Rania Vamvaka is widley known in the south Wales LGBT+ community. Dedicated to helping LGBT+ ethnic minorities, particularly those who are asylum seekers or refugees, she has lent her free time to ensuring that these people have the things necessary to survive and thrive in Wales.
Originally from Greece, Rania now lives in Cardiff working at Cardiff University as an academic tutor in the school of social sciences. Currently sitting as co-chair of Glitter Cymru, a support group dedicated to LGBT+ people of colour and ethnic minorities, she has been at the forefront of the work to ensure that people within the group get the help that they need.
As a bisexual person, Rania told WalesOnline about her experiences navigating a sometimes traditional LGBT+ community. Speaking ahead of Bisexual Visibility Day on Friday, which is an opportunity to celebrate the bisexual community, Rania underlined the importance of raising awareness of how much work is still needed to ensure that her and others are taken seriously.
"Those sexual orientations can be hidden and misunderstood. So when you have, let's say, a woman with kids coming from Ghana - their bisexuality is very much questioned," Rania explained.
"They have to boot up, they have to present butch or they have to play up to a lesbian stereotype in order to be believed, so there is this idea of bisexual erasure within the Home Office mindset which is very essentialist as they are perceiving sexualities from a very western point of view.
"So all these bisexual women who have kids, they may have been married, they may have been gang raped, they may have been forced into marriages, and so on and so forth. But this doesn't erase their bisexuality and there is a major lack of research on specifically bisexual asylum seekers and refugees.
"One of the reasons I left home was to be authentically myself. Growing up in Greece in a Turkish and Egyptian household, being bisexual just wasn't a thing. It was the case that everyone thought it was a phase that would eventually pass. When I would tell people I would nearly always be sexualised, it perpetuated this narrative of being greedy. And in a way it's very stigmatizing for the person as well as their sexuality itself."
The word 'greedy' is often used within communities to negatively describe bisexual people. With some cisgender traditional people struggling to comprehend the notion of dual sexuality on a non-binary scale, Rania is one of many who has had to navigate this. Whilst she is aware that the treatment towards bisexual people is changing in a positive way, she believes the new issue is the traditional view of what a bisexual person looks like.
"I know that conversations around bisexuality are changing slowly," she added. But there is one thing that bothers me the most and has been bothering me recently. So since all this transphobia started happening in Cardiff, I have been quite cagey about how I talk to people about my bisexuality. If I gauge that the person I'm talking to might be a bit 'terfy', I say that I'm pansexual. Because I want to show that I look at bisexuality as being binary.
"But when I know I'm discussing with someone from within the community, who has done the research, who is an ally, a trans ally, I do say I'm bisexual. It's almost like a safety net. To walk in society to protect yourself from potential backlash that you're gonna get if you just say, you know, I'm bisexual."
Looking to the future of bisexual inclusivity, Rania hopes that breaking out of the traditional view of what bisexual means will make a positive impact.
"I think there are still quite a lot of people within the community, especially who are quite traditional in their mindset. And that still bothers me. So I think younger people, and that's not me, younger people are kind of like, realizing that bisexuality is about the journey, the flow, and is about you being authentically yourself completely independently of where you sit within the spectrum. So I think young people leading the conversation and leading the way and coming out as bi from a very young age is very empowering. And this is what we need."
Read Next :