This month marks Bisexual Health Awareness Month, and with striking rates of poor health outcomes, the Human Rights Campaign encourages bi+ individuals to come out to their doctor.
Robyn Ochs, editor of Bi Women Quarterly, spoke to HRC about how fear is one of the leading factors as to why many bi+ people don’t disclose their sexuality with healthcare professionals.
“I am part of a community that faces serious health disparities,” Ochs said. “To this day, I fear that when I come out to them as bi, people will see me differently, that they will perceive me in a negative light and that their stereotypes about my bisexuality will become the only thing they see and an obstacle to our interactions.”
It appears many others hold this fear, as rates of disclosing information about sexual orientation are lower among bisexual men and women than gay men and lesbians. 39 percent of bi men reported not disclosing this information, compared to only 13 percent of gay men, and 33 percent of bi women didn’t disclose, compared to 10 percent of lesbians.
Because of this fear of coming out, bisexual people face health disparities. Bisexual men are less likely to come out and get tested for HIV for fear of biphobia, causing the demographic to be “disproportionately affected by HIV,” according to HRC’s Health Disparities Among Bisexual People brief. Bisexual youth were also the least likely to report feeling very happy, with only 5 percent saying they were compared to 8 percent of LG youth and 21 percent of non-LGBTQ youth.
Bisexual women also face higher rates of emotional stress as teenagers than heterosexual women, two times the rate of eating disorders as lesbians, and higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse than lesbian and straight women. Bi women who haven’t come out reported higher rates of contemplating suicide than heterosexual women.
Bi people also commonly face poor health conditions like cancer and obesity. Bi women in particular experience higher rates of cancer, heart diseases, obesity, and emotional stress than straight women.
Lauren Beach, an LGBTQ heath researcher at Northwestern University, told HRC that biphobia is “the biggest challenge to researching bi+ health issues.”
“Biphobia leads people to think that bisexual people either don’t exist or that bisexual populations do not experience health disparities,” Beach said.
HRC urges bisexual people to overcome the fear of biphobia and come out to their doctor by publishing a guide on how to do it. Opening up to your doctor can help address the disparities bisexual people face. You can also find a competent health care provider using HRC’s Healthcare Equality Index.
“If someone says they are bisexual, they are bisexual,” Beach said. “Being a true ally to bisexual people means that you should be ready to push back against biphobia, not only from straight people, but also from gay, lesbian, and other LGBTQ people.”