Within the LGBTQ+ community, anxiety and mood disorders can be common. However, did you know that bisexual people are more likely to experience mental health struggles than heterosexuals, lesbians, or gay men? Unfortunately, the reports of harassment within the bisexual community are staggering due to biphobia.
The negative impact of biphobia can merge into adulthood, creating unwanted mental health outcomes. The Bisexual Resource Center (BRC) reported that about 40% of bisexual people have contemplated or attempted suicide. By comparison, just over a quarter of gay men and lesbians experience suicidal thoughts or attempts. For bisexual individuals who are BIPOC, trans, or have disabilities, the numbers are higher. There is no doubt that discrimination against bisexual people can harm a person’s mental health. Here are some ways mental health is impacted and the types of biphobia that occur.
What is Biphobia?
The BRC provides the following definition for biphobia:
Mislabeling bi+ people as lesbian, gay or straight, even when they come out as bi+.
Biphobia that occurs in both LGTBQ+ and heterosexual communities is alarming. It de-legitimized bisexual identities through jokes, stereotypes, exclusionary words, and even physical and emotional abuse. Because of these outcomes, many bisexual folks are afraid of being authentic and open about their sexual orientation.
Bisexual-identified people make up half the LGBTQ+ community. However, only 28% of these individuals are “out” to the people closest to them.
What Does Biphobia Look Like?
Bisexual individuals face unique stigma and exclusion from the queer community and in daily life. The most common stereotypes include the following:
- Bisexuals are just greedy, promiscuous, and are carriers of various STIs.
- Bisexuals are only taking advantage of heterosexual privilege and do not belong in the LGBTQ+ community.
- Bisexual cisgender women or non-binary femmes are just looking to get the attention of heterosexual, cisgender men.
- Cis bisexual men or non-binary folks who present as male are just in the closet and are actually gay.
When experiencing biphobia, bisexuals feel isolated from both the heterosexual and LGBTQ+ communities. They can also feel negative feelings about their sexual orientation, which leads to adverse mental health outcomes.
Bi Erasure is another form of discrimination that bisexuals experience. Bi erasure is removing or ignoring bisexuality and can look like:
- Stating that bisexuality doesn’t actually exist, that it’s just a phase, or that they’re experimenting with their sexuality
- Assuming that someone is heterosexual if they are in a seemingly heterosexual relationship
- Incorrectly labeling bisexual people as lesbian or gay, even when they are “out” as bisexual.
Where Does Mental Health Come Into Play Regarding Bisexuality?
As previously mentioned, bisexuals have worse mental health outcomes than heterosexuals, gay men, and lesbians. These mental health issues present as follows:
- Increased likelihood of having mental health issues like anxiety, depression, or a mood disorder.
- Higher risk of self-harm, and suicidal ideation or attempts.
- Less likely to have the social support that they require.
- Feeling shame or discomfort with their sexual orientation or not feeling ready to be “out” to loved ones.
- Risks of substance abuse, like heavy alcohol usage, recreational drugs, or cigarettes.
There also needs to be more research done to support bisexual individuals. Because the research is so limited, it puts bisexual people at risk for mental health issues and adds to there is less awareness about this topic. With more research, we can better understand what mental health issues impact bisexual people.
Resources for Bisexual People Struggling with Mental Health
It is essential to the well-being of bisexual individuals to have social support and acceptance. If you are bisexual and struggling with mental health, seeking professional help is an excellent first step. Be sure to search for a counselor who advertises as working with LGBTQ+ and bisexual clients.
Even in today’s times, biphobia occurs in many places, especially online. Creating safe spaces for bisexual folks would go a long way to reducing stigma and discrimination. Cultivating these spaces, especially during the pandemic, can improve the lives of bisexual people. If you are looking to find a community and make other bisexual friends, VICE came out with an article on how to make more LGBTQ friends. However, always be aware that biphobia does exist within the queer community. You’ll want to find friends with who you feel safe, and who are accepting and informed when it comes to bisexuality.
It can also help to find positive bisexual hashtags on social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok to connect with like-minded individuals. Searching for bi-specific groups in your local community can make you feel more included. There are many Facebook groups you can join or online websites to find a safe space. Taking part in activism within these communities can also give you a sense of belonging and unlearn false beliefs about bisexuality.
Self-care can also help bisexual people with their mental health. Some self-care examples include deep breathing, journaling, exercise, stretching, doing something creative, taking a hot bath, and more. Positive affirmations can help with self-esteem, and reducing alcohol and drug intake can also improve mental health outcomes.
There are also films or books where you can learn about bisexuality, or that have bisexual characters. Some of our favorite examples include the books Queens of Geek and The Brightsiders by Jen Wilde, and the movie Appropriate Behavior (2014). If you do an online search, you can find many different sources for bisexual representation.
Celebrating bisexual pride and wearing pride colors can help as well. In fact, the Trevor Project released the guide How to Support Bisexual Youth last year. This resource talks about bisexuality, biphobia and celebrates bisexual identities.
The Importance of Celebrating Bisexuality
Inaccurate stereotypes and other biphobic behaviors can be devastating for the mental health of bisexual people. It is essential to bring more awareness to bisexuality or encourage people to educate themselves about bisexual identities. Celebrating bisexuality and dispelling myths can lead to better mental health outcomes for these individuals.