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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

8 Questions About Bisexuality That Are Better Than "Does It Exist"

Posted By on Wed, Mar 26, 2014 at 1:27 PM


Last week, the New York Times magazine published a lengthy piece on bisexuality by Benoit Denizet-Lewis titled "The Scientific Quest to Prove Bisexuality Exists." Despite the NYT's less than stellar track record on bisexual reporting, (e.g. "Straight, Gay or Lying? Bisexuality Revisited," and the need for reminders that bi men are real), Denizet-Lewis's piece is informative, well-researched, worth a read, and has prompted many discussions about bi invisibility and erasure.

But its core premise -- that scientific research is still wrestling with the existence of bisexuality, especially in men -- is fairly ridiculous when one considers all the real, tangible, and well-documented oppressions faced by bisexuals. With that in mind, here are some better questions we think science should be asking about bisexuality.

8. Why don't people believe bisexuals when they say, "I'm bisexual?"

Bisexuals don't go around asking straight people if they're "confused" or going through a "phase." Indeed, heterosexuality is presumed until explicitly stated otherwise. Coming out as gay (for the most part) is not met with a chorus of "nuh uh!" Most people's sexual orientations and identities are taken at the word of their beholders. But this isn't the case for bisexuality. Why? Why do we think all bi men are "closet-cases" and bi women are "lesbians until graduation"? Part of is has to do with stereotypes, of course, but it's a curious conundrum nonetheless, especially when you consider that more Americans believe in angels and Santa Claus than bisexuals.

7. Why are bisexual women more likely to be depressed?

A 2011 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that bisexual women were more likely to suffer from depression, stress, and were prone to binge-drinking than their straight or gay counterparts. Again, invisibility and stigma are thought to play a role in these findings, but why are the risk factors higher in those who are attracted to more than one gender?

6. Why are bi women far more likely to be abused, assaulted, and raped by their partners?

Bisexual women are twice as likely to be sexually assaulted as straight women and lesbians, according to a CDC study from 2010. And almost half of bi women have been raped. This is horrifying and alarming, far more so than dating woes, which is one of the few nods to bisexual women's problems in the NYT piece.

5. Why is the overall opinion of bisexuals negative, even among gay people?

The B is there in LGBT, after all. Why then does an inordinate amount of bisexual scrutiny come from those under the rainbow umbrella? An American Public Health Association survey found that: "...even within the LGBT community, those who were gay or lesbian were more likely to be biased or prejudiced towards bisexual people than those who identified as bisexual." We've said it before, but we'll say it again: Why does the queer community, which prides (pun intended) itself on inclusivity, then deny, reject, or ridicule its queer brethren?

4. Why are more bisexuals on food stamps?

Autostraddle wrote an excellent piece in response to the NYT's, and also on a study which found that LGBT people are 1.7 times as likely to experience food insecurity and be on food stamps than straight people. Within those findings, bisexuals were almost twice as likely to be on food stamps as Ls and Gs: "The [Williams] institute found that 25 percent of bisexual people reported receiving SNAP benefits, in contrast to 14 percent of the gay and lesbian population." 

3. Why do bisexuals suffer from mental health disparities and poverty?

Very likely correlating with the food stamps question above is the question of the overall health of bisexual people, which is poor. A study from Psychological Science puts it blandly, yet bluntly:

"[B]isexual women had significantly poorer mental health than lesbians and heterosexual women--findings consistent with other studies on bisexuals. Possible reasons are that bisexuals tend to face rejection in both the straight and gay communities; and that their mixed sexual orientation is more difficult to integrate psychologically than homosexuals' single-sex orientation."
How do we address these issues?

2. If being out is integral to better mental health, how do we foster an environment where bisexuals can come out? 

Research in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry (Vol. 71, No. 1), found that: "the more 'out' lesbians and bisexual women were -- as measured by self-identification as a gay or lesbian, number of years out and level of involvement in the lesbian or bisexual community -- the less psychological distress they reported." Great! So how do we apply this to bisexuals?

1. When can we stop endlessly writing hand-wringing articles positing whether bisexuals exist? Or asking whether bi identity is a "useful fiction" as Slate put it? 

Because: duh. 

Follow @annapulley on Twitter. She'll tweet you right.

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Anna Pulley


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