Today is Bi Visibility Day, this is an international day of recognition for the bisexual community. The purpose of the day is to, educate around bi matters and issues and for people of the community, their families and allies to connect, be proud and be visible.
Co-Chair of the PSNI LGBT+ Network, Paul Bloomer, commented on Bi Visibility Day: “I know being Bi myself that all too often the B in LGBT is silent, with bisexual representation being much less visible than those who identify as lesbian or gay.
“Having a fuller understanding of all minority groups within our society and having a workforce which is representative of the communities that we serve, enables us to provide a more understanding, compassionate policing service which all sections of the community can have confidence in. Bi visibility day is one such opportunity for us to learn about the challenges and discrimination that can be faced by others.
“I know that many bi and pansexual people face not only the same stigma the whole LGBT community suffers but also stigma from within the community. Many bisexual people have been on the receiving end of comments which could be seen as intolerant or ignorant. This has led to Bi people choosing to hide their identity or avoid being fully active within the LGBT community. We need to end biphobia and I wish send a clear message to those identifying as bisexual that they are welcome in our Network and in the service as a whole. Being accepted in the workplace is so important as when we can be our true self in work, we are able to work to our full capacity and do our jobs with pride.”
‘C’, a bisexual woman in the PSNI LGBT+ Network wanted to share her perspective.
“As a bi person I found that I didn’t really belong anywhere, I felt like straight people considered me gay and gay people considered me straight. I never talked about my sexuality, but, when I got my first girlfriend as a teenager everyone said (and even argued with me!) that I was gay. It confused me, as it didn’t seem to matter that I had had a boyfriend previously.
Gay women sometimes dismissed me as “just experimenting” and men called me “greedy”
I had several long term relationships with both men and women and only ever seemed to be defined, sexuality wise, by the person I was with at that time.
I ended up marrying a man, and since then unfortunately haven’t felt like I “fitted in” to the gay community at all, as if it was a decision to “be straight” and that I’m not bisexual any more.
I think, had there been more awareness around bisexuality when I was younger it would have been a great support for me, as I often felt like I was the “only bi in the village”.
In the workplace
The LGBT+ charity Stonewall research shows that bisexual people are nearly 20% less likely to be out at work than lesbian or gay people.
Statistically you will work with several bisexual people. Some may be out but some will be presenting as either straight or gay.
Within our organisation it is important for all of our colleagues to feel comfortable in the workplace whatever their sexuality.
How can you support bisexual people?
- Try not to assume someone’s sexuality even if you think it is obvious, it may lead to awkwardness or pressure on someone to need to come out to you when maybe they aren’t comfortable with that
- If someone trusts you enough to tell you their orientation, please understand the huge leap of faith they have taken and keep an open mind
- Most people are happy to talk about their experiences and help understanding if the questions are respectful and come from a good place
- Think about the language you use and try to be inclusive in the terminology. It will be appreciated e.g. using partner instead of gender specific terms
- Please take the time to promote and support awareness days and make LGBTQ events bi inclusive
Did you know?
According to the office of national statistics 2% of the population identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual. 1.2% identify as lesbian or gay while 0.8% identify as bisexual.
Bi people are less likely to be out. For example 66% of bisexual women are not out to their GP or health professionals compared to 46% of gay women. For men it’s 60% bi and 30% gay (source: Stonewall).
Bisexual – The term bisexual is used to describe someone who is attracted to two or more genders. However it is often used as an umbrella term for other gender and sexual orientation identities.
Pansexual – This describes people who have an attraction to someone regardless of their sex or gender. Those who identify as pansexual are open to relationships with people who do not identify strictly as male or female.
Queer – Another umbrella term used to describe people who are not heterosexual or cisgender. The word queer has historically been used as a homophobic slur however in recent years the LGBT+ community have reclaimed the word and use it as a broader label.
Myths and Facts
Myth: Bisexuality is just a phase before someone comes out as gay or lesbian.
Fact: People sometimes identify as bi short term, however overall most identify as bi throughout their life.
Myth: You can’t identify as bisexual unless you have been in a relationship with both a man and a woman.
Fact: Sexual orientation is based on who people are attracted to, not their relationship status. Bisexual people are often in stable monogamous relationships and are still bisexual regardless of the gender of their partner.
