The LGBTQ family has many beautiful and diverse facets, but bi people are perhaps one of the most overlooked. That is what makes 23 September, which is Bi Visibility Day, so important.
Last year, when writing a column for GAY TIMES about how we needed to re-think our perceptions of bi people, I was forced to acknowledge that, whilst I had female bi friends at university, it wasn’t until much later that I had bi male friends.
Perhaps I did have bi male friends or even lovers, but they did not have the confidence to tell me that they were bi. It was certainly true that the vast majority of LGBTQ venues at that time were aimed at “gay men” and may have felt unfriendly towards bi people.
Whilst bi people are still not getting the recognition they deserve, even within the last year the situation has improved. National Bi Pride was held for the first time this year, in Hackney on 7 September. Although the event took place in London, it drew people from across the UK and from across the entire LGBTQ spectrum. It was great to see so much support for bi people. There were some very powerful speeches and it is vital that we hear more bi voices.
I was fortunate to have a chat with bi singer/songwriter and role model John Galea, who told me about his own coming out journey and some of the challenges he has faced. John is in his early thirties, a little younger than me. He told me that he first started to realise he was bi in his mid-teens. At the time this was difficult. As John says, he “looked at men, but part of me still found women attractive.”
There were both positive and negative aspects to John’s Coming Out story. He had girlfriends and boyfriends in his late-teens and his friends were supportive of this. Exploring the LGBTQ community was liberating, but he emphasises that he “has not always been comfortable with labels”.
He found some gay men questioning why he was interested in girls as well as guys. On the LGBTQ community today, he observes that: “Of course, the community now is a lot more understanding.”
John notes that LGBTQ people are much more educated about what it means to be bi and it is this increased awareness which helped him become fully comfortable in his sexuality, approximately five or six years ago. Throughout this journey John has been fortunate that both his parents and brother have been really supportive. He adds though that some friends and family members do still sometimes make assumptions.
In terms of stigma, John notes that “biphobia is a thing” and that gay men should reflect on this more. He still experiences stigma now, although he has reached a point in his life where this “washes over” him. The most common misconceptions he comes across are that gay men do not believe he is interested in women, or that he is just on a stage towards coming out as gay. Some will simply not believe he is bi.
In 2016, John released the single When You Truly Love Someone, which has a bi theme.
The video features the actress Gemma Oaten, who has been an amazing straight ally to the LGBTQ community. Throughout the song John explores his feelings for both men and women. The track is as striking for its authenticity as for the powerful vocals.
Everyone has their own coming out journey, a point which John is keen to make.
His advice to bi people, who are perhaps struggling with coming out is that: “If you’re comfortable, know yourself, then don’t let other people’s ignorance make you unhappy.”
John is currently working on new music and we can expect to see him continuing to raise awareness around bi issues.
I think that this Bi Day of Visibility we have a lot to celebrate. Attitudes towards bi people are rapidly changing for the better. However, across the LGBTQ community and beyond we need to ensure that we treat everyone with the respect and acceptance that we would like for ourselves.
Everyone within the LGBTQ community is equally unique, beautiful and valid in their identities.