Friday, December 27, 2019

Maliepaar's PhD Thesis... Bisexual Rhapsody: On the everyday sexual identity negotiations of bisexual people in Rotterdam and Amsterdam and the productions of bisexual spaces

Bisexual Rhapsody: On the everyday sexual identity negotiations of bisexual people in Rotterdam and Amsterdam and the productions of bisexual spaces. Emiel Maliepaard. PhD Thesis, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen 2018.

My doctoral thesis: a collection of six interlinked articles on bisexuality in geography, bisexual citizenship, and empirical work on bisexuality, coming out, disclosure, communities and space in the Netherlands.

9.3 Findings & conclusions
I believe that this study reveals four important findings (1) participants do contest the
coming out imperative, (2) they want to disclose their bisexuality when it is relevant to
them, (3) people find it difficult to express their bisexuality in doings and sayings, and
(4) research participants often passively pass as heterosexual or gay/lesbian because their
doings, sayings, actions, and possible material and visual clues are being read in binary

As Schatzki (2002, 2008) frequently stresses, practices are not just the manifold of doings
and sayings but organised activities that are governed by a practical understanding,
explicit rules, some general understandings, and a teleoaffective structure. To understand
the coming out practice, it is important to focus on both the practical understanding and
the teleoaffective structure of this practice. The coming out practice is, like every other
practice, a normative practice, however it seems to have, according to the participants, a
very clear-cut and heteronormative build-up. Coming out is mainly a linguistic practice in
which people position themselves, through specific speech-acts, on the sexuality spectrum
as non-heterosexual. In fact, this positioning is understood as the final stage of developing
and accepting one’s sexual identity. At the same time, it also means confessing one’s nonheterosexuality towards heterosexual people and, in the case of people who are bisexual, pansexual, or otherwise non-monosexual, also towards lesbians and gay men (also McLean,
2007, 2008). Confessing implies a hierarchy and the one who needs to confess is lower in
the hierarchy as compared to the ones people are confessing to. This means that bisexuality
is understood as a marginalised (and perhaps inferior) sexual identity as compared to
heterosexuality (and homosexuality). This confessing can be observed in phrases such as
“I need to tell you something”. Finally, the coming out practice means making a big deal
from one’s sexuality – a complete emphasis on one’s sexual identity – whereas there are
different ways to express one’s bisexuality without making it a big deal (see also Wandrey
et al., 2015).

As stated in the introduction of this manuscript, the most important question that framed this
study is “how do bisexuals negotiate their bisexuality in everyday (social) spaces, practices,
and activities?” This research shows that the majority of the research participants contest the
coming out practice or, at least, do not want to participate in this heteronormative practice.
They prefer to disclose their bisexuality instead of actually coming out towards others. In a
recently published article I define disclosing bisexuality as “more or less spontaneously or
reactively expressing one’s bisexuality without confessing it and/or making one’s sexuality
a big deal” (Maliepaard, 2018b, p. 19), and, “I do not conceptualize disclosing one’s sexual
identity as a practice (…) but as an action that takes place while participating in everyday
practices” (Maliepaard, 2018b, p. 19).

When focusing on when and where people actually disclose their bisexuality – in essence,
answering the question which factors and contexts are important in the sexual identity
negotiations of bisexual people – the research participants argue that it needs to be relevant
at that particular point in time. This relevance means that disclosing one’s bisexuality needs
to serve a purpose; it is a means to serve one or more ends. Theodore Schatzki’s notion of
teleoaffectivity and his conceptualisation of conditions of life are fruitful to understanding
bisexual people’s action intelligibility, including their ‘choice’ to disclose or not disclose
their bisexuality. Teleoaffectivity, or individuals’ orientations towards ends and how things
matter, puts participants’ sexual identity negotiations in a different perspective as compared
to most studies on sexual identity management strategies and stigma management. It is not
sufficient to focus on rational decision-making processes. Researchers need to focus on the
whole spectrum of conditions of life: people’s state of beings that include moods, emotions,
stances, principles, attitudes, and actions. As concluded elsewhere:
“Expressing bisexuality manifests a number of life conditions which need to be understood as
ends such as the desire to be valued as a human being, seen as an honest person, accepted as
a friend, family member, or lover, better connecting with others, and sharing one’s life with
other people. We should not read these manifestations as causing one’s expressions but as
actualisations of relating with others in practices. In fact, it is remarkable that most participants, 
when reflecting on situations in which they disclosed their bisexual desire and/or identity name
that this disclosure was part of building a stronger connection with people” (Maliepaard, 2018b,
p. 16).

