You may be familiar with the concepts of being gay or lesbian, but you or those around you might have less understanding and acceptance of bisexuality. Even within the LGBTQ+ community, there is some stigma against bisexuality. This unfortunate stigma can have negative impact on bisexual youths and adults. In this post, I explained what bisexuality is and how you may be negatively impacted if you are discriminated against for being bisexual. I also talk briefly about what can make commissions better for you if you identify as bisexual.
What is bisexuality?
Bisexuality is the ability to be romantically or sexually attracted to males or females. Sometimes, people also identify as pansexual, which also means that you can be attracted to members of either cisgender category. You may use the terms bisexual and pansexual interchangeably, as some other people do. In fact, there are several different ways to identify in terms of sexual preference, as the Trevor Project notes. You may also be attracted to people who identify as transgender or nonbinary, which is referred to as skoliosexual.
There are people in both the street and gay and lesbian communities who think that bisexuality is just a phase of sexual identity development and that the person who identifies as bisexual is not committing to their true identity. Some people see bisexual people as confused, greedy, hypersexual, and other negative stereotypes. Unfortunately, these stereotypes negatively impact bisexual people if they influence how others treat them.
Negative mental health outcomes for bisexual individuals
If you identify as bisexual, that in itself is not a mental disorder. However, you might be dealing with minority stress, which is experienced by groups of people who are treated poorly because they are different from the mainstream and what society accepts. The stigmas against bisexuality, both within the LGBTQ community and from the straight community, can create higher rates of depression and suicide thoughts and behavior.
In one study written in 2021, there were higher rates of suicide among gay, lesbian, and bisexual adults than for heterosexual adults. The rates very based on sexual identity, gender, age, and race. This study did not include consideration of gender identification, unfortunately. They found that women were added slightly higher risk of suicidal plan and attempt than males who identify as gay or bisexual. Among Caucasian and African-American bisexual women, there was a higher suicidal ideation risk that for gay and lesbian women of the same races. The age bracket of 35 to 64 years old was higher for bisexual women as well.
Mental health risks for bisexual youths
There are higher rates of depression, bullying, sexual assault and physical harm for bisexual youth them for straight or gay and lesbian youth. There was also a higher rate for bisexual young people, which was 48% who had seriously contemplated suicide and attempted suicide in the past year. For gay and lesbian youths, the rate was 37% who had seriously thought about suicide in 19% who attempted suicide in the last year. Compare that to 14% of heterosexual young people who seriously thought about suicide and 6% who attempted suicide in the past year.
When I see this, I feel very sad for all of the factors that go into this staggering rate for suicidal ideation and behavior. What goes youths feeling so desperate and wanting to end their lives? Besides the mistreatment that comes from stigma, there is also discrimination, bullying, the way the media portrays bisexuality, a certain amount of invisibility even within the LGBTQ community, and feeling unsupported socially and societally.
In addition, racism and colorism can play a factor in how bisexual people are treated. LGBTQ youths have higher rates of suicide attempts than their white counterparts. Compared to 12% Caucasian LGB youths, 21 percent of Indigenous American LGB youths have reported suicide attempts; 20% of Middle Eastern or North African youths, 19% of African-American, 17% of multiracial, and 16% of Latinx youths reported suicide attempts. Like Caucasian LGB youths, 12% Asian and Pacific Islander LGB youths have reported suicide attempts. Sometimes, there are so many ways that people are discriminated against, it is very hard to love yourself enough to want to take care of yourself and live. When you are young and generally care more about what others think of you, you are more susceptible to the bigotry and hatred around you.
What can be done?
There are macro-level solutions that can help celebrate, rather than denigrate, bisexual people. There are also things that can help at an individual level. Macrolevel solutions include increasing societal support for bisexual individuals. This means education, programs that help to boost sensitivity to sexual minorities and people who do not fit into the mainstream. Affirming spaces such as schools where the correct pronouns are used and anti-bullying and antidiscrimination policies are created and enforced, are desperately needed in our schools throughout the country. Seeing an end to conversion therapy, which doubles the likely suicide attempts of LGB young people, is a must as well.
To the extent that it’s safe, you can also advocate for your rights as a bisexual person by participating in Rashid’s activism, writing to elected officials, and speaking out point here people in your community say anti-LGBTQ slurs. Sadly, people were not always receptive to being confronted about their bigotry, but I believe that when anyone just like to happen in front of them, it creates a safe environment for discrimination and injustice to persist and even flourish.
Celebrate your bisexual identity!
At the individual level, you can examine whether you have internalized any of the shame or discrimination that you’ve encountered as a bisexual person. This may be painful, as the feelings you unearth may have been long dormant in your mind and nervous system for a long time. It’s natural to avoid unpleasant things, but the more you avoid, the smaller your world gets and the less you’re able to heal.
You can also think about all be advantages you have a bisexual person and how your identity and enhanced your life. It may be hard to think about this at first, but if you give yourself time, you will probably be able to identify at least of the ways that you can celebrate that bisexuality. If you need help healing from trauma or loss associated with bullying, discrimination, or social rejection related to bisexuality, please give me a call at (661) 233-6771.