GLAAD Media Reference Guide - In Focus: Covering the Bisexual Community

Issues pertaining to the bisexual community are often under-reported or poorly reported by mainstream and LGBT media, leading many people who are bisexual to feel misunderstood, isolated and depressed. Multiple research studies have shown that people who identify as bisexual are more likely to binge drink, engage in self-harm, and have suicidal thoughts than gay, lesbian or heterosexual people.

A 2013 Pew Research Center report showed only 28% of bisexuals said most or all of the important people in their lives knew about their sexual orientation, compared to 71% of lesbians and 77% of gay men. Among bisexual men, only 12% said they were out to that degree. At work, only 11% of bisexual people polled by Pew said most of their closest coworkers knew about their sexual orientation, compared to 48% of gay men and 50% of lesbians.

According to the Los Angeles Times, bisexual people reported they "avoided coming out because they didn't want to deal with misconceptions that bisexuals were indecisive or incapable of monogamy — stereotypes that exist among straights, gays and lesbians alike."

By being more cognizant of the realities facing bisexual people, and by being careful about reporting on someone who identifies as bisexual, the media can help eliminate some of the misconceptions and damaging stereotypes bisexual people face on a daily basis.

Identify individuals accurately. If someone clearly states that they identify as bisexual, do not identify them as gay or lesbian instead. Simply because a person is currently in a same-sex relationship, that does not negate his or her bisexual orientation. Similarly, if a person is in what appears to be a heterosexual relationship, that also does not negate his or her bisexual orientation.

Identifying couples accurately. When writing about two people of the same sex in a relationship, consider referring to them as a same-sex couple. Do not assume they are a gay couple or a lesbian couple until you know for certain that both people in the couple identify as gay or lesbian.

It's not a phase or a deception. Do not imply that being bisexual is a phase and that bisexuals are "on their way" to being gay or lesbian. People who self-identify as bisexual are not confused, indecisive, or lying. Studies consistently show that bisexual is a distinct sexual orientation and not an experimental or transitional stage.

Bisexual does not mean promiscuous: A common stereotype is that bisexual people do not want to be, or cannot be, monogamous. This is simply not true. Bisexual people form monogamous relationships in the same percentages as heterosexual, gay, and lesbian people. It is inaccurate and harmful to imply that bisexual people are more promiscuous than others. Since the 1990s, there has been a tendency to blame promiscuous bisexual people for spreading HIV and other diseases to the "general population." This is a blatantly false and harmful stereotype.

Other terms you might hear: Some people who have the capacity to be attracted to people of any gender choose other words to describe their sexual orientation such as: pansexual, polysexual, omnisexual, fluid, or queer. Some people prefer to avoid any label at all. Given the lack of understanding of even the word bisexual, it's best to only use alternate words if someone specifically self-identifies that way and asks for their preferred term to be used.

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