Bisexual Health Is The Worst Of the LGBQ Community and This Month We Need To Talk About It

In addition to being the month we celebrate Autostraddle’s fifth birthday, March is also Bisexual Health Awareness Month, brought to you by the Bisexual Resource Center.  Inspired by the White House’s roundtable focusing on bisexual issues this past September, the BRC hopes to use this month to educate the public about issues that specifically affect the bisexual community, specifically the alarmingly large percentage of bisexuals who suffer from depression, struggle with alcohol and substance abuse, are in abusive relationships or suffer from poor physical health, among other concerns.  Although some studies have estimated the bisexual population as constituting roughly 50% of the LGBTQ community, bisexual-identified individuals often describe feelings of alienation or erasure, often rendering them less likely to seek help for physical or emotional ailments — studies show that bisexual women have the lowest levels of social support of any group, which may shed some light on why bisexual men and women have the lowest emotional well-being of any sexual orientation group. Bisexual poor health can be compounded by intersection with other identities that also experience poor health and poor healthcare because of marginalization, like bisexual trans people, bisexual people of color, and especially trans bisexuals of color. The theme of this year’s Bisexual Health Awareness Month is “Bi the Way, Our Health Matters Too!” and the goal is to encourage bisexuals to be conscientious about maintaining their own wellbeing, while highlighting the amazing work that’s already being done by LGBTQ organizations around the world.

Throughout the month, the BRC will roll out relevant information through their Facebook and Twitter accounts highlighting issues affecting bisexuals and ways the community can help.  This week’s theme is “Mental Health & Biphobia,” and the BRC have accumulated a wealth of resources including the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Bisexual Health Report, One Equal World’s “Biphobia: The Attitude that Plagues the LGBTQ Community,” and this great “31 Days Of Bi Wellness” calendar put together by the Los Angeles Bi Task Force.

According to a statement from the BRC’s president, Ellyn Ruthstrom,

“The Bisexual Health Awareness social media campaign will be focusing attention on important health issues that are affecting the bisexual community. With more research indicating that bi people are experiencing severe physical and mental health disparities, we think it is imperative to bring this information out of the shadows so that we can build more effective ways to address them. Our community is suffering and we can no longer afford to be the invisible majority of the LGBT community.”

Other topics the BRC plans to cover during Bisexual Health Awareness Month include “Safer Sex & Sexual Health,” “Nutrition & Physical Activity,” and “Intimate Partner Violence & Sexual Violence.”  The program officially launched Monday following a 12-hour “Tweet-a-thon,” but participants are encouraged to get involved in the conversation all month long by using the hashtag #bihealthmonth.

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Stef Schwartz is the Music Editor and self-appointed Vapid Fluff Editor at Autostraddle.com. She's a rock'n'roll jack-of-all-trades, vegan crusader and legit professional weirdo. She lives with her cat Scully in the wilds of Brooklyn, where she plays a bunch of instruments in some bands or whatever. Follow her on twitter.

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49 Comments

  1. Thumb up 27

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    Well, taking the pulse of the “B” in LGBT, and it’s not looking good is it?

    I’m lucky to be, overall, on the better end of the health spectrum (even despite my genetic disease!) and I currently suffer no mental issues related to my bisexuality. I’m 25.

    However I do often suffer from “erasure syndrom” and poor self-acceptance. I honestly didn’t start identifying as bisexual/pansexual until last year. I would self-label a hetero, sympathetic to the LGBT, and “also interested in women”. Then I identified as “mostly gay, with occasionnal interest in men”.

    I met my boyfriend six years ago. I came out last year. I really want to be part of the queer community now because I feel like I belong. But I end up just feeling like a wolf in sheeps clothing. I’ve been pointed fingers at. “Look, another fake ass lesbian trying to get into threeways with her boyfriend!” And I spare you all of the : “But you do realise this is just curiosity / a phase?” bullcrap.

    It’s weird, how you belong in the LGBTQIA as a bisexual girl, but only if single or dating women. As soon as you are long term with a man, you are usually politely asked to give your badge back.

    Oh well. Thanks for this article. We can make things better, because Autostraddle.

    • Thumb up 9

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      I just also want to add that I’ve been feeling supported here, through Autostraddle, and I do not want to put everybody in the same basket. Segregation against the B does occur, way more than it should in fact, but there are safe havens for us, and lots of LGBTQIA folks hug us all warm and fuzzy. Especially on here!

    • Thumb up 7

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      You really summed up my feelings well. During the years I lived in Berkeley (where there is a very active, visible Lesbian community) I never, ever felt accepted, as I tended to have at least as many boyfriends as girlfriends, and this was not just frowned upon but outright treated as betrayal. I have been yelled at, shunned, and told straight out that I wasn’t welcome at parties, gatherings, and even the lesbian bookstore. I stopped being friends with someone I was very close to after she introduced me as “supposedly bi, but she likes men too much, in my opinion” at a party at her house; no one spoke to me after she said this.

      Many women won’t get involved with us because we aren’t considered trustworthy (though who can guarantee eternal love, I don’t know!); we are seen to be more-than-usually-likely to abandon a relationship to “go back” to men.

      The two great loves of my life were a woman and a man, and mourning the loss of each of them had to be done in secret with some, which was very hard. I don’t suffer from any of the things on the list, but that doesn’t mean I feel great about where to go from here. I’m in my 50s now and prefer to simply remain alone (for lots of reasons), so I suppose I won’t face many relationship problems now, but it’s been tough to feel that I don’t really have a place in the queer world. I don’t live in Berkeley anymore, but that hasn’t made it any easier; it’s just not so likely that I’ll run into actual fury and outright rejection.

      I hope younger women will have an easier time of it, and Autostraddle can help, if only by not subscribing to the notion that sexuality is binary or absolute–in my experience, sexuality is very fluid. I’ve seen comments here, though, that reflect an actual disbelief in our existence, or the opinion that we’re just “playing around” with the women we love. I found the review of “Blue is the Warmest Color” to be an example of a quarreling with a female character, involved in a long-term relationship with another woman, as not being queer enough because it was only her first one. The reviewer was concerned she might chase after a man at the end, which would what–invalidate her experience? Taint her? This is a real issue, as woe betide the woman who falls for a man right after being with her first woman, for she will be censured!

      • Thumb up 4

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        Queer women in relationships with cis men are still bi and still queer and still a part of this community! I’m in the exact same boat and used to be plagued with insecurity about being “gay enough” to do or participate in a million different things (like a-camp, writing for autostraddle, doing a host of other queer things). Fuck those feelings! YOU DO YOU. Your identity is not up for debate or scrutiny to anyone but yourself. I think what’s hard is there isn’t really a group/community for this specific situation, which I call being a narwhal aka unicorn of the sea. But we are here and we love you and we relate to you and your shining beacon of queerness!

        • Thumb up 1

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          Thanks so much! That means the world to me. The whole “gay enough” thing sounds just like what I’ve been through. Also, also, didja say you went to A-camp? I’M ALLOWED TO GO?!! I really thought I might not be, actually, and I’ve been itching to go for two years!!! OMG making queer friends. In the woods. D: I must.

          I find that what is really hard on the psychology, being “mostly gay” and in a het relationship, actually has nothing to do with the relationship I chose for myself. My relationship makes me happy. However, I wish I had people to talk to. It’s that simple, and that sad. My preference for women didn’t magically go away. I still find women beautiful when they walk down the street. I still think they smell amazing. I’m still not out to my dad, and it’s hard, sometimes. So yeah, friends maybe. Queer friends. People I can relate to?

          Like… I love my straight girl buddies. LOVE them. But that whole : “OMG I think Mila Kunis is hot. Does that make me gay?” is as close as I’ll ever get to a serious queer conversation. Bless them.

          I also totally embrace the unicorn of the sea thing. Thank youuuu. I do me! :DD

      • Thumb up 2

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        Thanks a lot for this, all of this, from your personnal experience to the super true statements about “Blue is the warmest color”. It’s actually one of the things that bothered me a lot, hearing people say : “Well Adèle isn’t actually a lesbian, so that’s why it doesn’t work out in the end.”

