THIS YEAR has been a big one for the bisexual community. Oregon now has the nation's first openly bi governor, Kate Brown; President Obama made history by actually using the word "bisexual" in his State of the Union address; and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo reality trainwrecks Mama June and Pumpkin came out as bi in the media. (Okay, that last one might be a stretch when it comes to positive bisexual visibility... but 2015's been good all the same.)
Behind all of these apparent bi victories, however, there's an entire community of bisexual people who are still suffering, being overlooked or dismissed, and in need of support from the queer community.
According to a 2011 report by the Williams Institute ("How Many People Are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender?"), the Bs in the acronym make up more than half of the LGBTQ community. Given that, it may seem strange that the group holding the majority stake would also have the highest percentage of people still in the closet—close to 70 percent, by some accounts—and yet the bi community is still marginalized at every turn, experiencing a much higher rate of social determinants that lead to trauma than their lesbian, gay, and heterosexual counterparts.
In addition to the commonly known side effects of being closeted—dissociation, low self-esteem, isolation, and high-risk sexual behaviors, to name a few—bisexuals face higher instances of cancer caused by the HPV virus, with bi women being less likely to have had appropriate mammography during the course of their lives. Among lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual women, bisexuals also have the highest rate of never having had a pap smear.
Bi people report incidents of domestic violence three times as often as their straight peers, and experience a higher acuity of mental health struggles than any other sub-section of the population. When compared with lesbians, bi women are more than twice as likely to have had an eating disorder, and they have the lowest levels of social support.
An anonymous survey taken by patients at 33 medical centers across the United States found that bi patients routinely seek treatment for anxiety and depression at much higher levels than straight patients. A New Mexico study of LGBT health data revealed that close to three times as many bi adults (17.4 percent) reported suicidal ideation compared to straight adults (6.2 percent). All this leads to higher instances of behavioral health issues, as well. Bisexual women report higher-risk sexual behavior than straight women, and bisexual men are more likely to get a sexually transmitted infection than their hetero counterparts. Bi people also report the highest rates of alcohol and drug abuse, and according to the American Lung Association, the bi community abuses tobacco up to 39 percent more frequently than heterosexuals.
And yet, even with all of this crushing data, media visibility, and implied awareness, according to the 2010 Funders for LGBTQ Issues Report—which tracks over 300 foundations that collectively give out nearly $100 million annually to programs and services designed to support the LGBTQ community, bisexuals received zero percent of that funding. That number you just read isn't a typo. Out of the $97,189,139 given during 2010, literally ZERO DOLLARS were given to bi-specific programs and services.
To put it bluntly, that's super fucked up.
It's no wonder the Bs have been experiencing higher rates of every shitty thing you could possibly imagine! This part of our community—may I remind you, the largest part—has been getting no support. Not "less" support. NO SUPPORT... as in "NONE."
In the 2011, 2012, and 2013 Funders for LGBTQ Issues Reports that have followed, less than one percent of total funding was awarded to bi-specific endeavors. The report from last year has not been published yet, but I'm not holding my breath that things have gotten better. The fact is, whether it's because of sexism, petty jealousy, lack of education, or just pure, unbridled phobia, no one seems to care about the bisexual community—not even the people who are being paid to care—and this has to change.
As LGBTQ people, we must do better. We have to stop rolling our eyes about identities other than our own. Bisexuals do, in fact, exist. They are neither going through "a phase," nor are they sexually "greedy" individuals who "live to cheat" and are "attracted to anything that moves." These perverse narratives are archaic and damaging, and are no doubt at the root of this pervasive (and deadly) lack of support.
You may not understand how a person could be attracted to more than one gender, but you don't need to understand in order to be an ally. The ongoing fight for equality means nothing if it's equality for just some of us—and as certain sections of our community continue to experience big wins, we have to stay connected to those who are still deep in the struggle.
I love my bi friends and family, and I see you. Even in the midst of visibility, though, bi-erasure is real, and it must be interrupted—if not by the people running queer and trans organizations, then by who? Honey Boo Boo's mom and sister? Well, perhaps... but they can't do it alone.
More Pride Issue Articles: