“If I had a pound for every time a complete stranger had told me I was really a lesbian, the bi funding crisis would be over already”
Following on from International Women’s Day and our LGBTHM feature with writer, actor and director Jake Graf, we sat down with Libby Baxter-Williams, director of the bisexual women’s organisation thisisbiscuit to find out why she’s calling for better bi visibility, acceptance and advocacy in 2018.
What were the biggest challenges in 2017 in terms of bisexual communities and LGBTQ rights, for you?
As a community it’s funding. The best figures we have suggest that less than 2% of the funding that queer communities receive goes to bi specific projects, even though bi people exist in around equal numbers to gay and lesbian people. We are so desperately in need of money we can use to address our shocking health outcomes – bi people are more likely than gay and lesbian people to suffer from mental and physical ill health, eating disorders and substance abuse and a host of related issues including intimate partner abuse, poverty and homelessness.
We also really need to address the way bi asylum seekers are treated in this country. Bisexuality isn’t a hard concept to understand – it’s simply attraction to more than one gender – but our courts seem to think it’s incomprehensible.
As individuals the biggest challenge – as always – is visibility and acceptance. If I had a pound for every time a complete stranger had told me I was really a lesbian, the bi funding crisis would be over already.
The Bi Pride Flag
What still needs to change?
I feel very strongly that if the efforts of bi people in queer activism were recognised, biphobia from LG people would lessen. We’ve been here since day dot. A number of the heroes of the Stonewall riots were bi – Pride was founded by Brenda Howard, a bi woman, the first North American queer student group was founded by Donny the Punk, a bi man. We’ve been closeted and forced to call ourselves gay for decades, but bi community leaders and bi activists for the LGBTQ community have always been around. Acknowledging that would be a great place to start.
How can others, both within and outside of bisexual communities help?
There are lots of tiny acts that make big differences. Call out your mates when they make biphobic jokes; don’t assume that same gender couples are gay, and don’t assume different gender couples are straight. Make sure any LGBTQ group you’re affiliated with is welcoming to bi people. We sorely need champions both outside of the bi community, and crucially within the LGBTQ movement.
My organisation Biscuit recently tweeted about how great it would be if LGBTQ venues had (and enforced) anti-biphobia policies. So many of us avoid the scene because we’ve faced abuse from people within the community. It makes good business sense too – bisexual people make up 52% of all non-hetero people.
Why would you alienate half of your market?
52% of LGB people *self identify* as bi.
That doesn't mean that gay people are bi.
It means that bi people are bi.
— 💖💜💙 thisisbiscuit (@we_are_biscuit) March 4, 2018
What projects are you working on at the moment, or will you be in the not-to-distant future?
I’m director of Biscuit, an advocacy organisation for bi women, and I’m a member of the Bisexual Index core team too, so day-to-day administration takes up a lot of my time. But my biggest projects at the moment are bringing the first ever bi float to Pride in London parade. There hasn’t been one in the entire 46 years the parade has been running and frankly that speaks volumes about the relationship bis have with what is supposed to be our community. We’re still in the planning stages but we’re fully funded thanks to a wildly successful crowdfunder – and we’re raring to go!
I’m also working on a project around working class peoples experiences of bisexuality and starting to put together the International BiCon in 2020. It’s early, but we expect around 500 people so there’s a lot to think about and plan!
To find out more visit thisisbiscuit.co.uk