Are you aware that the week leading up to September 23rd is Bisexual Awareness Week?
If you are a provider, you may have to ask your patient, “Who do you have sex with? Men, women, or both?” Some of your patients will inevitably say “Both.” These folks may identify as bisexual, pansexual, queer, fluid, or another term that encompasses attraction to more than one gender. Or, they may not choose any label to describe themselves. However, they are all considered part of the bisexual (or non-monosexual) community, and I’m here to make the case that it’s important to know if your patient is a member of this community for many reasons.
First, bisexuals often have different lived experiences from people who identify as straight or gay. These are reflected in bisexual-specific health disparities:
- Bi women are less likely than their heterosexual or lesbian peers to get regular pap screenings.
- Bi men are less likely to get tested for HIV than gay men.
- Bi adults reported double the rate of depression and anxiety than heterosexual adults.
- Bi women report higher rates of smoking, alcohol use, and substance use than heterosexual and/or lesbian women.
These stem from the same main cause of all LGBTQ+ health disparities: stigma. The stigma that bisexuals face in particular is called biphobia, and it plays out in harmful stereotypes that are as common in the larger LGBTQ+ community as they are among heterosexuals. This stigma leads to isolation among bisexuals and a hesitance to seek care.
Second, while there is growing evidence that bisexual-identified people make up the largest group within the LGBTQ+ label, yet this community has the fewest resources. According to a 2014 report by Funders for LGBTQ Issues, less than one percent of all LGBTQ-related funding from foundations and corporations were dedicated to bisexual-specific causes. Meanwhile, up until 2011, the National Institutes of Health funded 134 research studies involving bisexual subjects; however, most of these studies lumped bisexual men and women in with gay men and lesbians. While these studies sometimes lead to more health resources, those resources actually tend to be more focused toward gay and lesbian populations.
Bummer, huh? Well, part of the motivation to start Bisexual Awareness Week came from the need to bring awareness to these health concerns. However, there are so many reasons to celebrate bisexuality, pansexuality, and fluidity. We’ll explore a few of these in our blog next week! In the meantime, check out these resources:
- Supporting and Caring for Bisexual Youth (PDF) – Human Rights Campaign
- Ten Things Bisexuals Should Discuss with their Healthcare Providers – GLMA
- Looking for local support? The amBi Sacramento group meets every month at the Lavender Library (1414 21st Street) to discuss important issues in the bi+ community, and gets together for social outings as well!
Shea Hazarian (pronouns: she/her/hers) is a Junior Specialist at the UC Davis School of Medicine and the Improving OUTcomes coordinator. Fun fact: she came out to her mother at age 18 by identifying herself as bisexual in a scholarship award biography.