29 Sep 2016

OU Academic speaks at White House on bisexual issues

Senior lecturer in psychology at The Open University Dr Meg-John Barker was among a prestigious panel at the White House recently, for an official White House Briefing discussing the challenges for and the support given to the bisexuality community.

The briefing, held on Monday September 26, was the latest initiative in the White House’s many efforts to help increase visibility of bisexual people. Under the leadership of President Obama, the White House administration has taken great strides to support bisexual people and the larger LGBT community.

Dr Barker was there as both a representative of The Open University and in their role as co-author of the Bisexuality Report and a leading member of BiUK.

The community briefing featured more than 100 advocates working to advance equality for members of the bisexual community in the US and was held at the conclusion of Bisexual Awareness Week. The two-hour event mixed talks and panels on vital topics as well as some powerful music, poetry and other creative input about bisexual experiences.
Speaking afterwards Dr Barker said: “It was extremely valuable to me to have the opportunity to learn about how bisexual matters are being discussed and engaged with in the US.

“Speakers emphasised many of the same issues that affect bisexual people globally: invisibility, discrimination from both straight and gay communities, and high rates of mental health struggles due to biphobia.

“However, it was also striking how much careful attention was paid to intersectionality. That is the idea that sexuality intersects with many other aspects of experience and identity (race, gender, class, ethnicity, age, disability geographical location, etc.) to produce unique experiences of being bisexual in different groups and individuals.”

Dr Barker said it was wonderful to receive such a positive response from the audience when mentioning the Open University-published Bisexuality Report.

“Many people told me how helpful they had found that. However, we have a long way to go in the UK LGBTQ and bi+ communities in addressing intersectionality and foregrounding the most marginalised voices, rather than marginalising them further. Also it would be great to see the UK government engaging with bisexuality as seriously as the Obama administration clearly does.”


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