Bisexual erasure is real and it impacts our health.
As a bisexual woman, I see how our experiences are made invisible. Within the mainstream gay and lesbian movements, our workplace, and among our friends and family (“Seeing any cute boys recently?”). Even after I came out six months ago, it seems like most people still assume I’m straight, or that my sexuality is simply a cover for another sexual identity.
I find the same experiences happen within the doctor’s office. I’m rarely asked about the sex I’m having, and when I do seek sexual health care services, it’s assumed that I am straight. I’m fortunate that I’m able to see a doctor in the first place – a higher proportion of LGBTQ folks are not covered by health insurance compared to heterosexual people. I’m still not out to my therapist as I’m always afraid that she will judge me or not understand my concerns. My experience with my therapist isn’t abnormal, either. Doctors are rarely trained about issues around bisexuality or LGBTQ+ health overall.
One particular study from 2007 suggests that there are worse health outcomes, especially mental health outcomes, for bisexual women compared to both lesbian and straight women. Challenges like self-harm, eating disorders, and depression were found more likely to be faced by bisexual women. From my own experience, there is a lack of support for bisexual women throughout the queer community, including our transfeminine sisters and siblings. If our own folks won’t be there for us, who will?
March is National Women’s History Month, and also rings in the 6th anniversary of President Obama signing the Affordable Health Care Act into law. I’ve watched the ACA expand coverage to more and more people, especially young people. However, we need to work to uphold and expand health care in the US for marginalized folks, including mental health care for our LGBTQ+ community. We can’t leave bisexual women’s experiences out of the picture of health care expansion any longer, and they need to be taken into account when looking at healthcare reform and expansion.