This is a excerpt from my book Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution. If you like this text, please consider buying a copy.
Okay, so I know I haven’t posted anything of my own in a while, so I thought that instead of a short little snippet, I’d post something more substantial. This is still from my book, taken from the chapter about biphobia and monosexism. It’s my review of the Bisexual Invisibility report and why it’s so fucking important. I was going to do a blog post about this for a very long time anyway, so this is a good opportunity.
[Fair warning: it might make your blood boil or otherwise invoke violent urges, like punching biphobia in the face and breaking down monosexism]
After you read this, please contemplate why the fuck ##$@^*&(*(^!!!1 so many of us keep talking about stereotypes and other shallow symptoms instead of addressing the real issues.
The Bisexual Invisibility Report
Published in March 2011, the Bisexual Invisibility report (perhaps more aptly called “the bisexual erasure report” or the “monosexism report”*) is the first report about bisexuality to have been released by a government body in the US. Without a doubt, this is one of the most important texts to have ever been published about bisexuals. Its importance cannot be overstated, as this is one of the only published texts today addressing the material results of monosexism and biphobia on the lives of bisexual people. And just as this report is important, the content thereof is both saddening and infuriating. I’ve gathered a few of the report’s findings, in hopes to shed light on these material effects. In this, I seek to further stress my argument that monosexism is a widespread oppressive system influencing bisexual people in many walks of life.
* I generally oppose the form “bisexual invisibility”, as I believe that “invisibility” is not a trait inherent to bisexuality, but is rather actively socially constructed by bisexual erasure.
Some facts about bisexual health:
- Bisexual people experience greater health disparities than the broader population, including a greater likelihood of suffering from depression and other mood or anxiety disorders.
- Bisexuals report higher rates of hypertension, poor or fair physical health, smoking, and risky drinking than heterosexuals or lesbians/gays.
- Many, if not most, bisexual people don’t come out to their healthcare providers. This means they are getting incomplete information (for example, about safer sex practices).
- Most HIV and STI prevention programs don’t […] address the [specific] health needs of bisexuals, much less those [who have sex with people of more than one gender] but do not identify as bisexual.
- Bisexual women in relationships with monosexual partners have an increased rate of domestic violence compared to women in other demographic categories.
The report states a wide-scale research performed between the years 2003-2007 in which the researchers looked at health disparities between lesbians and bisexual women, and found that:
- Bisexual women showed significantly higher rates of poor general health and frequent mental distress, even after controlling for confounding variables.
- Bisexual women were more likely to be current smokers and acute drinkers.
Some facts about bisexual mental health:
The researchers in the above survey also compared between the frequency of mental distress for lesbians and bisexual women in urban and nonurban environments. They’ve found that whereas “[i]n nonurban areas, lesbians and bisexual women experience similar levels of frequent mental distress, the odds of frequent mental distress decrease significantly for lesbians in urban areas, while [becoming] nearly double for bisexual women” (emphasis in original). The researchers theorize that the reason for this is that gay and lesbian communities are more well-organized in urban areas, contributing to the isolation of bisexual people who experience rejection while seeking support, once outside of their home communities.
Another disturbing fact is that bisexuals are far likelier to feel suicidal than heterosexuals, gays and lesbians. One Canadian research found that whereas 9.6% of straight women and 29.5% of lesbian women reported feeling suicidal, suicidality among bisexual women was found to be as high as 45.4%. As for men, whereas 7.4% of straights and 25.2% of gays reported suicidality, bisexuals who reported suicidality made up 34.8% of the respondents. (Unfortunately, this research does not differentiate between cisgender and transgender people, and leaves out people of non-binary genders).
Another research, this time in Britain, found that young and middle-aged bisexual adults reported poorer mental health than any other sexual orientation group examined. The researchers even go as far as saying that “[p]revious studies may have overstated the risk of mental health problems for homosexuals by grouping them together with bisexuals.”
Some facts about bisexual poverty and economic oppression:
The wide-scale health research which I mentioned above also found some disturbing information about bisexual poverty:
- Bisexual women had significantly lower levels of education, were more likely to be living with income below 200% of the federal poverty level, and had more children living in the household.
