By Dr. Lauren Beach, J.D.
Today marks the 15th annual Celebrate Bisexuality Day. The day is also known as Bi Visibility Day or Bi Pride Day. To celebrate the last 15 years, GLAAD, BiNet USA and other bisexual organizations are launching Bisexual Awareness Week (#biweek www.bisexualweek.com). Some people may be wondering – why do bisexuals need a special day, let alone an entire week, to celebrate pride in their identity? Isn’t LGBT Pride Month enough? The truth is, bisexuals are often misunderstood and rejected not only by straight communities, but also all too often by our gay and lesbian allies. These misunderstandings stem from misconceptions that bisexuality is “just a phase,” or that because bisexuals are supposedly “half straight,” (actually, no, I’m 100% bisexual, thanks), they do not face as much stigma as gay or lesbian people for their sexual orientations.
For more #bihealthmonth resources, please visit the Bisexual Resource Center’s website.
Bisexual people experience a lack of understanding and a rejection of bisexuality known as biphobia – and it has costs, not only on the individual level, but also in the workplace. As someone who has lived and worked in locations with varied laws recognizing LGBT equality in the workplace, my own life experiences have taught me the importance of the ability to be out at work. I found it was incredibly stressful working in a state without workplace equality and with no anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people. The lack of out LGBT workplace role models made coming out at work unknown territory. Would I be fired? Harassed? Would people rally to my support or defense? Everything was an unknown. Every time my boss asked to meet with me and every time my co-workers paused their conversations as I walked by, I would wonder – “Did they find out? Will I be fired?” This inability to bring “my whole self” to work distracted from my ability to dedicate 100% of my mental abilities to my job – an outcome that surely lowered my maximum potential productivity.
As a bisexual who has dedicated countless hours to LGBT organizations, causes, and movements, I have also experienced ridicule and rejection from gay and lesbian people who do not believe that bisexuality is a valid sexual orientation. I feared that my gay and lesbian colleagues might not support my coming out as bisexual – and that this rejection, even from supposedly peer LGBT community members – could encourage further ridicule from straight colleagues.
Even in states where LGBT employment protections for sexual orientation and gender identity exist, there are still misunderstandings and harassment based on bisexual identity. Biphobic comments in the workplace made by straight or gay and lesbian colleagues can create a hostile work environment that decreases workplace productivity. When people say, “your bisexuality is none of my business… why are you making it my business (by coming out at work?),” nothing could be further from the truth. Not feeling comfortable being out at work – whether as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender – decreases workplace productivity, hurting the bottom line. Creating a welcoming work environment for bisexuals – and all LGBT people – is literally everyone’s business.
So – how can recognizing events like Bisexual Awareness Week and Bi Visibility Day help? When an employer hosts a well-advertised, well-organized Bi Visibility Day event, they send a message it is okay to come out as a bisexual at work. Some employees will receive this message and choose to come out, creating the beginning of a Celebrating Bi Visibility Day. This will help bisexual employees to feel comfortable and accepted at work.
For more on Bisexual Awareness Week please visit www.bisexualweek.com
Lauren B. Beach, JD/PhD is a former Chairperson of Bisexual Organizing Project. She is a native of Michigan who fell in love with Minnesota, and who now lives in Lusaka, Zambia.
The topic for Out & Equal’s Town Call for the month of September will be Bisexuality in the Workplace. Members of our Bisexual Advisory Committee and our Bisexual Leadership Roundtable will be hosting the call. This call will be taking place during an international Bisexual Awareness Week.
Heidi Bruins Green, chair of our Bisexual Advisory Committee had this to say about the upcoming call, “This Town Call will give you an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of the next big thing our ERGs will start being measured on: the experience of bisexuals in our companies. What do you need to do to make sure your ERG doesn’t get behind others in creating an inclusive workplace? Join us and find out!”
Please join us on Thursday, September 25th, for an in-depth discussion with the experts to learn more about the diversity of this group and breaking down of myths surrounding this community. You can click here to register for the call.
For more information check out the resources listed below: