As someone both bisexual and biracial, it is a worry to realize that people like me will soon be barred from most aspects of society. And that is giving us the benefit of the doubt we were ever fully integrated to begin with.
New reports from the British government suggest that vaccine passports could soon be introduced for work, weddings, and even sports events. Across the world, not having a COVID vaccine may also see you banned from entering certain countries.
Bisexuals and people of color are set to be the most impacted by these restrictions as they are statistically less likely to take the vaccine.
Research by the Human Rights Campaign recently found that bisexuals and POC were the least likely of those in the LGBTQ+ community to get the vaccine. Similarly, the Royal College of General Practitioners found that mixed raced people are three times less likely to be vaccinated than white people. This was backed up by The Royal Society for Public Health who found that only 57 percent of respondents from Black, Asian, and minority ethnic backgrounds were likely to accept a COVID-19 vaccine.
With this in mind, vaccine passports, whether intended or not, will become a way to further hold back minorities.
As soon as the high levels of vaccine hesitancy amongst minorities became clear, it was telling to see how quickly discussion turned to ways we could lock the unvaccinated out of society; on a scale we’ve never considered for any vaccine before. Particularly by the, “I’m not racist, I have Black friends” types. Even the most liberal among us seem happy to let the biphobes and the racists finally be granted their wish of locking us out of society.
Many wish to avoid this argument. Choosing instead to say that not getting vaccinated is a choice and that it is simply a matter of educating the poor stupid bisexuals of color. Looking into the reasons why these people are hesitant to get the vaccine is a separate issue; the fact is that this is the reality and minorities will pay the price. It is therefore the responsibility of the government to ensure its COVID exit strategy is not used to punish minorities and explain fully how they will avoid this happening.
When it comes to convincing minorities to be vaccinated, the usual tactics of intimidation and name calling are unlikely to work. Calling someone who, until a few months ago was fully vaccinated (with all the pre-COVID vaccines), "anti-vax" or a "conspiracy theorist" is not going to have the desired outcome. We have been dealing with name-calling and intimidation all our lives; bisexuals have been called gay, confused, greedy. We’re not in the business of changing who we are because society demands it.
And as usual, this situation will go to the lowest argument. Society will not take responsibility for why minorities may be hesitant to trust. Instead, they’d rather believe minorities won’t take the vaccine because they think there is a chip inside that will start beeping and we’ll suddenly start receiving messages from Elvis hiding on the moon.
According to research, bisexual adults have the worst access to a regular doctor and are the most likely to delay care. In fact, 40 percent of bi men and 29 per cent of bi women aren’t out to any health care professional about their sexual orientation. The London Assembly Health committee theorized that this is because bisexual people, and those who come under the + category, report that their identity is frequently misunderstood or simply erased by health professionals. This situation has been going on for a long time, it’s simply that now you care because it affects you.
For LGBTQ+ people it is also completely valid to wonder where will this end? Will this be a gateway move? In five years' time are we going to need to provide our HIV status before we can get into a gay bar? Will there be nightclubs where you have to prove you are on PrEP to be able to enter? Unthinkable right now, but if the last year has taught us anything, it's that anything is possible.
For people of color, it’s hard to know where to start, from previous mistreatment by the health services to perhaps feeling the vaccine hasn’t been tested on enough people like them. Memories of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, coupled with a long history of Black people being used as guinea pigs for medical experimentation by various governments around the world, are not forgotten.
Some may argue it might not be a medical reason at all. We can’t forget that many are still in shock and angry about the government taking our freedoms over the last year. These are freedoms minorities consider more than others because they haven’t always been guaranteed. Many may see this as their last stand.
Again, we can’t be sure what the reasons are. Only that there are probably many that vary depending on the person.
Some may not see why minorities aren’t as terrified about COVID, but it’s important to empathize. A bunch of straight white people (no offence, we still love you) finally discovering what it’s like to be nervous to walk down the street or go to the supermarket isn’t the game changing argument you think it is. You’ll have to forgive minorities for not feeling the same sense of danger or being desensitised. That fear is just a standard Tuesday for many of us; we're used to just getting on with life regardless.
I don’t know what the answer is to convince minorities to have the vaccine, but I do know punishing them for not taking it will create more problems than solutions.
Hopefully it will just be a matter of community outreach or time; some may simply want to wait to try new medication until it’s been tested long enough for them to personally feel comfortable. No amount of educating, tweet banning or indeed intimidation is going to change that.
That’s why COVID passports aren’t used as an excuse to ostracize minorities from society. Many that loudly judge those not excited about the vaccine, dismiss their own failure to stick to the rules by visiting family and attending protests and vigils. It’s fine when they do it. If you are one of those people who support ostracizing minorities from society, it’s no more than we expect. You’ve done it to us before and we’ll find a way to rise again.
Lewis Oakley is a U.K.-based bisexual activist. Find out more about his work at lewisoakley.com.