Dominic Arnall is Head of Projects and Programmes at LGBT charity Stonewall. Here’s what he had to say about controversial comments on bisexuality made by Christopher Biggins and Renee Graziano on Celebrity Big Brother this week.
There was something about the comments on Monday night’s Celebrity Big Brother that were particularly stinging.
Perhaps it was the dull predictability of yet again hearing that bisexuals are “people not wanting to admit they are gay” and that we should just “pick a team”. Perhaps it was that the comments came from a fellow member of the LGBT community.
On balance, I think the most cutting remark was that bisexuality is “the worst type” of sexuality. In truth, for many years I felt like this myself. During my youth I struggled to claw an identity from the usual binary terms, neither of which I felt connected to or represented by. Coming out was uncomfortable and in many spaces it still is.
Despite growing up in a relatively liberal setting, people were gay or straight, male or female, black or white. I never felt there was space for a more nuanced view of sexuality. Despite huge advances in legislation around issues such as same-sex marriage, there has been very little perceptible change in the public understanding of bi identities.
It would be wrong to suggest that everybody who makes negative comments about bisexuality is biphobic, even if their comments are. All too often comments such as these stem from ignorance and a lack of understanding, but at what point will people who should know better start making the effort to ensure that the LGBT-inclusivity is inclusive of bi people?
‘The Bisexuality Report: Bisexual inclusion in LGBT equality and diversity’ found that bi people are more likely to suffer higher rates of depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide than all of the larger sexual identity groups. While it is still considered socially acceptable to erase bi identities, we cannot expect this to change.
Stonewall believes that role models are vitally important for all people and recently conducted our first Bi Role Models programme, to encourage bi people from many different backgrounds to stand up as role models. We encourage bi people to speak in schools about their experiences so that bi students know they are not alone and non-bi students have a better understanding of bisexuality.
Over the next year we plan to run further programmes aimed specifically at bi people, aimed at ensuring more bi people are comfortable in being themselves wherever they work, socialise or pray.
We feel that positive bi role models are needed to ensure people have a better understanding of bi issues and bi-erasure and develop and understanding that bi people not only exist, but are entitled to the same freedoms and privileges as everybody else.
You can find more information on Stonewall’s Bi Role Models programme and how to apply at stonewall.org.uk
You can follow Dominic on Twitter @arnalldominic