Different for Bis
Twenty years ago most research into bi people’s lives was lumped in with gay and lesbian people’s data to produce figures on “LGB” experience – often terming it gay or “lesbian & gay” and erasing our bi identities entirely.
That’s changed in recent years though. Organisations like BiBlio helped bring academics working on bisexuality together and enabled researchers to have dialogue with activists and ordinary bisexual people about the impacts bad or bi-erasing research had on peoples lives.
As a result research into sexuality increasingly separates out the L, the G and the B, and as a result we are learning how bi experience really differs from that of our gay and lesbian friends.
BCN editor Jen Yockney MBE says: “In the 1980s and 1990s there was a popular idea that bisexuality was a kind of ‘gay lite’ with a lesser experience of discrimination and marginalisation than that experienced by lesbians and gay men. It was sometimes termed having ‘straight privilege’ – the idea that because bi people could be wrongly perceived as straight if they were in mixed-gender relationships.
“As researchers have started to separate out the figures that idea has been turned on its head – bi people often experience things like greater health challenges or lower income compared to both straight and gay people.”
Here are some statistics from researchers who have looked at how it is different for bis.
- Koh and Ross (2006): Bisexual women were more likely to have tried to lose weight, or to have had an eating disorder, than were either lesbians or heterosexual women.
- ONS (UK, 2017): Bis experience higher rates of anxiety than both gay and straight people. Here.
- UBC (Canada – 2016) also reports higher rates of anxiety and mood disorders. Here.
- ONS (UK, 2015): Bis are more likely to be smokers – if they live in Wales or England. Here. This finds that while 18.8% of straight people smoke, that rises to 27.9% of gay women and 30.5% of bi women; and to 23.2% of gay men and 26.1% of bi men.
- 40% of bisexual men and 29% of bisexual women are not out to anyone when seeking medical care (compared to 19% of LGBT people as a whole). Source: LGBT in Britain. Health Report. 2018. Here.
- Being Out:
- YouGov (UK, 2018): 30% of bi men and 8% of bi women say they cannot be out to any of their friends about their sexual orientation. (versus 2% of gay men, 1% of lesbians). Here.
- At work, bis are less likely to either see bi role models in the workplace (compared to lesbians and gay men’s recognition of gay role models) and are less likely to feel included. Here.
- Stonewall (UK, 2018): 1 in 3 bi pupils are bullied over sexuality, and 3 in 4 have not learned about bisexuality in school. Here.
- Bi Spotting:
- GLAAD (USA, 2017) report a major age difference in how likely people are to know a bisexual person. And across all age band they are much less likely to know a bi person than a gay or lesbian person. Here.
- How many people are bisexual (and how does that compare with lesbian / gay)
- ONS (UK) figures vary from year to year but it seems to be about 1% according to their methods. Take this report from 2017 here.
- In the USA the Williamson Institute found bi people make up 52% of the LGB population.
- Experience of domestic violence and abuse
- 12% of bisexual men and 7% of gay men had experienced domestic abuse from a partner in the previous year. (2018. LGBT in Britain. Home and Communities. Stonewall and YouGov. Here)
Sometimes all we have are the figures for the wider queer community, and no bi specific research.
Here are some stats on LGB or LGBT life that do not separate out bi data but also are likely to reflect how bi experience is different from that of straight people:
- LGB people are 4 to 7 times more likely than straight people to be the victims of ‘revenge porn’. Here.