It’s the run up to Pride season, and pretty soon every company with a PR budget will be throwing rainbow flags at everything from buses to . . . sandwiches.
I’m no hater, it wasn’t so long ago companies wouldn’t touch LGBTI issues with a six mile long stick. And even if it does relatively little to progress LGBTI people forward, it must be a reassuring signal for the LGBTI employees of the company.
It’s also great news for the employer. Research has found publicly held companies with LGBTI-friendly policies have seen their stock prices increase by an average 6.5% compared with their industry peers.
And now it’s time to take the next step: this year I want companies to remember that there are many letters in the LGBTI. If company’s contributions are to only provide T-shirts that say ‘gay and proud’ or ‘daddy issues’ – they’re missing out on the majority of LGBTI people.
In the US the spending power of the LGBT community is calculated in the region of $800 billion a year. How much could that be increased if companies focused on the specific subgroups rather than a general LGBTI message?
In the case of bisexual people, companies celebrating Pride really have missed a trick by not appealing to us already.
52% of the LGBTI community is bisexual. When we widen that out to the spectrum of sexuality, 43% of all young people don’t identify as entirely gay or straight.
If businesses are to grow the profit they make from LGBTI people at Pride, bisexuals are an untapped market.
This bisexual is willing to spend on bisexual merch
As a bisexual man, I’ve always longed for more bisexual merchandise. What better way to combat bi invisibility than to have your clothes make the statement for you?
It might seem silly to some but if I’d seen the odd guy with a bisexual bracelet, T-shirt or necklace while I was struggling with my identity, it really would have given me some added confidence.
Unfortunately when looking around for bisexual merchandise there is very limited stock on offer. There are some talented people on Etsy, a few groups that sell their own merch and the occasional bit on Amazon. But mainstream? Don’t get your hopes up – even when they do launch their LGBTI range.
I actually designed my own bisexual logo and started printing it on T-shirts. If I’m going to wear a branded T-shirt I’d rather represent my own sexuality than be a walking poster for Adidas.
A numbers game
With only 12% of bisexual men out, can you imagine how nice it might be for a closeted bisexual guy to look over and see another guy wearing a bi T-shirt?
For bisexual people, being able to make a nod to our sexuality through our clothing could be an incredible way to increase visibility.
When we see two men hold hands on the tube, the majority of people think gay. When we see a husband kiss his wife goodbye we think straight. We never take a moment to think that actually one or more might be bisexual.
While some may think ‘I don’t care who you sleep with – why is it so important?’ The reality is that people never seeing bisexuals is the very reason people don’t take it seriously. It’s not just in their attitudes or opinions but also in the money organizations put aside for research, services and events that would actually benefit bisexuals.
If companies realized bisexuals are an ‘invisible majority’, they really could help not just us but also their profit margins.
But it’s time to get tactical my fellow bisexuals. This Pride season we need every bisexual to buy the bisexual merchandise on offer. Even if it’s a cup or a flag you’ll never use again.
At the risk of sounding shallow, company investment in bisexuality could be the turning point in bi recognition we need. As soon as there is money to be made companies will invest in that particular market.
We need to use Pride to demonstrate there is a market, and we have cash.
If this Pride season the bisexual merchandise is the best seller they’ll remember that for next year and create more. And long after Pride season is over they will be looking to replicate their success with appealing to bisexual consumers.
If each of us does our bit to reward companies that remember the B in LGBTI, we may truly change the world.
Lewis Oakley is a weekly bisexual correspondent on Gay Star News. Follow him on Twitter.