This March marks the eight annual Bisexual+ Health Awareness Month, an event founded by the Bisexual Resource Center. Below, Rory Gory (Digital Marketing Manager at The Trevor Project) shares their thoughts on the specific challenges facing the bisexual community.
Recently, a new Gallup poll found that 5.6% of U.S. adults identify as LGBT. More than half (54.6%) identify as bisexual, meaning they have the capacity to be attracted to and/or form relationships with more than one gender. However, despite being the largest group within the LGBTQ community, bisexual people are all too often erased.
We must all come together to support bi youth and root out biphobia: the fear and intolerance of people who experience attraction to people of more than one gender. This prejudice still very much exists—even within LGBTQ spaces—and it’s having a real impact on the mental health and safety of bi young people.
One common biphobic stereotype you’ve probably come across is that all people are either gay or straight, and that bi people are just ‘going through a phase.’
Add that to a slew of other harmful notions—that bi people are overly promiscuous, more likely to cheat, and unable to commit to monogamous relationships. All too often, the very existence and legitimacy of bisexuality is questioned or denied outright.
The prevalence of these stereotypes and “bi-erasure” in general invalidates the large number of people who do experience multi-gender attraction and relationships throughout their lives. And such attitudes aren’t just offensive—they can contribute to a higher risk for depression, suicidal ideation, and violence.
According to recent research, almost half of bi youth seriously considered suicide in the past year. Approximately 66% of these young people reported feeling sad or hopeless for two or more weeks in a row in the past year, compared to 27% of their heterosexual peers and 49% of their gay or lesbian peers.
This data should not be interpreted to mean that bisexual youth are inherently prone to poor mental health outcomes and suicide because of their identity. Bi youth, like all LGBTQ youth, are at a higher risk because of increased experiences with victimization. Reported rates of bullying, harassment, sexual assault, and physical dating violence are especially high among bi people compared to their peers.
Supporting bisexual youth starts with improving awareness. It’s important to understand that bisexuality is just one of many multisexual identities—an umbrella term for people who are attracted to more than one gender.
Examples of multisexual identities include pansexual, omnisexual, and asexual biromantic. Some people may use more than one identity label to describe themselves, like those who use bisexual and pansexual interchangeably. Other people choose not to label their sexuality at all.
Today, LGBTQ youth in the U.S. are using more than 100 different combinations of terms to describe their sexual orientation and gender identity, with many deploying a combination of terms to explain their unique sexual and romantic attractions.
Youth-serving organizations like the Trevor Project must embrace the diversity of youth identity in order to be effective and to better understand (and help) younger generations. We know based on the work we do every day that respecting and affirming an LGBTQ young person’s identity is essential to their health and well-being.
Furthermore, accurately assessing the nuances of LGBTQ identities is critical in academic, clinical, and organizational settings. We need to raise awareness on how young people are identifying and expressing themselves to better inform policies, programs, and practices aimed at improving outcomes among LGBTQ youth.
But where does that leave you, if you’re not engaged with the community professionally? Well, you don’t need to be an expert in multisexual identities to make a difference in the life of a bisexual young person—you just need to listen, be affirming, and have empathy. And that work must start at home, at work, and in your local community.
To learn more about how to care for young people who are attracted to more than one gender, check out The Trevor Project’s guide on How To Support Bisexual Youth, which covers a wide range of topics and best practices. For example, did you know that some people exclusively use terms like omnisexual or abrosexual to describe their identities?
And ahead of Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31st, you can also read up on our Guide to Being an Ally to Transgender and Nonbinary Youth, and consider the intersection of sexuality and gender identity. It’s on all of us to foster the creation of a safer, more accepting world where all LGBTQ young people can survive and thrive.