- Bisexual women were significantly less likely to have health insurance coverage and more likely to experience financial barriers to receiving healthcare services.
Another research, this time in California found that “while gay men earned 2-3% less than straight men and lesbians 2.7% less, bisexual men earned 10-15% less and bisexual women nearly 11% less.”
A 2009 study about poverty analyzed data from three surveys, and found that “bisexual women are more than twice as likely as lesbians to live in poverty (17.7% compared to 7.8%), and bisexual men are over 50% more likely to live in poverty than gay men (9.7% compared to 6.2%)” (emphasis in original).
Another form of economic oppression which the report identifies is lack of funding: in years 2008 and 2009, out of over 200 million dollars given by US foundations to LGBT organizations as grants, not a single dollar in all the country went towards funding bisexual-specific organizations or projects. This “LGBT” money did not “trickle down” to bisexuals, either: a survey conducted by the editors of the report, found that most LGBT organizations in San Francisco (who were willing to reply to a survey about bisexuality) do not offer content that is targeted specifically towards bisexuals. This is added by another finding: that whereas bisexual people make up the single largest group among LGBT’s, “only 3-20% of the people accessing LGBT-focused services are bisexual.”
When looking at this information, it becomes clear beyond doubt that deep, severe and wide-scale oppression of bisexuals exists. A huge part of this oppression, of course, is enabled as result of bisexual erasure and of monosexism – the social presumption that we all are or should be monosexual. This information sheds light on the social punishment system working on people who disobey society’s monosexual rule. Bisexual erasure contributes to this oppression since bisexuality is not acknowledged as a sexual identity, bisexuals are not acknowledged as a group, and meaning that uniquely bisexual issues likewise undergo erasure. The information in this report points both to the lack (not to mention disprivilege) and to the great need of addressing and acting on/against issues specifically related to bisexuals, biphobia and monosexism.
30 thoughts on “Snippet #4: The bisexual invisibility report”
Not sure how a blogger from England is all by herself “the American bisexual movement.”
In case this wasn’t clear, I was highlighting a phenomenon and not a single blog post (or indeed a blogger). Feel free to run a google, wordpress, tumblr, facebook, youtube, or really anything search about “biphobia” to check the validity of my claim.
It appears that you have edited the line I was objecting to, in which you criticized the “American bisexual movement” but linked to a blog written by an unaffiliated blogger who lives in England. Thank you for changing that part of your post. As an out bi woman, I am familiar with biphobia, and am glad you are raising the issue.
Shiri, hi. Whenever traffic is up on my site, I can be assured that yet again you have found time to highlight that one blog post I wrote on myths, berate it and link to it. Thanks for that…. always good to know people are reading about bisexual issues, no matter how they get directed to whatever information and opinion pieces are out there.
Yes, you are right, the Bisexual Invisibility report is enormously important. And just for your information, I was one of the first to write about the report for the “I Am Visible” campaign and am proud of my small role in helping to bring the report to international attention. Also, on other posts on my Suburban Bi blog, I have highlighted bisexual health, welfare, life expectancy, suicide, rape, alienation and other important issues bisexuals face worldwide.
I don’t say any of this to pat myself on the back, but to address your comment above about how we should all “contemplate why the fuck ##$@^*&(*(^!!!1 so many of us keep talking about stereotypes and other shallow symptoms instead of addressing the real issues.” Maybe this will help you realise more people are talking about what you call the real issues than you necessarily know of. And that people can use their blogs, books and other media to address various issues over time.
The myths you deride as a waste of time to speak of and not ‘real issues’ are also very much real issues for many people. They form much of the background to the health, suicide, welfare, rape, alienation and other issues faced by bisexual people. I for one do not now, nor will I ever, apologise for writing about them.
I’m glad that I can direct new people to your blog, as I’m sure that a lot of what you write there is incredibly important. The traffic comes from the same post, by the way, not a new one (I simply linked it here). Also, as I already mentioned on the comment above and several times before, in no way did I mean to scapegoat you, but to point to a broad phenomenon. In fact, if you’d like me to remove your name and the link from the post, do feel free to ask.
