Some say bisexuality, like fibromyalgia, is imaginary.
Both straight and gay find those of us who have attractions to both or all genders difficult to deal with. People call us greedy, tell us there is no such thing as bisexual, tell us we only need to meet the right *insert gender here * and we will know who we are. When we try to be authentic, we are encouraged to return to the ‘down-low’. We are told we are indecisive or worse yet, the only ‘valid’ bisexual people are those who are 50/50 – attracted 50% to one gender and 50% to the other.
The damage this causes is insidious. Bisexual people have higher rates of depression and suicide than straight or gay counterparts. We are more likely to question our sexuality than others and this questioning reduces confidence and self-esteem. Bisexual people experience biphobia – from both straight and gay folk. Finding a place where they fit can be extremely difficult. Despite the acronym LGBTQ, bisexual issues and problems are often not addressed. It is estimated that 2/3 of people who identify as bisexual don’t mix with the lesbian and gay scene regularly so often research misses the bisexual group. However, from the research available:
Bisexual people are less likely to come out to siblings, family and friends meaning they are more likely to be isolated.
They are less likely to be out at work and more likely to feel that the LGBT networks are less than helpful.
Bisexual people have higher rates of substance abuse issues
Bisexual people of colour are more likely to experience hate crimes
What causes some of these issues? Invisibility.
People assume your sexual orientation based on your last or current partner. Being invisible means that agencies don’t provide for you. Being invisible means that you don’t have adequate access to support networks and/or you don’t feel welcomed by support networks. When being invisible translates from your sexual orientation or group to being invisible as an individual the damage is more profound. If my sexual orientation isn’t seen as valid or my sexual behaviour isn’t seen as valid (but is seen as problematic), then I can cease to view myself as valid. If I feel invisible, I am likely to feel isolated and unsupported, separate and different and this can lead to depression and ultimately to suicide.
In one study, bisexual women were found to be more 64% more at risk for eating problems than lesbian women. Research highlights that negative societal attitudes towards bisexuality leads to people feeling more negatively about themselves and expecting more social rejection.
When you tell someone who is bisexual that they are copping out and that they should really just ‘pick a side’, you are telling him that he is a liar. You are suggesting that he is choosing bisexuality because he isn’t brave enough to live authentically. This is one of the worst insults a person can receive. It causes people to question their own needs and desires. The rejection causes lasting pain. Some people who are bisexual then try to choose a side and this leads to a host of problems and on-going pain. There is copious research that highlights the increase in mental health and physical health problems in people who try to live contrary to their actual sexuality. Staying closeted impacts self-esteem and self-perception. Closeted bisexual men have been labelled as sexual addicts in recent years. Wives who find that men are watching gay pornography and having encounters with other men are advised that their husbands are sex addicts. In fact, this could not be farther from the truth. These men are bisexual but unable to accept their bisexuality and unable to discuss this with their spouses. As a result, they are engaging in ever more risky behaviour in order to satisfy their core sexual desires. Even those who are single can find themselves suppressing their true sexual desires and identity in order to conform to the wider society’s expectations. It seems that heterosexual or homosexual have become the choices now (rather than simply heterosexual) in many segments of society. Unplanned promiscuous behaviour is very risky (as unsafe sex is usually a part of this behaviour).
Are there any positives to being bisexual?
Yes there are. People who are bisexual report feeling more able to create the relationships that work for them. Those who are out and proud feel better able to accept the sexuality of others and to define their own sexuality. People can be bisexual in behaviour but not identify as bisexual. People can identify as bisexual and find their attractions are 50/50 and others identify as bisexual and find that their attractions are 90/10. Bisexual people can be monogamous. Others are polyamorous.
Those of us who are comfortable in our bisexual skins experience serenity with our self-acceptance.