Proudly bisexual: Evan Rachel Wood
It’s the second annual Bisexual Awareness Week, and a number of organisations are using the event to highlight issues affecting the bisexual community.
BiWeek takes place from September 20th to the 26th, with the 23rd being the the 16th annual ‘Celebrate Bisexuality Day.’
It is estimated that bisexual people make up 52% of the LGB community in the US, yet they are often forgotten, not taken seriously or ridiculed.
One of the enduring myths about bisexuality is that bisexual people are unable to be faithful to one partner and must always be sexually involved with men and women at the same time.
Bisexualweek.com also points out that bisexuals are part of the LGBT community, regardless of their current relationship status.
For example, media coverage of Angelina Jolie has frequently characterised her as a supporter or ally of the LGBT movement. Jolie is actually a bisexual woman who has been out for years. The fact that she married a different-sex partner (Brad Pitt) does not change that she is part of the LGBT community, not an ally or supporter.
Ahead of the week, openly bisexual Hollywood actress Evan Rachel Wood, (True Blood, The Wrestler), tweeted several times about the issues facing the bisexual community, including her own experiences.
“The reality is that bisexual people face discrimination not only outside of our community, but also from within,” said the star. “Bisexual people are the largest single group within the LGBT community, yet we are hardly recognised.”
Wood explained: “I have battled with myself most of my life because I wasn’t gay or straight enough. I used to think I would never be happy. #biphobia”
“I had to go through the same panic and shame and depression a lot of people in the LGBT community go through – but when I came out a new found shame took over. Bi-shame. Feeling like people are judging you all over again but for different reasons,” she said.
Wood quoted from a new report by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, which reveals a disturbing gap between the health of bisexual people and those of the rest of the population – including gay men and lesbians.
It cites studies that show that bisexuals face elevated rates of poor health outcomes ranging from cancer and heart disease, to obesity, sexually-transmitted infections and mental health issues.
For example: Bisexual women have higher rates of cancer than the general population of women, higher rates of heart disease and obesity than heterosexual women, and are more likely than all other women to suffer from mental and emotional stress;
Bisexual adults have double the rate of depression than heterosexual adults, higher rates of binge drinking, and are more likely to engage in self-harming behaviour, including attempting suicide;
Bisexual men are also less likely than gay or heterosexual men to get tested for HIV, leading them to be disproportionately affected by the infection.
The report calls on healthcare providers to use inclusive forms and paperwork, and to avoid making assumptions about a patient’s gender identity or sexual orientation. It also urges bisexual people to seek out culturally competent healthcare providers and to be honest about their bisexuality.
“Bisexual Awareness Week is a wonderful tool to increase the visibility of an often overlooked community,” commented Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO and President of LGBT media lobby group, GLAAD. “By taking time to focus on issues that this community faces, we can further accelerate acceptance of bisexuality.”
Faith Cheltenham, President of BiNet USA, said that bisexual people “are often rendered invisible in the media and public spheres.”
“In a world increasingly acknowledging the complexity of human sexuality, including bisexuality and sexual fluidity, BiNet USA is thrilled to support a national conversation that accelerates the cultural acceptance of our community.”
Wood concluded her tweets on a more inspiring note: “It’s ok. We do exist. Don’t let anyone make you feel unworthy. No one knows your journey but you. #BisexualAwareness”