LGBT

More People Are Identifying As Bisexual, National Survey Shows

CREDIT: Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

Amandla Stenberg seen at Los Angeles Premiere of Lionsgate's "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2." On Friday, she came out as bisexual.

More people consider themselves bisexual, according to a national survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released Thursday.

The survey included more than 9,000 Americans between the ages of 18 and 44 and interviews took place between 2011 and 2013. The survey found that for both men and women, more people are identifying as bisexual.

The number of women identifying as bisexual increased from 3.9 percent, as recorded by the CDC its survey conducted between 2006 and 2010, to 5.5 percent. The number of men identifying as bisexual increased from 1.2 percent to 2 percent. More women also reported having sexual experiences with other women, at 17.4 percent of those surveyed versus 14.3 percent of those surveyed between 2006 and 2010.

Casey E. Copen, said people should be aware of the fact that women were given more opportunities to report sexual experiences, which may have affected the difference between men and women’s reporting of same-sex sexual experiences. It’s also important to point out that bi men and bi women face different biases and social judgments for being bisexual, and that people’s sexual behavior and who they’re attracted to are two different things.

Both young women and men between the ages of 18 and 24 were less likely to say they were only attracted to the opposite sex compared to people between the ages of 25 to 44.

More celebrities, especially women, are identifying as bisexual. Celebrities such as Anna Paquin, Cara Delevingne, Evan Rachel Wood, Margaret Cho, Azealia Banks, and Megan Mullally have discussed their bisexuality in interviews, with actress and activist Amandla Stenberg being the latest celebrity to come out. There is still a tendency for celebrities who say they aren’t exclusively attracted to one gender to say they aren’t seeking a label. Some advocates for greater visibility of bisexual people say that by avoiding the word, significant harm is being done to the bi community.

There is a reason people attracted to more than one gender find it challenging to come out as bisexual or why they may choose not to embrace the word, whether they believe it does not represent their sexuality accurately or feel pressured not to identify because they fear negative stereotypes and assumptions from both straight and lesbian and gay communities. They often experience stigmas about their sexuality, such as being confused and going through a stage or are promiscuous. When Stenberg spoke about her bisexuality through a Snapchat video, she said, “It’s deeply bruising to fight against your identity and mold yourself into shapes you just shouldn’t be in. As someone who identifies as a black, bisexual woman, I’ve been though it, and it hurts.”

Unfortunately, many straight people, as well as those in gay and lesbian communities still doubt that bisexuality exists. A 2013 study by University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health found that heterosexual men were three times more likely to think bisexual is not an actual sexual orientation, straight women, gay men and lesbians also held negative views. Although they were less likely to hold prejudice against bi people, people identifying as gay or lesbian still held significantly less positive views of bisexuality than bisexual people. The study, which found that study participants often used the words “confused,” “different” and “experimental” to describe bi people, noted that bisexual men in particular suffer from stigmas about their sexuality.

It’s easy to see why negative stereotypes and assumptions about bisexuality, including the idea that bisexuality doesn’t even exist, continue when you recognize there are very few bisexual television characters. GLAAD’s 2013 report on LGBT visibility in media, show that out of 66 regular or recurring LGBT characters on cable television, 35 are gay men, 16 are lesbians, 10 are bisexual women, and only four are bisexual men. And although people may identify as bisexual privately, that doesn’t mean their friends and family are aware. In a 2015 Pew Research Poll, only 28 percent of the bisexual people surveyed, most of whom were women, said they were out to all or most of the important people in their lives.

Unfortunately, these assumptions about bisexual people can have real health outcomes. According to a 2012 Human Rights Campaign survey, bisexual youth were also less likely to have certain social supports in place when they were feeling sad compared to gay and lesbian youth.

That may be why bisexual women also have higher rates of substance abuse and eating disorders. Bisexual women have double the rate of eating disorders compared to gay women and have higher rates of alcohol use, heavy drinking, and alcohol-related problems than gay or straight women. Possibly out of fear of experiencing stigma, 33 percent of bisexual women and 39 percent of bisexual men did not disclose their sexual orientation to their health care provider, while only 13 percent of gay men and 10 percent of gay women did not disclose their sexual orientation according to 2012 study by the Williams Institute.

Negative attitudes about bisexual people don’t end in the doctor’s office. According to a 2014 report released by the Movement Advancement Project, an independent think tank focusing on LGBT issues, the majority of bisexual people surveyed, 60 percent, said they heard biphobic comments or jokes.