“Judgments that Silence, Stereotypes that Shame, and Assumptions that Erase”

In 1979 at San Francisco State University, I taught a student-initiated course in Bisexuality, perhaps the first in the nation.

Thirty-two years later, bisexuals remain nearly as invisible as we were then.  For instance, did you know that multiple surveys have found that bisexuals make up the largest group under the LGBT umbrella?  A 2010 nationally representative probability sample (the most reliable type of study for this kind of data) found that 3.1% identified as bisexual, compared to 2.5% who identified as lesbian or gay.  Women are more likely to identify as bisexual than men are, and younger people are far more likely to claim a bisexual (or “fluid” or “non-monosexual”) identity.  That same study found that 4.9% of “adolescents” identified as bisexual, compared to 1% who identified as lesbian or gay.  Looking at attractions rather than sexual orientation identities, another national study found that about 13% of women and 6% of men reported attractions to both women and men.

Contrary to the common myth that bisexuals have the “best of both worlds,” a slowly growing set of studies are showing that bisexuals actually have it worse than lesbians and gay men.  For instance, here’s the data on people who have seriously considered or attempted suicide:

Bi women:                          45.4%

Lesbian/gay women:      29.5%

Heterosexual women      9.6%

Bi men:                                 34.8%

Gay men:                            25.2%

Heterosexual men:           7.4%

Bisexuals even earn less than everyone else.  A California study calculated the following:

Gay men                              earned 2-3% less than straight men

Lesbians                               earned 2.7% less than straight men

Bisexual men:                    earned 10-15% less than straight men

Bisexual women:             earned nearly 11% less than straight men

Older bisexuals are even more invisible than their younger counterparts; despite many attempts, the LGBT Aging Issues Network of the American Society on Aging was able to identify few works that specifically looked at aging bisexuals, and even the new 41-page report, “Bisexual Invisibility: Impacts and Recommendations,” issued this year by the San Francisco Human Rights Commission LGBT Advisory Committee and from which the above data is drawn, only devoted 2 short paragraphs to bisexual older adults.

Interestingly, one factoid in the report is especially relevant to a blog named “Gray Pride Parade”:  the originator of “Gay Pride Parades,” Brenda Howard, was a bisexual woman.  Want to know more?  Check out the report at http://www.sf-hrc.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=989

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