'(There are not) two discreet populations, heterosexual and homosexual …. only the human mind invents categories and tries to force fact into separated pigeon-holes …. The sooner we learn this concerning sexual behaviour, the sooner we shall reach a sound understanding of the realities of sex.' This is quoted from the Alfred Kinsey Report relating to the USA in 1948. It identified a spectrum of sexual orientation with the experiences and attractions of a third of all adults being between the extremes of exclusive heterosexuality and homosexuality.
We, the Off Pink Collective, are a group who identify as bisexual. We have produced this book because there is a need for greater understanding about bisexuality – it is part of so many people's lives whether openly or covertly.
Since the Kinsey Report the widespread extent of bisexuality has been confirmed or found to be even greater by subsequent surveys among men in both the USA and Britain. Among women by comparison the Hite Nationwide Study of Female Sexuality (1976 also in the USA) showed 8 per cent of women preferred sex with other women and another 9 per cent had sexual experiences with both sexes. This lower percentage may reflect the survey methods and the age of the survey sample, but there do seem to be fewer actively bisexual women than men. We think this is due to greater pressure in society for women to conform and be sexually passive as well as their tendency to be more restricted economically, in mobility and by domestic responsibilities. Yet our experience from meetings, conferences and counselling is that women are intrinsically no less bisexual than men.
A great deal also depends on definitions. There has always been diverse sexual behaviour but the categories of heterosexuality and homosexuality have only comparatively recently been defined. Both these groups now present their identities as rigidly defined. These are hard to break down on either side and yet it is clear that such a fixed choice does not fit the natural tendencies and experiences of many people. The current rising divorce rate may show that we are not primarily a monogamous society in spite of social pressures to be 'straight' and get married. Fulfilment comes, not from acting out set patterns, but by being true to ourselves.
It is very difficult to agree a definition of bisexuality. Each person experiences their sexuality differently and we feel it is right to fully acknowledge this. It is quite usual for the balance of a person's sexual preferences to change and evolve continuously for many reasons. Relationships may be emotional and/or physical, contemporaneous or consecutive. The emphasis should be on a fluid sexuality rather than a fixed one. Bisexuals are people who are not or have not been exclusively gay, lesbian or heterosexual. To be bisexual is to have the potential to be open emotionally and sexually to people as people, regardless of their gender.
The emergence of the Lesbian and Gay Movement has led to the publication of hundreds of studies on all aspects of the lives of gay men and lesbians. Yet the literature on bisexuality is minimal. Novels and television, for example, have concentrated on characters who are exclusively lesbian, gay or heterosexual. Famous people, artists and writers have been claimed as lesbian or gay after years or even centuries of censorship by biographers who have omitted mention of homosexuality. In this process the possibility that many people concerned were bisexual has been ignored. In his book The Bisexual Option Fred Klein has at last begun the process of identifying bisexual people from history and the arts: Alexander the Great, Somerset Maugham, Janis Joplin, Francis Bacon, Julius Caesar, Colette, Shakespeare, Edward II, Elton John, Socrates, Oscar Wilde and Virginia Woolf are just some of the bisexual people in his hall of fame.
Charlotte Wolff's Bisexuality: a Study is still the only book on the subject which is widely available in Britain. Besides an exhaustive review of the concept of bisexuality in works on sexuality from Ancient Greece to the present day, a large part of the book is taken up with her conclusions drawn from a study of bisexual people, 75 women and 75 men. This and a selection of other books are listed at the end of this volume.
Despite these few books the subject remains obscured and misinformation abounds. One common idea is that any sign of homosexuality means that a person is completely homosexual and any heterosexuality is entirely a pretence. Others are that bisexuality is a state of indecision, merely a transitory period during a change of permanent sexual orientation, or that it is a fashion linked to androgynous personalities such as David Bowie or Boy George. Too often bisexuals are simply thought of as irresponsible or promiscuous or oversexed. To work towards changing these views is one purpose of this book. Another is to give support and encouragement to people to explore their true sexuality.
We express solidarity with gays and lesbians against the widespread image of heterosexuality as the norm, but we need greater reciprocation. The view of bisexuals as opting out of the struggle for lesbian and gay rights is a strongly held one. Now there are new pressures against bisexuals as a bridging group for the spread of AIDS.
The long term answer is a more balanced approach in schools from the earliest stages to develop in children a greater freedom of personal choice and awareness. But as we go to press the prospects for more positive attitudes in education towards homosexuality and bisexuality are bleak for the foreseeable future. The new Government policy on sex education in the circular of September 1987 states 'there is no place in any school in any circumstances for teaching which advocates homosexual behaviour, which presents it as the "norm" or which encourages homosexual experimentation by pupils'. Commenting on this policy in her closing speech at the Conservative Party Annual Conference in October 1987, Mrs. Thatcher said 'children, who need to be taught to respect traditional moral values, are being taught that they have an inalienable right to be gay'.
Thus the small advances made by the GLC, ILEA and especially the London Borough of Haringey in presenting positive images of homosexuality and homosexual relationships are eliminated at a stroke. But whilst the Minister for Education is trying to outlaw any mention of gay sex he also says there must be education on the danger of AIDS. Surely the best way of achieving this is to teach about responsible gay sex rather than trying to ignore it, so that it remains a furtive and covert activity.
It is not only in education that current legislation is threatening to restrict freedom. At the time of going to press, the Local Government Bill is passing through Parliament. The hurriedly inserted Clause 28, if accepted without modification, will have potentially far-reaching effects both in preventing the teaching of the acceptability of homosexuality in maintained schools and and in stopping local authorities from 'promoting' or assisting in the 'promotion' of homosexuality. By extension this means bisexuality too.
What is meant by 'promotion' has not been made clear, but interpreted strictly this would include the entire range of publicising and financing activities and facilities which support and combat oppression of lesbians and gay men, such as help lines, equal opportunities policies and the licensing of lesbian and gay centres and clubs. It may even be construed in law as banning gay literature (including Oscar Wilde, Graham Greene and many others) from libraries, and plays and films which show sympathetic gay characters from the stage and screen. In short, it could go a long way towards reversing the gains that have been made since the 1967 Sexual Offences Act.
Bisexuality is a fact of human existence and the demand for a bisexual identity has been shown very clearly in recent years with the appearance of bisexual support groups across North America, in Europe, and several in the UK, including the London Group set up in 1981. Five very successful national conferences have been held in London and Edinburgh, the counselling service and phone line have answered thousands of letters and calls, and Bi-Monthly magazine has been published with a world-wide distribution for four years. Further considerable progress has been made in the US where many publications now refer to 'lesbians, gay men and bisexuals' rather than just 'lesbians and gay men.' We have a long way to go in the UK to reach that stage, but if we are to do so we have to join forces with the gay community in fighting the present regressive attitudes. We hope this book will play a part.
The Off Pink Collective January 1988