This research is about why bi organisations currently get so little “LGBT” funding, and how the obstacles could be addressed. It was produced by three bi community organisers in the UK, based primarily on experiences of fellow organisers.
On average as a demographic, bi people fare as badly as, or worse than, lesbian & gay people on many outcomes. Bisexuality is stigmatised and ignored.
Nominally “LGBT” projects or spaces aren’t necessarily doing anything for the “B”.
Bi spaces can be very important to people for various reasons: feeling understood, freedom from anti-bi prejudice, etc.
Almost all current UK bi spaces are run by unpaid volunteers in limited amounts of “spare” time. Many areas have no bi group at all.
UK bi communities have a long tradition of “creatively making do” – but could accomplish much more with adequate funding. Key areas include outreach and access.
ring-fencing a percentage of “LGBT” funding in proportion to the percentage of bi people, with half or more under the direct control of a bi panel.
creating a “virtual bi centre“, where one or more workers is embedded within a larger organisation, to provide practical support for grassroots groups and cross-group projects.
hiring bi organisers to reach, train and support bi organisers.
adapting funding methods for grassroots groups to be simpler, less formal, and less of a gamble, especially where amounts are small.
making basic group-running resources available to volunteer organisers on request, such as books, printed flyers, or support with online calendar updating.
where nominally “LGBT” organisations apply for funding, making it conditional on whether they can demonstrate genuinely serving the “B”.
Bi communities and the funding landscape
It’s possible that around 5% to 10% of the UK population, or more, has experienced some attractions not limited to “gay” or “straight” – without necessarily calling themselves “bisexual”.
Funders have historically assumed that money reaching “LGB”/”LGBT” groups is already being used to support bi people. This is often not the case.
→ [Organisation] got a very substantial grant to do a ‘what’s available’ guide to one city. It says it has “hundreds of LGBTQ+ services” listed. Click on “Bi” and the single thing that appears on the map is labelled “Gay men’s walk-in clinic”.*
* Each arrow represents the start of a different person’s comment. Bold text is added for ease of picking out themes.
A common myth is that bi people “have it easier” than lesbians and gay men, because we’re “only half gay”, and “can pass as straight”. However, being invisible and stigmatised isn’t a healthy position.
Typical elements of anti-bi prejudice include “confused”, “greedy” and “unreliable”. It’s also common simply to ignore or deny our existence. Prejudices about bi people can appear in LGBT spaces as well as in mainstream culture.
Many bi people find bi-majority space to be supportive to their wellbeing.
→ I think that bi organisations are really important to provide spaces where we can feel understood, and not afraid of the myths and ignorance that’s present even among generally open-minded people and spaces.
→ Bi Cardiff has been a lifeline to me as someone who came out later in life (in my 40s). Just to be able to meet and chat with other bi people, share experiences, and ask about places to go for support (eg with mental health issues related to my orientation) has been so important.
What resources exist specifically for bi people in the UK in 2021 are almost entirely volunteer-run. There are two volunteer-run charities, and a handful of groups with constitutions and bank accounts; however, a typical grassroots bi group can run for years without ever becoming a legal entity.
Most of the smaller groups or events have never applied for grant funding. We asked why not; most frequently ticked was “Expecting not to get the money, hence waste of effort”.
→ You put a lot of time into the application, then you get nothing.
So far, very little grant funding has ever gone to bi community groups, so it makes sense not to gamble limited time with poor odds.
Other commonly chosen answers to that part of our survey were “Would have to set up bank account” and “We could use £10, £50, £500, but they want you to apply for thousands”.
Instead, there’s a long tradition of “creatively making things work on a shoe-string”, and dipping into the community’s own pockets, informally or via more structured crowd-funding.
→ We automatically first think, well how can we do this with what we’ve already got?
Contributors to our research were enthusiastic about what might be possible with more money and more time.
→ If we had finance or time to get some training or support for volunteers, that would be amazing.
→ People need to learn more about us still, ’cause it’s still so erased and underrepresented.
→ Funding for closed captioning to make the Zooms more accessible.
→ If we did have a one day a week sessional worker, I would want them to do a proper scoping exercise about how to find older bi people who are not part of the LGBTQ community.
→ A lot of our spare funds we have now are spent on inclusion, so it would be great to continue that with someone in charge.
→ We’ve seen how successful we can be running shoestring events, and shoestring organisations, which have, you know, decades of life, but no money. What could [an organisation] do if it was funded from the beginning?
For more info, you might want to read one or other of the following:
This research was commissioned by LGBT+ Consortium as part of its National Emergencies Partnership funded programme. Researchers were Jennifer Moore, Libby Baxter-Williams and John G, in May and June 2021. Thanks to everyone who gave their time to speak to us!
Note: click here for the other documents from the bi funding research, and PDF copies to download.