How many bisexuals do you know? You know what? I bet you know more than you think! (Yes, even if you are yourself.) See, research shows that bisexuals make up a larger percentage of the total LGBT population than gays or lesbians! In June 2013, The Pew Research Center reported that bisexuals make up 40% of the total LGBT population, though they also found that many more women identified as bisexual than men–see graph at right. And in 2010, a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, found that among all American adults, 3.1% self-identified as bisexual, compared to 2.5% as gay/lesbian. Yet bisexuals are surprisingly closeted! While over 70% of gay men and lesbians said they are out to most or all the important people in their life, only 28% of bisexuals are!
The invisibility of bisexuality has lots of negative impacts on the health and welfare of bisexual people. The San Francisco Human Rights Commission published one of the better studies on the subject in 2011, which found, among other things, that bisexual people experience greater likelihood of depression, poor health, and risky drinking than the broader population. These impacts are a result in part, of the pain of being not accepted. And that’s a pain I know well.
So why are bisexuals not visible? A lot of it has to do with biphobia, which drives people into the closet. Lucy took down a lot of these problematic myths, so I won’t repeat them all here. But I want to focus in particular on the problems we run into in the “performance” model we apply to sexual orientation. People are expected to “perform’ their sexual orientation by dating someone of the orientation they’re attracted to. And bisexuals by this model are assumed to need “one of each.” But this isn’t true!