Bisexual people are underrepresented and discriminated against, even within the LGBT community. Because of biphobia and other mental health problems bisexual men and women deal with, they are more likely to develop a mental illness and less likely to come out than gay men and lesbian women. They also have the highest rates of abuse in intimate relationships.
If you identify as bisexual or are considering identifying as bisexual, this article will help you navigate potential mental health issues and better understand current ones. It is also a valuable resource for people who want to support the bisexual community and encourage acceptance of bisexual people within the LGBT community.
Biphobia: Stereotypes and Assumptions Bisexual People Endure
People in and outside the LGBT community perpetuate stereotypes of bisexual people. They assume bisexual people are:
- Incapable of commitment
- More likely to cheat
- Unable to be satisfied with a monogamous relationship with only one gender
- Going through a phase before coming out as gay or lesbian (mental health professionals also call this assumption part of “bi erasure” or “invisibility”)
- Experimenting before settling down in a heterosexual relationship
- The gender of their current partner symbolizes a decision to identify as heterosexual or homosexual
- Responsible for spreading STIs between different groups in the LGBT community
- Taking advantage of straight privileges
Because of these assumptions, “bisexual” has become a dirty word to the point where many bisexual people avoid it. They often use euphemisms, including omnisxual, heteroflexible, homoflexible, bicurious and more.
There are also various phrases and terms people use that contribute to shaming bisexual people:
- Plays for any team
- Switch hitter
- Fence sitter
Roughly 60% of bisexual people have heard biphobic jokes or comments in their workplaces, according to a report from bisexual advocacy organizations.
Discrimination Within the LGBT Community
Because of the aforementioned assumptions and stereotypes, many members of the LGBT community discriminate against bisexual people. The online dating environment is one of many examples that illustrate this discrimination.
On popular dating websites, including OkCupid, many lesbian women have profiles that include phrases such as “bisexuals need not apply.” Bisexual people who use online dating sites are bombarded with rude requests for threesomes, but they receive less actual dates than other LGBT members. These problems discourage them from identifying as bisexual on their profile and in person.
Although more people identify as bisexual than gay or lesbian, various forms of discrimination cause them to be severely underrepresented. There is little sense of community for bisexuals, especially compared to other groups such as gay men.
Guilt About Being Attracted to More than One Gender
Like many other members of the LGBT community, bisexual people often wish they could change their sexual orientation. They might feel guilt when they realize they are attracted to both genders, according to therapist Seda Gragossian, who specializes in treating addiction in the LGBT community in San Diego.
This guilt can intensify when they enter long-term relationships, especially if the realization of their bisexuality happens during the relationship. Even if the bisexual partner remains faithful, he or she can feel like the bisexuality is betraying the relationship.
Differences Between Bisexual Women and Men’s Issues
All bisexual people deal with biphobia and discrimination, but these issues manifest in different forms for men and women. Bisexual women deal more frequently with sexual objectification.
“It is a ‘turn on’ for many straight men if they know of a [good-looking] bisexual woman,” said therapist Kristen Martinez, who works with LGBT clients.
On the other hand, Martinez said, bisexual men encounter women who assume they are not “manly” enough because of their sexuality.
How to Support Mental Health in the Bisexual Community and Become an Advocate
If you are not bisexual but want to support the mental health of bisexual people, here are some suggestions:
- Provide support to bisexual people you know and care about. Use this article to ensure you are being sensitive to their issues.
- If you are part of the LGBT community, be sure to reach out to bisexual people and let them know they are an equal part of your community. You can also encourage LGBT organizations to better represent bisexual people.
- Support bisexual advocacy organizations such as the Bisexual Resource Center.
How to Care for Your Mental Health if You Are a Bisexual Man or Woman
Consider seeing a therapist who specializes in working with members of the LGBT community, someone who will understand your issues and refrain from judging. Remember, you don’t deserve to feel invisible or ashamed of your sexuality.