Unless we do more to help support bisexual people, they will continue struggle with their mental health. 

By Vaneet Mehta

Mental health is a big topic within the LGBTQ+ community. We are more likely to struggle with depression and anxiety, as well as self-harm, eating disorders, and suicidal thoughts. This has been proven again and again in studies across the globe. The burden of coming out and facing heteronormative bias and discrimination can be painful. Being out and proud can be a constant battle against ever present homophobia.

However, a topic not often discussed is the differences between various groups under the rainbow umbrella. I will touch on just one of these: the divide between bisexual people and their gay and lesbian counterparts. 

Some people often think that bisexual people have it easy. Bisexual is often seen as a combination of gay and straight rather than a sexuality in its own right. Bisexuals are often told that we have “straight passing privilege” and that we can hide in the straight part of our identity, thereby going unnoticed and avoiding the same abuse that gay and lesbian people face.

Let’s be clear, this is not how bisexuality works. We aren’t a combination of any other identities, but have our own, which is no less queer that of gay men or lesbians. Bisexual people experience the same homophobic abuse that gay or lesbian people face, with all the same slurs thrown at us. This abuse doesn’t stop when we tell people we’re bisexual. We don’t get half the abuse or half the beatings.

On top of this, we also experience biphobia and bi-erasure. In fact, the idea that bisexual is a combination of gay and straight is an example of bi-erasure. We often have our whole identity called into question. We never find ourselves portrayed in media and, when we are, it often features negatives tropes and stereotypes, such as being villainous or promiscuous. People avoid dating us as they see us as cheaters, or fetishise us, asking if we want to partake in a threesome.

We don’t have anywhere to go as LGBTQ+ spaces are often just as negative for us as wider society. We are often excluded from the conversation, shunned out of spaces and erased. As a bisexual, it’s hard to find a safe space to exist in. We find ourselves caught between two worlds, with neither of them wanting our presence.

This, perhaps, may be the reason why bisexual people are shown to have worse mental health than their gay and lesbian counterparts. Stonewall published a report in 2018 on the health of LGBTQ+ people in Britain. In this report, the statistics are broken down by sexuality, which revealed the differences between bi people and gay and lesbian people.

On the topic of anxiety, it could be seen that bi women and bi men were more likely to have experienced anxiety than lesbians and gay men respectively. On the topic of suicidal thoughts and self-harm, it was seen that both bisexual women and bisexual men were more likely to have issues in this area than gay men or lesbians. In all cases, bisexual women came out worse off than any other demographic. And this gap between bisexual people and gay and lesbian people can be seen on a global scale, with similar results found in the US.

We cannot talk on the topic of mental health without involving bisexual people in the conversation who, as we can plainly see, are more likely to struggle. The inequalities that bisexual people face, from society as a whole but also within the LGBTQ+ community must be addressed. We cannot claim our spaces to be safe when they are not serving the whole community, especially those most vulnerable. Unless we do more to help support bisexual people, they will continue struggle with their mental health. 

So what can we do to help change this? Well, we can do exactly that, support bisexual people. We can highlight the differences within the community by breaking the statistics down by sexuality. We can form campaigns that specifically target bisexual people, ensuring that visibility. We can involve bisexual people in the conversation, giving them a platform where they can share their struggles. We can assist bisexual communities with funding and resources to help them build up their support networks. And lastly, we can educate ourselves on the struggles of being bisexual and stand up for bisexual people within the community, ensuring they feel included. 

You can read more from Vaneet on his blog about the bi experience.


What Next?

Support

LGBT Foundation in Manchester and London Friend both offer online support and counselling for LGBTQ+ people.

Switchboard is an LGBTQ+ helpline and its volunteers are also there to listen. 

The OutLife Forums are a non-judgemental LGBTQ+ space where you can talk to other people like you. 

You can read more from Vaneet on his blog