Georgie Court, Global Inclusion Specialist at Clifford Chance, spoke to Zoe Schulz from myGwork for Bi Visibility Month, discussing biphobia and why this conversation must include allyship to the trans and non-binary community
BY MYGWORK, IMAGES BY GEORGIE COURT
Growing up in North London, Georgie was the first in her family to attend university. Her decade-long Diversity and Inclusion career started with her Student Union Executive role. Her dedication to calling out inequality has been ingrained in who she is from a very young age; laughing, she explains how her mum will often recite the story of when she was seven years old and decided to campaign for a zebra crossing outside her primary school.
It’s this moral compass and the desire to see positive change in the world that has powered Georgie through her career. On top of her role as Global Inclusion Specialist, she is co-chair of Clifford Chance’s LGBTQ+ network in the UK. She’s been co-chairing the network for the past two and a half years, throughout which she has focused on restructuring and developing a strategy that puts underrepresented groups of LGBTQ+ people at the heart of all network activity.
At Clifford Chance, Georgie has seen the importance of Diversity and Inclusion go from strength to strength – and being a part of creating that change has been invaluable. Plus, the network has become a home away from home to her and others in the organisation. She explains that it has been essential in creating a sense of community, which alongside policies, healthcare support, allyship and visibility from senior leaders, helps to create a workplace where everyone truly feels they can be themselves.
With this month marking Bi Visibility Month, Georgie is committed to reminding everyone how important visibility and allyship are: “Visibility is important to me because marginalised people are often left out of the dominant narrative of history.”
Openly bi herself, Georgie explains she has seen first-hand the misinformation that clouds the identity, including the assumption that if you are dating someone of the same sex you must be gay, and if you are dating someone of the opposite gender you must be straight. These leave little room for acknowledging bi identities and relationships. Bi people have always existed and make up the largest proportion of LGBTQ+ people, yet less than 1% of LGBTQ+ funding goes to bi-specific resources or events.
“Bi visibility is really important because we’re often left out,” says Georgie. “Even in our history, through archiving and recording, we are left out of LGBTQ+ history. And still now today, there is a lack of awareness, visibility, and resources – and actually, bi people are facing a whole range of issues that need specific attention. Mental health difficulties are sky high in the bi community which is often assumed to be as a result of this feeling of not belonging – in gay/lesbian spaces, or in heterosexual ones.
“Health disparities are also disproportionate among bi people: studies show that bi people have elevated risks of cancer, heart disease, substance abuse, depression, and bi people – particularly bi women – are the least likely to be out at work or offered promotions. And I think that’s because the stereotypes we see in society have seeped into the thinking and the decision making of people in the workplace, that we can’t be trusted, we’re indecisive, and don’t know who we are.”
On top of this, it is often the most vulnerable and persecuted within the bi community that these assumptions and prejudices impact the most. For example, Georgie shares that bi asylum seekers are the least likely of the LGBTQ+ community to have their claims granted. This is because the asylum system is inherently biphobic; you are asked to prove that you are gay or in a relationship with someone of the same sex – but that’s not always possible for bisexual people. It doesn’t mean they are less deserving of seeking asylum.
“Bi Visibility Month is important,” Georgie explains, “Because we know that bi people can have challenging experiences in society, and if we don’t talk more about it, we just quietly let all of these things slowly impact us in this really bad way. Also when I am open and out with people about my identity it allows me to have deeper connections with people, I suppose that’s another part of why I try to be visible personally, even if it doesn’t always feel comfortable.”
As well as increased visibility of bi identities, Georgie wants to see queer spaces be more purposeful in their acknowledgement of bi people. As biphobia comes from both outside LGBTQ+ spaces and within, it’s important that others in the LGBTQ+ community are not complacent but actively educating themselves on how to show up for the bi community. This also includes retiring the sentiment “No straight people at Pride” – you cannot tell someone’s identity from their appearance or who they are dating, and this particularly negatively impacts bisexual people. “I don’t think we should be telling people not to come to Pride anyway,” adds Georgie.
Georgie sees allyship within the LGBTQ+ community as integral to pushing for Equality. Significantly, she explains, in the current climate where the media is constantly trying to pit us against each other. “I know that the media is constantly trying to pit queer women against trans and non-binary people.”
Despite the media’s attempts to highlight our differences, Georgie points out she sees many similarities between the bi, trans and non-binary communities. The LGBTQ+ community has mainly been associated with gay men and lesbians – with bisexual, trans and non-binary identities often overlooked. On top of this, rates of domestic violence are highest for bi and trans women, not to mention the policing of women and non-binary bodies and how much this impacts the way all people are expected to exist in boxes, often weighed down by gendered stereotypes in society. There is so much more that joins us than divides us and working together as a community to positively make change together is so important. “None of us are free until all of us are free”, as the famous saying goes.
“Queer women and trans people are all facing policing of our bodies and our bodily autonomy. We are all impacted by the media telling us how to live, how we should look and society’s expectations of us. We are marginalised communities that lack the support and resources – but we have much more in common than we think. I’m incredibly proud of all the women and lesbian centred organisations standing up and out for trans and non-binary people (including DIVA!). I think that now, as queer women, as bisexual women, as lesbian women, is our time to stand up and speak out in support of the trans and non-binary community.”
The myriad of our LGBTQ+ identities show that the world is not binary, that it is more complex than people would like us to think it is, explains Georgie: “I think as LGBTQ+ people we pose a kind of threat to a hetero and cis-centric, patriarchal world because we are proof that sexuality, identity, and life are complex and layered. This is a classic example to show that there isn’t just one very small way of thinking, but humans can and do exist on a much more nuanced level. Even the concept of ‘bi’ meaning two has evolved over the years, with many people under the bi/pansexual umbrella using this to mean two or more (wider than just male and female) gender identities – “even this binary previously associated with the term has been done away with for me”, she laughs.
Georgie believes way of thinking enriches the world for the better. By accepting and understanding the capabilities of our ever expanding identities and orientations, we can better reimagine a world where everyone can express themselves and live authentically.
“For me, being bi is not just about who I am romantically involved with, it’s about how I view the world in a very un-binary way: it’s opened me up to different ways of deconstructing, existing and experiencing the world. When you’re seen as somewhat ‘different’ to the mainstream in society, it gives you the freedom to think about the world outside of what is perceived as ‘normal’, and my life is better for that. I have support, friendship, closeness, and connection that is not limited by gender (cis, trans, GNC or otherwise) and I love that for me, for us – the bi community. It has allowed me to escape so many binaries that society puts on us. It gives me the flexibility and creativity to imagine an alternative type of being. I think that for me that’s what an authentic bi person is; not being constrained by expectation but moving through the world with an ability to approach every new thing with an abundance of appreciation and open mindedness.”
The importance of this way of thinking is one of the many reasons Clifford Chance London runs an annual conference for LGBTQ+ students interested in a career in law. ACCEPT is a one-day conference that offers a thought-provoking and uplifting agenda, including panel discussions, inspiring guest speakers, and plenty of career advice. In fact, as part of ACCEPT they have specifically run a panel discussing bi-erasure and many of the themes mentioned in this article.
“To meet many role models and further understand why bringing your full authentic self to work each day is so important, I’d really encourage you to apply here,” adds Georgie. “It’s taking place in our London office on 16th November 2022 – I hope to see some of you there!”
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