We Need to End the Silence Around Bisexual Health

While many minorities often face a higher level of health problems, in large part due to the stresses of discrimination and poverty, research shows that bisexuals are particularly vulnerable. Why is this, and what can we do to help?

New research carried out be scientists at Rice University in Huston, Texas, shows that while LGBTs all experience higher than average rates of health problems, bisexuals report poorer health than even their gay and lesbian peers. The study, which looked at the health of 10,128 LGBs and 405,145 heterosexual adults, found that 19.5 percent of bisexual men and 18.5 percent of bisexual women believe their health to be either “poor” or “fair” compared to 11.9 percent among gay men 10.6 percent of lesbians.

Why might this be? Well, the study found that bisexuals tended to be more economically disadvantaged compared to their gay, lesbian and straight counterparts. For example, among LGBs bisexual men and women were the least likely to have obtained a college education. In addition, the research showed that bisexual men and women were also more likely to have an annual income of less than $25,000, and in particular bisexual women (42.1 percent). Fewer education opportunities and a lower income tend to tally with overall poorer health, and the fact that bisexuals are a minority in the LGBT community may account for some of this because it probably means they aren’t getting the targeted help they need to both affirm their identities and to deal with any discrimination they might face.

“If bisexuals are minorities within the minority and experience unique and more extreme forms of discrimination, this might contribute to disparities in things like earnings, educational attainment, the propensity to smoke cigarettes and other factors that affect well-being,” Justin Denney, assistant professor of sociology at Rice University and co-author on the study, is quoted as saying.

Other research has shown similar poorer health reports, as well as a greater likelihood of mental health problems and substance abuse. In addition, research also confirms widespread disparities in things like educational and even employment opportunities, especially when comparing bisexual women to lesbians and straight women.

One of the problems is that currently LGBT health as a whole isn’t particularly well-studied, and that’s even more true when we get down to bisexual and trans health because often data collection efforts don’t allow for differentiation for bisexuals, meaning that they often get lumped in with gay and lesbian respondents. This might at first make sense in terms of grouping sexual minorities, but it forgets that bisexuals are a distinct group whose needs are distinct too.

We also have to talk about the fact that bisexuals are often not given the platform that gay people, and in particular gay men, are provided. Bisexuals are their own group, but a perception is often that because they can enjoy opposite sex relationships they can “pass” for straight and therefore they probably don’t face discrimination. Similarly, when in same-sex relationships they might “pass” for gay and therefore can be protected that way. However, this is not only insulting to people who are bisexual, it also erases not only their identity but also covers up the discrimination they might face from the wider population and, sadly, from within the LGBT community itself.

If we want to help bisexuals and ensure that they are given equal education and employment opportunities, and thereby can improve their health, we have to ensure that we are recognizing their minority status to begin with, and not just assuming that wider LGBT rights initiatives will fix the problems they face, because clearly it won’t. Only after dealing with this underlying issue can we then begin to help improve the health and indeed life experiences of people who identify as bisexual.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

41 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you

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Randall Bruttall
Randall Bruttall3 years ago

I had never heard of this issue before.

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Bethany Heard

It is perhaps true that we suffer because of the effort of trying to get people to believe that we are genuinely Bisexual, and that Bisexuality is REAL. We may also have more inbuilt chemical/hormonal issues - that cannot be 'treated away', but are, in actuality a factor in our daily lives. This does not mean that if we were medicated, our hormones would be put right and our sexuality would disappear, but we do have many gender identity issues born from these problems, I truly believe that/have experienced that for myself.

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Aaron Bouchard
Aaron Bouchard3 years ago

thank you

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Biby C.
Biby C3 years ago

I really have a hard time understanding the relation between being bisexual and having poor health and diminished likelihood of having a college education. Doesn't make sense to me.

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Roro l.
Roro l3 years ago

Thank you

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Roberto MARINI
Roberto M3 years ago

thanks for this important article. I did not imagine bisexuals had a poor health.

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Janis K.
Janis K3 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

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nathan KENNY
emma KENNY3 years ago

thanks for sharing

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