Celebrating Bi+ Visibility Day
22 Sep 2023
“It feels important for my wellbeing to be open about my bisexuality.”
During Bi+ Awareness Week we sat down with our Quality and Risk Coordinator Sue Whitelaw to talk about all things bi+ visibility. Sue's new to Thorne Harbour and joined us back in July.
“I have worked in a lot of predominantly hetero environments, so working at Thorne Harbour Health feels more balanced for me.”
Bi+ visibility can be complicated. When bi+ people are in relationships with someone of the opposite gender, they are often assumed to be straight, and when they’re in a same-sex relationship, they’re often assumed to be gay or lesbian. These assumptions come from both inside and outside the LGBTIQA+ community and we all need to work to undo them.
The thing to remember is that bi+ people aren’t half gay and half straight – bisexuality is its own unique identity and the gender of someone’s partner doesn’t always define their sexuality. That’s why Bi+ Awareness Week is important – it encourages all of us to recognise and support the bi+ people in our lives.
During some periods of my life I have been too quiet about being bisexual, it can feel isolating; there are a lot of assumptions that people can make.
Those assumptions can make bi+ people feel invisible or erased. 'Bi-erasure' is a common term referring to times when bi+ people’s identities are ignored. This is a pervasive problem in both LGBTIQA+ and straight communities. It’s also a problem in the media and popular culture.
Considerate and thoughtful bi+ representation on TV and in movies can be difficult to navigate. The assumptions that we make about bi+ people are common on screen, too. Often bi+ characters have to say, “I’m bisexual!” for the audience to understand their sexuality, and too often their identities are reduced to gay or straight. However, there’s many times it’s been done right and many celebrities who are vocal about their bi+ identity.
Sue’s favourite bicons (bisexual icons) are, “Joan Baez, Simone De Beauvoir, David Bowie, Neneh Cherry, Vikram Seth, Susan Sontag, Lilly Singh, Virginia Woolf, there seem to be lots!”
Another of Sue’s favourite bicons is Lady Gaga who is constantly helping to improve bi+ representation. Gaga is bisexual and famously open about discussing her sexuality in interviews.
Thorne Harbour is committed to creating more health and wellbeing services for our LGBTIQ+ communities, including our bi+ communities. Bi+ people are always welcome in our peer support workshops for same sex attracted people.
Sue envisions more specific support groups for bi+ people. “If there is a bi gardening group out there in the world then I should join that,” she says.
Bi+ Awareness Week and Visibility Day are just short periods for such a large and important part of our LGBTIQ+ communities. This week is the perfect opportunity to improve your allyship and your knowledge of the bi+ community throughout the year.
Bi+ Collective Australia, a national group of bi+ advocacy organisations, has created Stand Bi Us, a three-day series of panels, forums, and events. You can register for online and in person activities on their website: bicollectiveaustralia.
Earlier this year at Better Together 2023 in Adelaide, Well Well Well spoke to longstanding community bicon Robyn Ochs about her experience coming out 46 years ago and what’s changed in our perception and understanding of the bi+ communities.
Sue’s advice is simple and should ring a bell for anyone working on their allyship: “Try to be inclusive and welcoming as much as you can and keep an open mind.”