Similarly, as detailed in the same article, not disclosing one’s bisexuality manifests a
number of life conditions besides the notion of ‘not being relevant’: “not in the mood for
drama, not wanting to explain oneself, fearing negativity, uncertainty, others are not ready,
aware of heterosexism and binegativity, not appropriate et cetera” (Maliepaard, 2018b, p.
16). While stereotyping is often mentioned as the primary reason for people to not disclose
one’s bisexuality (e.g. McLean, 2007), this dissertation concludes that only focusing on
binegativity, stereotypes, and harm reduction provides a rather partial picture of people’s
‘choice’ to not reveal their bisexuality. Stereotyping does play a role in people’s sexual
identity negotiations, however, there are more factors in play. For instance, people often
mention that they do not disclose their bisexuality because it is not appropriate to discuss
sexuality and relationships in particular (working) practices or because sexuality is never a
topic during conversations with people they do not have a strong bond with; it is undesirable
to, out of the blue, reveal one’s bisexual identity, desire, attraction, fantasies, et cetera.
Furthermore, research participants experience difficulties in expressing their bisexuality
in doings, sayings, and material and visual clues. They are not aware of specific bisexual
behaviour or doings outside the bedroom. It has been noted in a few studies that bisexual
people suffer from the binary organisation of sex, gender, and sexuality in our contemporary
Western society as bisexual people and their doings, sayings, actions and more are interpreted
in binary ways (e.g. Yoshino, 1999). I believe that heteronormativity, mononormativity, and
compulsory monogamy, as three core discourses (or general understandings), play important
roles in the misinterpretation of bisexual people and their doings, sayings, actions, and
more (chapter three). Because the research participants do not often explicitly disclose their
bisexuality towards others, they are interpreted in binary ways: heterosexual by default and
gay or lesbian the moment they express same-sex desire, behaviour, intimacies, and more.
As shown in chapter five, people, thus, often passively pass as heterosexual, gay, or lesbian
in important parts of their everyday lives. Contrary to most studies, I do not understand
bisexual passing as a predominantly conscious strategy to prevent harm. Of course, people
may be scared of encountering binegativity, monosexism, and stereotyping, but it would be
wrong, as discussed before, to argue that these types of negativity are the main reason why
people pass as heterosexual or as gay/lesbian.

While passing is not necessarily a problem for the research participants, it does impact
people’s participation in practices that together constitute the organised bisexual community
in the Netherlands which are built on the conviction that being visible as bisexual is an
important aspect of living your live as a bisexual person. The emphasis of the Dutch 
organised bisexual community on being visible as bisexual individuals and as group
does not match the position of bisexuality in the lives of the research participants and the
everyday practices they are involved with. In chapter five, I show how Schatzki’s theory
of practice helps to understand how people relate with each other by participating in the
same practice and that not being involved in the same practice also has consequences for
relating with others. Bisexual participants find it difficult to relate with the Dutch organised
bisexual community and its members because they do not participate in the practices, e.g.
the bivisibility practice, that constitute this community.

As can be concluded from the different chapters and the above summary, the bisexual
research participants do not often disclose their bisexuality or come out towards others.
Explicit bisexual sayings, wordings, or phrases, but also doings, are mostly absent in most
everyday practices and spaces. There are, however, occasions on which people do disclose
their bisexuality – or their bisexual desire, fantasies, attraction, and/or behaviour – in
sayings. These situations can be best described as moments in which people talk about their
sexuality and/or relationships and give spaces a bisexual appearance. In these moments
it is relevant for people to talk about their bisexuality and these moments can last a few
seconds (brief disclosures) but may also have longer durations when people have more
extensive conversations about sexuality and/or relationships or other conversations in
which disclosing their bisexuality is relevant.

