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Opinion: Bisexual poverty is overlooked by the LGBT+ community

Image: bi-ed.com

Poverty is one of the main issues facing bisexual people. Yet it is a problem that is seriously overlooked.

Bisexual people are the ‘invisible majority’ of the LGBT+ community.

Despite being the largest group under the rainbow flag by some measures, our needs and our marginalisation are often ignored.

Abuse from both the gay and straight communities – so-called double discrimination – is a major contributor to this, and has a profound effect on our lives and wellbeing.

“Bi people still face significant challenges including invisibility, exclusion, biphobia and a lack of support from friends, family and colleagues”, a spokesperson for Stonewall, a British LGBT+ charity, told me.

When it comes to poverty rates, in the United States, bisexual men are most likely to report a household income that falls below the poverty line, according to a recent study by the Center for American Progress. Almost a quarter of American bisexual men are poor, compared with 12 percent of gay men and 6 percent of straight men.

The numbers were similar for bisexual women, with 21 percent reporting living in poverty, compared with 14 percent of straight women. Lesbians, on the other hand, were the least likely to be poor (the study did not break respondents down according to non-binary identities and/or people of colour).

Although statistics from other countries are less readily available, a 2013 study by the University of Essex found that gay men and bisexual men and women in the UK are more likely to be poor than their heterosexual peers. Bisexual women experienced the greatest material disadvantage.

Young bisexual people are also at a greater risk of experiencing bullying, and are less ambitious about going to university. They are as likely as heterosexuals to be single parents, but more prone to struggling financially.

These findings create a picture of a community that is struggling in almost every area of life, from family and relationships to education and housing. But it is not surprising that people who are fighting against debilitating social factors, without support, are struggling financially, and in the workplace and home.

The prejudice and social marginalisation faced by bisexual people affects their bottom line.

As bisexual activist, Heron Greenesmith, points out, the lack of family support (which again, is an area where bisexual youths are more vulnerable than their gay/lesbian peers) is a significant contributing factor. This intersects with bisexual people being less likely to graduate from high school in the United States, and shockingly high rates of homelessness.

Networks and resources, created to help gay and lesbian individuals, are not always equipped to deal with the specific issues bisexual people face. This means many don’t reach out to schemes that are supposed to help the whole LGBT+ community.

“In all the places I worked that had these networks, they were almost always white and completely lesbian and gay only”, Jacq Applebee, the founder of Bis of Colour, an advocacy group for bisexual people from ethnic minorities, said. “The experiences of a white gay man and that of a black bisexual femme are very different”.

Poverty rates for bisexual people, who experience multiple types of oppression, may be even higher.

“The double-whammy of racism [and other discrimination] and biphobia at work and in the outside world can often feel hopeless”, Applebee said.

More recognition of the multiple ways in which bisexual people are discriminated against will go a long way in addressing our problems.

But it will work only if LGBT+ organisations are also dedicated to committing money, time, and resources, to address the underlying marginalisation that exacerbates our likelihood of living in poverty.

-Lois Shearing

Lois Shearing is a writer and bisexual activist. Any views expressed in this article are the author’s own. (First published by Thomson Reuters Foundation).




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One comment on “Opinion: Bisexual poverty is overlooked by the LGBT+ community

  1. Instead of the calculus of oppression could you just offer up what we would want to do to better recognize bisexual poverty. Of course how you distinguish those who think kinsey scale and so check bisexulity verses actually atracted to both sexes. Likewise there is it seems some difference between those who are bisexually capable in one direction or the other. Did the stats break down bisexuals in a male male relationship verses male female. What about paternity etc. Now what all that is about is teasing out what is core about the bisexual experience so that we can assess weather that has been the struggle and obstacle to success and opportunity. Which again is the oppression calculous and I just am not seeing the bisexuals beating the gays on that

    Luckily we need never agree on that and still both help advance your cause. For example our goal in the lgbt community advocates to insure that housing programs are being monitored for potential discrimination against same sex couples and or single applicants for assistance how is this not equally to the benefit of Bisexual people and accounting for their needs in this area? Go through the issues- if the work is to free teachers to discuss gay topics in the classrooms weed out practices that protect teachers from hostile treatment for who they do or don’t sleep with besides students, minors etc. and work for mental health services that are affordable for all and keep working toward the fact of the sex of ones mate is relevant almost entirely to the mating parties themselves and no one else aren’t we addressing bi-poverty.

    Cause as I see it that does take care of it and what it gets down to for bi folks in relation to complaints about the lg of the lgbt is one of the following:
    * that we either say we won’t date you all (though we usually are all bluster when it comes to the actual person).
    * that we get insecure in dating relationships and go postal at the almost inevitable break up (inevitable because face it we can not compete in terms of social strokes, warm family incorporation of spouse with minimal tensions, and of course copulatory reproduction so either you all cave or we feel this inadequacy and shame and so project our inability to trust all over everything you do and one of us parts in a self ritius huff or takes the blame and just shrivels beyond what even a saint could still claim to get into). So this one we guarantee a level of superfluously high maintenance.
    * That the l and the g are always so big on our own space or we treat you as one of the group only when you are dating or partnered with someone of the same sex so you end up feeling unwelcome if in a mixed marriage so to speak and get the idea that we all think “hey you have the whole world now why do you need our ever shrinking exclusive spaces and venues” (which admittedly we do though your your most likely straight partner would be even more wigged than he or she already is if we rolled out the welcome mat full tilt), and so you go to pride or to an organizing session or whatever and feel like “hey this is so my experience too and why do I not feel fully welcome and included and at the center on pride day” to which I can just offer I imagine that is how kids feel who grow up with significant experience in two different countries, it means you get all the access and facility in various settings that comes of growing up as a citizen of the world more than any one country and with it you get the booby prize of being a global citizen which is the chance that like so many in that situation you tragically are left able to more authentically connect across various boundaries and pay for it by never getting to feel what it is to be fully encompassed within the culture you are still a part of. Sorry about that and I will work on it but not loosing sleep is what I am getting at.

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