, Julie Ebin, Marshall Miller, and Leona Bessonova put together the 2007 National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Bisexual Health Report, which every bi/pan/queer person should read and get into the hands of healthcare professionals. Your own doctor may need to understand the health risks for sexually fluid people and how to be culturally competent in addressing them.
The report is substantial. However, suppose you want to tell someone in a New York minute why bisexual health is so important. One solution is Amy Andre's Elevator Speech on Bisexual Health; information that you can pass on in the time it takes to ride an elevator.
According to the CDC National Survey on Family Growth, of the sexual identities "lesbian," "gay," and "bisexual" (queer, pansexual, etc., were not measured for*), bisexual identification amounted to 50% of respondents. That means of that nationally half of all LGB are bisexual.
When broken down among men and women, there are twice as many gay identified men as bi identified men and twice as many bi identified women as lesbian identified women. Graph that and it sort of looks like a peace sign.
In earlier presentation, André noted that transgender people were simply filed under men or women. Transgenders have as much trouble as bisexuals in getting researchers and funders of health research to separate out populations and specify research for their particular group. The push was on at the LGBTI Health Summit to get researchers and government agencies to distinctly include transgender people in large population studies. Bi and trans people can't make a very good case for their needs without data.
So, people with fluid sexuality are 50% of LGB queers. That's the end of the "surprising news" portion. The bad news is that in all the factors that are measured for health risk, bisexuals show the greatest risk, over straight people and lesbians and gay men. So in all these areas, bisexuals are at worst risk:
- Substance Abuse
- Heart Disease
- Violence, Domestic Violence, and Sexual Abuse
Okay, breathe. Remember that having bad news is better than no news at all and is definitely better than flying blind, thinking that your problems are just your individual fault. Homophobia and biphobia have worked their worst on us. Now that we can look at its impact on us in a quantifiable way, we can face it.
So that low grade depression you've been feeling? Or the worry you feel about whether you'll be accepted or understood for being bi? That doesn't just happen all in your head, without any significant meaning for the rest of your life. It can hurt you. It can really, physically hurt you. If you are bisexual, pansexual, queer, or a person of fluid sexuality and you feel isolated and without community support, take the initiative to find support.
Mike Szymanski and Nicole Kristal, who co-authored A Bisexual's Guide to the Universe,
gave the best advice. If you're bi, you're going to need to get out and meet lots and lots of bi friends, as well as bi-supportive straight, lesbian, gay, and transgender friends. Here's where I put in a plug about building community for fluid sexuality folks. Virtual online communities are not communities, even if they do help in the short term. We need to see and be around fluid sexuality folks and the people who love and accept us.
Being surrounded by toxic, homophobic/biphobic people is bad for your health! Take the initiative to either drop them out of your life or limit your contact with them as much as possible. You have every reason to promote a healthier environment for yourself.
I urge all bi/pan/queer people everywhere to come out--largely for my own selfish reasons. I don't want to be out here alone, doing this kind of work. I need plenty of partners in crime. But I also recognize that people have to work within their own social and psychological parameters for safety and security.
Come out as you can, as you see fit. Keep pushing the parameters so that you don't stagnate in unhealthy, dangerous isolation. Work as you are able "behind the scenes" if that's what you can do. In the words of Will Rogers, "Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."
Now, here is a little clip of Amy Andre from last year, when she curated "Bi Request," a program of short films by and for bisexuals, for Frameline's LGBTQ film fest in San Francisco. Notice how she squeezes bisexual health information in between talk about the film fest and Lindsay Lohan.
*The survey question was, "Do you think of yourself as Heterosexual, Homosexual, Bisexual, or Something Else?" Not brought up at the Summit was the fact that "Something Else" was nearly twice as large as "Bisexual."
UPDATE: my friend and fellow Chicagoan, Yasmin Nair, has written an article with more complete coverage of the 1st session of the Bi Health Summit. Check it out.