Biphobia: Rejected for being an Asian

Priyanka Mehta Tuesday 02nd July 2019 15:00 EDT

This year marks half a century of the Stonewall riots. Activists believe that progress has been made in recognising rights of the LGBT+ community. But, the 50th anniversary of queer uprisings is a moment of reflection as bi-sexuals face double discrimination; hostility from within their own LGBT+ group whilst simultaneously being estranged from their families. This struggle is perhaps, the most pronounced when the tussle is between an individual's queer identity and their families' religious values.

“When I was younger I fancied many a woman but also had this sexual attraction to men that, with my limited knowledge, I could not explain,” Vaneet Mehta writes in his blog.

Vaneet identifies himself as an Indian bi-sexual man who initially struggled to accept his sexual identity. From initiating “the conversation” with his parents to exploring social platforms such as Grindr and suffering through anxiety issues, today Vaneet often chronicles his “coming out journey” through his blog. But he often also shares his personal experiences on various platforms including the London Gaymers Diversity Project.

“I’ve always found writing as a cathartic and stress relieving process. So part of it was a personal thing, to relieve the pain and anguish during my journey. But I also wanted to put the spotlight on the difficulties that one faces growing up as a queer person of colour with the pressure of staying in the closet.

“I understand the importance of being open. Living your authentic self and being out can help others feel safe. Especially as an Indian person, we normally don’t see LGBT+ people who look like us. So the more there are of people like us, the easier it is for the rest,” he says.

51% BAME LGBT faced discrimination: Stonewall report

According to data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the number of people who identified themselves as Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual (LGB) has increased by 50,000 people in 2017 from 2012. Although the survey has indicated that 0.9% of women are likelier to identify themselves as bisexuals in comparison to 0.6% of men, it is difficult to obtain any significant data categorising LGB members by their ethnicity. Yet, according to LGBT in Britain - Home and Communities Report half of BAME LGBT people (51%) have experienced discrimination or poor treatment from others in their local LGBT community because of their ethnicity.

Today, much of the incidents reported around homophobia, transphobia or biphobia center around attacks against the white community while very rarely does anything against ethnic minority makes it to the media. The recent attack, where Melania and her girlfriend Chris were attacked by four men on a London night bus, has brought the spotlight back on homophobia, but the subject still remains a taboo in the Asian community.

“Starting that conversation with families can be extremely difficult and there is only so much that the younger generation can do. But media representation is also important.

“With the increase in LGBT+ shows such as Pose and Queer Eye, these could be used to start that conversation. Especially Queer Eye, as they have Tan France, this can be used to show that there are South Asian people who identify this way. But more resources are needed here to help older generations understand the different identities in the LGBT+ community and explain that it is natural,” believes Vaneet.

58% safe spaces for LGBT+ family closed down

While UK's LGBT+ family has increased substantially, the number of safe spaces for them appears to have reduced with a record 58% of clubs and bars closing down in a decades time between 2006 to 2017. In 2006, there were 125 venues in operation, while in 2017 there are just 53. One of the hardest-hit boroughs is Islington, which has lost 80% of its LGBT+ venues since 2006 while Lambeth lost 47% of its LGBT+ venues, and Camden losing 43%. This has resulted in increased sexual harassment, physical abuse and unsolicited filming, experiences of members of the LGBT+ community recorded in straight nightclubs. Both the stigma around leading “closeted” lives and lack of safe space has resulted in “on-line” dating as opposed to off-line dating.

“Dating can be very difficult for a myriad of reasons. Many LGBT+ spaces are dominated by white gay men. This often causes issues for me as a bisexual Indian man.

“I often find myself rejected by people for being Asian. This is an issue not just in the LGBT+ community but in wider society as well, as it is often shown that Asian men are seen as the least desirable on dating apps. A lot of people don’t see an issue with this, citing it simply as a preference,” says Vaneet.

Places like The Bitten Peach, Hungama, Gaysians, Club Kali, Club Zindagi, and UK Black Pride are some of the few safe spaces that still exist today.

“Even if you don’t find anyone to date, you’ll have found a community you can feel at home in,” he concludes.


Box quote

“There is a lot of biphobia on both sides. Gay people normally think that you’re still in the closet, failing to admit that you actually just like men. Women often feel the same, worried that they can’t fully satisfy you or give you everything you want. You’re assumed to be a cheater, unable to be faithful to just one person, to be monogamous. But there are plenty of bisexual people, myself included, who want to be monogamous.”

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