Bisexual people face multiple barriers to living happy lives.
We suffer discrimination from both the straight and gay communities in the form of stigma and negative attitudes. Myths and stereotypes about bisexuals are widespread – we don’t exist; we’re promiscuous; we can’t be monogamous; we need to have simultaneous relationships with men and women; we transfer disease from the gay community to the straight community; we’re confused; we’re going through a phase; we’re really gay; we’re really straight; the list goes on.
In most Western countries, the last ten years have seen huge advances in civil rights for gay and bisexual people, and attitudes to homosexuality are generally becoming more liberal. Despite this, Western culture remains largely uncomfortable about bisexuality.
One study measuring social attitudes to a range of different communities (religious, racial, ethnic, political, sexual) found that bisexual people are viewed less favourably than all other groups except for intravenous drug users.
This unwelcoming cultural climate has discouraged bisexual people from coming out and assertively identifying themselves as bisexual. Recent research shows that just 28% of bisexuals have come out to ‘all or most of the important people in their life’. The same research shows that 77% of gay men and 71% of lesbians are out to their ‘important’ people. Many bisexuals end up identifying as straight or gay, in order to fit in and avoid discrimination.
The marginalisation of bisexual people not only pushes us into the closet, but impacts on our life chances. Studies consistently show that bisexual people have significantly poorer health outcomes than gay and straight people, as well as higher rates of poverty and unemployment. Bisexual people also suffer higher rates of domestic abuse and sexual violence.
Given these facts, it’s not surprising that it’s hard for bisexual people to be happy. If you’re bisexual and struggling, remember this: it’s not your fault – there are a range of social factors beyond our control that make life very hard for us.
What I’m trying to do in this blog is show that even in an often hostile society, it is possible to become comfortable with being bisexual. There are practical steps we can take to build our confidence as bisexual people.
Over the coming weeks and months I’ll be writing about how we can deal with the negative attitudes of others, as well as dealing with the negative feelings we have towards ourselves. I’ll write about coming out, relationships, and a range of other issues that affect our sense of wellbeing as bisexuals. I’ll share my experience, too, as someone who used to feel unhappy about my bisexuality, but now feels comfortable and happy.
We can learn to feel good about being bisexual. I believe that the more confident and open we become, the happier we will feel, and the more society will come to recognise, accept and make a place for bisexual people.