One of the main conclusions is, not surprisingly, that there are no spaces that are always
bisexual. Even participants’ houses or bedrooms may have no bisexual appearances because
of a variety of reasons. I initially proposed the term “pockets” to describe these bisexual
spaces to stress that these spaces are highly temporal, local, and often unplanned. Pockets,
however, may provide the impression that such spaces are isolated and not embedded in
everyday practices. To avoid confusion, and to better connect with existing literature in
the geographies of sexualities, the term “spaces with a bisexual appearance” is introduced
to identify bisexual spaces. This term also points to the idea that spaces have no natural
sexual coding but are constantly subject to both practices and individuals’ doings, sayings,
and actions. As such, it also contributes to further understandings of the sexualisation of
space as a research topic in the geographies of sexualities that goes beyond focusing on
people possessing certain sexual identities or the presence of a heteronormative discourse
that advocates that space is naturally heterosexual.

Told to cut back on her wide-ranging veggie buffets because it was unfair that students at other schools didn't have access to the unusually tasty offerings

From 2012... Lunch lady slammed for food that is 'too good.' The Local, Oct 6 2012.

A talented head cook at a school in central Sweden has been told to stop baking fresh bread and to cut back on her wide-ranging veggie buffets because it was unfair that students at other schools didn't have access to the unusually tasty offerings.

Annica Eriksson, a lunch lady at school in Falun, was told that her cooking is just too good.

Pupils at the school have become accustomed to feasting on newly baked bread and an assortment of 15 vegetables at lunchtime, but now the good times are over.

The municipality has ordered Eriksson to bring it down a notch since other schools do not receive the same calibre of food - and that is "unfair".

Moreover, the food on offer at the school doesn't comply with the directives of a local healthy diet scheme which was initiated in 2011, according to the municipality.

"A menu has been developed... It is about making a collective effort on quality, to improve school meals overall and to try and ensure everyone does the same," Katarina Lindberg, head of the unit responsible for the school diet scheme, told the local Falukuriren newspaper.

However, Lindberg was not aware of Eriksson's extraordinary culinary efforts and how the decision to force her to cut back had prompted outrage among students and parents.

"It has been claimed that we have been spoiled and that it's about time we do as everyone else," Eriksson said.

She insisted, however, that her creative cooking has not added to the municipality's expenses.

"I have not had any complaints," she told the paper.

Eriksson added that she sees it as her job to ensure that the pupils are offered several alternatives at meal times.

The food on offer does not always suit all pupils, she explained, and therefore she makes sure there are plenty of vegetables to choose from as well as proteins in the form of chicken, shrimp, or beef patties.

From now on, the school's vegetable buffet will be halved in size and Eriksson's handmade loafs will be replaced with store-bought bread.

Her traditional Easter and Christmas smörgåsbords may also be under threat.

Parents and pupils alike find the municipality's orders distasteful.

Fourth-graders at the school have even launched a petition in protest against the decision to put a lid on Eriksson's passion for cooking.

The Local/nr

Twin Studies: Work incapacity as the total proportion of potential workdays lost due to sickness absence, rehabilitation and disability benefits

A Life Course Study of Genetic and Environmental Influences on Work Incapacity. Karoline B. Seglem et al. Twin Research and Human Genetics, December 26 2019. DOI:

Abstract: Work incapacity is a major public health challenge and an economic burden to both society and individuals. Understanding the underlying causes is becoming ever more relevant as many countries face an aging workforce. We examined stability and change in genetic and environmental factors influencing work incapacity from age 18 until retirement, and sex differences in these effects. The large population-based sample comprised information from 28,759 twins followed for up to 23 years combined with high-quality national registry data. We measured work incapacity as the total proportion of potential workdays lost due to sickness absence, rehabilitation and disability benefits. Structural equation modeling with twin data indicated moderate genetic influences on work incapacity throughout life in both men and women, with a high degree of genetic stability from young to old adulthood. Environmental influences were mainly age-specific. Our results indicate that largely the same genetic factors influence individual differences in work incapacity throughout young, middle and older adulthood, despite major differences in degree of work incapacity and probable underlying medical causes.

