15% Of People Consider Bisexuality An Illegitimate Orientation; Gays, Lesbians Hold Negativity As Well, Further Isolating Group

bisexuality
Fifteen percent of survey respondents — heterosexuals and homosexuals alike — felt that bisexuality wasn't a legitimate sexual orientation, calling bisexuals "confused" and "experimental." Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

 As gays and lesbians continue to struggle for equality in many parts of the country, with regards to marriage, and just plain acceptance, one other group may face even more pressure: bisexuals. That’s because they face scrutiny from not only heterosexual people, who believe that they could just be confused, but also from the gay community itself, and both groups stop short of considering bisexuality a legitimate sexual orientation — a form of ostracism that could eventually lead to various health problems.

The researchers found that 15 percent of 1,500 survey respondents felt that bisexuality was not considered a legitimate sexual orientation. Heterosexual men were three times as likely to say that bisexuality was not a legitimate orientation, while white women, lesbians, and gay and bisexual men reported less bias and prejudice toward bisexual people. Gays and lesbians were significantly more negative toward bisexuality than bisexuals, the researchers said, with bisexual men facing more stigma than women.

“Bisexual men and women face prejudice, stigma, and discrimination from both heterosexual and homosexual people,” Dr. Mackey Friedman, of the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health, said in a statement. “This can cause feelings of isolation and marginalization, which prior research has shown leads to higher substance use, depression, and risky sexual behavior. It also can result in lower rates of HIV testing and treatment.”

Attitudes On Bisexuality 

Dr. Friedman’s study initially asked hundreds of college-students what words came to mind when they thought about bisexuality. Their answers included “confused,” “different,” and “experimental,” which echoed the findings of a 2005 study asserting that bisexuality is an illusion, according to LiveScience. That study tested supposed bisexuals’ levels of arousal with genital sensors while watching both male and female pornography, and found that each individual showed greater arousal when seeing only one type of sex.

“I’m not denying that bisexual behavior exists,” Michael Bailey, a psychologist at Northwestern University and senior author of the study, said at the time, according to LiveScience. “But I am saying that in men there’s no hint that true bisexual arousal exists.”

A few years later, the same researchers studied more bisexual males, albeit with stricter criteria for their selection, and reversed their previous conclusion after finding that the men were aroused by both types of sex equally. Although they still believed that some of their previous findings were true, they said it was because bisexual men could have different levels of arousal toward different sexes.

The Effects Of Isolating Bisexuals 

Dr. Friedman’s findings support the reasons why many bisexuals feel like they have to be secretive about their orientation. This can lead them to feel socially isolated and unable to speak openly with people who are close to them, “something that can lead to higher depression and many other negative health outcomes,” he said in the statement.

Depression is caused by a range of different factors, but trauma, loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, or any stressful circumstance can also trigger depressive episodes, according to the National Institutes of Health. Being depressed can also lead to a number of other health problems, including eating disorders, insomnia, fatigue, headaches, and suicide. For these reasons, depression was just considered by the World Health Organization as one of the leading causes of disability worldwide.  

Dr. Friedman’s study, which was presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association in Boston was accompanied by another study on bisexuals, which found that their HIV rates were closer to those of male heterosexuals than male homosexuals. As a result, the researchers called for federal agencies to conduct separate investigations regarding the prevalence of HIV among bisexuals — statistics are currently combined with those of homosexuals.

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