Getting Bi in Schools: bisexuality and biphobia

Whilst Rainbow Teaching is not affiliated with any union (though we do absolutely recommend joining one if you haven’t already), our founder Allie is an NUT member. Last November, they attended the NUT LGBT conference on our behalf, and this year, we were invited back to deliver a workshop on bisexuality and biphobia in schools. With the majority of the Rainbow Teaching team identifying as bisexual and/or biromantic, this is an issue very close to our hearts.

The slides for the workshop can be found here.

For clarity, we use Robin Och’s definition of bisexuality – a definition also used by the vast majority of bi-centered organisations and communities.

“I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge that I have in myself the potential to be attracted – romantically and/or sexually – to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.”

Bierasure – both wilful and active, and by accidental omission – was mentioned as being prolific: not only had the majority of teachers in attendance had no education on bi identities in school themselves, many admitted that they have not seen this occurring post-Section 28. From a wider community perspective, whilst we discussed the fact that many bi people are made to feel unwelcome at Pride, almost all had not heard of Brenda Howard, the bisexual woman who was instrumental in organising the first Pride march.

We also discussed the recent Stonewall campaign, One Is/Our Work Continues.Ruth Hunt has freely admitted (and apologised for) errors were made in the checking of the ‘One is Bisexual’ posters, meaning that inclusion was only ever at a surface level: an apt warning for us all in advocating for LGBTQIA+ students and staff.

Design Your Ideal School for Bi Students and Staff

Having discussed at length how bi identities and struggles intersect with other axes of oppression, most groups determined that bi inclusion must also mean trans inclusion – and indeed, full inclusion for all marginalised groups. All advocated for a more inclusive curriculum, not just within PSHE and assemblies, but across the board, as well as a zero-tolerance policy for bullying.

Uniform proved a contentious issue: all agreed that gendered uniforms should be abolished, but whether this meant uniform as a whole should be abolished opened discussion around the purpose of a uniform, with a focus on meeting cultural and socio-economic needs.

Mixed gender sports teams and removal of gendered classes for PE and dance were called for, though the importance of safe spaces for girls was highlighted – though as a choice, rather than something to be enforced (and, of course, being fully inclusive of trans girls and non-binary transfeminine people). Bathrooms were a key focus – the simplest solution seeming to be fully private, single-cubicle washrooms which would help solve issues of bullying, as well as affording safe, non-gendered spaces for all.

Practical Solutions: Actions to Take Back to School

Teachers were asked what they could practically do to improve things for bi students and staff – possibly including themselves:

  • Start talking about gender in neutral terms.
  • Improve the use of inclusive language.
  • Tackle bi/pan-phobic comments.
  • Tackle stereotypes.
  • Ensure LGBTQIA+ issues are addressed in my subject curriculum.
  • Use bi/pan people more in examples of LGBTQIA+ role models.
  • Use terminology correctly and specifically.
  • Meet with the LA to discuss further action.
  • Include bi/pan posters in displays about tackling anti-LGBTQIA+ attitudes.
  • Review lesson resources to ensure they are properly inclusive.
  • Advocate for gender-neutral uniform.
  • Deliver an assembly on biphobia and heteronormativity.
  • Ensure LGBTQIA+ inclusion in sex and relationships education.
  • Ensure bisexuality is included in diversity policy and positively promoted in the same way as gay and lesbian issues are.
  • Attend Bi-Con! (A community event for bi people.) Self care is important too!
  • Read Bi: Notes for A Bi Revolution (Shiri Eisner).