People make a lot of incorrect assumptions about Camilla because of the way she looks. When they find out her actual sexuality, it gets even weirder. Some people question her sexual orientation – others ask inappropriate questions about her sex life. Welcome to life as a bisexual.
Because I’m a white, blond, petite, feminine-looking female, people tend to assume I’m a straight, privately educated, university graduate who’s dating a stockbroker. But those assumptions are mostly fantasy. For example, when I started at Accenture five years ago, I didn’t have a degree. I’m just about to finish it!
Camilla and her mum
When I was 16, I realised I was bisexual. In the beginning my bisexuality was often brushed off as: “No you’re not, you just make out with girls at parties”. “Don’t worry,” people say, “you just haven’t found the right man yet!”
Meanwhile, I’ve heard from my bisexual male friends that they are told: “You’re not bisexual – you’re gay.”
People can’t wrap their heads around the fact that we didn’t pick a gender to be attracted to – we chose both. Then they make it our problem. As a bisexual person, I sometimes feel judged and devalued. I’m not going to lie. It’s offensive.
Please know, being bisexual isn’t a whim. As a bisexual woman, I grappled with my sexuality for a long time. The pressure to conform to other people’s views of sexuality is enormous. But eventually, you realise you have to be true to yourself.
My truth is this: when it comes to picking a partner, gender is irrelevant. It’s that simple yet some people have no idea how to deal with it.
Camilla and her partner, Alice
How to support foster a workplace culture that supports diversity:
Don’t just make assumptions about people’s sexuality. If I’m talking about my partner and you ask, “What does he do?” and I say, “She’s a doctor” – don’t assume I’m a lesbian.
Respect their choices. Even if you don’t understand it, if someone tells you they’re bisexual, or you infer it from something they said, you have to take it seriously. This is not a phase I’m going to ‘grow out of’. It’s who I am!
Don’t ask questions about people’s sex lives. It’s mindboggling how many people think it’s OK to enquire about intimate details they’d never ask a straight person. It’s not appropriate, especially in the workplace.
Have compassion. Try and extend yourself to see things from the other person’s perspective. It’s a very difficult issue. Until they find peace with nature of their sexuality, bisexual people are really confused. Accenture’s Pride and Ally Network is a fantastic way to put yourself in someone else’s shoes!
Camilla with her colleagues on International Women’s Day
How LGBTI identifying peoples can help normalise bisexuality:
I don’t think bisexuality visibility days alone are going to do enough to reduce negative stereotyping. It’s up to the small number of us to work at normalising our sexuality. The more often it’s discussed, the more likely people are to have a sensible conversation about it. You don’t have to disclose your sexuality or make a big deal of it, but don’t hide it.
When people find out you’re bisexual, you shouldn’t get a hostile reaction. But, if you do, you have two options:
Raise the issue immediately with your line manager. You can do so without fear of persecution. Accenture has a zero tolerance policy for harassment and bullying. You will be 100% supported.
Have a go at a gentle piece of education. You might say: “I just disclosed a personal piece of information and your reaction made me feel devalued.”
The only way we can fix the issue of people being pushed to the side and stereotyped as a binary is if we actually engage in conversation about it and treat each other with respect.
Why are we talking about stereotypes?
As a nation we’re making good progress in promoting inclusion and diversity, but our ingrained beliefs still heavily influence our actions. Are you subconsciously acting in a certain way because of your preconceived notions? Find out by reading and talking about our ‘stereotypes debunked’ stories.
Want to learn more about tacking unconscious bias? Read how we’re creating more inclusive communities using emerging tech.