Bisexual men like me don’t just face prejudice from straight people

The LGBT+ community should be a supportive space, but most of the negativity towards bisexuals I’ve experienced has been at the hands of gay men

Lewis Oakley
Sunday 09 October 2022 14:44 BST
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It’s no surprise that so few bisexual men are out of the closet. Whilst many groups celebrated Pride this year with big support and high visibility, bisexuals had to fight hard just to get a spot on the London Pride parade, with organisers putting the inclusion of big businesses such as Skittles ahead of ensuring all subgroups of the LGBT+ community were represented.

As a bisexual man, I know the reality of bi-invisibility all too well. Despite living in London, I have never knowingly been in a room with even 10 other bisexual men around my age. Both gay and straight people have spent their time trying to convince me that I must really be gay.

Whilst many believe the LGBT+ community is there to support one another, the majority of negativity towards bisexuals I’ve experienced has been at the hands of gay men. A study by the Journal of Bisexuality suggested that bisexual people face just as much discrimination within the LGBT+ community as they do from straight people. Similarly, the Equality Network found the highest amounts of biphobia experienced are within LGBT+ and NHS services.

Bisexual exclusion comes in many forms, one of the most shocking was the finding that in 2014, only 0.3 per cent of grants aimed at LGBT+ issues went toward the bisexual community. The issue of how LGBT+ groups divide their funding between the subgroups is something rarely looked at in the UK. However, the fact that bisexual men have received significantly less support and funding than other subgroups such as gay men is undeniable.

The British Sociological Association has found that bisexual men in the United Kingdom are at the bottom of the wage scale, earning 30 per cent less than gay colleagues and, perhaps linked, the Workplace Equality Index 2010 by Stonewall found bisexual employees are eight times more likely to be in the closet at work, compared to lesbian and gay counterparts.

Outside of the workplace, mental health suffers too, with the Office of National Statistics finding that bisexual people have a lower amount of overall life satisfaction and feel less worthwhile than straight, gay and lesbian people. With minimal funding and biphobia rife in LGBT+ circles, this is unlikely to change.

So why is the LGBT+ community not fighting for bi rights? What many fail to realise is that bisexual men not only suffer as a result of LGBT+ exclusion, but also of inclusion. All too often, two groups with completely different sex lives – gay and bisexual men – are looked at under the same microscope, particularly when assessing sexual health risks. For example, last year a report by Public Health England concluded that “STIs in gay and bisexual men are on the rise”. By failing to distinguish that bisexual men have different sexual behaviour to that of gay men, we are putting their health at risk.

Outside of the LGBT+ community, the discrimination bisexual men receive is unique. My girlfriend has been at the receiving end of significant abuse simply for dating me, which is a distressing reality for so many bisexual men in relationships with women. She has been told she’ll never be enough for me, that I will cheat and one person even said I would give her HIV. Bisexual men feel responsible that those they date become targets of biphobia, and more significantly, we so rarely have other bisexual men to turn to for support and advice.

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You may ask how this problem can be fixed and the answer is relatively simple – we must provide bisexuals with the tools to find each other. We must have bisexual venues to bring people together to foster friendships.

A support group won’t help – my sexuality isn’t a problem. I want a place where I can go to celebrate my sexuality, a place that makes men like me feel good to be bisexual and a place where closeted bisexual men can go to finally get the confidence boost they need to come out.

One may suggest we already have gay venues which cater to bisexual men, however, I’ve been asked to stop kissing my girlfriend in gay bars on several occasions. From the outside, my girlfriend and I kissing is seen as “straight” and therefore, we are perceived as invading gay people’s safe space.

It’s time both straight and gay people take some responsibility for the discrimination they have inflicted and work to fix the problem. The reality is that bisexual men aren’t going to ask for help – the majority of them are in hiding.

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