On Monday this week, I accepted an invitation to be interviewed by Eddie Mair on Radio 4’s PM programme (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0367mxn – minutes 46-52) to give a response to the decision of Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski to come out as bisexual. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/tory-mp-daniel-kawczynski-comes-out-as-bisexual-8680343.html)
I guess I was asked to appear because I, like Mr Kawczynski, am also an elected public official who happens to be bi, and who was profiled by Stonewall last year along with sixteen other lesbian, gay and bisexual people as a role model (http://www.stonewall.org.uk/documents/role_models_low_res.pdf – see pages 26 and 27).
I thought I was going to be asked to comment on being bisexual in public life, especially as Mr Kawczynski had said that he felt it was important to be transparent with his constituents about a major change in his personal circumstances, a sentiment with which I entirely agree.
What happened instead was that Eddie Mair, very sensitively, asked me about my own experiences as a bisexual person. Whilst that came as a surprise, it did enable me to make a number of key points, which I hope were valuable:
- defining bisexuality as the capacity to love more than one gender
- defining biphobia as:
- a wilful lack of acknowledgment that bisexuality exists
- stereotyping bisexual people as greedy or promiscuous because we can love people of more than one gender
- pressure to choose to be either straight or gay
- that bisexuality isn’t a phase and that it is possible to find lots of people attractive, based on who they are rather than because of their gender
- that whilst biphobia is still an issue, the LGBT community has become more accepting of bisexual people in recent years
- that bisexuality is the least visible aspect of the LGBT community
- that there is a volume of evidence to demonstrate that invisibility can have a detrimental impact on bisexual people’s mental health
What I was unable to do was to make the point that when discussing bisexuality, it isn’t simply a matter of considering those who identify publicly as bi, but realising that there are many more people who may identify as straight, lesbian, or gay, but whose sexual behaviour or even just latent attraction to people of different genders could be defined as bisexual.
For those that are interested in this issue, I can do nothing better than strongly commend them to read The Bisexuality Report published last year by the research group BiUK with The Open University (http://www.open.ac.uk/platform/news-and-features/the-bisexuality-report-%E2%80%93-the-first-its-kind-in-the-uk-%E2%80%93-published), which provides much evidence and recommendations in relation to bisexual inclusion.
As for myself, I now look forward to responding to the consequences of being rather more publicly out about my sexuality than previously. I have been deeply touched by the many positive comments I have received since my radio appearance from both friends and people whom I have never met, but who appreciated my candour.
There will be others though I know who will not welcome my commenting on such a topic. In one voluntary organisation I work with I am already aware of much harrumphing by senior members who see the world differently and believe that we ‘shouldn’t talk about that kind of thing’. It would not surprise me if, in some paper-filled aerie, a bureaucrat in that organisation has already stamped my file ‘no further promotion’. If that is the case then so be it, but I’d rather be happy about who I am than rise through the ranks in the straightjacket of the closet.