Bis in the Workplace: Just the Facts, Ma’am

Nov 1, 2011 | 2011 Fall - Out in the Workplace, Articles

By Heidi Bruins Green

I have always been intrigued by statistics. Maybe it is coming from a family of scientists, math whizzes, and other geeks (said with the utmost love and respect), but numbers really speak to me. I find that numbers put information in context, and help explain things that are otherwise fuzzy. Over the last ten years, as I have led workshops on the realities of bisexual lives and the experiences of bisexuals in the workplace, I have always felt frustrated that when people asked questions, I could only give them anecdotal information from things I had read or people I personally had talked to. I couldn’t make things concrete and definitive. It never occurred to me that I could do something about that.

Several years ago two events coincided that sent me on this journey. First, my husband Jamison Green developed two surveys on the sexual health of transmen and their partners, ending up with nearly 2000 responses between the two surveys. The second was a conversation with someone in the LGBT community whose firm collects a great deal of statistical information on the community for marketing purposes. He gave a presentation at the Out & Equal Workplace Advocates conference that year citing a lot of very interesting information they had collected about LGBT people. Statistics! I was excited.

I spoke with him after the presentation and asked if he would be willing to share what he had learned about bisexual people. His response was telling. He said that the responses of bisexuals weren’t really relevant for their work so they didn’t retain that data. When I questioned why he had used the acronym LGBT instead of LG, or even LGT since he had spoken a bit about transpeople, he said that LGBT is the best known term and that any bisexual in a same-sex relationship would identify as gay or lesbian in surveys like theirs and those were the only bisexuals they were interested in.

This made my blood boil. It speaks exactly to the reason I’ve been giving workshops for ten years, AND to my frustration that so few LG people seem to “get it.” I actually decided then and there that it was time for me to do my own survey of bisexual people about the experience of being bisexual in the workplace.

It took another year to figure out the questions, because I wanted to make them as inclusive as possible, as well as get an Institutional Review Board behind the work. An IRB, as they are called, simply helps ensure a survey is done in a way that ethically protects the participants, but it is a huge hurdle. I wanted an IRB so that we could publish results in academic journals, which was important to my amazing statistician (a professor of statistics at the University of Cincinnati) who has drawn out correlations that are very exciting, and to my husband who will help me write up the results and is an academic as well.

Once launched, the survey was up for about five months while I asked for help disseminating it as much as possible. Bisexuals are a tough bunch to find, but we ended up with 1560 respondents from 39 countries, though predominantly from the U.S. /Canada (71%) and the U.K./Ireland (18%). Interestingly, another 5% came from Spanish-speaking countries, due to the tremendous effort put in by two bi activists I met at BiCon 2010, one of whom, Elena Marcos, was profiled in these pages not long ago.

The purpose of the study was to better understand how bisexuals defined themselves and their levels of satisfaction with various aspects of their lives, as well as three critical areas: work, relationships and community. The survey had 78 questions divided into five sections (Self-Definitions, Relationships, Community, Work Experiences and Demographics). Demographics had the most questions because we wanted to be sure we knew how to slice and dice the data we were seeing. I’m sure survey fatigue was an issue for people going through the survey, and I was really grateful that so many people stuck it out!

I’m excited to share some of my results here in the pages of Bi Women. If you want more information, I invite you to attend the Out & Equal Workplace Summit in Dallas, Texas, October 25th-28th where we will present this data. (The Summit, the largest, workplace focused LGBT conference in the country,, will also feature eight workshops on bisexuality.) The most recent issue of the Journal of Bisexuality has a review of the preliminary data (first 800 respondents) as one of the presentations at the first international BiReCon in 2010 in London. By early 2012 we plan to have the analysis wrapped up and published or posted on the websites of our three sponsors: the Bisexual Resource Center (, the American Institute of Bisexuality ( and Out & Equal Workplace Summit (


One of our aims was to collect data that any reader would respond to by saying “Duh! We already knew that!” A question such as, “Does bisexuality really exist?” is not a serious question in my mind, but people like J. Michael Bailey and his faux research that resulted in the 1995 New York Times article titled “Gay, Straight, or Lying?” leave some people wondering, so the question must be pursued. So our first set of findings fit under the header: DUH!


  • Bisexuality is a separate, discrete sexual orientation from either of the mono-sexual orientations.
  • Sexual orientation (bisexuality, heterosexuality, etc.) is separate and distinct from relational style (polyamory, monogamy, etc.).
  • Outness decreases as age increases.
  • Transgender people are far more accepting of bisexuals than nontransgender people whether gay, lesbian, or straight.
  • People who are attracted to people of more than one sex/gender have some concerns in common with gay/lesbian people as well as concerns unique to bisexuals.
  • People who describe their attractions closer to the middle of the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid (i.e., a 4 rather than a 1 or a 7) were more likely to be out as bisexual than someone closer to one end or the other.

There were some findings that were puzzling or simply surprising. Some of them will be discussed in virtual focus groups we plan to run soon that will be made up of respondents who indicated they would be willing to talk with us further. Those findings are listed under the header: HUH?


  • 52% of respondents identify as female, 35% as male, and 13% as queer or gender queer.
  • 71% of respondents identify as bisexual, though all but a very few people described their behavior and/or attractions as definitely not mono-sexual.
  • 15% identified as gay and 12% as lesbian, though fewer than 2% described mono-sexual attractions and/or behavior.
  • Quite a few people described their attractions as being same gender, though not necessarily same sex. As one person said, “I’m attracted to male energy regardless of the package it comes in.”

Other findings were causes for actual concern and will be discussed in the focus groups as well. Those come under the header: UH-OH…


  • Respondents whose score on the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid were closest to the center (meaning those attracted to different and same sex/gender people the most evenly) were the least satisfied in their work lives, though their sex lives were great!
  • In companies where employees experienced frequent anti-bi comments and joking, there was a higher than normal experience of adverse treatment (e.g. firing, withheld promotions, etc.

There are a number of unique concerns that bisexual people experience at work. Among them are:

  • Bisexuals in different sex relationships are treated as allies (at best).
  • Bisexuals in same-sex relationships are made invisible by assumptions.
  • Out bisexuals are not trusted by lesbian and gay coworkers.
  • Polyamorous bisexuals must be closeted, even if their bisexuality is accepted.
  • Bisexuals who leave a partner of one sex and then become involved with someone of another sex are gossiped about much more than a mono-sexual going from one relationship to another.
  • Bisexuals are often seen as unstable, unreliable, and therefore un-promotable.

And, finally, there were those things that were surprising and exciting and thought-provoking, things that belong under the header: AHA!


  • Membership in community (bi community or LGBT community) increases outness in the workplace.
  • The more out people are the greater their satisfaction on all scales measured: overall, work life, relationships, friendships, community involvement and yes, even your sex life is better when you are out. • 21% of respondents are currently in polyamorous relationships, while a full 40% identify as polyamorous, despite currently being single or with only one person.
  • Bisexuals are more likely to be out at work in companies that have non-discrimination policies that include BOTH sexual orientation AND gender identity and expression. Sexual orientation ONLY in the policy has the same effect on outness as NO POLICY at all.
  • We realized the data was telling us that sexual orientation is not on a continuum like either the Klein or Kinsey scales, but more like a triangle with gay, straight and bi at each apex.

In fact, we decided after reading so many variations that in fact sexual orientation is a sort of ‘infinite polygon’ with unique destinations for all the different variations there are.

Heidi is a learning and development professional who has enjoyed “data-mining” throughout her career, with 20- plus years in accounting and the past eight years studying, conducting focus groups, and performing surveys and needs assessments to design workshops, training materials, and a variety of learning events. She has delivered workshops on bisexuality in the workplace at the Out & Equal Workplace Summit for 10 years, and is a driving force behind their newly formed Bisexual Advisory Committee (BiAC). Heidi is ecstatically happy living in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband Jamison Green, whom she met at the 2001 Out & Equal Workplace Summit in Cincinnati.

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