        I beg your pardon? It doesn’t work out in the end, because love doesn’t always work out, and people sometimes get hurt and do stupid stuff.

        Gee. Did anyone ever imply that the abusive (but supposedly oh so ideal) relationship depicted in The Notebook was “up and down” because one of the two might have been gay, and therefore not completely invested? Nope.

        “The two great loves of my life were a woman and a man, and mourning the loss of each of them had to be done in secret with some, which was very hard.”

        This, very much.

        You sound like an amazing person. And yes, Autostraddle makes everything better, even though we often run into some crap. :)

  2. Thumb up 7

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    As a bisexual woman, I am SO glad this is being talked about! One of the disparities that troubles me is higher rates of experiencing sexual violence and partner violence, which I think has a lot to do with the common stereotypes about bisexuals, and which is definitely linked to negative mental health outcomes.

    I want to point out though that the title of this article is not strictly accurate – these statistics are comparing people of different sexual orientations and are not comparing to people of different gender identities. To say bisexual health is “The Worst Of the LGBTQ Community” implies that bisexual health is worse than trans health, which I don’t believe is true. I know we are used to saying LGBTQ as a catch-all but I think the distinctions are important! Perhaps the title can be edited to reflect this?

    • Thumb up 4

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      I was also wondering about Trans health reading this. I think that we can all agree that overall, LGBTQ health tends to be poorer when compared to heterosexuals, that’s for sure. Now within the LGBTQ there certainly are letters that tend to suffer more from certain problems (mental illness, poverty, sexual violence, etc.) But studies at large sometimes differ from one another, and highlight different aspects of the community.

      I really don’t think we need to have a contest either. I just think we need to all agree that not matter how bad it looks for some of us, the greater goal is to… make it better for all of us!

      Like you said : “these statistics are comparing people of different sexual orientations and are not comparing to people of different gender identities.”

      Let’s all reflect on it :)

        • Thumb up 10

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          I’ll post this again below, but wanted to reply directly to y’all:

          We apologize for the inaccurate and offensive headline that conflated gender and sexual orientation.The original title purposely read “LGBQ,” not “LGBTQ” (as indicated by the fact that the URL says “LGBQ”) and was changed by someone who isn’t an editor and doesn’t have the authority to make such changes, and we’re dealing with that now. We have also fixed the headline! Again, we apologize and would like to state for the record that we recognize the marginalization and poor health outcomes faced by trans people and especially trans women and bisexual trans women and bisexual trans women of color and we would never diminish or ignore that.

  3. Thumb up 5

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    It’s also important to frank discussion about how birth control can affect sexual preference, because it really does change the way you perceive your sexuality while you’re on it.
    Although honestly that applies to every woman who decides to take birth control since the hormones can help in ways other than preventing pregnancy, and so it shouldn’t be restricted to only woman having sex that could lead to pregnancy.

  4. Thumb up 14

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    In my personal experience, the only way these problems will get any better is if people are educated about the fluidity of sexuality. For me, most of my problems with identifying as bi came from being considered a slut (by people with extremely more active sex lives then me) or being told I was gay in denial. If people understood fluidity then neither of those assumptions would have been socially acceptable.
    Basically, if we stop teaching words and start teaching people we might get somewhere.

    • Thumb up 11

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      Thank you for this. I guess a lot of the reasons I didn’t WANT to identify as bi was because I was repulsed by the idea of being considered “promiscuous” when I was, ages ago, still a virgin!

      Also because I didn’t want to have to explain that yes, I much more prefer women, and that yes, somehow, I ended up with a boy. Just because… statistically more plausible. When about 20 boys for 0.5 girls approach you, and when 100% of your romantic female interests aren’t queer… that’s usually what ends up happening! :P

      But yeah, sexual fluidity. Wonderful concept I learned about much too late!
      Let’s work on that education thing. :)

    • Thumb up 7

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      I agree 100%. I jumped on the word “queer” as soon as I first heard it just so I could avoid all those stereotypes and misconceptions every time I came out (and apparently I “look straight” so that happens pretty often). However, I want to start reclaiming the word “bisexual” since it’s the first label I identified with as a kid, and hopefully it will let me change some minds for the better.

