Bisexual+ people need better healthcare. Here's why...

the voice and vision of a new generation

Bisexual+ people need better healthcare. Here's why...

March 30, 2018

2018 represents the fifth annual celebration of the Bisexual Heath Awareness Month, an online campaign focused on motivating the bisexual+ community to make changes to improve their health and inspire allies of the bi+ community to play an active role in improving the health of their bisexual friends, family, and community members. I love this month - but this year it completely snuck up on me.

I haven’t quite been keeping up with my calendar, and assignments have been whizzing by, only to be noticed just before the deadline. Showering and cleaning have taken a back seat, and I've only been able to spend time with a handful of people (usually spent drinking coffee or wine). I don’t go grocery shopping by myself unless it’s for my cat, and the intrusive thoughts are louder than the running to-do list in my head. My depression is winning, my anxiety is constant, and my eating disorder is just one bad scale reading away from becoming another nightmare. Don’t get me started on the literal nightmares I’ve been having for years -- trauma isn’t pretty, ya’ll.

Even in writing this piece I’ve struggled with executive dysfunction, unable to put words together or find any energy to actively sit and work on writing something that means so much to me. My life has been reduced to spurts of busy-work, sleep, and steeping in my own anxiety.

Everything listed above is exactly why I need Bisexual Health Awareness Month, and why I can’t let it slip by me more than it already has. The truth is, my story is not a rare one to hear when talking to people that identify as bisexual+. I am not part of a minority of bisexual+ people dealing with mental illness, eating disorders, or trauma. No part of my story is something that would be a statistical surprise to my community. Not my mental illness, not my eating disorder, not my trauma.

The bi+ community is filled with stories just like mine. In fact, over 70% of bi+ women share my experience of sexual assault. 56% of bi+ women and 37.7% of bi+ men share my experience of various forms of abuse in relationships. Bisexual+ girls are more likely to struggle with an eating disorder or other disorders than their lesbian and straight counterparts, and gay, bisexual, and pansexual boys are more likely to struggle with eating disorders than their straight counterparts.

Regarding mental illness, bi+ people are more likely to suffer from a mood or anxiety disorder, with shockingly high numbers of bi/pan identified youth reporting having contemplated and/or attempted suicide at some point in their life. Transgender bisexual+ people have even higher numbers than their cisgender counterparts, and the numbers remain drastically disproportionate when looking at bi+ POC, regardless of gender identity.

The worst part of all of this is not many people seem to legitimately care enough to try and help us through services or funding (outside of the actual members of the bi+ community). The bi+ community suffers from these disparities for concrete reasons - we are not accepted by a large portion of our straight and gay family and friends, we do not have the income or insurance to adequately seek treatment for our medical conditions, medical professionals are often unaware of how to approach bisexual patients regarding affirmation and treatment, and ultimately we have no resources that cater specifically to our struggles and needs.

Bisexual and pansexual people reporting abuse and sexual violence (especially in cases regarding feminized bodies) often have their sexuality used against them. Bisexuals seeking therapy run the risk of going to a therapist that does not believe in the legitimacy of non-monosexual orientations and who will, in turn, invalidate them and their experiences. With 33% of bi+ and pan-inclusive homes bringing in a household income of less than $30,000 a year, a third of us are unable to access the health care we need, often avoiding it all together. 32% of bi+ identified transgender people don’t get needed medical care, despite 42% of that same demographic reporting a disability.

We are also underserviced and underfunded. In 2015, bi/pan-specific projects and resources pulled in a grand total of $292,955, equating to less than 1% of the total funds received by LGBTQ+ specific grants that same year.

That is why #BHAM matters. It highlights the fact that while the bisexual+ community is LARGE (I’m serious, we make up 52% of the non-straight population in the United States), we are suffering drastically and getting no tailored assistance or funding. Yet once again, #BiHealthMonth is going to come and go, with the majority of people not batting an eye at the stats of my community, or the fact that we even exist in the first place.

Miles Joyner is a GLAAD Campus Ambassador and senior at the University of South Carolina where they are studying History. Miles is the creator of Miles the Bisexual and also leads a monthly Bi+ 101 class open to the public.

the voice and vision of a new generation