1 million bi+ people... but where?
One million Dutch people are ‘bi+’ according to recent research. This group has (had) feeling for people of more than one gender. A large group of people, but how many people do you know that are bi+? How many bi+ people do you see in the media?
A large part of this group is invisible. This happens for example when they are in a relationship that appears to be a hetero relationship, for example when a bi+ man is in a relation with a straight woman: it seems they are both hetero, partly due to the so-called cisheteronorm, mentioned earlier by my colleague Maaike Muntinga.
Also, many people do not call themselves ‘bi’. Barbara Oud, chair of organisation Bi+ Nederland tells me “Many people with bi+ feelings do not have a coming out: bi+ is often not an identity, but rather an expression of romantic or sexual feelings for people of multiple gender identities”. This is one the reasons to use the term ‘bi+’: it is an umbrella term for everybody who is not monosexual. Monosexual? That is the term for people who are only attracted to men or only attracted to women. ‘Bi+’, on the other hand, includes people who called themselves bi and feel attracted to both men and women. Or people who call themselves pansexual and who are attracted to all gender identities. Or people who call themselves lesbian or straight, but who have (had) feelings for people of more than one gender identity.
In the media, bi+ people are often invisible. I think about Queen’s lead singer, Freddy Mercury: he called himself bi, but was almost always referred to as gay by the media. Or about Dutch singer-songwriter Duncan Laurence: when he shared on social media that he identified as ‘bi’ he was accused of being gay and using bisexuality to sell better abroad.
A brilliant new year’s resolution would be: do not question the identity of bi+ people
But, oh well, who cares about this invisibility? Why do we need so much attention for ‘the lucky few’ who do not need to worry about the gender identity of their love one or bed partner? Unfortunately, this optimistic image is not reflected in the (limited) research on bi+ people in the Netherlands. For example, research conducted by research institute SCP indicates that 26% of their bisexual respondents can be classified as ‘psychologically unhealthy’. This is a significant difference compared to heterosexual respondents (11% ‘psychologically unhealthy’) and to gay/lesbian people (17% ‘psychologically unhealthy’)
The motivation behind these numbers is currently missing, but I have a suspicion: the invisibility of bi+ people is one of the pieces that can help to solve the puzzle why so many bi+ people experience psychological problems. Another factor in this could be the negative responses that people get when they come out as bi+. So, dear readers, perhaps a brilliant new year’s resolution would be: do not question the identity of bi+ people!
The large majority of the respondents, 72%, (fully) agreed with the statement ‘bisexuality can be discussed at VU Amsterdam'
On a more positive note: at VU Amsterdam’s campus bi+ issues seem to be doing quite good. In 2020 VU Pride sent out a mini survey to the 288 readers of our newsletter. We got 233 responses, a response rate of 81% - enough to make a marketing agency jealous! The findings? The large majority of the respondents, 72%, (fully) agreed with the statement ‘bisexuality can be discussed at VU Amsterdam’. Also, 50% of the respondents knew two or more bisexual people at VU Amsterdam. Fantastic, these numbers are a lot better. An optimistic end to this slightly pessimistic column after all!
And there is more good news: our monthly peer support group ‘VU Pride TalkS!’ on 15 February 2021 will focus completely on bi+. Also, on 17 February 2021 we welcome researcher Jantine van Lisdonk, who completed a PhD research on sexuality and gender at VU Amsterdam. She will talk about relationship diversity during our Wild Wednesday Webinar and take into account the role bi+ has played in her work.
programme coordinator VU Pride