Bisexuality and Health and Wellness

I have recently been appointed to the LGBTQ sub-committee of the Saanich Health and Wellness Committee in Greater Victoria, British Columbia. I am attempting to assist bisexual men and women in fitting in with our community. One of the things I have discovered is that we are not very vocal and not as well organized as the gay, lesbian, and transgender groups. There are a few scattered bisexual groups in the Greater Victoria area but there does not appear to be any concerted effort to identify problems and support one another with solutions (by my brief survey of other communities this appears to hold true around the world). What representation there is comes mostly from bisexual women. Men are clearly not visible, but then again that should come as no surprise. Yet, we do have major problems that should be addressed by the community.

Tari Hanneman, Deputy Director of the Health and Aging Program at the HRC Foundation, has stated, “Bisexual people are the largest single group within the LGBT community, but we’re not addressing their specific healthcare needs,”1 Hanneman’s study shows that bisexuals face elevated rates of poor health outcomes ranging from cancer and heart disease, to obesity, (all stress related) sexually-transmitted infections, and mental health issues. In addition:

 Bisexual adults have double the rate of depression than heterosexual adults, higher rates of binge drinking, and are more likely to engage in self-harming behavior, including attempting suicide;

 Bisexual women have higher rates of cancer than the general population of women, higher rates of heart disease and obesity than heterosexual women, and are more likely than all other women to suffer from mental and emotional stress;

 Bisexual men are less likely than gay or heterosexual men to get tested for HIV, leading them to be disproportionately affected by the infection; and bisexual people are less likely to be screened for the human papilloma virus (HPV), which can increase the risk of cancer in both men and women.

In her conclusion, she stated that the reality is that bisexual people face discrimination not only outside of the community, but also from within, and that the community often discourages bisexuals from engaging in and benefiting from the work that LGBT advocates are doing to address mental, physical, and sexual health. “Bisexual people often face outright discrimination when they come out in healthcare settings,” Hanneman said; “That can lead bisexual people to delay or avoid seeking care, or not disclose their identities to their providers. This can mean that medical professionals are not getting an accurate picture of what that patient’s sexual health needs are, or the mental or physical health concerns for which they may face heightened risk.”

The greatest risk to bisexual men, I believe, is in the area of mental health and suicide. It is very difficult to find information on bisexual men alone for obvious reasons; they do not like to disclose or take part in any scientific surveys; moreover, any attempts at suicide will not be attributed to their orientation. In a study by Paul et al, 2002, involving approximately three thousand gay and bisexual men, they discovered that twenty-one percent had made a suicide plan; 12% had attempted suicide (almost half of those 12% were multiple attempters). Most who attempted suicide made their first attempt before age 25. They concluded, “Gay and bisexual men are at elevated risk for suicide attempts, with such risk clustered earlier in life. Some risk factors were specific to being gay or bisexual in a hostile environment.”2 My personal belief is that bisexual men probably exceed these statistics by an additional two to five percent due to nondisclosure.

The saddest statistics are the ones that do not exist. We seldom talk about our problems and usually do not seek counselling from our friends and families, religious institutions, or community mental health institutions. The stresses build and build until we seek the final solution. Bisexual men are withdrawing into the shadows exposing their bodies to disease and their minds to stress and breakdown, and their lives to the hands of the dark executioner – their own tortured self. Time to stand up, I think, and be counted.

1. Lifter from http://www.bi-alliance.org Read More: http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.92.8.1338

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2. Jay P. Paul, Joseph Catania, Lance Pollack, Judith Moskowitz, Jesse Canchola, Thomas Mills, Diane Binson, and Ron Stall. Suicide Attempts Among Gay and Bisexual Men: Lifetime Prevalence and Antecedents. American Journal of Public Health: August 2002, Vol. 92, No. 8, pp. 1338-1345.
doi: 10.2105/AJPH.92.8.1338

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