Tackling Biphobia in the Energy Industry

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2015 Energy Service Group Conference
23 February 2015

Conference welcomes the progress we have made in putting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality on the bargaining agenda in the energy industry. However, conference notes that LGBT workers are a diverse group, who experience different types of discrimination in different ways. There is increasing understanding that issues facing transgender workers, while having many overlaps with issues facing LGB workers, need particular recognition in workplace policies. There is less understanding of the particular issues for bisexual workers.

Research by The Manchester Business School published in 2014 into the experiences of lesbian, gay and bisexual workers, showed that of all the larger sexual orientation groups, bisexual workers have the worst mental health, including higher rates of depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide. This is directly linked to the high levels of biphobic prejudice and discrimination they experience at work.

Conference notes with regret that bisexual workers can experience prejudice and discrimination not only from colleagues and managers who are heterosexual but also from those who are lesbian or gay. Biphobia feeds off myths and stereotypes which range from bisexual people being untrustworthy, greedy and promiscuous to bisexuality being ‘just a phase’ or not really existing at all. Bisexual people have to repeatedly ‘come out’ to avoid people making wrong assumptions about their sexual orientation. Bisexual role models are few and far between and bisexual workers can feel particularly isolated.

Conference believes that while energy industry equality policies may refer to lesbian, gay and bisexual people, they must do more than pay lip service to the existence and rights of bisexual workers. It is important to separate biphobia from homophobia, recognising that there are specific issues facing bisexual workers in energy.

Conference calls on the energy service group executive, working with the business and environment equal opportunities working party, to:

a)Maintain a high profile commitment to equality, including bisexual equality, in all negotiating, organising and campaigning;

b) Promote the use of UNISON’s ‘Bisexuality; a Trade Union Issue’ Factsheet and other LGB bargaining factsheets and materials;

c) Encourage branches to equality proof their energy companies’ policies to ensure that they specifically challenge biphobia in the workplace.