23 September 2021

Bi Visibility Day (also sometimes known as International Celebrate Bisexuality Day) has taken place on 23 September each year since 1999. The day is intended to recognise and celebrate bisexual (or "bi") people and the history of bisexuality, as well as raising awareness of the discrimination bi people can still face from both inside and outside the LGBT+ community.

'Bisexuality' is a broad term which is used to describe when a person experiences physical and/or romantic attraction to individuals of more than one sex. In other words, people who are bisexual experience both heterosexual (different sex) and homosexual (same-sex) attraction. There is no fixed way to be bisexual: bi people can be attracted some sexes or genders more than others, or can be attracted to different sexes or genders in different ways or at different times.[1]

Unfortunately, there are still a large number of negative stereotypes and myths about bi people. Perhaps the most pervasive of these is that bi people don’t really exist. This is rooted in the misconception that all bi people are secretly either straight or gay and are delusional, attention-seeking, or 'going through a phase' by claiming to be bisexual. Bi people are also often accused of being greedy, promiscuous or incapable of being faithful in a monogamous relationship.

These myths about bisexuality are particularly harmful because they can be just as prevalent within the LGBT+ community as outside of it. According to the LGBT+ charity Stonewall, 27% of bi women and 18% of bi men surveyed had faced discrimination from within their local LGBT+ community as opposed to 9% of lesbians and just 4% of gay men.[2] Historically, bi people have even been shunned outright from LGBT+ spaces: for example, the London Lesbian and Gay Centre (an important LGBT+ space in the 1980s) at one point banned bisexual groups from using its venue.[3] This widespread biphobia has consequences: research has shown that bi people in the UK are more likely to have higher levels of anxiety than lesbian, straight or gay people, and on average have lower levels of happiness and life satisfaction.[4] Any difficulties caused by discrimination will be amplified even further for those with other marginalised identities, such as bi trans people and bi people of colour.[5]

Bi Visibility Day represents an important opportunity to challenge these harmful narratives and to celebrate bi identities. Bi people need allies both inside and outside the LGBT+ community who are willing to learn about bi experiences and the specific obstacles bi people face, and to challenge biphobia and damaging stereotypes when they see them. An important first step is to avoid making assumptions about a person's sexual orientation on the basis of their past or current partners, or the people they date. If a bi person dates primarily one gender or is in a long-term relationship with someone of a particular gender, this does not make them gay or straight: they are still bi, and should be accepted as such.[6]

Allies should also avoid interrogating bi people in an attempt to 'pin down' their 'real' sexuality and strive instead to accept bi people for who they say they are.[7] There are a number of excellent organisations seeking to represent bisexual people in the UK, including the Bisexual Index, Bi Pride UK and the Bi Survivors Network. For anyone looking to learn more about the issues facing bi people and how allies can help, their websites (along with Stonewall's) are a great place to start.

This article was written by Ellen Robinson, BProud Management Committee.


[1] https://bi.org/en/101/bisexuality

[2] https://www.stonewall.org.uk/about-us/news/vaneet-speaks-about-bisexualmenexist-and-why-bi-visibility-so-important

[3] https://www.stonewall.org.uk/about-us/news/vaneet-speaks-about-bisexualmenexist-and-why-bi-visibility-so-important

[4] https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/wellbeing/bulletins/measuringnationalwellbeing/2013to2015

[5] https://www.stonewall.org.uk/about-us/news/why-do-we-need-bi-visibility-day

[6] https://www.stonewall.org.uk/about-us/news/10-ways-you-can-step-ally-bi-people

[7] https://www.stonewall.org.uk/about-us/news/10-ways-you-can-step-ally-bi-people


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