By Denarii Monroe
Cross-posted. Originally published at GO Magazine.
Most people aren’t fans of unsolicited advice. Let’s be honest: there’s a lot of bad advice out there, about everything from relationships and sex to career and financial troubles. When it comes to tips related to various aspects of LGBTQIA2S+ (plus) experiences, many times even the most earnest efforts fail to take into account the systemic barriers to using that advice. And for bi+ (plus) people, most “experts” and “advocates” aren’t even aware of the unique needs of our community.
We know that, when compared to both straight people and gays and lesbians, bi+ (plus) people have higher rates of poverty and unemployment/underemployment, higher rates of being uninsured, and higher rates of a myriad of health issues including substance abuse, depression, and heart disease. We have higher rates of intimate partner violence and sexual assault. In addition, we know that all LGBTQIA2S+ (plus) people in rural areas often lack the access to resources that queer and trans people in larger urban areas can utilize. These are all connected to institutional barriers to accessing, receiving, and following through with health care plans.
So what is a bi+ (plus) person to do when they want—or need—sexual health information that speaks to their experiences and needs but can’t find anything that makes sense for them?
I don’t have all the answers, but here are a few tips for the bi+ (plus) people who live in the real world and must navigate an oppressive society that is set up to see them fail.
PAUSE TO REFLECT
One of the most important (and free! and accessible!) ways that you can take charge of your sexual health is to regularly take inventory of your needs, desires, and current situation. Are you currently sexually active? Are you single? If not, do you have multiple sexual and/or romantic partners? Are you happy or satisfied with your relationship(s)? What are your plans for the immediate and long-term future?
Maybe you want to become sexually active after a long hiatus or you want to try celibacy. Maybe you want to stay on top of pap screenings because your mom passed away when she was only a few years older than you are now. Perhaps, after a lifetime of hangups about it, you’re ready to explore yourself sexually, but you don’t know how to get started or if you want to use toys.
Getting a handle on your position on various aspects of your sexual, romantic, and reproductive life can help you figure out which questions need to be asked, and who may be able to help you get the answers you seek. Which leads me to…
WE ARE FAMILY
There’s this neat little concept that I love, which I learned from fellow queer and trans people of color (QTPOC) when I was a wee baby queer, called “chosen fam.” Chosen fam are the LGBTQIA2S+ (plus) folks you meet along your journey who, while not biologically or legally related to you, become a clan of their own. They’re often more than mere friends – the bond is stronger than that.
Of course, like your family of origin, we don’t always get along. We have disagreements, we hurt each other, and sometimes we even find that we have to cut some of the ties that we made in order to be safe and heal from community trauma. Nevertheless, chosen fam has been essential to the survival of the LGBTQIA2S+ (plus) community, particularly those of us who are most marginalized (Black, Native, and other people of color, women and non-binary people, poor, trans, disabled, etc.). And just as that’s all true for the larger community, so too is it true for the bi+ (plus) community.
We tend to be more isolated than gays and lesbians (partly because we have lower coming out rates), but the resources that you can take advantage of by being connected to a network of fellow not-straight-not-gay folks are considerable. Help finding the right doctor; getting the documents you need for this procedure or that hearing; crowdfunding; bi+ (plus) affirming lawyers, therapists, educators, and other professionals to connect you to knowledge; and offers to help with applying for various government benefits are all actions I’ve either witnessed or experienced first-hand in the community, either from individual bi+ (plus) people or the organizations and support groups that we have.
While we don’t have the reach, clout, notoriety, or funding that many of the larger LGBTQIA2S+ (plus) organizations have (which often don’t cater directly to bi+ [plus] needs), we do what we can. Get connected to find answers to your sexual health questions, sound relationship advice, and where to get cheap or free services and products. You can find us just about everywhere: websites, social media, and even some in-person support groups.
TAKE A LOOK, IT’S IN A BOOK (OR ONLINE)
Like advice, there’s also a lot of terrible sex education out there. But there is also a lot of good, from reputable websites, organizations, and experts of various kinds. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cites the World Health Organization’s (WHO) definition of sexual health as, “a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction, or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination, and violence.”
Another great, economical, accessible way to take charge of your own health is to be (and stay) informed about how your body works, what’s normalfor your body to be doing (or secreting or smelling like), ways to practice safe(r) sex, building healthy relationships, and resources to escape toxic and abusive ones.
When you can sift the lies of society and the media from the scientific truth, you can boost your confidence in short- and long-term relationships, improve your overall health, and better target your lingering questions and needs when reaching out to your chosen fam for extra help.
Keep in mind that, while useful, many of the more prominent organizations and health professionals have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to bi+ (plus) identities, gender and disability (and many other intersections). Some of the language and information you encounter may be “casually” bi+ (plus) antagonistic, ableist, cissexist, erasive of non-binary people, and/or lack information that is relevant to asexual, aromantic, and intersex people. It’s [messed] up, but there are a few more inclusive resources out there. And much of the stuff that’s not is definitely still important. Engage with it as you’re able (and let’s all continue to advocate for more inclusive, competent healthcare and education).
There are plenty of overall health and sexual health articles out there for queer and trans folks. There are even some specifically for bi+ (plus) folks; I know because I was interviewed for one. But I hope that this unconventional list becomes a health resource for those who often have many obstacles to accessing more common sexual health advice, especially those of us living most on the margins. I hope you’re empowered to reclaim your agency, even in the small ways, because they can and do make a difference to a healthier, happier you and, by extension, and healthier, happier bi+ (plus) community.