For the first time in UCSB history, a full 4 unit course on bisexuality is being taught in the
Applied Psychology department by Professor Tania Israel, who also gave one of the first TED Talks on bisexuality..
Despite the fact that bisexual people comprise a majority of the LGBT+ population, they face erasure, and bisexuality itself is underrepresented and rarely discussed.
When asked why she thinks it has taken so long for a class on bisexuality to be introduced to UCSB, Professor Israel explained that it has to do with stereotypes, misperceptions, and lack of information people have about bisexual people.
“People think ‘oh, it’s just a phase, it’s not a real thing, bisexual people are not trustworthy”’ said Israel in an interview with The Bottom Line. Professor Israel went on to explain that these negative stereotypes are reflected in characters on TV shows, movies, and books, and harmful representations can make it harder for people to embrace their bisexuality.
“It’s sort of remarkable how books started to come out more for and by bisexual people in the nineties but it’s decades after that now,” said Israel. Israel is now working to change this by educating people on the complexity and importance of bisexuality.
This course has attracted a number of applied psychology students who also identify as LGBT+ students, including communication major and applied psychology and education double minor Lauren Shores, who was in her third year at the time this article was written. Shores is also Editor in Chief at The Bottom Line.
As a member of the LGBT+ community, Shores feels the class is important because it allows people who identify as bisexual to have an academic space that does not shy away from important issues like birasure. “It is so validating to have an entire course at a major research university talking about this issue,” said Shores in an interview with TBL.
She also explained the importance of this course in terms of how it gives people who are not monosexual a place where they feel recognized. “A lot of bisexuals and pansexuals find themselves in this bubble where they do not know where they fit in,” said Shores.
While the class is titled “Bisexuality: From Margin to Center”, the topics discussed are not limited to the bisexual identity. Professor Israel explains that she uses bisexuality as a lens to explain other issues and understand the human experience..
“In understanding bisexuality we can use it as a lens to understand so many other things in terms of minority stress, mental health vulnerabilities, resilience, visibility and representation in the media,” said Israel.
Although having access to scholarship on bisexuality and understanding how it can function as a lens is an important part of this course and its purpose, Professor Israel wants to make sure her students go beyond classroom applications. “It [The bisexual community] is a population that needs support in order to survive and to thrive,” explains Israel.
For this reason Professor Israel is encouraging students to create and bring attention to resources that aid the bisexual population. For the course’s main project students must create resources that can be shared on the internet and that are “easily consumable” as well as “accurate and bi-affirming”.
The response to this project has been positive according to Professor Israel, who says her students are excited to not only learn about the problems bisexual people face but to also be a part of the solution.
While Israel is hopeful that she will have another opportunity to teach this course in the future, she explains that the final decision will come once the department catalogues the instructional resources available for this course.
Tania Israel is a Professor and Chair of UCSB’s Department of Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology, and she is affiliated with the Department of Feminist Studies. \ As Director of Project RISE, Dr. Israel leads a research team that develops and studies interventions to support the psychological health of LGBTQ individuals and communities. Her expertise has been solicited by the Institute of Medicine, Congress, and the White House. Dr. Israel has received honors for her research and advocacy from the American Psychological Association, the California Asian & Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus, and her local LGBT community. Her TED Talk on bisexuality has been viewed over 80,000 times. More information is available at taniaisrael.com