Researchers Need to Acknowledge Bi Men's Unique Needs
By Lewis Oakley
November 04, 2016
Photo credit: unsplash/Efe Kurnaz
I'm a factual man and coming into my bisexuality I wanted to know the hard statistics; how likely is it that I'll end up with a man or a woman? How likely is it that I'll suffer depression? How likely is it that I'll catch an STI?
From my endless Googling, I realized one disturbing trend: hardly any research differentiated between gay and bisexual men.
The truth is bisexuality is hardly ever specifically examined, and if we bis do get a shout out we are looked at under the same scope as gay men. In short, bi people are just cannon fodder unworthy of the time or money to have research specifically looking at our issues.
The most disturbing thing about all this is that a lot of this research comes from LGBTI groups and official health organizations. If LGBTI groups don't see the difference between gay and bi men, then what is the point of them? If they think that it is ethical and helpful to look at the subgroups through the same lens, what effect will this approach have on the people they are supposed to be protecting?
From looking at the findings, I was appalled. What are young bi people really supposed to learn from the research they are putting out?
Here are some of the headlines generated from the research that I'm encouraged to take note of as a bi man:
Young gay and bisexual men more likely to attempt suicide - The London School of
Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and Stonewall
Why it's unhelpful: Am I just as likely to attempt suicide as a gay person or is there a difference? Are gay men suicidal because people keep telling their partner that their relationship is a phase too? The truth is other than having sex with men, gay and bisexual men don't actually have much in common. Not only am I subjected to biphobia but I'm also subjected to homophobia when I date men. How pushed for time was Stonewall that they didn't realize gay and bisexual men may be facing different challenges.
STIs in gay and bisexual men on the rise - Public Health England (PHE)
Why it's unhelpful: Gay men only have sex with men, whereas bi men have sex with both men and women. How can you not assess these two sexualities separately when looking at SEXUALLY transmitted diseases? Should I interpret this as discreet homophobia? What you're basically telling the bi people here is men on men sex is risky, so stick to women.
Warnings as HIV infections among gay and bisexual men reach record high - Public Health England
Why it's stupid: Again: the sex lives of gay and bi men are completely different! No wonder HIV is at a record high when public health bodies continue to believe that gay and bi men have identical sexual encounters.
A Third of gay and bisexual men took illegal drugs last year - Crime Survey of England and Wales has found.
Why it's unhelpful: Let's just glide right on past people being more likely to break the law because of their sexuality, how is this actually supposed to help me as a bi person? Are the gays a bad influence on us? Or are we a bad influence on them? Do you have to be high to have sex with a man?
47% of gay and bisexual men admit to bareback sex - New York's Community Healthcare Network (CHN)
Why it's unhelpful: What's a bi guy supposed to understand from this? Is it just men that are having unprotected sex with men or is it women as well? Are bi guys more likely to use a condom with one or the other? How can researchers continue to generalize with regard to two groups with completely different sex lives?
The truth is, all of this research is commissioned to benefit gay men. Don't get me wrong. I'm certainly not suggesting that bi issues are more important than gay issues, simply that they are different issues that both deserve the same amount of respect. The problem is when LGBTI groups and health organizations keep adding "and bisexual" to the mix to try and pass themselves off as inclusive.
This is dangerous. If LGBTI and health organizations are failing to tell the difference between gay and bisexual men, they are failing one of the very subgroups they are sworn to protect.
What's more, bi people are a far bigger percentage of the population than gay people. (YouGov: Out of British 18-24 year olds 6% Identify as gay and 43% as not gay or straight- 2015). If this entire population is being ignored, what are we missing? What issues aren't coming to light? If we don't know about the problems facing bi people, we can't hope to solve them.
The truth is: other than having sex with men, gay and bi guys don't have much in common. The discrimination we face is different. There are entire issues that don't correlate to the issues gay men face.
Although the American Institute of Bisexuality (AIB) has recently been financing studies about bisexuality, it is unacceptable that so many LGBTI groups completely ignore the 'B' in LGBTI. I hope that in the future, LGBT organizations and health bodies come to realize that there is a difference between gay and bisexual men. I hope that researchers will understand that lumping them together to create shocking statistics is not only lazy and unethical but it is also dangerous!
Do you think more research on bi people is needed? Tweet me at @lewyoaks