Animals may sort among groups based on their personalities; group size can predict its personality composition in some species due to differential suitability of a personality for groups of certain sizes

Variation in neophobia among cliff swallows at different colonies. Stacey L. Hannebaum ,Gigi S. Wagnon,Charles R. Brown. PLOS One, December 23, 2019.

Abstract: Animal groups often represent nonrandom subsets of individuals, and increasing evidence indicates that individuals may sort among groups based on their personalities. The size of a group can predict its personality composition in some species due to differential suitability of a personality for groups of certain sizes, and the group itself may function more effectively if particular personality types are present. We quantified cliff swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) behavioral measures using linear and generalized linear mixed models to identify whether they: (1) varied among individuals within colonies and among colonies, (2) were related to reproductive success, and (3) predicted levels of parental care. Significant among-individual and among-colony site variation in a cliff swallow’s latency to enter its nest when presented with a novel stimulus was revealed. We also found significant among-individual variation in the number of attacks directed toward a novel stimulus at the nest and in the response to broadcast of a cliff swallow alarm call recording, but among site variation in these measures was not significant. We did not find evidence for behavioral syndromes linking the personalities measured. Differences among individuals in latency to enter the nest and the number of attacks were not significantly related to reproductive success or to the extent to which birds fed their nestlings. However, extent of nestling feeding was significantly predicted by the number of mist net captures. The limited evidence in general of systematic variation in the behavior we measured among cliff swallow colonies may reflect the different and sometimes opposing selection pressures on behavior in different social environments. Future work should perhaps examine variation in other behavioral traits, such as foraging, in cliff swallow colonies of different sizes.


Our study revealed significant among-individual and among-colony site variation in a cliff swallow’s latency to enter its nest when presented with a novel stimulus. We also found significant among-individual variation in the number of attacks directed toward a novel stimulus at the nest and in the response to broadcast of cliff swallow alarm call recordings, but among site variation in these measures was not significant. The behavioral measures were not correlated with one another or with the number of times an individual was captured by mist net. Differences among individuals in latency to enter the nest and the number of attacks were not significantly related to reproductive success or to the extent to which birds fed their nestlings. However, extent of nestling feeding was significantly predicted by the number of mist net captures, with pairs that were captured more on average also making more frequent food deliveries to the nest.