      • Thumb up 3

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        Funny, because I also did! When I learned of the word queer I thought, finally something I can use for myself. Being that I self-describe as feminine queer girl, mostly interested in other feminine queer ladies, I guess I really don’t come off as “gay” to uneducated people. I probably look like a “straight girl drunkenly powerhugging her straight buddy”. Not that it bothers me that people misidentify me, but it bothers me when they won’t take my word that I ain’t straight because “I don’t look gay”.

        I’ve decided to reclaim the word bisexual too, and hopefully change the conception some people might have about us. Or unintentionally make it worse. No fucks given.

  5. Thumb up 18

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    We apologize for the inaccurate and offensive headline that conflated gender and sexual orientation.The original title purposely read “LGBQ,” not “LGBTQ” (as indicated by the fact that the URL says “LGBQ”) and was changed by someone who isn’t an editor and doesn’t have the authority to make such changes, and we’re dealing with that now. We have also fixed the headline!

    Again, we apologize and would like to state for the record that we recognize the marginalization and poor health outcomes faced by trans people and especially trans women and bisexual trans women and bisexual trans women of color and we would never diminish or ignore that.

  6. Thumb up 13

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    This.

    Before I met my current partner, I was in a three-year relationship with a woman. I had dated both guys and girls for years, but she was my first serious non-hetero relationship and in the process I did I lot of soul searching and finally came out officially to my family and friends. Really claiming a queer identity instead of dancing around it meant a lot to me. My now-husband is FTM, but stealth for professional and academic reasons. He identifies as straight, and I have a five-year old from a previous relationship. Even though I still identify as pansexual/bi/queer, there is absolutely no area of my life in which I am read as anything other than a straight girl with a penchant for alternative lifestyle haircuts, and I am scared to correct anyone because I don’t want to out my partner. This. Really. Bothers. Me. I feel invisible. I feel alone. I miss the sense of belonging I felt when I came out and walked around holding hands with a girl. I know that identity is so much more than this. I know that who I am has nothing to do with who I am with. But I feel .so. alone. I have always hesitated id’ing myself as bi because of the “phase” conclusion that so many people jump to, both gay and straight. There are a lot of issues here, and I have a lot of feelings about all this that I haven’t really worked out yet. I have also struggled with depression since I was a teenager, and smoke/don’t take awesome care of myself in general so that part is also relevant to my life.

    I am happy that we are talking about this.

  7. Thumb up 6

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    I’m in a large circle of bisexuals, and we were talking about the lack of support the other day. Most of my bi lady friends are in the poly community, where they say they’ve gotten support for the first time in a community setting. They were frustrated with issues of support in the LGBT community that I fought with 25 years ago. It was sad to hear that being bi in an LGBT+ space is still an ongoing issue.

  8. Thumb up 3

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    This is important. In and of itself first of all, but also I’m gonna send this link to someone every time someone says that bisexual people have it easier than gay or lesbian folk.

    Not to try and be like bisexuals have it worse (although clearly in health measures we do overall), but to show that bisexual oppression is just as real and valid as the oppression of gay and lesbian people.

  9. Thumb up 3

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    I’m a bit confused by this because I went ahead and read the full report on bisexual health (http://www.outforhealth.org/files/all/bisexual_health_tf.pdf) and I don’t think the full report means to suggest that gap in health risks between lesbians and bisexual women is just as big as between lesbians and straight women. It actually says that there are areas in which lesbians have higher health risks than bisexual women (namely when it comes to breast cancer, being overweight and heart disease) so I’m confused about how all that is completely ignored and it’s suggested that bisexual women *always* have significantly higher risks than lesbians.

    Also page 107 says:

    “women: Bisexual women smoke at higher rates than heterosexual women, and at about the same rates as lesbians.
    — 13.9 to 14.9% of heterosexual women smoke
    — 25.3 to 50% of bisexual women smoke

    • men: Less is known about bisexual men’s smoking habits. In one study, bisexual men’s rates of smoking were similar to heterosexual men (slightly lower). Gay men smoke at higher rates than bisexual men or heterosexual men.”

    but the graphic says that bisexuals “highest rate of tobacco use use compared to heterosexuals, lesbians and gays”

    ??

