Despite all the erasure of bisexuality that may have happened this Pride season, Lois Shearing asks whether it is time to stop looking past visibility as the main issue facing the bisexual community, to focus on the systematic violence and oppression facing bisexuals.
Being openly bisexual often means being invisible, from both the dominant narrative of hetero-normative society, and often within LGBTQ+ spaces.
But visibility isn’t the only issue facing the bisexual community and being bisexual also means facing institutionalized discrimination based on our attraction to similar genders and multiple genders.
So, here are five issues other than invisibility and erasure that the bisexual community has to contend with.
1. Mental illness
Disproportionate rates of mental illness is one of the most notable issues facing the bisexual community. Bisexuals are more likely that both heterosexual and gay men/lesbians to have depression and/or anxiety and have experienced suicidal thoughts. Minority stress and a lack of support are two of the reason suggested for these statics.
To further this, large numbers of bisexuals report a negative reaction to their sexuality from therapists and mental health workers. meaning that even if they do reach out, some bisexuals either have to coercively pass or not get treatment.
2. Lack of resources
Not only are bisexual people marginalized by hetero-normative society, it’s often difficult for us to find any resources that cater to us within LGBTQ+ spaces. In the UK, there are no funded spaces for bisexual people. Lack of resources may go someway to explain that unlike for gay men and lesbians, things might not actually get better for bisexuals after coming out.
Lack of resources may go someway to explain that unlike for gay men and lesbians, things might not actually get better for bisexuals after coming out
3. Sexual violence
Arguably, sexual violence is the biggest issue facing bisexual women. In a study conducted in 2015, a full 61% of bisexual women reported having been raped assaulted, or sexually abused, compared to 44% or lesbians and and 35% of straight women. The hyper-sexualisation of female bisexuality may have a lot to do with the phenomenon, especially when we look at how this intersects with the statistics for trans and/or bis of colour.
It’s hard to come across statistics for bi men, as sexual assault is under studied in men and bi men’s statistics are often reported as a subsection of gay men’s. To further this, it is difficult to find statistics as to how these numbers differ for people of colour and trans bisexuals, as often studies only categorise people as one thing. However, looking at the ways in which trans people and POC ahypersexualizedsed in society, it’s easy to see how this issue is exasperated for this demigraphic.
“Approximately 25% of bisexual men and 30% of bisexual women live in poverty, compared to 15% and 21% of heterosexual men and women respectively and 20% and 23% of gay men and lesbians,” according to a report by Movement Advancement Project, BiNet USA and the Bisexual resource centre.
The same report shows that bisexuals are also less likely to be too paying jobs than gay men or lesbians (gay men are more likely than lesbians to be in a too paying job) and report more overhearing more negative comments about their sexuality.
This is once again an area that intersects with the oppression facing trans bisexuals and BiPOC, as poverty rates are signiicantly higher for trans and POC individuals.
5. Substance abuse
Like sexual abuse rates, bisexual people are far more like to suffer from addiction and addiction related illnesses. Bisexual men are have higher rates of daily smoking and risky drinking behavior than gay or straight men. Young bisexual people are also more likely to have problems with substance abuse than their peers.
Visibility may go long way to helping bisexuals deal with some of the biggest challenges faced by our community, but being visible may not help solve issues like sexual violence, where bisexuality is sometimes used by abusers as an excuse for their violence.
As a community, we need to shift the narrative away from inclusion and micro-aggressions to focus on the violence and isolation that is killing us.
Follow Lois on Twitter: @LoisShearing