Here’s Why So Many Bisexuals Stay in the Closet: Other Queer People
In a profile of Dr. Brian Dodge, a lead researcher on bisexuality and the health disparities they face, the doctor revealed that “the vast majority” of biphobia he has faced comes from gay and lesbian people. A few other studies also suggest this sort of biphobia and discrimination contributes to bisexual people staying in the closet even though they outnumber gays and lesbians.
Numerous studies have pointed out that bisexual people tend to have worse health outcomes than gay, lesbian or straight people, but fewer people realize that bisexuals tend to stay closeted more often than gays or lesbians.
A 2013 Pew survey found that bisexual people come out at rates three times less often than gay men, have four times fewer LGBTQ-identified friends than gay men and report higher levels of societal mistrust than gay men. They also reported feeling lower levels of social acceptance and progress in favor of their sexual identity.
There are several reasons for this. First, not all bisexual people self-identify as such, making it harder to come out as a less familiar, more fluid term (like pansexual or heteroflexible) rather than “just” gay or straight.
Second, 80% of bisexual people end up in different-sex relationships, meaning that their bisexuality remains somewhat outwardly hidden, reducing the social pressure for them to come out.
But third, and most troubling, qualitative research suggests that bisexuals also stay closeted because of the discrimination they face from other queer people.
A 2015 survey of 745 bisexuals found they experience discrimination from heterosexual people nearly as often as they experience it from gay people. And a 2010 study found that, as a result, bisexuals face a unique “double stigma” from both heterosexuals and homosexuals who repeat “narratives of indeterminacy, confusion and deceit, wherein bisexual persons are cast as being unable to choose their identity or, worse, lying about their ‘true’ identity.”
Researchers have called this biphobia double stigma a form of “monosexism” — prejudice against those who are attracted to more than one gender — and they say it’s “qualitatively different” from what gays and lesbians face, adding that it “likely takes a psychic toll” on bisexual people.
As a result, the 2010 study found that self-identifying bisexual people report almost double the rates of mental illness than self-identifying gay, lesbian or heterosexual people.
Tangela Roberts, the lead researcher from the 2015 study mentioned above, says it’s well past time to discuss gay biphobia within our community. “This is the thing that isn’t talked about,” Roberts said, “It’s like airing out the dirty laundry of the supposed ‘LGBT community.’ It’s saying, ‘Look, we haven’t been acting like this community that we’re supposed to be, and we need to do something about that.’”
What do you think of biphobia within the queer community? Sound off in the comments.
This article was originally published on October 19, 2020. It has since been updated.