When DIVA asked lesbians and bi women for their experiences of
dating each other, it sparked off a thorny debate. Lesbians were
denounced as narrow-minded bigots. Bisexuals were dismissed as
untrustworthy cheaters. Hurt and heartbreak were everywhere. But
another picture also emerged. Bi women spoke of committed,
long-term relationships with women. Lesbians told us that they
support bi people's right to love who they choose.
And yet, some lesbians remain wary of dating bi women. Why is
Dr Meg Barker is a senior lecturer in psychology and a
relationships therapist at the Lesbian and Gay Foundation in
Manchester. She is also one of the authors of The Bisexuality
Report (published in February), which examines bisexual
invisibility and exclusion.
When it comes to dating, Barker points out, one of the issues is
that "bisexual" is a an umbrella term covering everyone from
bi-curious straight girls, whose interest is experimental, to women
who acknowledge their attraction to men but are mostly drawn to
other women. Both these kinds of women may call themselves bisexual
but will probably relate very differently to lesbians and the LGBT
In most cases, lesbians who avoid dating bi women say that it is
their own bad experiences that put them off, while bi women
describe the pain of rejection by those who see their identity
label as a danger sign.
It's important to recognise that everyone's experience is real,
says Barker. "We need to understand what it's like from both sides;
that's the answer here, for lesbian partners or potential partners
to tune in and imagine what it might be like to feel distrusted or
told you can't really claim your identity.
"At the same time, the bi partners need to reflect on what it
might be like to be with somebody who is constantly saying that
they've got this identity that makes it feel like they might not be
there in the future. Why might a lesbian partner who's had some of
those experiences in the past be a bit distrustful and struggling?
What might you do to reassure them? It's about empathy really."
Read the rest of this feature in the April issue of