Purple washing, bisexuality+ and LGBT+ History Month

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LGBT+ History Month, just like Black History Month, corrects the untruths told in biased accounts of the past. Without them the contributions of social movements and experiences of countless individuals would remain closeted and devalued. We would know little about amazing people such as Bayard Rustin or Marsha P Johnson without LGBTHM. Whilst much has improved for queer human rights in recent years, there are inequalities even within this correction of history, and the presence of bisexual+ people is often tokenistic – a process known as purple washing.

Very recently the popular BBC series ‘It’s A Sin’, highlighted the terrible stigma and inequality the queer community faced in the 1980s. However powerful, this retelling erased the experience of bi+ people in those times and perpetuated the negative and false tropes of bi+ people as greedy, predatory, or confused.

These appalling stereotypes contribute to higher rates of domestic abuse, obesity, substance use and mental illness for bi+ people, but when data on bi+ identities are subsumed into broader research, the provision of services and support can be diverted elsewhere in LGBT+ populations. As Kaylee Walker says in her article “Bi+ people are uniquely vulnerable to discrimination in both straight and queer spaces, which may be partly why bi+ representation is still generally so poor”.

So, it matters that LGBT+ history is told well and is accurate and inclusive. If you’d like to read more about bisexuality in the media then see the review of 2020 by Bi Community News: https://bicommunitynews.co.uk/13410/bi-review-of-the-year-2020/

How to be an ally

Assume nothing. A person’s circumstances or appearance tells you little about their identity or that of their loved ones. I was just as bisexual when I was married to my kids’ dad as I am now in a civil partnership with my female partner. Keep an open mind and be respectful. Foster a safe and trusting culture in your teams and workplaces so we can all bring our whole selves to work and therefore be at our best. If you want to know more about why this matters, and the implications for mental health inequalities then please watch my daughter’s TedX talk ‘This is a Family Matter’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1QKD6xRoaMU

Written by Bobbie Petford – February 2021

Midlands Trainee Support Manager for our Graduate Management Training Scheme (GMTS)

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