How to be a better bi ally.
This article was written by a UK based bisexual police officer, who does not feel they can be fully out at work.
Although it may seem obvious to some, it may not be to others. Bisexuality is defined as a person who is attracted to people of different genders, romantically and/or sexually. It is important to note that bisexuality is an identity, a sexual orientation rather than a behaviour. I came out in to some colleagues as bisexual which resulted in me being subject to inappropriate questioning and unsolicited opinions from colleagues. Curiosity is natural, however I would suggest giving some thought to whether it is appropriate to voice your thoughts in relation to another person’s identity; try to apply some critical thinking and try not to assume. Some of the questions and comments I received made me think twice about disclosing my sexuality again in work.
Bi-erasure is another issue faced by bisexual individuals both in the community and in the workplace. Bi-erasure relates to someone’s current relationship status negating their identity as bisexual. For example, if a bisexual woman were in a relationship with a man, the assumption or insistence would be that she is therefore heterosexual. Bi people in cross sex relationships are still Bi, their relationship is not heterosexual as they are not heterosexual. Bi people in cross sex relationships should still belong and be welcomed into LGBT+ spaces but this isn’t always the case. I’m in a cross sex relationship and most people assume that I’m straight, meaning I have to repeatedly out myself to people when my presence at LGBT+ events or spaces is questioned.
I have seen some great support for LGBT+ colleagues within my police service and I think that with a concerted effort to be more mindful, we can create an environment where all bi colleagues feel safe and comfortable being their true selves at work. In summary, I would suggest the best way’s to be an ally to bisexual colleagues are;
- Educate yourself on the lived experiences of bi people, there are loads of resources online, try not to ask a question of a bi person that you could just google.
- Avoid inappropriate assumptions/questions/jokes.
- Do not offer unsolicited opinions on sexual orientation.
- Support colleagues by advocating for LGBT+ persons both internally and externally.
- Take time to understand specific difficulties faced by bisexual colleagues such as bi-erasure.
- Accept a person’s identity, whether sexual orientation, gender identity or any other as dictated by them, and treat them accordingly using appropriate language.
I understand most of us are already treating our colleagues with respect regardless of their identity and don’t need this advice but I hope it is of some help to anyone who may be unsure or has perhaps not recognised their behaviour as inappropriate.
As always, should you have any questions, concerns or need any advice in relation to LGBT+ matters, please do not hesitate to contact a member of your local Police LGBT+ Network Committee.