A new report previewed Monday at the White House in a groundbreaking policy meeting found that while more than half of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community identifies as bisexual, bisexual people experience alarming rates of invisibility, societal rejection, violence, discrimination, and poor physical and mental health – often at rates higher than their lesbian and gay peers.
Invisible Majority: The Disparities Facing Bisexual People and How to Remedy Them examines the “invisible majority” of the LGBT community, the nearly five million adults in the U.S. who identify as bisexual and the millions more who have sexual or romantic attraction to or contact with people of more than one gender. The report shows how bias, stigma, discrimination, and invisibility combine to create serious negative outcomes for bisexual people, and it provides concrete recommendations for change.
The report was authored by the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) in partnership with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, BiNet USA, Bisexual Organizing Project, Bi Queer Alliance Chicago, Bisexual Resource Center, Center for Culture, Sexuality, and Spirituality, Los Angeles Bi Task Force, National Black Justice Coalition, National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, and the National LGBTQ Task Force. It is available at lgbtmap.org/invisible-
“Bisexual people account for half of the LGBT population, yet they are often isolated and overlooked,” said Ineke Mushovic, executive director of the Movement Advancement Project. “As a result, bisexual people experience pervasive bias and discrimination and lower rates of social acceptance, which in turn means fewer bisexual people feel comfortable being openly bisexual.”
There are More Bisexual People Than Lesbian and Gay People
- People who identify as bisexual comprise more than half of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people in the United States (52%).
- Analysis of the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) found that 5.5% of women and 2% of men identify as bisexual.
- Furthermore, 8% of male adult respondents to the NSFG and almost 20% of female respondents said they were not attracted only to the opposite sex. Among respondents to the NHIS who identified as heterosexual, 13% of women and 3% of men reported having had same-sex sexual contact.
- Analysis of the 2014 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System found that people of color are more likely to identify as bisexual, compared to their white counterparts. Men of color comprised 27% of heterosexual male respondents, but 35% of male bisexual respondents. Among women, women of color comprised 36% of bisexual women, compared to 26% of heterosexual women.
“Bisexual people’s sexuality is often invisible in broader society as we are frequently assumed to be gay, lesbian, or heterosexual based on the gender of our partner,” said Faith Cheltenham, president of BiNet USA. “Yet when bisexual people are open about our sexuality, we face increased levels of violence from intimate partners; rejection by our communities, families, and peers; and skepticism from the people and organizations to whom we turn for help, resources, and services.”
Bisexual People Experience Pervasive Bias and Higher Rates of Discrimination and Violence
Lack of societal recognition and acceptance: A recent study of bias towards bisexual men and women revealed that 14% of Americans felt that bisexuality was not a legitimate sexual orientation. Only 20% of bisexual people say that there is social acceptance of LGB people where they live, compared to 31% of lesbians and 39% of gay men. Only 28% of bisexual people say that all or most of the important people in their life know they are bisexual, compared to 77% of gay men and 71% of lesbians.
Employment Discrimination: In a study of the employment discrimination experiences of bisexual people, nearly two-thirds of respondents reported experiencing some form of harassment or discrimination at work, including being fired, being sexually harassed, or hearing biphobic jokes at work. The Pew Research Center found that only 11% of bisexual respondents reported their closest co-workers know that they are bisexual, while half of gay men and lesbians say that their co-workers know their sexual orientation.
Violence: A 2013 CDC report found that 61% of bisexual women and 37% of bisexual men reported experiencing rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime. The same study found that 46% of bisexual women had been raped, as had as 17% of heterosexual women and 13% of lesbian women.
Suicide: Bisexual youth and adults have poorer mental health and higher self-reported rates of suicidal ideation and behavior than gay, lesbian, and heterosexual youth and adults. Nearly a quarter of bisexual adults reported having attempted suicide, four times the rate of heterosexual adults. Lesbian and gay adults were more than twice as likely to report having attempted suicide as heterosexual adults.
“Research shows that bisexual people face discrimination from both heterosexual people and gay and lesbian people” said Kate Estrop, co-president of the Bisexual Resource Center. “This results in a wide array of disparities, especially impacting bisexual people’s physical and mental health. It is time to recognize the unique needs of bisexual people.”
This report serves as a clarion call to policymakers and service providers across the country: in order to fully serve the LGBT community, they must also fully serve the bisexual community.
Founded in 2006, the Movement Advancement Project is an independent think tank that provides rigorous research, insight and analysis that help speed equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Learn more at lgbtmap.org.