The term bisexuality is commonly defined as someone is who attracted to more than one gender. A lot of people who identify as bisexual refer to it as the “silent b” because in the LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, Queer, plus) community it seems to be the least validated to both members of the community and people outside of the community. The bisexual group is actually the largest group to identify as one label within the LGBTQ+ community, yet they face the most judgement. Bisexuality raises many questions for many people, as it allows whoever is identifying to choose their partners freely, meaning they may like either gender. This choice is often seen as controversial because people who identify as lesbians or gay men feel as if there is no such thing as bisexuality or that the person is using it as a crutch before they finish transitioning into either gay or straight. People on the outside of the community either see it as one of two ways: an excuse to experiment implying someone’s sexuality is a phase or a cover up for being gay. It is important to respect when someone choses to identify as bisexual even if it is a phase or a transitional period for them, because that isn’t always the case with everyone who identifies as bisexual.
People who identify as bisexual have a high rate of suicide attempts, thoughts and mental health issues amongst the LGBTQ+ community for several reasons. One being the “invisibility” factor amongst the LGBTQ+ community and the heterosexual community. The invisibility factor refers to the being able to hide their sexuality based upon their current partners. This means if someone who is bisexual is with a partner of an opposite sex they are presumed to be heterosexual leaving them to feel like an outcast amongst the LGBTQ+ community because their sexuality isn’t being represented visually from the looks of their relationship. There is often resentment built up between individuals who identify as gay towards people who identify as bisexual. Bisexual individuals have the opportunity to be with either gender meaning if at the moment they are in what appears to be a heterosexual relationship from the outside looking in then they can do things like go out in public while holding hands without getting looks or not have to worry if their baby will ask why they have two mommies. This factor has built up some sense of resentment towards bisexual individuals. The idea that someone bisexual needs to be someone who is also bisexual is often brought up as well. Gay men or lesbians often feel as if a bisexual person is in a relationship with someone of their same sex then they are no longer bisexual they are either a lesbian or a gay man.
The idea within the community that bisexual is a transitional identity and not its own category like lesbian, gay or trans is often projected. Although there are people who feel this way just as homophobia exists so does “Biphobia.” Biphobia defined as “prejudice, fear or hatred directed toward bisexual people. It can include making jokes or comments based on myths and stereotypes that seek to undermine the legitimacy of bisexual identity, like “bisexuality is a phase” or “bi people are greedy.” Biphobia occurs both within and outside of the LGBTQ community (The Human Rights Campaign). The term “bi-erasure” is a word used to refer the several actions or beliefs that don’t promote the visibility of bisexual people. Some of these reasons include denying bisexuality exists, calling bisexuals allies, continuing to mislabel bi people even after they announce they are bi, only considering a person gay or straight based up the gender of their current partner and using non-inclusive language (gay marriage or lesbian couple) when bisexual people are in the couple. Young bisexual men face a lot of backlash from not only gay men but heterosexual men as well. Individuals who have been gay their entire life are less likely to take bisexuality seriously and here is why. Gay men when in a relationship with a bisexual man will often not be fond of the idea of this stereotype of being “selfish” and getting to indulge into both sexes as will straight women engaging with a bisexual man. The same stereotype is implied with bisexual women in a relationship with a lesbian woman the individual who identifies as bisexual will often be presumed as someone who “likes to have their cake and eat it too.” There is a stereotype that people who identify as bisexual cannot be monogamous because they feel they have to break their “invisible” stereotype by being with multiple partners of different sexes at the same time to prove their bisexuality (Jennifer A. Vencill & Tania Israel). Bisexual individuals have a high rate of depression and suicide because of their lack of acceptance and understanding within how they identify. Bisexual people are comfortable and happy identifying as someone who can form relationships with either sex but often feel lost in the “selfish” stigma’s places upon them. Bisexuality is one of the only identities to face negativity from both the LGBTQ+ community but the heterosexual community as well. Both mental and physical health are affected by biphobia and bi-erasure.
