Better Bi Healthcare

Bi Health Awareness

Many of us will have seen reports about bisexual people’s health in recent years from ‘The Bisexuality Report’ (M. Barker et al, 2011) to ‘Complicated? – Bisexual people’s experiences of & ideas for improving services’ (Equality Network 2015).

We know that often when bi people’s health issues are highlighted they are grouped within wider LGBT health needs. Many reports tell us that bisexual people most frequently have mental health problems and bi men and women are less likely than lesbians and gay men to be out to their family, friends, colleagues, GP and mental health professionals, which has clear implications for developing services that are inclusive.

Stonewall’s research into the health needs of lesbian and bisexual women, ‘Prescription for Change’ found that 66 % of respondents are not out to their GP or other healthcare professionals (compared to 46 % of lesbians). Similarly the Gay & Bisexual Men’s Health Survey suggests that 6 in 10 bisexual men are not out to their GP or healthcare professional (compared to 3 in 10 gay men).

So what can we do about this?
LGBT Foundation have been funded until 2019 to help Greater Manchester’s primary care services ensure that they can deliver ‘excellence in lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans healthcare’ but what does that mean for bi folks?

Bisexual and LGT people have told LGBT Foundation that it is important for them to trust their GP and be able to be open about their sexual orientation and gender identity with health professionals. They also add that it’s important to be able to have access to a GP that recognises, understands and acts upon individual needs in a holistic and person-centred way.

Pride in Practice is a quality assurance service that works in partnership with clinicians, Practice Managers and GP Practice staff to enable them to better meet the needs of their LGBT patients. The programme also works with dentists, pharmacists and optometrists throughout Greater Manchester
LGBT Foundation also works with community members to find shared solutions to barriers LGBT people face, ensuring patient voice and lived experiences are at the centre of Pride in Practice. The involvement of community members on Pride in Practice has only just begun but already responses from the bi community have included the following comments.

Bi people’s experiences of using GP services
(On sexual orientation monitoring) “Even if asked there is often not a bisexual option.”
“GP asked me if getting married meant I’d ‘made up my mind’.”
“I was told I was greedy by a GP for being Bi even though I’ve been with my partner for five and a half years and we are due to get married”
“I’d like service providers’ staff/volunteers to be able to recognise biphobia and to stop it and know why it is important to stop it.

Bisexual inclusion by GP services
“It’s in my notes that I’m bisexual. My GP, practice manager and consultant all treat me with respect”
“I came out as Bi to my GP after ten years and she was really supportive and understanding.”
“I want people to understand that bisexuality is real, it’s not just people ‘too scared to be gay’, or ‘who can’t make up their minds’. I want people to accept my feelings as valid.”

How can we improve things?
It’s all about visibility of course so if you feel comfortable and confident to be ‘Out’ with your health care provider then you are helping yourself and others to educate the health service. If your provider assumes that you only have relationships with people of one gender, let them know you are bisexual and remind them against making assumptions. If you experience barriers when accessing healthcare services, let others know about this. If you don’t want to challenge health organisations directly you can contact LGBT Foundation who need your feedback to help further their work in this area.

What should healthcare providers be doing?
Along with not making assumptions about a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation providers can and should ensure that all documents relating to their patients is inclusive of bisexual people by making sure they are delivering sexual orientation monitoring in the correct way. It isn’t always appropriate to discuss a person’s sex life but if you are talking to your doctor or other professional about sexual health matters they should feel confident in asking you about the kind of sex you are having and it’s up to you how much info you want to share so they can help inform you about sexual health matters.

Find out more
If you would like to share your experiences to help educate health professionals on the real experiences of bisexual people in healthcare get in touch with LGBT Foundation. Any stories you share can be made anonymous and really can help health professionals to understand the real issues our communities are facing.

Andrew Gilliver, Pride in Practice/Community Involvement Coordinator