Bisexual Discrimination in the Workplace and Elsewhere: What You Need to Know
For years, the LGBTQIA+ equality movement has worked to reduce discrimination targeted at members of their community. But what most people don’t know is that people who identify as bisexual – those attracted to multiple genders – make up roughly 50% of the LGBTQIA+ community. And you don’t hear very much about the discrimination explicitly aimed at them.
But bisexual discrimination is very real and more common than you might imagine. And victims often face skepticism when reporting incidents of discrimination – even among their own community. Some of it is due to a variety of harmful stereotypes that remain prevalent in workplaces. And some of it is due to employers mistakenly believing that bisexuals aren’t part of a legally protected class. Whatever the reason, however, bisexual discrimination is illegal. And anyone subject to it has a right to seek redress.
The Unique Aspects of Bisexual Discrimination
Although most people today recognize the defining characteristics of discrimination against gay, lesbian, and transgender people, discrimination against bisexuals is different from those. For a variety of reasons, experts believe that bisexual discrimination may be the most common form of sexual orientation-based discrimination overall. Those reasons include:
Double Discrimination – Bisexuals often face discrimination from both straight and gay monosexuals (those attracted to a single gender). This is due to a misconception that bisexuality is a transitory phase – that bisexuals haven’t yet “picked a side” and will eventually identify as either straight or gay.
Increased Invisibility – People who identify as bisexual are less likely than other members of the LGBTQIA+ community to come out. According to one study, bisexuals were found to be less than half as likely as their gay or lesbian peers to have told their family and friends about their sexual orientation. For that reason, it’s less likely for employers to recognize their bisexual employees or take steps to protect them from discrimination.
Legal Erasure – Even though courts have recently ruled that discrimination based upon sexual orientation is illegal under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, legal experts continue to point out that the rulings themselves gloss over bisexuals as members of a protected class. Even the recent Supreme Court ruling referenced above doesn’t mention bisexuals a single time in the majority opinion. Nor have bisexuals been explicitly mentioned in similar rulings going back at least 25 years.
All of the above reasons contribute to lax attitudes by both employers, their employees, and the general public regarding discrimination against bisexual individuals. And that makes it difficult both to determine the true scope of the problem or to do anything to improve the situation.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, however, discrimination against bisexuals is illegal under federal law under many circumstances. It’s illegal when it comes to employment, meaning that an employer can’t use a bisexual’s sexual orientation as the basis for hiring, firing, and promotion decisions. It’s also illegal in public education settings, as well as in the sale or rental of housing. The same is true when it comes to participation in Federal programs and public accommodations.
But the laws are far less clear in other circumstances. While courts have generally held that state-level anti-discrimination laws do apply to LGBTQIA+ individuals – these vary from state to state. And for bisexuals specifically, there aren’t many legal precedents to guide courts in such matters.
But for any bisexual individual facing discrimination in any form, in any part of their life, the best option is to consult with an established and experienced civil rights attorney. They’ll be able to navigate the complex thicket of precedents and statutes that may apply. And based on that they will know what legal options the individual has. It’s an imperfect solution to an ever-evolving legal issue but is, for now, the best solution available.
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