I am exhausted. Physically and mentally. I know the majority of the Met’s officers and our amazing police staff are too. Never before in history have we faced so many converging life-changing events and never have we found ourselves in situations where we may be asked to impose almost unbelievably restrictive rules on people. Since March, the Met and its people have been literally working flat out, perhaps harder than they ever have, in situations more dangerous than anyone of us could have anticipated. Even at the height of this unbelievable crisis, they did not falter, coming into work and donning their uniforms – heading out into the unknown to protect others. I am so proud of them.
I am also proud of the work our LGBT+ officers and staff have been doing too, throughout the Met. Emergency response cops, control room staff answering 999 calls, dog handlers, detectives, counter terrorism. I am fairly qualified to say that we have out and proud people almost everywhere in policing. Over the last few months, many of them helped organise and contribute to online Pride celebrations. Our new team of over 250 LGBT+ Advisers, introduced last year by our Network, with the support of the Commissioner, stepped forward to help.
Very senior people asked me how they could help demonstrate solidarity – there are only 12 frontline Chief Superintendents in the Met, delivering all the local policing to communities across all the 32 London boroughs and many of them arranged Pride flags to be flown across their police stations. They have also been setting up inclusion and diversity panels, inviting practitioners to advise them on how we can improve crime fighting, safety and work more effectively with the community – not just everyone but specifically those who might not have as loud a voice as others – LGBT+ people in particular.
LGBT+ officers have taken part in the first ever multi-disciplinary Criminal Justice Conference on Chem Sex and harmful sexual practices – asked by senior detectives to contribute their influence, community contacts and lived experiences to improve safeguarding, knowledge and understanding.
They have been contributing to organisational learning, helping the Met shape policies and procedures following the horrific murders of four young men by Stephen Port.
Supporting LGBT+ colleagues through the crisis has also been so important to us. Trans colleagues have been unable to access surgeries or appointments and had HRT cancelled. Some living with HIV have been worried about their role on the frontline during the pandemic.
During lockdown we have influenced the police approach on calls to enforce new laws on cruising grounds. Taking a measured, proportionate and evidenced based approach, working alongside other stakeholders has been the way forward. As the Commissioner reminded me recently, ‘Policing is too much for some, and not enough for others’.
When I heard from the Pride in London team that people were calling for us to be removed from the 2021 Pride Parade, against the backdrop of the BLM movement, I was hurt. In the 23 years I have been a cop I have learned not to take things personally. I know how hard so many of our LGBT+ officers, staff and allies have worked. I have seen the difference they make, and how much their involvement energises and gives them strength to make even more difference, which is why the calls to banish them is all the more poignant.
“Pride is a protest”
“The presence of police is an insult to the black and non-black people of colour that are forgotten about and ignored”
“Change from within is dead, we are abolitionists now”
“Police are a force of terror”
It is an incredible privilege to lead our Met LGBT+ staff network committee, who in turn provide leadership for the rest of the Met regarding cultural competence for LGBT+ issues.
They are as diverse as London. Over half are black and non-black people of colour. We have every aspect of the LGBT and + represented, along with those with disabilities, with a broad mix of officer and staff, ranks and grades. They have been leading the conversations around intersectionality and the BLM movement, what this means to their loved ones and their role in the Met. They have helped me and others around me understand our privilege and what we need to do together to change. Their voices are heard at the highest levels of our organisation. Their presence – in the Met, at Pride, or anywhere else – will never be an insult.
Police have always had a part to play in protest, usually to facilitate it, keep the peace and prevent criminality. It was also a protest for the first officers who took part in uniform. A protest against discrimination they experienced within their own organisation. Systemic homophobia exists in many institutions and for some this was a show of solidarity, a visible signal of change from within. For some it still is and they deserve their place.
Change from within certainly isn’t dead at Scotland Yard. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are constantly changing, adapting, wanting to be the best. We ask Stonewall to inspect what we do and how we do it. We have an independent advisory group. We have relationships with LGBT+ community groups across London. We have a seat next to the Assistant Commissioner at our Strategic Diversity board. Don’t get me wrong, change in the Met can be immensely slow and frustrating. Show me a public sector organisation of 40,000 people and an annual operating budget of over £3 billion that isn’t.
We are as shocked and appalled as anyone at the death of George Floyd in the US. We want desperately to ensure something as horrifying as his death could never happen here. We are not complacent. From a London perspective, in my view, Police are an overwhelming force against terror. Terror at Pride to be exact. Last year, colleagues from our Counter Terrorism Command arrested and charged two people, one of whom was planning to attack Pride using a firearm, a sword and a van.
