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Bisexual stigma and adverse mental health
The lack of a bisexual community could be negatively impacting the health of men attracted to both males and females. This is the suggestion of new research published in the Journal of Bisexuality, which showed guys believe a lack of such a group - that would enable them to be more involved with likeminded adults - significantly affects their wellbeing.
Brian Dodge, Associate Professor in the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation and Associate Director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion, found the stigma bisexual people experience at the hands of both heterosexual and homosexual individuals plays a big part in making them feel isolated.
The investigation revealed this biphobia also contributed to the social stress felt by bisexual males in their everyday lives.
Mr Dodge stated: "Being bisexual, not having a community to be involved with, not having people they could disclose to, homosexual or heterosexual, was tied to their experiences of adverse mental health."
Dr Meg Barker from the Open University is editor of Psychology & Sexuality, organiser of the first international conference on bisexuality - BiReCon - and lead author of The Bisexuality Report.
She says: 'When we put together The Bisexuality Report early this year, we reviewed the evidence from a number of countries and found that bisexual people consistently experienced more mental health problems and distress than heterosexual, and lesbian and gay people. This concurs with Brian Dodge's recent findings.
Like Brian, most researchers have linked this to biphobia and bi invisibility. Biphobia is specific prejudice about bisexual people such as assuming them to be greedy or untrustworthy, which is common among heterosexual, and lesbian and gay, people. Bi invisibility refers to the common cultural assumption that people are either gay or straight, leaving no space for bisexuality. Bisexual people are often thought to be 'going through a phase', there are very few bisexual characters in the media, and psychological research has attempted to demonstrate the non-existence of bisexual men (although the same researchers have now challenged these findings).
Certainly bisexual communities can provide a buffer against such experiences, and luckily there is a vibrant community in the UK (with regular BiCon and BiFest events, a strong online presence, and a magazine, Bi Community News). Helen Bowes-Catton's research in this community has found that people feel 'at home' in bisexual spaces in a way that they don't in their daily lives, and that it gives them an invaluable breathing space away from biphobia and bi invisibility.
Hopefully the recommendations of The Bisexuality Report will help to improve the situation for bisexual people more widely, in healthcare settings, education, and the workplace. We are currently talking with the LGBT partnership and the Government Equalities Office about how to put these into practice."
The Bisexuality Report, which also contains summaries of relevant research and much guidelines for people researching bisexuality, can be downloaded from the web.