Bisexuality as conspiracy theory?

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Polling organisation YouGov have a couple of new trackers – things they ask every six months to look at how attitudes and beliefs change over time.

One asked over two thousand people in the UK this question:

Thinking about sexuality, which of the following comes closer to your view? 'There is no middle ground – you are either heterosexual or homosexual' or 'Sexuality is a scale – it is possible to be somewhere near the middle'.

Despite the fact that it's been over seventy years since Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male proved beyond any reasonable doubt that "Males do not represent two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual. The world is not to be divided into sheep and goats. […] The living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects. The sooner we learn this concerning human sexual behaviour the sooner we shall reach a sound understanding of the realities of sex" and over sixty five years after exactly the same thing was proved for women in Sexual Behaviour in the Human Female..

.. only 62% in the January 2020 poll went for "sexuality is a scale".

Just 62% said, effectively, that bisexuality exists.

24% said that there is no middle ground.

That leaves 14% who went for 'don't know'.

The first time they asked this, back in August 2019, just after the 37th UK one extended BiCon's run as the UK's longest-running annual LGBT event, it was 64% vs 21% with 15% not knowing. The difference between the two surveys is unlikely to be statistically significant, so..

Effectively, somewhere between a quarter and a fifth of the UK population think bisexuality is a conspiracy theory


They don't break it down this time, but back in 2015 when asked a similar question, only 73% of people who said they were completely homosexual accepted that sexuality wasn't binary. (Yes, that's not going to come as a huge surprise to those of us who've had 'bisexuality is just a phase, you're really lesbian/gay' prejudice from the lesbian and gay communities.)

At exactly the same dates, YouGov also asked how people described their own sexuality:

Please try to place your sexuality on a scale of 0 to 6, where 0 is completely heterosexual and 6 is completely homosexual (i.e. gay or lesbian).

They noticeably didn't say whether they were talking about attraction, identity or behaviour, but last month's results had 68% saying 'completely heterosexual' and 3% saying 'completely gay/lesbian'.

That leaves 12+7+5+1+2 = 27% being bisexual, regardless of what word they use to describe themselves.* (Again, it's noticeable that YouGov didn't use one.)

That there are more people prepared to describe their sexuality this way than don't believe there is such a thing is the silver lining to this cloud

The British Social Attitudes Survey has been going for over three decades now. It's repeatedly asked about people's attitudes towards "sexual relations between adults of the same sex".

Back in 1983, with Aids beginning to reach the public's consciousness, 50% – half – said they were "always wrong", with another 20% saying "mostly" or "sometimes wrong". Only 11% said "not wrong at all". It actually got worse by 1987, after the 'don't die of ignorance' icebergs and tombstones warning about Aids.

It's changed enormously since then: now only about 20% think consensual sex between adults of the same sex is wrong, and about 64%, just under two-thirds, think it's "not wrong at all".

People might not approve of homosexuality, but they don't believe it doesn't exist. Even that story about Queen Victoria is a cultural myth

Looking at other stigmatised sexualities, that figure of 62% saying bisexuality exists is, for example, less than the number of people who, after being reminded that "As you may know, BDSM is a variety of sexual practices involving dominance, submission, role-playing and restraint", said "Society should not discourage these sexual practices – as long as people freely consent it is no one else's business".

71% agreed with that, compared to 13% who went for "Society should discourage these sexual practices – they are perverse and ultimately destructive". 16% didn't know.

OK, but what about other conspiracy theories?

From YouGov surveys in 2019 of people in the UK..

.. 12% think "the US Government knowingly helped make the 9/11 terrorist attacks happen"

.. 12% think "the truth about the harmful effects of vaccines is being deliberately hidden from the public"

Twice as many people in the UK think bisexuality is a conspiracy theory as believe 9/11 was an inside job or are vaccine-deniers!

.. 6% think "the idea of made-made global warning is a hoax that was invented to deceive people"

.. 6% think HIV "was created and spread around the world on purpose by a secret group or organisation"

Four times as many people in the UK think bisexuality is a conspiracy theory as believe man-made global warning is a hoax or think Aids was deliberately created and spread!

.. 2% think "the official account of the Nazi Holocaust is a lie and the number of Jews killed by the Nazis during World War II has been exaggerated on purpose".

We've had millennia of evidence from around the world that sexuality is more complicated (and interesting) than just the binary heterosexual/homosexual divide. The only reason there's less evidence for the Holocaust than for the existence of bisexuality is that the Holocaust happened over the period of a few years on one continent, and the people who did it actively tried to conceal what they'd done. The quality of what evidence remained means that if you don't believe the Holocaust happened, it really comes down to one thing: anti-Semitic racism.

That levels of disbelief in the reality of bisexuality far exceed these are yet more examples of the effects of biphobia and erasure

I'd expect most readers of this to know that the UK bi community exists. Next year will be the fortieth anniversary of the first meeting of the London Bisexual Group.

Leaving it to bisexuals to combat this is, in itself, biphobic erasure.

I reckon that in terms of financial resources, the entire turnover of the community over all those decades is about the level of the surplus one 'LGBT' charity and campaigning organisation had in a single year recently.

I haven't checked, but having just helped decide the pay offered to someone in one of them, I would be astonished if there were not at least a dozen people in 'LGBT' 'community' organisations in the UK whose individual pay was more than the annual turnover of the UK bi community. (I wouldn't be surprised if there were over twenty of them and if I've overestimated the turnover by £10k, it'll be hundreds of individuals paid more.)

The need to get across the message that bisexuality actually fucking exists is urgent and necessary. And it's going to take a bit more that a few t-shirts saying 'Some People are Bi. Get Over it!'…

In the end, we're going to win

The figure of 27% prepared to tell YouGov that they're not completely heterosexual or homosexual – nine times the number saying that they were completely gay/lesbian! – says that, especially as it's more common amongst younger people.

But I'd quite like it not to take the thirty years it took from 1983 for more than 50% to say that sexual relations between two adults of the same sex is "not wrong at all".

Last year, when YouGov reported that one in six 18 to 24 year olds picked the word 'bisexual' to describe themselves** it got huge coverage.

These findings should do too, because this is what erasure looks like.

* 1% said 'no sexuality' – hooray for asexuals! – and 2% said 'don't know' and could, arguably, be added to the category of not being completely heterosexual or homosexual.

** If you need a conspiracy theory to believe in, look at the way the URL for that link stops in the middle of the word 'bisexual' 🙂

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