Bisexuality and health: The cost of invisibility

On September 23, 2019, the twentieth anniversary of Bi Visibility Day, the Nationwide Institutes of Well being (NIH) held its first-ever bisexual well being analysis workshop. As an invited panelist at this occasion, sponsored by the NIH’s Sexual and Gender Minority Analysis Workplace, I joined 19 different researchers to debate key findings, gaps in information, and future instructions.

You might be asking your self: Is there actually a necessity for this workshop? How is bisexual well being totally different from the well being of different teams? How many individuals even determine as bisexual?

What’s bisexuality?

Robyn Ochs, a distinguished bisexual activist and author, defines bisexuality as “the potential to be attracted — romantically and/or sexually — to folks of a couple of gender, not essentially on the similar time, not essentially in the identical means, and never essentially to the identical diploma.” Individuals don’t need to determine with the label “bisexual” to have a bisexual orientation.

Bisexuality can imply having sights to or sexual conduct with folks of a couple of intercourse or gender — for instance, feeling drawn to each ladies and men. Some folks have a spread of “nonmonosexual” identities — that’s, identities that transcend heterosexual or lesbian/homosexual — together with pansexual and queer. Some folks have a couple of identification (I determine as each queer and bisexual). The popular umbrella time period for anybody with a nonmonosexual orientation is “bi+.”

Who’s bi+?

Individuals determine as bi+ throughout genders, races/ethnicities, socioeconomic teams, and ages, however some teams (folks of shade, adolescents, and transgender folks) usually tend to determine as bi+. It might come as a shock to be taught that bi+ persons are the most important sexual minority group. Amongst adolescents, extra folks determine as bisexual than determine as both lesbian or homosexual. Amongst adults, bi+ folks characterize a considerable a part of the inhabitants. However regardless of these numbers, there’s much less analysis on bi+ well being and fewer out there funding for analysis, in contrast with analysis on lesbian and homosexual folks.

How may being bi+ have an effect on well being?

If you happen to’re bi+, a 2019 examine of individuals of various sexual orientations and racial/ethnic backgrounds discovered that you could be be extra doubtless than folks with different sexual orientations to expertise sure well being issues. For instance, gastrointestinal issues, arthritis, and weight problems happen extra typically amongst bi+ ladies and men. Moreover, girls who’re bi+ could have a poor health-related high quality of life, whereas bi+ males could have excessive ldl cholesterol, hypertension, and heart problems.

If you happen to’re bi+ and also you’re additionally a lady or a transgender individual, your threat for poor well being — together with substance use, despair, and suicide — climbs even greater in contrast with different bi+ folks (see right here and right here).

Why are bi+ folks extra prone to expertise poor well being?

Specialists within the subject of bisexual well being analysis imagine minority stress negatively impacts well being outcomes. Minority stress refers to experiences of prejudice or discrimination based mostly on stigma that result in poor well being. Bi+ folks expertise distinctive minority stress associated to being bisexual, akin to destructive stereotypes about what it means to be bisexual (bisexuality is a part, bisexual girls are promiscuous, bisexual males are vectors of HIV). Feeling invisible may create issues. These distinctive types of minority stress will be dangerous for bi+ folks’s well being.

  • Bisexual invisibility can have an effect on the standard of medical care. A bisexual girl who’s in a relationship with a lady, but in addition has intercourse with males, might not be supplied contraception or counseling about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) at a health care provider’s appointment, as a result of she is (incorrectly) assumed to be a lesbian and never in danger for being pregnant or STIs.
  • Double discrimination can hurt psychological well being. Bi+ folks expertise discrimination from each heterosexual and sexual minority communities, associated to repeatedly needing to “come out” as bi+. This double discrimination can result in isolation and loneliness, which will be dangerous for psychological well being.

What steps can you are taking to counter these points?

In case you are bi+, you’ll be able to enhance your well being by

  • connecting with others who’re supportive of your bisexuality, together with people who find themselves additionally bi+ and might perceive the distinctive stresses that bi+ folks generally face
  • being sincere along with your physician or psychological well being supplier about your bisexuality, to be able to get the care you want.

Even in case you are not bi+ your self, you’ll be able to help bi+ folks by

  • inspecting your biases and assumptions (for instance, not everybody with a different-gender companion identifies as heterosexual) and educating your self about bi+ folks
  • educating others about bi+ folks to problem stereotypes and scale back stigma, to extend acceptance of the bi+ neighborhood.

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