Equality for bisexual women workers

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2014 National Women's Conference
18 October 2013

Conference notes that Bisexual Visibility Day has been marked on the 23rd September since 1999. Bisexual Visibility Day is a day in which the bisexual community, their friends and supporters recognise and celebrate bisexuality, but the day is not acknowledged by many.

Quite often bisexual women face biphobia not only from heterosexuals, but from the LGBT community as well. They face allegations of sitting on the fence and of not making their minds up. Bisexual women are particularly likely to be accused of being greedy or promiscuous.

Research supported by UNISON has shown that bisexual women are far less likely to be out at work. The UK results for the Europe-wide LGBT 2012/2013 discrimination survey showed that 31% lesbians and 53% bisexual women always or often hid or disguised their sexual orientation at work during the last five years

Bisexuality is often paid no more than lip-service in equality action plans and omitted from equality and diversity training. It is no surprise that bisexual women are afraid to disclose their sexual orientation due to a fear of prejudice and discrimination.

Conference notes the 2012 Open University Bisexuality Report which found:

a)Bisexual people’s experiences differ in important ways from those of heterosexual people, and from those of lesbian and gay people.

b)Biphobia is distinct from homophobia.

c)Bisexual populations have significantly higher levels of distress and mental health difficulties than equivalent heterosexual or lesbian/gay populations.

The report also suggests that bisexuality is considerably more common amongst women than men.

Conference welcomes the following recommendations of the report:

i)Inform yourself about bisexuality and avoid stereotypes about bisexual people.

ii)Include bisexuality within all policy and explicitly within the diversity implications section of every document and policy.

iii)Don’t assume one unified bisexual experience. The experiences and needs of bisexual people are also affected by their race, culture, gender, relationship status, age, disability, religion, social class, geographical location, etc.

iv)Separate biphobia out from homophobia, recognising that there are specific issues facing bisexual people such as lack of acknowledgement of their existence, stereotypes of greediness or promiscuity, and pressure to be either gay or straight.

v)Recognise the role that biphobia and bisexual invisibility play in creating negative outcomes for bisexual people.

Conference calls on the National Women’s Committee, in liaison with the National LGBT Committee, to work with branch and regional women’s groups to address equality for bisexual women members including:

1)Publicising the findings and recommendations of the 2012 Bisexuality Report via regional and branch women’s groups and the women’s self-organised group webpages;

2)Promoting UNISON’s factsheets on Bisexuality: a trade union issue and on Lesbian, gay and bisexual workers rights;

3)Publicising and promoting the annual UNISON network meeting for bisexual members, held each July, and Bisexual Visibility Day held each September, throughout the women’s self-organised group, including via social media; and

4)Addressing bisexual equality in regional women’s equalities training and events.