Equality Matters: GiG Soc host first ever Bisexuality Visibility week

This is a new feature Equality Matters that aims to bring you stories from all over campus, the likes of which you might not hear all that frequently. The idea is that these pieces will deal with how people may experience college differently, possible challenges and discrimination they may face and how we can all help make this campus a more accepting place! Contact su.equality@nuigalway.ie for more information.

NUI Galway’s LGBT+ society held their first ever Bisexual themed week from 19 -22 September, with three days of events packed full of talks, workshops and discussion nights. It started with an informal talk given by Emily Reilly and Tomás Carlos Biggins of the GiG Soc committee which covered all forms of Bisexual health; including physical, sexual and mental. In case anyone is unclear; Bisexuality by definition is someone who is attracted to both genders, or attracted to people regardless of gender.

Often a sexuality left out of the public sphere, GiG Soc Auditor Sinead Ruane explains that Bi Week is about combatting negative stereotypes around Bisexuality that are often portrayed in the media, as well as there being much misrepresentation by fictional characters, or simply no representation at all. It’s also all about educating members and wider society around these seldom talked about areas; it dispels any myths and prevents ignorance around the issue. After all, ignorance breeds fear which leads to hatred. The essence of Bi week is the ethos of GiG Soc, which is to educate, inform and promote inclusivity.

The talk reveals some startling facts. Emily and Tomás tell a very interested audience how statistically, Bisexual people have the worst mental health of any other sexuality, and are less likely to come out to their families.

“It’s difficult, because you’re worried that you’re going to be told it’s just a phase or that your identity isn’t valid,” says Emily.

“Even though a negative reaction comes from a place of caring about the person doesn’t mean that it still isn’t hurtful.”

People who identify as bisexual face many stereotypes; being experimental, greedy, and unable to stay with one person to name a few. These stereotypes have been perpetuated by television characters and the lack of discussion around Bisexuality has led to it being deemed an ‘invisible sexuality.’ Even in the Marriage Equality referendum last year, the term Bisexual was rarely, if ever, used, and the debate often failed to recognise that this referendum affected Bisexuals just as much as other parts of the community.

GiG Soc aims to smash those stereotypes and blast away that cover of invisibility, starting with Bi Visibility week. Tomás and Emily present on how being Bisexual can often even come with its own tension within the community as the individual can have a feeling of belonging to neither camp. For those who are unsure about the validity behind the sexuality, Emily uses a simple metaphor to explain bisexuality by likening it to a pull out couch; “Whether it’s a couch or whether it’s pulled out to be used as a bed it’s still a pull out couch at the end of the day.”

Tomás adds to this by explaining how people making snap judgements on your sexuality based on the partner you’re with is another challenge Bi people face; “If I’m with my boyfriend everyone assumes we’re a gay couple but if I was with my last girlfriend everyone will presume both people in the relationship are straight. That’s not the way it is though, that’s not me.”

The presentation ended with a positive reminder that Bisexuality is a valid sexual orientation, it is not a dirty word and the University and GiG Soc in particular are a supportive community of people who always strive to be more accepting and welcoming to all. The way forward it seems, as with all minorities who face oppression, is to educate ourselves and try to stop ourselves from making assumptions, recognising that all identities are valid and starting this much needed conversation.

-By Megan Reilly

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