Health Care and Bisexuality
This pressure to conceal their identity because of how society stereotypes them has trickled down into health care and how these individuals receive health care. Bisexual people are less likely to reveal to their friends and family that they are bisexual including their primary care doctor in fear of being discriminated against. In fact, 39% of bisexual men and 33% of bisexual women didn’t tell their doctor they were bisexual as compared to the 10% of gay men and 13% of lesbians (Movement Advancement Project). People who identify as bisexual often aren’t getting the medical treatment they need when they feel they have to hide their sexuality to their doctor and individuals who have sexual relations with more than one gender are naturally at a higher risk for sexual transmitted diseases. Even when individuals choose to identify as bisexual to a healthcare provider they often still don’t get the same quality of health care as lesbian, gay or heterosexual individuals. For example, bisexual women are screened for breast cancer and cervical cancer at much lower rates than lesbian and heterosexual women meaning only 80% of bisexual women reported ever being screened for cervical cancer, compared to 92% of lesbian women and 93% of heterosexual women (Movement Advancement Project). The same study found that bisexual women ages 50 – 79 had a higher rates of breast cancer even though they are screened less for it. Studies have shown that bisexual women are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, while only 65% of bisexual women reported having a routine doctor check up in the past two years as compared to the 85% of straight women (Movement Advancement Project). Bisexuality is something that needs to be recognized deeper than the LGBTQ+ community for reasons such as health care. Bisexuality needs to be recognized so doctors can correctly assess and treat individuals who identify as so with certain statistics associated with bisexuality to then help improve or even prevent such conditions that may develop over time. When it comes to HIV and AIDS the medical system has slowly shifted away from the focus on gay men and has realized the impact is bigger than that some of the categories include“men who identify as gay, men who identify as bisexual, men who do not identify as gay or bisexual but have sex with other men, men who have sex with people of more than one gender, men who have sex with transgender women, and transgender women who have sex with men” (Movement Advancement Project). Bisexual women also face the most shocking rates of sexual assault, rape, and domestic violence. A CDC report done in 2013 discovered that 61% of bisexual women and 37% of bisexual men reported experiencing rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime (“The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010 Findings on Victimization by Sexual Orientation.”) The same report would go on to find that 46% of bisexual women had been raped, as well as 17% of heterosexual women and 13% of lesbian women. People who identify as bisexual have become afraid to identify as bisexual because of the lack of support and adversities they face in doing so. Bisexuality shouldn’t mean people question getting married, having kids, working jobs, and going to the doctor just like regular people and it’s time for others to acknowledge their choice in how they identify without conforming them to another identity. Support is a major lacking factor in the LGBTQ+ community when it comes to bisexuality. If bisexuality isn’t supported in the community, they are supposed to be a part of then how will the heterosexual community every extend their support without at least an example to follow. The problem with bisexuality isn’t the category itself but other around it and how they chose to exclude or outcast these individuals in their every- day life including family, healthcare, relationships, and in the workplace. If you’re interested in learning more about the issue I would recommend reading any of the sources I cited but also Misty Gedlinske has a ted talk on YouTube called “The Invisible Letter B” that dives into the stigma’s and stereotypes of being bisexual.
Jennifer A. Vencill & Tania Israel (2018) Shining a light into the darkness: bisexuality and relationships, Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 33:1-2, 1-5, DOI: 10.1080/14681994.2018.1416826
Mikel L. Walters, Jieru Chen, and Matthew J. Breiding, “The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010 Findings on Victimization by Sexual Orientation” (Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, January 2013), http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/nisvs_sofindings.pdf.
Movement Advancement Project. September 2016. Invisible Majority: The Disparities Facing Bisexual People and How to Remedy Them. http://www.lgbtmap.org/policy-and-issue-analysis/invisible-majority Web.
Salway, Travis, Lori Ross, E. Fehr, Charles Burley, P. Asadi, Joseph Hawkins, and Shayan Tarasoff. “A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Disparities in the Prevalence of Suicide Ideation and Attempt Among Bisexual Populations.” Archives of Sexual Behavior 48.1 (2019): 89-111. Web.