Bisexual. Bi. What comes to mind? Greedy, unfaithful, fence sitter, can’t make your mind up, straight girl just playing at it, straight guy who’s really gay; I never quite understood the frequent mantra I would hear that bi guys were really gay and bi girls were really straight – hint of misogyny or titillation perhaps? I’ve been accused of all of the above. But I’m a bisexual woman. Also a little odd that I am blogging about who I have intimate relationships with – straight people don’t do that!
We know from Civil Service People Survey data that the employment experience for bisexual civil servants is different from that of their lesbian, gay and straight colleagues. Bisexual civil servants are more likely to experience bullying, harassment or discrimination and are less well represented in SCS feeder grades, along with those who identify their sexual orientation as ‘other’. We also know that bisexual people are less likely to be open about their sexuality and it means that there is very little visibility of bisexual people in the Civil Service. Certainly, I haven’t met another openly bisexual senior civil servant in my time (and due to vetting rules back in the day very few who were openly LGBT+ at all) and I didn’t see any as I was moving up – maybe they were there, but they were certainly not visible. We are also doing research around why bi colleagues experience these issues in particular, and what more we should do to address them, therefore we are launching the Bi Survey which all colleagues in DIT who identify as Bi are encouraged to complete:
Access the DIT Bi Survey here.
Maybe for this reason I’ve hesitated to own the label over the years (except with my vetting officer – I have held DV security clearance for over 20 years). I’m fast approaching 50 and in my time, I have had long term relationships with all genders (perhaps I should use the label pansexual, but that’s a whole different story). The last few years I have used queer and bisexual interchangeably. But I have also allowed the assumption of lesbian when in a relationship with a woman and straight when in a relationship with a man. Also I pass. For the initiated that means that no-one would look at me and think I’m a lesbian. People don’t yell dyke at me when walking down the street (well not since I stopped going through my short hair/Doc Martins phase – which was a few years ago). I carry all the privileges of a straight white woman. Except when out with my non-binary partner and then they are often eroded. I have to think twice before reaching out to hold their hand and confirm it is safe – straight people don’t generally to do that in the UK. And we do still have abuse hurled at us. In villages in sleepy Kent and in central London. Homophobia is not yet dead I’m afraid.
So why now? And why does bi-visibility day/week matter to me?
As one of DIT’s LGBT+ champions (the other two are Claire Vince and Gavin Winbanks), it is really important to me that people can look up and see someone that is a bit like them. Visibility is important. I want the Civil Service to be a diverse and inclusive place to work and that includes those for whom bisexual is part of their identity. The LGBT+ SCS Champions and the Network are there to support anyone who identifies as LGBTQ+, so please do get in touch for more information or support.
Does your department network have a blog post to share on our website celebrating Bisexual Awareness Week or Day? Email the Civil Service LGBT+ Network with your contribution.