Sali Owen on Why Bi Activism is More Important Than Ever
Published: 23 September 2019 Tags: By Joe Nellist
By Sali Owen
Bisexual organisations’ definition of bisexuality is “attraction to more than one gender.” That fits me. I’m attracted to people of all genders or no gender. I was out in school, I’m proud to be bi and biphobia only makes me more defiant. Bi people experience homophobia from hetero people plus biphobia from hetero and gay people. 'Double discrimination' from family, friends, partners, gay media and hetero media leads to us having far worse mental health than hetero or gay people.
For almost a decade I’ve been a bi activist. I campaign, run events, write, raise money, educate and speak on panels. I was proud to talk about bi equality on BBC Radio 4’s 'Woman’s Hour'. This year I also worked with BBC News, Radio 1 and 1Xtra as a consultant. I took part in a documentary and also let them write about me. That was the first time I spoke to a journalist about being raped by a couple because I’m a bi woman. Dangerous myths about all bi people being hypersexual, greedy, always into threesomes and more likely to cheat mean we’re statistically at a far higher risk of sexual and domestic violence than hetero and gay people. That's what I've been campaigning about this year. It's what I'm on Twitter campaigning about tonight.
Eight years ago, I started doing a lot of volunteering for LGBT Foundation. I edited and wrote for one magazine, did interviews for another, blogged, did admin and worked with young people. I also did hired work in sexual health and chemsex outreach - a job I loved. For six years as a volunteer, I ran one of the Foundation’s LGBT+ groups at Rampton; a high security forensic psychiatric hospital in Nottinghamshire. I’ve been a hired worker there for the last two years. I love the people who come to my groups. Most have had their sexuality or gender identity seen as a symptom of mental illness. That’s the case for most bi, trans and nonbinary people in the mental health system. In the groups, they can be honest.
In 2017, I volunteered to co-run the Bi Series. Bi people are at a higher risk of everything from workplace discrimination to rape, but the Bi Series was the only consistent series of bi events run by any LGBT charity in Europe. I turned down freelance jobs to make time to keep the Series going. It was exactly what I'd campaigned for from the beginning: ongoing support from an LGBT organisation. After years of activism, it felt like change was happening. Our tiny team of amazing volunteers won the Volunteer Team of 2017 award. Bi people from all over the world tweeted to tell me they’d voted. I won the Volunteer of the Year award and during his speech, Paul Martin, CEO of LGBT Foundation, promised we’d have a Bi Programme in the future. And it’s on the way! It's happening! Happy Bi Visibility Day.
To find out more about the bi community, go to bisexualindex.org.uk
You can follow Sali Owens on Twitter - @SaliWho