My opinion remains the same about stereotypes and myth busting: reinforcing the notion that we’re “actually normal” isn’t fighting biphobia, but rather something more like a form of bi assimilationism. It does more to harm than benefit us, making bisexuals capitulate to social norms and throwing overboard everyone who doesn’t meet the standard.
Thanks for the offer, Shiri. But no, please don’t remove or delete anything. I forget who said “There is no such thing as bad publicity,” but I think it’s true in the case of raising awareness and enhancing intelligent discussion about bisexual issues. While we will have to respectfully agree to disagree on the myth-busting/normality issue, I think it would be a bad thing to elide disagreement on these issues. It can only be healthy to debate.
I feel that I am “actually normal” and there is nothing remarkable about my being bi. It’s just my nature. By being an out bi woman I can help shatter the stereotypes about us, by showing that I am no different from straight or gay/lesbian people, other than, I have no gender preference in a partner or lover. I’m not assimilating, I’m integrating.
That might be the case for you, and I respect that. But what of the many, many people who don’t fit in the standard of the “normal bisexual”, or indeed the “good bisexual”? Some of us are sluts (read: sexually independent women), some of us are just experimenting, some of us like women only sexually, some like to have threesomes and perform bisexuality for men, some are AIDS and STI carriers, some don’t practice safer sex, some of us are indecisive and confused, some of us cheat on our partners, some of us do *choose* to be bi, and many many more things that the “myth busting” tries to cast off – and those are just the ones who are *openly* derided by the myth-busting. Bi people of color, bi trans and genderqueer people, bi sex workers, bi homeless people, bi working class people, bi disabled people and many many more bisexual groups are at best neglected by the bi movement if not outright rejected. Are all of those to mire behind while the beautiful, the good and the right run ahead?
A struggle for bisexual rights should be a struggle for *everyone’s* rights, and if the bisexual movement focuses its efforts only on the tiny group of people who do fit the standard, then something is very wrong indeed.
Then nothing is wrong with my approach, thank you.
Thanks for the post. I’m a bisexual woman in a queer/ LGBT activist group planning campaigns to challenge homophobia and transphobia. When someone mentioned a possible campaign against biphobia, I queried whether we’re ready for it yet. Am I a bad bisexual suffering from internalised biphobia? i’ll post this blog link to the qroup for yet another discussion topic as we work towards queering the world :-)
Thanks. I really hope it would help. Good luck with your project!
I think the greatest issue around this is no matter which gender we are involved with, whether we are bisexual male or female our lives are immediately invalidated and erased in one way or the other. When we love someone and that love is invalidated or we are told that love is “not real” great harm is done. Love and involvement with a significant other changes us. Every man and woman I have loved has taught me how to love more and they have also taught me how to love myself more. To have those relationships seen as a denial when all of my relationships have shaped who I am and how I love seems the ultimate sacrilidge. As love is sacred. Here in America with the Baily report and then the Rosenthal report the love and passion I felt is put under scrutinity as if I was walking under a cloud of denial. It takes a great deal of courage and enlightenment to transcend gender and to just love. Love all we can. In my experience is a great deal of grief. I love a woman now and she has loved both men and women. Are we queer cop outs? No we have learned to love through our queerness and that is one of the great values of being bisexually queer: to learn to love without boundaries.
“Every man and woman I have loved has taught me how to love more and they have also taught me how to love myself more. To have those relationships seen as a denial when all of my relationships have shaped who I am and how I love seems the ultimate [sacrilege].”
Neither my current girlfriend nor my ex-boyfriend were able to fully understand this, though she is starting to, I think.
I like your blog but you should change your layout. Reading white on black is very difficult and creates a ghost effect with the eyes. Even making the font huge, I still get the ghosting effect. Whereas I can read black-on-white text normally if I look at white-on-black I see a sort of double vision and it is a fairly common phenomenon. Make your blog more accessible by putting dark-on-light.