Did you know that 1 in 4 people define as something other than heterosexual?
In 2015, a YouGov survey of the British public found that 23% of us experience some kind of attraction to the same, or more than one gender. This figure rose to 49% of 18-25 year olds; and as time goes by, more and more people are acknowledging that they fall somewhere in-between.
Could this mean that between a quarter and half of all FCO staff might be somewhere on this “in between” spectrum too?
Quite possibly. But how can this be? No one seems to talk about this at work. Until recently, I never knew anyone who defined as “bisexual”. If this affects so many of us, why aren’t we open about it? As a bi+ member of staff, even I have never (until this blog) been open about my identity in the office.
Bi+ people are all around, but you may never have noticed.
The truth is that bi+ people (people who experience attraction towards more than one sex, gender or gender identity)*, exist in all walks of life but we rarely feel safe enough to open up. This is partly because we are generally able to “pass” in the heteronormative world. In other words, we have adapted to hide ourselves, in plain sight…
… and mostly, people make assumptions about us, so we don’t get heard.
Being confident in yourself at work doesn’t mean you have to suddenly become a card-carrying member of the LGBT community; in fact, there are so many average, every-day members of staff who quietly happen to have their own unique orientation somewhere on the spectrum.
Sometimes we don’t fit under one label. Other times our orientation shifts over time. Many of us are in long term opposite-sex relationships, or define as “mostly straight”. All of these varieties and many more can fall under the bi+ umbrella. But because of the assumption that everyone has to fit into narrowly defined categories, people like us get erased. We fall between the cracks, existing in the margins, scared to speak up. For this reason, bi+ people are vulnerable to isolation and exclusion, as well as anxiety, depression and even suicide, more so than other parts of the LGBT community. Then, if we do dare to speak out, the assumptions begin. People think we’re promiscuous “experimenters”, others think we’re closeted homosexuals, or it’s “just a phase”. We are distrusted in relationships and almost completely unrepresented in popular culture.
… but if there are so many of us, why is this happening to us?
As bi+ people, we often don’t realise how many people there are just like us. About 40% of bi people do not feel safe to tell their work colleagues, compared to 7% of gay men and 4% gay women. But bi+ covers a huge range of different identities as well as those who chose not to identify at all. So please, if you have ever felt like this: you are not alone. In fact, you’re the opposite of alone! There are literally millions of people around you who truly get it and are here to help. There is no one single “correct” identity. Sometimes your identity doesn’t make sense. That’s totally normal. And if you do happen to have an exclusive orientation – you are also not alone. You are surrounded by a brilliant, diverse set of colleagues and friends, many of whom will never tell you, but really appreciate your support. They’re your team-mates, managers, directors. You never know who might be impacted by a gesture of solidarity.
To access help or support…
- If you would like to talk to someone in confidence, with no judgement, please get in touch with FLAGG or Mark Smith (he/him)
- If you’re suffering from anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts, please seek help.
- If you feel brave enough to talk, do it. Every time we speak out, it makes it easier for someone else.
- Remember that you are surrounded by friends and allies.
- You don’t have to define as anything. You don’t have to understand your own mind. It doesn’t have to make sense.
- If you experience abuse at work, there are confidential ways to report it (FCDO internal access only): BHDanonymousfeedbacktool / First Response Officers / Employee Assistance Programme.
- Let’s start the conversation. Get in touch with any views and/or comments on this blog.
If you would like to help others…
- Be an ally. Tell people. Talk about it. Make it known. Support people.
- Don’t assume somebody’s orientation or identity, no matter how sure you think you are.
- Use inclusive language and read up on terminology.
- Stand up, if you can, to intolerant behaviour in the workplace.
- Wear a rainbow lanyard this Pride season, it is a great statement of solidarity.
- Include your pronouns on your email signature.
- If you’d like more information about how you can make a more inclusive workplace, you can find it here.
Bi+ is an umbrella term which includes all those who experience attraction towards more than one sex, gender or gender identity. It includes bisexual, pansexual, non-defining, bi-curious and many more…
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.