  10. Thumb up 7

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    I started to write a long comment about my feelings being a bisexual and it was coming out all confused and stream of consciousness. The main point though is that I feel like I’m not gay enough and not straight enough at the same time all the time and it sucks. I’m glad the conversation is happening.

  11. Thumb up 1

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    as a bisexual with bipolar disorder (there’s a lot of bi’s in there, i know) and a lot of other mental illness crap i very much appreciate this article existing. i also am glad to know we have a month, because i was not aware of that? thank you, seeing this made my day!(er, night? same difference…)

  12. Thumb up 2

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    Glad to see this conversation happening – this is one of the reasons why I love Autostraddle. As a femme-presenting bi/queer woman (haven’t settled on a label yet), I feel invisible a lot of the time. This is compounded by the fact that I currently live and work in a country with very conservative norms about sex and gender. I’m only out to 2 people in this whole country. I do some subtle flagging with my wrist tattoo and alternative facial piercings, but for the most part I still get read as straight by pretty much everyone (both in my current country and back home in the US). I do recognize that the “passing” ability is a privilege that has helped me to avoid a lot of flak, but the invisibility that comes with passing is a bummer.

    Also, I struggle with depression, and I only came out to my therapist after 3 years (!) of twice-weekly therapy, during which time I was also in the process of coming out to myself and some of the other major people in my life. So yeah, the mental health issues are real.

  13. Thumb up 0

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    Thanks for publishing this. I began identifying as bisexual/queer as a troubled little 12-year-old. 13 years – over half my life – later, society’s attitudes towards the wider LGBT community has evolved in so many wonderful and promising ways. Yet, for all our advances, I still feel like the same ostracized kid at the fringes.

  14. Thumb up 1

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    Although I crushed on girls from an early age it was difficult to know what that meant as I also crushed on boys. There were no bi role models that I knew of at that time (not helped by the Section 28 in force in the UK at that time), so I just had no idea that being bi was even a thing until I was 16 and out of school. It took a looooong time to grow that “knowing” into a much deeper understanding of my orientation (Autostraddle, you have massively helped me with this just by being a safe internet space of awesome, so thank you)

    Like other commenters I fell in love with the “queer” label. It made me feel like we’re all in this big melting pot of orientations together and makes me feel accepted with its inclusivity. But at the same time I struggle with it too, because I know that *sometimes* I use it to hide and not use the word “bisexual”. It makes me sad and frustrated with myself when I do this.

    Biphobia within the queer community is more painful (at least for me) than receiving it from straight people. I guess I feel that if someone has been on the receiving end of homophobia/erasure they wouldn’t then dish it out to others. :(

    Ooh wow, this comment went more miserable than I was aiming for! There are also super shiny awesome people within my queer community who are totally cool with the bisexual thing (regardless of their own orientation) and they basically make the sun shine :)

  15. Thumb up 1

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    Years of feeling hidden in a closet are flooding out. I have felt enraged at the LGBTQ community for so long. It is time to “come out” in an honest way and become a member again. Without shame.

    I am currently married to a very straight man who knows and is friends with my longest term former very lesbian female partner.

    I “was” a lesbian. Now I “am” straight…. NO!

    I am not straight. I am not a lesbian. I am not weird. I am not a whore. I am not “greedy.” I do exist.

    I am bi.

    And thank god I am not alone. It is time for me to “come out” again in a true and honest way because I belong right smack dab in the middle of the LGBTQ community!

    tori

  16. Thumb up 1

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    As Kolfinna said about feeling her much less emphatic comment was more miserable than she thought …

    My “enraged” statement was very strong. I know there are lesbians in the community that will be welcoming and supportive – now that biphobia is being addressed. Thank-you Autostraddle.

    As Heather said, I have never felt lesbian enough – and had that reinforced – and I have never ever been straight enough – although that never really bothered me.

    Although I admit it is scary (I think many of my family members see me as “straight” now) I feel ready to let go of my old festering anger and become a full participant in the larger conversation as a bisexual woman within the LGBTQ community.

    Cheers!

    Tori

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