Serena Gaia

Make love the ecology of your life

6 of 8 – BiTopia: Bisexuality at Work. Read Introduction to BiReCon 2010’s Proceeding Volume

Bi ReConNaissance: Introduction to BiReCon

Serena Anderlini-D’Onofrio

Cluster 4. Bisexuality at Work

For people who work for a living, the expression of bisexuality is possible to the extent to which it is compatible with the way we make a living.  Research on bisexuality in the workplace featured prominently at BiReCon, providing evidence of a clear need to make the environments where people work more aware of bisexuality and its complexity.  Dispelling myths, educating people about differences, putting a human face on the ‘different,’ all of these areas of action are common with other queer subgroups.  But what is specific about bisexuality?  How do bis get constructed in public and professional spaces by those who don’t know us for who we are?  These were the foci of the “Workplace” BiReCon track. 
The three articles contributed to our cluster give evidence that more study is necessary.  Awareness of other non-normative sexualities that abide by the monosexual paradigm–including gay and lesbian sexualities–is by no means sufficient.  Indeed, it is precisely among these queer subgroups that the challenge to monosexuality bisexual people present is often met with most distrust.  Are bisexuals really “reliable”?  Or is some deep-seated distrust in the way of a fuller appreciation of our profession qualities?
Heidi Bruins Green, Nicholas Payne, and Jamison Green are a team of scholars who research the workplace experiences of bisexual people.  In “Working Bi” they present their preliminary findings based on an extensive questionnaire administered to over 800 respondents from five continents.  Helena See and Ruth Hunt also team up in “Bisexuality and Identity” to observe the experience of bisexuality in the UK, based on data compiled by Stonewall (a major LGBTI advocacy organization in the EU).  There is an uncanny resonance between the two accounts.  Both studies observe that bisexual people’s perceived “failure to choose” causes the perception that we are “less competent and reliable than [our] straight, lesbian or gay colleagues” (See, 7).  Green and her team directly correlate this construction with out-bisexuals being seen as “unpromotable by management and leaders” (Green, 15). 

Why does this sound familiar?  It’s another aspect of the homo/hetero divide–binary logic that clutters genuine perceptions of reality.  The perceived “failure to choose” makes the potential and talents of bisexual people largely invisible in the workplace.  Our talents get fewer chances to develop, to the potential detriment of society and the planet.  It’s time to reorganize discourses about sexuality!  Bisexual people choose!  Especially when we are out in the workplace–and any other areas of our lives–our choice is a very difficult one.  It is highly demanding of oneself.  Its price to society and the planet is yet to be assessed.  Gays and lesbians, who have suffered similar stigmatizations in the past, can now invoke the protection of monosexuality–with the affinity for monogamy that implies.[1]  More support from these sectors of the LGBTI community is desirable. 

When the playfield is leveled, when monosexualities are not considered intrinsically superior to bisexualities, that demanding choice will be a strong reason to consider bisexuals especially promotable and reliable.  In her brief article, Carola Towle outlines the progress of UNISON, a service trade union in the UK, toward outlining a policy appreciative of bisexuality.  Let’s hope that by the time this and other policies are implemented, the ignorance upon which this false sense of mono superiority relies is debunked. 

[1] For overlaps between polyamory (or responsible non-monogamy) and bisexuality, I refer to my edited collection Plural Loves (2005). 

To be be continued: 6 of 8 – Bisexual Cultural Productions, Interpretations, Reflections.  Includes comments on contributions by Sue George, B.C. Roberts, and Kaye McLelland.  Watch out for this exciting section in a few days!

Copyright and Prepublication Notice:
© Serena Anderlini-D’Onofrio, transferred to Taylor & Francis for upcoming publication in BiReCon, a selected proceedings issue of the Journal of Bisexuality.  Prepublished here courtesy of T & F.  Stay tuned for volume and buy it online!
Read the Journal of Bisexuality online, the only peer-reviewed journal dedicated to the study of all aspects on bisexuality.   Check out our latest: a provocative special-topics issue on Bisexuality and Queer Theory!
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serenagaia • April 9, 2011

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