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Research explores the invisibility of bisexual activism

A study conducted at the Center for Psychological Research and Social Intervention (CIS-Iscte) warns about the discrimination of bisexual people in the LGBTIQ+ community and the difficulty of organizing bisexual activism, which conditions its visibility.

© 2018 Pedro Simão Mendes | 13ª Marcha do Orgulho LGBT+ do Porto

In the chapter of an open-access book dedicated to the topic of LGBTQ+ intimacies in Southern Europe, researcher Mafalda Esteves presents part of her doctoral studies about intimate citizenship and psychosocial well-being in bisexuality.

The doctoral student from Iscte - University Institute of Lisbon, also a researcher at the Centre for Social Studies at the University of Coimbra, explains that "the concept of intimate citizenship is related to the decisions people make about their bodies, feelings and relationships, as well as to social choices about identities, gender experiences and erotic experiences". In other words, the concept comprehends the various public discourses about living one's personal life in a postmodern society and is not limited to sexual orientation.

In society, the dominant social norm is not only heterosexuality but also monosexuality (that is, attraction to only one sex or gender). Discrimination arises from the underlying belief that anything deviating from this norm is a transgression and, therefore, invalid. Consequently, and since bisexuality consists of attraction to two or more sexes or genders, it is often invalidated not only by the heterosexual population but also by LGBTIQ+ communities, resulting in double discrimination.

"Regarding bisexuality, there seems to be a certain invisibility that is also present in LGBTIQ+ communities."

says Mafalda, further referring to data from her research and her experience as a psychologist working with the community.

By interviewing eight people involved in bisexual activism, Mafalda explored internal perceptions of bisexual activism, perceptions about the relationship with LGBTQI+ activism, perceptions about the relationship with the dominant culture, and the relationship with the state. Overall, the results indicate difficulties in the cohesion of the bisexual community in Portugal, with low visibility in the public sphere, despite several initiatives articulated in networks and demonstrated in LGBTIQ+ pride events. Although the interviewees in Portugal consider the legislative advances regarding sexual rights related to identity and relational aspects to be positive, they report that these do not meet the specific needs, resulting in a lack of commitment and political-legal protection.

The researcher explains that the data points to the importance of clarifying the needs of the bisexual community, proposing that the adoption of a perspective of sexual and gender diversity, such as sexual and relational fluidity in its multiple forms, by the state could be a starting point. "Diversity education seems crucial to overcome the discourse of the rigidity and immutability of sexual identity and orientation in society, and it is important to recognize the intersectionality that marks bisexual experiences," which can help reduce the discrimination bisexual people face. Finally, it seems essential for the Portuguese bisexual community to "work on its capacity to organize itself politically to become visible in the public sphere and not see its voice dispersed in other groups," she concludes.

Note: This article was also published in Portuguese in Associação Portuguesa de Imprensa and among several regional media:

Notícias nos media (Mafalda Esteves)
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