In this post, Rosie from the PAPYRUS West Midlands team explores some of the challenges that impact on bi+ people’s mental health, what has helped their own mental health, and how we can all be better allies to bi+ people.
What does bi+ mean?
Bi+ is an umbrella term which describes those who experience romantic and/or sexual attraction to more than one gender. There are lots of terms under this umbrella including, but not limited to bisexual, pansexual and queer. Despite making up a large proportion of the LGBTQ+ community, we often don’t discuss biphobia or talk about the specific challenges that bi+ people can experience.
Why do we need to discuss biphobia and bierasure?
In its 2018 report LGBT in Britain – Health Report leading LGBT+ charity, Stonewall, found that bi+ people are more likely to experience mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. Bi+ people are also more likely to experience self-harm, and report feelings of life not being “worth living”.
LGBTQ+ people are far more likely to experience intimate partner and sexual violence than non-LGBT people, and bi+ people experience higher rates of abuse and violence than monosexual people. Biphobia and harmful stereotypes can also result in challenges in accessing sources of support.
Being able to be open about our sexual orientation and/or gender identity in a supportive environment can be really beneficial for our mental health and wellbeing. However, Stonewall’s LGBT in Britain – Bi Report found that bi+ people are much less likely to be out with friends and family, at work and when accessing medical care. This unfortunately means that bi+ people are more likely to feel isolated and less able to access support and appropriate healthcare – including mental healthcare.
What are some of the things that can support our mental health as bi+ people?
Join community groups
It’s important to acknowledge that joining a new group can be scary, but spending time with people who understand some of the challenges that we experience, and being in a space where we can be our true selves, can be really helpful and empowering. Bi Community News has a super handy list of local groups across the country, here.
There are also lots of online groups on social media platforms that we can join, if we don’t feel ready to join a group in person yet. Lots of the above groups will be meeting online during Covid restrictions, which, for some people, might feel less daunting for the first few times. We can also read the BiPhoria’s Guide to Getting Bi In A Gay/Straight World.
Use social media in a positive way
Following social media accounts that are bi-positive can be great for our mental health as it can help us to feel validated and valued for who we are. Some great examples of groups to follow are: Biphoria, BiFocal, Bis of Colour, Bi Cymru, Still Bisexual and the Bisexual Index. There are lots more!
When we see harmful content online, it can be so tempting to engage with it even when we know it will cause us distress. Instead of reading and engaging with the comments that we know are going to be hurtful, reporting them and stepping away to practise some self-care or chat to a safe friend will usually be much better for our wellbeing and safety.
Take some time to figure out what matters to you
What is important to me? What soothes me? What energises me? Are there new ways that I’d like to express or affirm my sexuality and/or gender identity? Whose support might I need to do that? These are just a few questions that we can ask ourselves when figuring out what good self-care looks like to us.
How can others be good allies to bi+ people?
Bi+ people are often questioned, disbelieved or scrutinised when they tell people about their identity. One of the simplest but most important ways to be a good ally is to believe bi+ people about their own identity. When meeting new people, or even people we’ve known a while, it’s also important to not assume who they are, or aren’t, attracted to, based on the relationships we know about. Take their lead when it comes to the language they use.
Unfortunately, biphobia is very common. We might notice a misinformed comment, or witness direct harassment or abuse. If we recognise this, we should challenge it (if we’re safe to do so), and support other allies when they do.
Include and celebrate us!
We know how important being mindful of our language is when we think about stigmatising language, but what about inclusive language? When we use phrases like “gay pride”, when talking about the whole LGBTQIA+ community, we can make lots of people feel excluded and invisible. In the 2020 Stonewall Bi report, 43% of bi respondents reported that they had never attended LGBT spaces. This shows how important it is to make sure that any LGBTQIA+ events or spaces we run are explicitly bi-inclusive. We can show our support for our bi+ friends and family by celebrating events like Bi Visibility Day and sharing bi-positive content on social media. We can let them know that we support and care about them and every aspect of their identity.
At PAPYRUS, we know how important it is to be listened to and validated. If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, or are concerned that someone you know might be, please call HOPELINE247 on 0800 068 4141, text 07860 039967 or email email@example.com. Our suicide prevention advisers are available from 9am to midnight, every day of the year.