Measures and correlates of personality

Despite evidence for relatively high repeatability in both behavioral measures that involved a reaction to a novel stimulus, we did not find support for a behavioral syndrome [5]. This suggests that Latency to enter nest and Number of attacks are independent facets of personality [556566]. There is no consensus on which commonly identified personality axes are thought to be measured by behavioral tests involving novel objects or novel environments: some studies use novelty tests to measure personality along the avoidance-exploration axis [226768], whereas others use novelty tests to measure personality along the shy-bold axis [656971]. In the case of novel item tests, the context in which the novel item is introduced may cause further inconsistencies in measured behaviors. For example, coyotes (Canis latrans) showed little avoidance toward a novel stimulus in unfamiliar surroundings but showed avoidance and neophobic reactions toward the same stimuli in familiar surroundings [35]. In our study, the novel stimulus was added to the focal bird’s own nest, a very familiar environment for the bird, and thus strong behavioral responses were expected. In this context, Latency to enter nest may be a measure of personality along the exploration-avoidance axis as the bird determines whether the novel stimulus is a threat, whereas Number of attacks may be a measure of personality along the shy-bold axis as the bird risks injury while responding to the novel stimulus. Number of attacks might alternatively reflect defensive aggression, which describes motor patterns exhibited by a socially aggressive animal but typically directed at a predator or threatening situation rather than a conspecific individual [72]. Regardless of which personality axes are represented, we can conclude that our measured behaviors are independent.
We were surprised that neither Latency to enter nest or Number of attacks were correlated with Number of captures, because the mist net, although perhaps less conspicuous, seemingly also acts as a novel stimulus or possibly a threat, at least after first capture (see [73]). After several successive days of netting at a colony site, cliff swallows learn to avoid mist nets, possibly because of the trauma associated with capture [73]. Active North American red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) were trapped significantly more frequently than less active squirrels [74]. Thus, Number of captures may be a measure of personality known as activity [22], which tends to generally describe an animal’s propensity to move.
Personality can affect both reproductive success and survival in some species [747660]. A meta-analysis found that exploration had a positive effect on survival and that boldness had a positive effect on reproductive success but a negative effect on survival [77]. The lack of an association in our study between Reproductive success and Latency to enter nest (possibly a measure of exploration) and Number of attacks (possibly a measure of boldness) may have been influenced by our sample size which was relatively small for a demographic study and may have reduced our ability to find a relationship between neophobia measures and reproductive success. For example, slight differences in fitness components (such as annual reproductive success), while evolutionarily significant over the long term, may often be indistinguishable empirically from null models due to a lack of power [78].
In some animals, more explorative individuals find food sources faster than less explorative individuals [79], and fast-exploration has been linked to increased nestling feeding rates and increased reproductive success [80]. However, Latency to enter nest was not a predictor of the number of food deliveries to a nest in cliff swallows. This lack of a relationship, as well as that for Number of attacks, may have resulted from pooling food deliveries by both parents to a nest and/or by using combined personality scores of both parents. This may have masked sex-differences in parental provisioning related to personality. For example, Mutzel et al. [80] found that fast-exploring female Eurasian blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) fed their offspring at higher rates, whereas exploratory personality of males was unrelated to nestling feeding rate. We found evidence in cliff swallows for a relationship between mean Number of captures and the number of parental food deliveries to a nest. Number of captures may be a measure of an individual’s activity personality such that individuals captured more often in mist nets are those that are most active near the nest. This may explain why these birds are also the ones that visit their nest more frequently with food if they are not traveling as far from the nest during foraging.

