Bisexuality occupies an ambivalent position in contemporary British sexual culture, and continues to have an uneasy relationship with gay and lesbian culture on the one hand and heterosexual culture on the other. The presence of an increasingly politicized bisexual (or ‘bi’) community in Britain repeatedly brings these tensions to the fore, with debates around the inclusion of ‘bisexual’ in the title of Britain’s annual Gay Pride festival and admitting bisexuals into lesbian and gay social spaces, for example, fuelling argument and precipitating both divisions and new alliances. The problematic adoption of the inclusive term ‘queer’ to define all sexual dissidents has also been the subject of widespread debate, at least in part reflecting the fragility of the relationship between bisexuality and homosexuality.
   On a more positive note, the bi community in Britain has established a strong identity through a variety of self-run resources. These include a national magazine, Bi Community News, an annual conference, a telephone helpline and the development of a network of local and regional groups which hold meetings and events, liaise with local lesbian and gay groups and promote bi awareness in their locality. There also exists the Bi Academic Network, bringing together bisexual academics to discuss their work. In the academic arena, in fact, much important work has been done, exploring the position of bisexuality within contemporary culture. Also significant to contemporary British bisexuality have been discourses within popular culture, and those surrounding HIV/AIDS. In the case of the former, there have been a number of high profile bisexuals ‘coming out’, including Britpop singer Brett Anderson (of Suede) and supermodel Rachel Williams, and coverage of bisexuality in the press, in films such as Basic Instinct and novels such as Dan Kavanagh’s Duffy series. The HIV/AIDS discourses, on the other hand, have demonized bisexuality as the transmission route from the homosexual to the heterosexual community. Together these discourses and representations have often constructed bisexuals as promiscuous, libertarian and uncommitted. Against this tide, the British bi community has offered many alternative discourses, seeing bisexuality as challenging conventional sexual binaries (male/ female, homosex-ual/heterosexual) and norms (such as monogamy and fixed sexual identity), and offering new possibilities for sex and gender relations within society.
   See also: AIDS; gay liberation; ‘gender benders’; outing
   Further reading
    Rose, S. (ed.) (1996) Bisexual Horizons: Politics, Histories, Lives, London: Lawrence & Wishart (written by members of the bisexual community, this provides a useful overview of key issues).

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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