Bisexual visibility was on full display during Joy 949 Sydney Mardi Gras coverage. Andrew Macdougall tells us why it’s so important.
Glitz, glamour and glitter, that’s what comes to mind when most people are talking about the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras. For me, though, Mardi Gras means acceptance, history, being yourself and remembering those who started it all in the face of police brutality.
It should be a time to celebrate the entire LGBTQ+ community, something that hasn’t always been the case with a history of prejudice towards bisexuals. This was no more prominent than in the late 1990s when bisexuals seeking Mardi Gras membership had to provide additional information in regards to their bisexuality.
Every year, when I watch the Mardi Gras, I always wait for the first visual of a bisexual community member, colours, flags and signs to mark our presence. Pride parades can sometimes be a lonely place for bisexual people; abuse and snide remarks have filtered through to marches and bi people attending parades from LGBTQ+ members.
Listening to JOY 949 radio coverage while I watched the SBS live stream of the event, it was pleasing and positive to hear the Joy hosts mention bisexual rights and visibility of bi people. It’s important for the bisexual community to have this level of exposure, treated as though our issues are relevant and worth fighting for.
This was No more prominent than the late 1990s when bisexuals seeking Mardi Gras membership had to provide additional information in regards to their bisexuality.
March marks the fifth annual Bisexual Health Awareness Month (BHAM), where, annually, we focus on issues the bisexual community faces and health disparities which see bi people represented in higher numbers of mental and physical health issues compared to their LGT counterparts. Studies show that bisexual people make up the largest portion of the LGBTQ+ community and yet over representation across areas such as health, visibility and being out are extremely worrying.
Changing the trend for bisexual people starts with visibility; being able to see yourself represented daily breaks the stigma of being bi. With bisexuals less likely to come out to family and peers, or tell medical practitioners their sexual orientation, leads to greater mental and physical health issues which see bisexuals unable to seek access to the help they need. Visibility is important to shifting these issues.
Every 12 months, a bisexuality-related article will surface online which highlights the struggles bi people face, usually with 5-10 points of recycled news that has been written ad nauseam. It’s the usual causes: biphobia, phase, attention seeking etc, yet pressing concerns such as mental health, discrimination, homelessness and failure to find correct medical help are major issues which should outweigh quick online click-bait. We need real discussion.
Severely underfunded, the bisexual community lacks the resources to be able to make an imprint and headway into the issues we face. Statistics from the US highlighted this most, with recent years showing bisexuals got allocated $0 funding out of the LGBTQ+ community.
In Australia, the LGBTQ+ community made a giant leap in 2017 with the passing of marriage equality allowing same-sex couples to marry. This is a terrific step forward for LGBTQ+ people, but there is still work to be done until true equality is reached. Bisexual people are still discriminated against in the state of NSW, where bisexuality is yet to be addressed, even after ‘homosexuality’ and ‘transgender’ have been added to the anti-discrimination act.
It’s here where the visibility factor highlighted by Joy 949 becomes so important. Creating discussion and bringing bi issues into mainstream media and community, which can only help the funding aspects which so desperately need improving world-wide. Funding increases will create visibility; visibility will then transfer to the lowering of statistics.
Statistics from the US highlighted this most, with recent years showing bisexuals got allocated $0 funding out of the LGBTQ+ community.
In terms of bisexual activism, I am a small part in a much bigger puzzle; prominent activists who fight for bisexual rights each day have a larger voice. Their reach is bigger. What is important is every person becoming a piece of the jigsaw, adding blocks to the puzzle which will eventually see a thriving vibrant bisexual community.
Joy 949 has added their block, the puzzle is starting to take shape, and we need to keep pushing to remove biphobia and the stigma which has hampered a community for decades.
Follow Andrew on Twitter (@AndrewMacWrites)