Personality and coloniality

We did not find significant repeatability at the colony-site level for Number of attacks, Number of captures, or Alarm call response, suggesting that cliff swallows may not sort among colonies based on these behavioral measures. Both the rank order of neophobia trials and the rank order of alarm call trials were significant covariates, suggesting habituation to the novel stimulus and the alarm call play back [81]. Such habituation could reduce our ability to detect repeatable behavior at the colony-site level should habituation lead to reduced variability in the measured behavior across colonies.
The significant repeatability at the colony-site level for Latency to enter nest suggests that cliff swallows may sort into colonies based on this measure of personality. Individuals at the much larger CR-1 and Junkyard colonies were generally quicker to enter their nests when presented with a novel stimulus than individuals at the smaller McDougals colonies (Table 1Fig 3). Our result contrasts with that of Dardenne et al. [12], who found higher levels of neophobia among barn swallows in larger colonies. They suggested that neophobic barn swallows may benefit from occupying a large colony where they can rely on other, more explorative individuals to lead them to food (c.f. [82]). If this scenario applies to cliff swallows, we would expect neophobic individuals to make fewer food deliveries, as they must wait to be led to food; however, we observed more frequent feeding visits at the small McDougals colonies compared to the larger colonies at CR-1 and Junkyard.
Increased predation odds at small versus large colonies may explain why more neophobic cliff swallows were found at the McDougals site. It is widely believed that predation risk of an individual is decreased when it occupies a large group [232783]. Without the safety in numbers afforded by large groups, animals in small groups may need to be more cautious to minimize predation risk, possibly explaining the increased neophobia in smaller cliff swallow colonies.
In great tits (Parus major), slow-exploring (neophobic) individuals were less aggressive toward conspecifics whereas fast-exploring individuals were more aggressive [84]. This relationship may also explain why cliff swallow individuals tended to be more neophobic at the smaller colony site. Not only were the CR-1 and Junkyard colonies much larger in size than at McDougals, but the nests at the larger colonies were also more densely packed (Fig 1), making avoidance of social interactions among neighboring individuals more difficult. A socially non-aggressive individual would be at a disadvantage in such a crowded colony where it would frequently need to fend off intruding neighbors [37]. Thus, there may be an advantage for neophobic individuals to choose small colonies where there is less opportunity for frequent social interaction.
Although cliff swallows might sort into different colony sites based on where they fall within the exploration-avoidance personality axis (as measured by Latency to enter nest), we cannot rule out that the observed behavioral variation among sites was instead shaped by the social environment after birds had already settled within a colony [85]. Behavioral plasticity shaped by changes in the social environment has been described in several birds [8692], and most show a decrease in individual neophobia when in a group setting. King, Williams, and Mettke-Hofmann [93] found that individual Gouldian finches (Erythrura gouldiae) adjusted their boldness behavior to be more similar to that of their partner. We did not make comparisons of neophobia at the partner level over time, but on several occasions, a neophobia trial at the McDougals colony site elicited an almost colony-wide response, with several colony members from nearby nests hovering in front of the focal nest to inspect the novel stimulus. This collective response often occurred when the nest resident alarm-called in response to the piece of marking tape, and was not observed at the larger CR-1 or Junkyard colony sites. Bystanders at the McDougals site were possibly influenced by the alarm-calling (neophobic) nest resident, making bystanders more aware of the stimulus and potentially less likely to respond later when their own nests were tested. However, if this were the case, we should have seen overall shorter latencies to enter nest at the McDougals site compared to other sites.
In the only other study relating personality to colony size in cliff swallows, Roche and Brown [14] found some evidence for among-colony variation in vigilance behavior, but there was no clear relationship between vigilance level and colony size per se. While higher levels of neophobia in smaller colonies (this study) might lead to greater vigilance at those sites, vigilance can also reflect awareness of neighbors and the need to be alert to defend one’s nest from conspecifics, of which there are more in larger colonies. Possibly for this reason no systematic relationship between vigilance and colony size was detected [14].
We acknowledge some limitations to the present study. For example, the removal of ectoparasites, while necessary to increase the number of completed behavioral observations because of high nest failure rates due to swallow bug parasitism [37], might have altered the natural behavior of individuals in unknown ways. Perhaps the time necessary for parents to forage to provision offspring was reduced when nests were freed from parasitism [9495]. The laborious nature of these observations precluded conducting them at more colony sites, and thus we could not rigorously test the effect of colony size on individual behavior. However, we selected colony sites that were quite different in size while at the same time similar in other ways (e.g., all were in box-shaped concrete culverts; Fig 1), increasing the likelihood that observed differences among sites were related to colony size. Finally, given the highly social nature of cliff swallows, neophobia tests could not be conducted in isolation. As such, individuals may have seen the novel stimulus being presented at another nest nearby, and this may have happened more often than the protocol assumed. We know this occurred repeatedly at the McDougals site. Such unintended exposure (and resulting habituation) would have made us less likely to detect an effect of the novel stimulus, but we found the opposite result at McDougals, where neophobia was greater among residents.


We were surprised to find only limited evidence in general of systematic variation in behavioral measures of neophobia and risk-taking among cliff swallows in different colonies. This may reflect the divergent and sometimes opposing selection pressures on behavior in different social environments. For example, bold (less neophobic) individuals could benefit in a larger colony by not fleeing at every alarm call and thus not frequently leaving their nest unattended and susceptible to theft of nesting material, egg loss, or brood parasitism from their many conspecific neighbors [37]. However, large colonies are also attacked by predators more often, to a degree that per capita predation risk is greatest in the very largest colonies [37]. Thus, bold individuals in a large colony, while minimizing interference from neighbors by not consistently reacting to alarm calls, might thus have a higher overall risk of predation. The result would be no net advantage for bold versus shy individuals in colonies of different sizes, and thus potentially no selection for bold or shy personalities in the first place. Future work should perhaps examine variation in other behavioral traits, such as foraging, in cliff swallow colonies of different sizes.