Being a member of the LGBT community, while coming with its upsides (such as Pride and community spirit) also has plenty of downsides too (abuse, persecution and the denial of human rights). And its these downsides that have a massive impact on the LGBT community as the trauma and pressure of being ‘othered’ in society often leads to mental health issues.
This is particularly the case for bisexual women who have to deal with this as well as prejudice and abuse from within the LGBT community too. According to new research published in the Journal of Public Health and put together by The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, there is a far greater likelihood that bisexual women will have mental health issues than lesbians.
After looking at the data from the 2007 Stonewall Women’s Health Survey (which included responses from 5,706 bisexual and lesbian women living in the UK) they deemed that bisexual women are a third more likely to self-harm, two-thirds more likely to have an eating disorder, more likely to stay in the closet and are more likely to face discrimination from their peer groups too.
Dr Ford Hickson, the senior study author explains:
“Bisexual people are at particular risk of invisibility and marginalisation from both gay/lesbian communities and mainstream society. Although bisexual women in our study reported experiencing less sexuality-based discrimination than lesbians, this did not benefit their mental health.
Mental health services should be aware of both the differences and the similarities in bisexual and lesbian women’s mental health care needs, and tailor the services they provide accordingly.”
The treatment of bisexual people within the LGBT community is something that’s often put up for debate. It’s not uncommon for people to ask when a bisexual is just going to ‘pick a side’ or to be treated differently by lesbians because they like two genders rather than one. And this is a viewpoint unfortunately supported in modern pop culture in shows like Glee and Faking It which have both featured gay characters saying they would refuse to date bisexuals and in shows like The L Word in which Alice’s bisexuality was a running joke for the better part of six seasons.
Lisa Colledge, the Research Assistant for the study, added that
“Homophobic prejudice is now widely and rightly condemned; specific stigma around bisexual identity needs to be similarly confronted.”
Many people are likely to agree with that as they would feel that no one – gay or bisexual – deserves mistreatment. With anti-bisexual viewpoints heavily embedded in society this will take a lot of effort to turn around, but hopefully the publishing of this study is a stepping stone on the path to better mental health.