Submission by Maya Provençal
I have come to realize that there is still an apparent disagreement both within and outside of the LGBTQ community on whether or not bisexuality is a legitimate form of sexual identity. Although it seems that a general acceptance of non-heterosexual identities continues to grow, many fail to recognize sexuality as a spectrum, which has caused high levels of physical and mental health issues within the bisexual community.
In a report recently released by “The Human Rights Campaign”, it was found that compared to their gay and lesbian peers, bisexual individuals are 3 times less likely to come out to their doctors and 2 times less likely to come out to their friends and family. It was also reported that they are 20% more likely to consider or attempt suicide, show higher rates of HPV and other sexual health problems, and are also more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol than any other member of the LGBTQ community. Contrary to some beliefs, these risks are not inherent to bisexuals, but are instead a result of the hostile social climate surrounding bisexuality and other non-monosexual identities. I have found that this social climate includes many negative claims concerning bisexuality, such as the misconception that bisexuality is illegitimate, that bisexuals are actually gay, lesbian, or confused, and that bisexuality is just a phase.
The popular misconstrued perception of bisexuality as illegitimate has put a lock on the closet door for many bisexuals. Many of us are forced to choose between having the authenticity of our sexual identity questioned or criticized, and remaining “in the closet”. When coming out to my peers as bi, I was met immediately with condescension and stories about how they “sometimes kissed girls in high school”. I was told it was “probably just a phase”, I would “make up my mind eventually”, and that I was “too young to know anyways”. These reactions are all too familiar to young bi, pan, and omni sexual individuals. Since then, I have been reluctant to reveal my sexual identity to friends, male sexual partners, and even medical providers. As a result, I went 4 years of being sexually active before learning exactly what safe, same-sex sexual intercourse should actually look like, which left me extremely vulnerable to contracting sexually transmitted infections and diseases. Living in a society that practically encourages bisexuals not to disclose their sexual identity through mechanisms of bisexual erasure and bi-negativity, it comes as no surprise to me that those who identify as bisexuals show higher rates of sexually transmitted infections.
Mental health struggles experienced by bisexual individuals can also be largely attributed to the common belief that individuals can only be gay or straight, but not both. This popular perception of sexuality forces bisexual individuals to engage in additional forms emotional labour almost everyday, such as having to come out to their friends and family every time they have a same-sex partner and re-closet when they are with someone of the opposite sex. Many of those who identify as bisexuals decide to hide their sexuality as a way to avoid challenging this myth. However, hiding your identity from family and friends can take a toll on mental health. This puts many bisexuals in a lose-lose situation, making them more susceptible to feelings of depression or anxiety.
In the spirit of pride month, it is important that we cease to ignore, question, and devalue bisexuality. In order to create a climate that allows those who identify as bisexual to flourish, it is essential that we begin to consider sexuality as a spectrum in which many sit somewhere in the middle of gay and straight.