ACAB. It is true that a tiny minority very much fit this category. ‘ll bet anyone reading this can insert their own occupation into the C.
So, let me take you back to lockdown.
Stay home. Save the NHS. Protect lives.
On the 30th April London was deserted. Only the Police and medics were about on the streets. One of my West End Sergeants, Grieg, came to find me. He asked if I had chance to join him on some foot patrol. We put on our stab vests and off we went. We stopped at our local supermarket and I brought a bunch of flowers. A lady queuing outside made some assumptions, mumbling something whilst shooting me a dirty look.
We walked up with the flowers to Old Compton Street. We stopped outside the Admiral Duncan, and on behalf of all those people who couldn’t, we lay the flowers at the door – and remembered.
We are by no means a perfect organisation. We make mistakes. We have a long way to go until we don’t need a dedicated LGBT+ Network. But – I have never known a time such as now where I see a genuine willingness across the Met to learn, to grow, to listen and to act.
We have more than earned our right to walk with our community at Pride.
And we each have a right to be proud.
Written by Chief Inspector Daniel Ivey of the Metropolitan Police Service
You can read more about Daniel in the Role Model section here.
In my first blog as lead for LGBT+ issues for the Police Superintendents’ Association, I’d like to start by posing you a question…
What do you see when you look at this image? Just Kissing Coppers?
I’ll also start with a quick quiz, as I find this always gets people more interested in what I’m saying……So, one point for the name of the image, another for the artist, one for the location and one for the year (I’ll allow a year either side).
This image means completely different things to different people, and I wonder what you see when you look at the painting.
Some may see an image poking fun at the police, whilst others may see an image showing the human side of policing. Some may look at it and wish they had the confidence to be themselves at work. Some may feel uncomfortable to see officers engaged in such a way. Some, I am sure, will look at the image and wonder how they would ever have the time with today’s policing demands…..I shall return to this later.
Whilst it seems a long time ago now, it was only last summer that I was at WorldPride in New York, which commemorated its 50th year since the Stonewall Riots. Listening to the stories from people who worked at the Stonewall Inn, served as a reminder that we should be proud of our UK Police Service. We strive to be more inclusive, more accepting and more embracing of difference, and I am very proud to be part of the PSA which is a driving force towards this.
It was also last year when I attended EuroPride in Vienna, and listened as Dr Melania Geymonat addressed the worldwide audience about her experience of having been a victim of homophobic assault. You may remember the newspaper images of her and her partner on the bus in London with bloodied faces having been assaulted by a group of young people. As I listened to her speak, it served as a reminder of the work we still need to do to keep people safe, both outside and inside the Service.
Listening to other people’s stories and experiences is important if I am to represent our members well within the PSA. But I also bring my own experiences and stories too; my experiences of being outed by the vetting process, having been victim of homophobic assault and having to disclose it to my force, and my nervousness of taking part in my first Pride parade and standing alongside officers within my team who were transitioning.
So why did I start this blog by asking what you thought of Kissing Coppers? Unlike my first four quiz questions, there is no right answer. The way you interpret this image will be based on your own upbringing, background and experiences. As I sit in the LGBT+ reserve seat at the PSA, my approach to this role will naturally be my own interpretation of what I think is required. It will be how I see things looking through my own lens based on my own experiences.
I’ve told you a bit about the lens but what about my interpretation? I want to make sure that those who do not have the confidence to disclose their sexuality at work still have a voice through me. I want to ensure that the vetting process is as caring as it can be by not outing individuals. I want to make sure that those living with HIV are free from stigma in the workplace by increasing awareness of the facts. I want to be able to contribute to the outstanding work of the national LGBT+ network as they seek to support all forces in delivering meaningful activity. Most importantly, I would like you colleagues to know that if they have a concern, they should feel able to speak to me about it so I can help.
In my view, it’s this inclusive, open approach to experience and interpretation that will help us enhance the diversity within our workforce and within the Services we deliver. LGBT+ issues are just some of the many ‘issues’ we place under the banner of ‘under-represented groups’ and we have to be careful not to see them as only this – boxed off issues that we have to ‘deal with’. These groups are our workforce. We need their experiences, their interpretations and their expertise to benefit and enhance who we are.
That is my own interpretation of the role of the PSA’s LGBT+ reserve seat, but please do help inform my interpretation by getting in touch to discuss where you think the PSA can help.
Oh yes, the quiz answers…:
- Kissing Coppers
- Brighton (but half a mark for Amsterdam).