Five things you need to know about bisexuality

Bisexual Awareness Week (#BiWeek) is an annual commemoration of the identity, history and rights of what’s often dubbed the LGBT community’s largest (and least visible) group.

The week runs from 16 till 23 September, culminating in Celebrate Bisexuality+ Day on the 23rd.

To mark this important occasion, here are some Bi+ facts and insights you might not be aware of.

1. It’s a common misconception that people who identify as bisexual are only interested in the binary genders of male and female.

Bisexuality is now accepted as an encompassing term for people with the capacity to be attracted to more than one gender, including non-binary people, says the Bisexual Resource Centre. The bi+ community includes anyone who identifies as bisexual, pansexual, fluid, queer, other labels, or even no label at all.

2. Bisexuals may make up the largest portion of the LGBT+ community.

A 2013 Pew Research Center study found that of the LGBT+ community, 40% identified as bisexual, 36% identified as gay men, 19% identified as lesbian women, and 5% as transgender. A 2015 report by YouGov.uk, a British research organisation, found that 43% of 18-24 year olds and 29% of 25-39 year olds identified as bisexual. In South Africa, OUT’s 2016 Love Not Hate report on hate crimes against LGBT people found that 12.3% of the LGBT+ community self-identifed as bisexual, but this is likely to be a considerable under-representation.

3. Bisexual people face stigma from outside and within the LGBT+ community.

Bisexual identity is regularly dismissed as a phase, a kind of hypersexuality or an inability to conform to either heterosexuality or homosexuality. Bisexual people are often seen as suspicious, confused, untrustworthy or simply unwilling to come out as gay.

4. There’s the common false belief that all bisexual people seek to have simultaneous relationships with partners of different genders.

While this may well be the case for some (just like many heterosexual people have multiple partners or have consensual poly-relationships) bisexual individuals are equally capable of being in monogamous relationships if they choose to do so.

5. All of these misconceptions and stigma can lead bisexual people fearing being open about their identity and can ultimately significantly impact on their mental health and well-being.

Bisexual people commonly report higher levels of physical and mental health disparities, sexual and domestic violence, and poverty than gays and lesbians. A 2018 UK report, for example, found that bisexual individuals are the least likely to be out in the workplace, and numerous studies have indicated that bisexual people have considerably higher rates of suicidal thoughts and attempts compared to straight and gay and lesbian people.

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