September 24, 2015
With the choice available to not come out as bi—which some may see as a privilege—many people find the line between staying true to oneself and keeping clear of conflict blurry and impassible.When I first started dating my husband Adam, he had just broken up with a woman. It was my first time dating someone bisexual, and I was filled with doubt and confusion as to whether this could work. Would he leave me for a woman eventually? How would I feel if he found a woman attractive, out in public? Did he eventually want to have children through old-fashioned procreation? Eventually, I overcame my fears as exactly that – fears, not truths. Unfortunately, much of society, including the lesbian and gay community, still struggle with those same fears and misunderstandings about bisexual people. For example, many still believe that bisexual people are either confused, in denial, or hiding their “real” sexual orientation. That lack of acknowledgment of the legitimacy and authenticity of bisexual identities, unfortunately, can also have real, negative consequences. For example, bi adults are six times more likely than gay and lesbian adults to hide their sexual orientation. Bisexual individuals struggle with the burden of “passing” in either the gay or straight communities. With the choice available to not come out as bi—which some may see as a privilege—many people find the line between staying true to oneself and keeping clear of conflict blurry and impassible. Robyn Ochs, speaker, writer and bi activist, explains, “Many people privately identify as bisexual but, to avoid conflict and preserve their ties to a treasured community, choose to identify publicly as lesbian, gay, or straight or to stay silent, allowing others to presume that they do, further contributing to bisexual invisibility.” Given how important being supported in coming out is for one’s emotional and physical wellbeing, it is no wonder that the bisexual population fares so much worse than the lesbian and gay population, on a number of factors. A study done by the Movement Advancement Project in 2014 revealed that 25 percent of bisexual men and 30 percent of bisexual women live in poverty, as opposed to 20 percent and 23 percent of gay men and women respectively. Bisexual people have greater health disparities, including higher rates of hypertension, smoking, and risky drinking than lesbians, gay men, and straight people. More worryingly, these same bi adults are twice as likely than gay and lesbian adults to attempt suicide (and four times more likely than straight individuals). Such disparities do not happen by chance or accident. Instead, we need further research and data to understand better why this specific segment of our community is falling behind, and what policy changes are needed to improve the situation – especially as more young, queer people are identifying as bisexual, pansexual, or omnisexual. When I first told my mom about Adam, I explained to her that he was bisexual, thinking that might make it easier for her to accept us as a couple. All it did was confuse her even more. When she and Adam first met, she started to ask him questions about himself, to get to know him better. I gave them some space to have their separate conversation in the kitchen and walked out to the living room – within earshot of course! My mom started with the usual questions about his family, but then started heading in a different direction. Soon, she was asking Adam why, if he was bisexual, would he choose to be with a man instead of woman. Wouldn’t it be so much easier to just be straight? I held my breath for Adam’s answer. He replied: “Because I fell in love with your son.” For her, that was all she needed to hear in order to understand. And for an LGBT community connected by the common thread of wanting to live authentic and honest lives, including in the very personal decision of who we love, shouldn’t that be enough?