Understanding and Addressing Health Disparities for Bisexual People

Bisexual individuals represent the largest subgroup within the LGBTQ+ community, yet our needs are often overlooked. This causes significant health disparities across all aspects of our health and wellbeing, from physical to mental and emotional. This blog talks about the unique challenges bisexual people face and how we can take action, with our allies, for better health.

March 11, 2024
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Bisexual individuals represent the largest subgroup within the LGBTQ+ community, yet our needs are often overlooked. This causes significant health disparities across all aspects of our health and wellbeing, from physical to mental and emotional. This blog talks about the unique challenges bisexual people face and how we can take action, with our allies, for better health.

Why Do Bisexual People Have Poorer Health?

Lack of access to affirming providers, discrimination, social stigma, and the impact all these have on the care we receive, or if we receive preventive care and illness treatment at all, are all factors that impact our health outcomes.

The health disparities we experience as bisexual people stem from a complex interplay of societal, environmental, and individual factors. As bi individuals, we often encounter biphobia and bisexual erasure, both within and outside LGBTQ+ communities, leading to a sense of isolation and invisibility. These experiences can contribute to stress (particularly a form of stress known as minority stress), anxiety, and other mental health challenges, which in turn impact our physical health. 

The lack of bisexual-specific research and resources (such as funding for research) further exacerbates these disparities, leaving the unique needs of bisexual individuals unaddressed in mainstream healthcare settings. Moreover, the dual stigma associated with both our sexual orientation and any health issues we then face can deter bisexual people from seeking care, receiving timely diagnoses, and accessing effective treatments.

Additionally, social determinants of health, such as income inequality, lack of access to education, and social stigma, significantly contribute to the health disparities our community faces. These factors can lead to increased stress, limited access to healthcare resources, and a higher risk of experiencing health issues, underscoring the need for a holistic approach to address the health needs of our bisexual community.

What Are the Health Disparities Bisexual People Face?

Physical Health Disparities

Research indicates that bisexual adults are more prone to a range of health issues compared to our heterosexual counterparts. These are just some examples that illustrate how wide reaching the challenges are. For instance, we face higher rates of high cholesterol, asthma, smoking, and alcohol use. Bisexual women face a higher prevalence of all cancers, including breast cancer, as well as heart disease. These disparities are partly due to a lack of preventative care, with bisexual women less likely to receive routine mammograms or HPV screenings.

Bisexual men are at increased risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) compared to heterosexual men, and bisexual women are at increased risk for STIs compared to both lesbians and heterosexual women. Stigma and lack of knowledge associated with sexual practices and sexual health for bisexual people can have a significant impact on the care we seek and receive.

Mental Health Disparities

The mental health landscape for bisexual individuals is equally concerning. We report double the rate of depression and higher tendencies towards binge drinking, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts compared to heterosexual, lesbian, or gay individuals. This heightened risk stems from pervasive biphobia, leading to double discrimination and a profound sense of invisibility within both the heterosexual and LGBTQ+ communities.

Navigating Healthcare

Negative healthcare experiences, such as discrimination or biphobia, can deter bisexual individuals from seeking timely medical attention. A substantial percentage of bisexual people report discomfort in disclosing their sexual orientation to healthcare providers, which can lead to inadequate care and a reliance on less reliable health information sources.

Many of us do not have trusted providers we can go to with concerns, and some of us avoid care for months or even years as a result.

What We Can Do

As Bisexual Individuals

As bisexual people, we can take proactive steps to improve our healthcare experiences. Seeking out culturally competent healthcare providers, being open about our sexual practices when we feel safe, and advocating for ourselves in medical settings can significantly enhance the quality of care we receive. We know this is all easier said than done!

It can be challenging to find affirming clinicians, but databases like Bisexuality-Aware Professionals Directory and The LGBTQ+ Healthcare Directory are good places to look. Many people in our community also find affirming providers by asking our friends, or in online forums like Reddit. If you’re a FOLX member, you have a community of affirming providers right here, as well as a network of affirming referrals across the country for any care you might need.

Once we’ve found a provider we trust, it's important to share openly about our health histories and any current concerns or symptoms we might have. We might also have to get up to date on vaccines or screenings if it’s been a while since we’ve gotten care. A judgment-free provider will help champion you through this process rather than shame you for where you’ve been.

If you’re feeling nervous before a doctor’s appointment, bringing a trusted friend to support you can help. Writing notes ahead of time and during the visit can also help you remember what you want to discuss and any next steps. You can also ask your clinician to document anything you might need to remember in your After Visit Summary.

Remember, any previous negative experiences with healthcare were not your fault, and you deserve supportive care from providers you can trust. 

How Allies and Organizations Can Help

Allies, organizations, and healthcare professionals play a crucial role in supporting the bisexual community. Inclusive language, awareness of bisexual-specific health disparities, and advocating for more inclusive research and healthcare practices are vital steps in fostering a more supportive environment.

Other ways organizations can support bisexual employees:

  • Ensure you have LGBTQIA+ inclusive benefits, and that they specifically address the needs of the bisexual community
  • Seek bisexual representation for Pride programming or other events
  • Provide ongoing education and training for all staff on bisexual inclusivity and the unique challenges faced by bisexual individuals
  • Establish support networks or employee resource groups within the organization that focus on bisexual employees' well-being, offering a safe space for sharing experiences and discussing specific needs
  • Conduct regular reviews of workplace policies and practices to ensure they are inclusive of all members of the LGBTQIA+ community
  • Use the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index benchmarks to set standards within your organization

FOLX's Commitment to Bisexual Health

At FOLX, we are dedicated to serving the bisexual community with tailored healthcare solutions that acknowledge and address these disparities. Our approach is rooted in inclusivity, understanding, and a commitment to providing healthcare on your own terms.

Our clinicians have on average a decade of dedicated expertise in serving the LGBTQIA+ community, and we are committed to providing judgment-free care, no matter how you identify.

In addition to expert clinical care, FOLX members get:

  • A community of support via the FOLX Community Platform
  • Referrals and resources for affirming providers nationwide
  • Content, events, and courses designed just for you
  • A platform to easily book appointments, get refills, and manage your care
  • Messaging with your care team, whenever you need it

To become a FOLX member, sign up here.

FOLX Health is the first digital healthcare company designed by and for the LGBTQIA+ community. Our services include virtual primary care, gender-affirming hormone therapy including estrogen and testosterone (HRT), mental health care, sexual and reproductive health care, preventive care, and fertility consultations. FOLX memberships give you access to LGBTQIA+ expert clinicians, peer support, thousands of LGBTQIA+ resources, and more. Whether you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, gender non-conforming, or nonbinary, you can find LGBTQIA+-specialized health care that helps you meet your wellness goals. FOLX Health is health care that's queer all year. Get all the benefits of becoming a FOLX member and sign up today!

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