Thursday, September 15, 2016

Bisexual Awareness Week Reporting Best Practices - #biweek

#biweek 2016 logo, credit: Deborah Atwater/BiNet USA

For more best practices, see GLAAD Media Reference Guide - In Focus: Covering the Bisexual Community at

  • Don’t make assumptions about how someone identifies. For example, do not refer to a married male couple as a gay couple unless you know they both identify as such. The same goes for a female couple or a different-sex couple; any of the people in any of these types of relationships may identify as bisexual. The same goes for single individuals; do not assume they are lesbian, gay or straight unless they identify themselves that way.
  • Don’t assume that bisexuals cannot be monogamous. Monogamy, non-monogamy and polyamory are separate from bisexuality; there are people of all orientations with those relationship styles, and there are bisexuals with various types of relationship styles. Don’t conflate sexual orientation with relationship type.
  • Don’t assume that bisexuals necessarily are interested in threesomes, open relationships or casual sex. Do not choose sexualized photos/illustrations/videos for pieces about bisexuals unless it is germane to the specific story. For example, a profile of a bisexual woman should not be illustrated with clip art or photos that allude to group sex.
  • Don’t assume or imply that a bisexual who is in a monogamous relationship has “chosen” an orientation and/or become lesbian, gay, or straight.
  • Don’t assume that a person must have had sexual experiences with both men and women (or any particular set of sexual experiences) in order to be bisexual. Just as many lesbian and gay people come out without having had a same-sex sexual experience, bisexuals, too, often go through a coming out process without having had either a same-sex or different-sex sexual encounter.
  • Don’t assume that bisexuality is a less valid identity because you know of someone who once identified as bisexual and now identifies as lesbian or gay. The reverse is also true; there are people who once identified as lesbian, gay or straight who have since come out as bisexual. Coming out is a process, and sometimes identity evolves. That does not invalidate bisexuality.
  • Ask people how they identify if the information is relevant to your story.
  • Avoid implying that someone’s orientation or gender identity is suspect. For example, don’t call someone a “self-identified bisexual” or say she or he “currently identifies as bisexual” when you would not use such phrases to refer to a lesbian, gay or straight source.
  • Don’t imply that bisexuals are inherently transphobic or only recognize two genders. Many bisexual people have transgender partners, and many bisexual people are themselves transgender or genderqueer.
  • If a source identifies as pansexual or fluid, use their identity word to describe them—but do so without making or repeating assumptions about those who identify as bisexual. For instance, a source may say that she or he identifies as pansexual because of a capacity to be attracted to people of any/all genders. Do not assume that the same is not true for someone who uses the term bisexual.
  • Do recognize that people who fall under the “community identity label” bisexual may use “personal identity labels” such as fluid, multisexual, pansexual, polysexual, pomosexual and omnisexual. The use of these labels may vary by region, ethnicity and socioeconomic class. Understand that the bisexual community (and the LGBT community as a whole) has ongoing conversations about labels. Those conversations do not invalidate the label bisexual--or the labels lesbian, gay, transgender, queer, etc.
  • Do not assume that someone must be equally attracted to men and women to be bisexual. Within the bisexual community, you will find that people have a broad array of attractions. Some bisexuals may be more attracted to people of a particular sex/gender identity, while others may experience attraction as unrelated to sex/gender identity.
  • The Kinsey Scale is one metric that expressed the concept of a continuum of attractions; that tool tracks a spectrum of attractions from 0 (heterosexual) to 6 (homosexual) with shades of bisexuality between the two poles.
  • Another metric is the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid, which charts multiple factors--including sexual attraction, experiences, fantasies--over time.
  • When reporting broadly about LGBT issues, don’t make assumptions or statements that exclude bisexuals. For example, it is not accurate to state that LGBT couples do not have to worry about birth control or unintentional pregnancy, which are relevant to bisexuals who have relationships with partners of other sexes/gender identities.
  • Recognize that bisexuals are part of the LGBT community, regardless of their current relationship status. Don’t refer to bisexual people as straight, and do not call them “allies” of the LGBT movement. For example, media coverage of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie frequently characterized both as supporters or allies of the LGBT movement (or, in some cases, their support has been questioned). In fact, Jolie is a bisexual woman who has been out for years. The fact that she married a different-sex partner does not change that she is part of the LGBT community, not an ally/supporter.
  • Understand that bisexual people frequently encounter prejudice from lesbian and gay people as well as from straight people. They may face the perception that their identity makes them inherently indecisive, greedy, untrustworthy and/or promiscuous. Don’t assume that any of those things are true of a bisexual person.
  • Do not hyphenate the words bisexual, biphobia or bisexuality.
  • Spell out the word bisexual on first reference. The abbreviation bi is often acceptable on subsequent references; however, some members of the bisexual community prefer that the full word always be used. Ask your sources and respect their preferences. Other abbreviations of bisexual may include bi* and bi+ to indicate the diversity of identities within the bisexual community (i.e. pansexual, non-monosexual, fluid, queer). The label bi* maybe considered analogous to the abbreviation trans*, which is similarly used to indicate diversity within the transgender community. These abbreviations are not widespread, and if you use them you will most likely want to include a note of explanation for readers.
  • Avoid phrases that are frequently used to mock the idea of bisexuality. For example, do not say someone “plays for both teams,” is “on the fence,” gets “the best of both worlds” or has twice as many chances to get a date.
  • Avoid using the word gay as an umbrella term for the LGBT community. Likewise, “gay and transgender” is not inclusive of the whole community and should be used only if you’re referring only to gay men and transgender people. If your intention is to refer to the whole community, LGBT is the most commonly accepted term. In some cases, it may be acceptable or preferable to use: LGBTQ; LGBT and questioning; or queer.
  • Avoid using the phrase “gay marriage” in favor of “marriage equality.” Likewise, “same-sex couple” should be used instead of “gay couple” or “lesbian couple” unless you know the people referenced identify as gay or lesbian. See for more on covering marriage equality.
  • Don’t assume or advise that coming out as bisexual is anything to be ashamed of. Don’t imply that saying you are bisexual is suggesting that you are sexually available or saying anything about your sex life. Bisexuality is a sexual orientation, just like being straight, lesbian or gay; it should not be stigmatized.