it takes to feel welcome. While LGBTQ people can be pretty good at assessing and managing risk, I like to think we’re also pretty good at identifying places, people or communities that make us feel loved and respected.
My request this Bisexual Awareness Week, is that you reflect on whether you could send a signal to the bi people in your life. It could be by organising an awareness day at work, writing a blog, or simply sharing a post on Facebook, it might not seem like much, but I promise, we will notice it.
Dominic is Chief Executive of Just Like Us, the LGBT+ young people’s charity who support schools in becoming more supportive and accepting places for their LGBT+ young people. Just Like Us train LGBT young people to speak in schools about their experiences and act as role models, set up Pride Groups of students and allies and run the annual event School Diversity Week, which this year reached a total of 1.97 million young people. Dominic is also the Chair of MindOut, the LGBTQ mental health organisation. Previous to this he worked at Mind as Head of Programme Management for Time to Change and Stonewall as Head of Projects and Programmes, leading on a variety of projects in the UK, the Western Balkans and Turkey and Russia and Eastern Europe.