Mental Health in the Bi+ Community
Why are mental health issues important to bi+ people?
Research suggests that bisexuals suﬀer worse mental health outcomes than heterosexuals, lesbians, and gay men. These outcomes include:
- Higher rates of anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders
- Higher reporting of self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and suicide attempts
- Lower levels of social support
- Being less likely to be comfortable with their sexuality or be “out” to friends and family compared to lesbians and gay men
- Higher rates of substance use, including cigarette smoking and heavy drinking
What causes these poor mental health outcomes?
While the exact reasons may differ from person-to-person, research suggests that there are two common elements involved: Bi+ antagonism (or biphobia*) and Bisexual erasure or invisibility
*The BRC uses “bi+ antagonism” instead of “biphobia” to limit ableist language and disassociate folks with clinical phobias with folks with antagonist viewpoints.
Bi+ antagonism is the fear of, hatred towards, or discrimination against bisexuality. Common stereotypes associated with bi+ antagonism include:
- Bisexuals are sexually greedy, promiscuous, and carriers of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
- Bisexuals are untrustworthy or traitors to the LGBTQIA+ community, because they can take advantage of “heterosexual privilege.”
- Bisexuals cannot be monogamous because they are attracted to everyone.
- Bisexual women only aim to seek sexual attention from heterosexual men.
- Bisexual men are too afraid to fully “come out” and therefore are “really just gay.”
Bi+ antagonism isolates bisexuals from both heterosexual and LGBTQIA+ communities. It also prevents bisexuals from feeling positive and open about their sexuality, which in turn contributes to the higher reporting of anxiety, depression, and self-harm, as well as lower reporting of coming out.
Bisexual Erasure or Invisibility
Bisexual erasure or invisibility is ignoring, removing, or re-explaining the evidence of bisexuality. Common examples associated with bisexual erasure or invisibility include:
- Denying that bisexuality exists as a real orientation, such as stating that it’s “just a phase” or simply for experimental purposes as one “eventually” labels oneself as gay/lesbian or heterosexual.
- Assuming that a bisexual person is heterosexual if paired with partner of a diﬀerent gender, or gay/lesbian if paired a partner of the same gender.
- An organization claiming it is LGBTQIA+-inclusive, but not oﬀering bi-specific programs and resources.
- Mislabeling bisexuals as lesbian/gay or heterosexual even when they are openly “out” as bisexual.
- Using phrases like “lesbian and gay” or “lesbian, gay, and trans” in place of LGBTQIA+.
Like bi+ antagonism, bisexual erasure or invisibility has profound eﬀects on mental health in that it also invalidates and isolates bisexuals.
Seeking Help and Support
Talk to someone: It is important for bisexuals who are experiencing anxiety, depression, and/or suicidal thoughts to seek professional help as soon as possible. Locating a bi-positive mental health provider may take time, but they are out there. The end of this brochure provides some resources that can help.
Find a bi+ community: The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Ontario, Canada discovered that bisexuals associate positive mental health outcomes with social support, self-acceptance, volunteering, and belonging in a bisexual community. You can locate a group near you at www.biresource.org/find-a-bi-group/. More information about mental health and bisexuality can also be found at www.bihealthmonth.org.
Bisexuals can also improve their mental health by practicing self-care. Here are some self-care suggestions:
• Celebrate bisexuality through relevant movies, books, culture, and history.
• Wear bi+-pride colors or incorporate them into your lifestyle, whether through home
decorations, car bumper stickers, or office furnishings.
• Reach out to other members of the bi+ community, whether online or in person.
• Find some quiet time by taking mindful walks, practicing meditation, or doing yoga.
• Express yourself through writing stories, poetry, journal entries, and creating visual and musical art.
• Boost your self-esteem with positive, daily affirmations (“I am bisexual and proud!”).
• Practice healthy habits, such as eating nutritious meals, regularly exercising, and limiting the intake of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs.
Bisexuality-Aware Professionals Directory
The GLBT National Help Center Hotline
The Trevor Project Lifeline (for youth ages 13-24)
San Francisco Human Rights Commission. (2011). “Bisexual Invisibility: Impacts and Recommendations.” https://sf-hrc.org/reports-research-investigations
The Open University. (2012). “The Bisexuality Report: Bisexual Inclusion in LGBT Equality and Diversity.” http://www.open.ac.uk/