#HIVBI: Sure You’re Bi. Wink, Wink.
Bisexual people are damned if they do, and they are damned if they don’t.
For years, there has been a theory (especially among gay people) that bi people aren’t really “bi.” They’re just gay or lesbian and they say “Bi” because being bisexual is more widely accepted. They’re too scared to admit they are gay, the theory has been.
That theory holds up until a gay man or a lesbian dates a person who sleeps with a person of the opposite sex. In many of those cases, the gay person finally understands that bisexuality is real, and the bisexual person then gets clobbered. Intimate partner violence toward bisexuals is higher than in any other sexual minority group.
Now, with gays reaching a level of equality that even some liberals (or at least most conservatives) argue has reached the status of “non-issue,” bisexuals are more marginalized than ever. A long-held notion that sexuality is binary – you’re either gay or straight – has been further cemented. Bisexuals experience as many doubters as they ever have.
In 1966, bisexual Stephen Donaldson (aka “Donny the Punk”) founded the first ever gay rights group on a student campus at Columbia University, New York, where he said the gays welcomed him “as a butch gay.” But after having a secret affair with a woman from the nation’s first lesbian rights organization, Daughters of Bilitis, he felt forced out of the movement.
Today, research suggests that bisexuals have higher rates of suicide, mental illness, and experience violent crimes even more often than gay people.
“Our advocacy is not about getting everybody to say ‘We’re bisexual.’ We just want to make sure anyone who engages in bisexual sex isn’t assaulted, beat up, murdered….” Cheltenham said.
Data shows that among bisexuals, there are more women who identify as such than men. Gay people often think that’s because they are more easily accepted by straight men (i.e., the Hustlers under the counter at the convenience store showing women having sex on the cover). Of course, what that really is, is objectification of women.
“The reason there are more women than men is that the men are dead from HIV,” Cheltenham said.
As money finally has begun to flow (not necessarily from the LGBT community) to combat violence against transgender people (not just sexual violence but even murder), similar health disparities faced by bisexual people still are not being addressed.
How biphobic sentiment fuels dangerous sexual habits
“Biphobic sentiment among MSMW’s male and female partners can harm MSMW,” reports William L. Jeffries IV in his paper “Beyond the Bisexual Bridge: Sexual Health Among U.S. Men Who Have Sex with Men and Women,” published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (2014). “Gay men and heterosexual women sometimes believe that MSMW are unfit for long-term partnerships, and MSMW sometimes fear experiencing unsympathetic, vindictive reactions upon disclosing bisexuality to their partners. In instances where MSMW feel shunned by their partners’ non-acceptance of bisexuality, they may form additional partnerships.”
The paper goes on to say that “This might, in turn, promote high levels of partnership concurrency among MSMW. Indeed, MSMW are more likely than MSM and MSW to have concurrent sexual partnerships, and studies have reported that 22 to 28 percent of MSMW recently had concurrent unprotected sex with both men and women.”
Judgmental, arcane attitudes about bisexuality amounts to ignorance. That it comes from within the lesbian and gay community itself is alarming.
“Bi people go into the gay community to sleep with gay men, then retreat back into safety,” Cheltenham said. “Not a safety from gayness; a safety against gay people.”
Cheltenham said “coming out” is especially difficult for bisexual people, but they must.
“A gay person comes out, he says, I’m gay, I like the same gender.’ Bi people have multiple stages,” she said. “A girl has to tell guys, ‘I like guys.’ She has to tell girls, ‘I like girls.’ Then there’s a third stage called identity maintenance. I have continued evolutions of how I explain that to people. I’m married to a man. People say, ‘Oh, you’re husband and wife.’ I say, “Yeah, I’m bisexual. You said husband and wife and assumed I am straight.’ Every time, I have to do that. Bi people have to come out hundreds of times more.”
Related [imstilljosh] Bisexual HIV Guide article: Bisexual men have sex with women, too. So why is the CDC counting them as MSM?