- We must all pull together and help the cause – by taking part.
Research is the roadmap that can lead us all to equality.
It highlights how the experience of different people compare to ‘the average person.’ It lets us know when certain sexualities, races or genders are more at risk of health problems, discrimination or poverty. Only then can we hope to solve those problems.
Sadly for bisexual people, research in to their lived experience is limited. That means the problems they face are less likely to improve.
There has always been a lack of research specifically about bisexual issues. Indeed, researchers often seem unable to identify unique issues impacting bisexuals to explore.
For example, there has been no research that has looked at condom use by bisexuals. As a result, we currently have no idea if bi people are more or less likely to use a condom with a man or a woman.
Bisexuals aren’t exactly like other LGBT+ people
Because we don’t explore those issues, it has a knock-on effect. In health, if we don’t know bisexual people are more at risk of certain things, we can’t hope to correct the problem.
We can’t educate bi people or even warn health workers what they need to be on the lookout for. We also risk bisexuals not taking part in health conversations.
Meanwhile another factor is often uncomfortable to talk about. Looking at bisexuals only under the LGBT+ umbrella is, for all intents and purposes, pointless.
This is particularly true for research. For example, when we see reports that show LGBT+ people are more at risk of self-harm, it really does not tell us much about bi people in particular.
The reasons a trans woman may self-harm are often far removed from the reasons a bi man may do so.
Of course, we want to keep a community spirit. However, it’s important we understand the unique factors and solutions for each subgroup of the LGBT+ community.
But the tide is turning. Increasingly researchers are becoming aware of the unique differences faced by bisexuals. They are making efforts to bridge the gaps in knowledge. And we need all bisexuals to support them.
Taking part in research means 100% more than your angry tweet
One of the hurdles researchers usually face is getting enough bisexuals to take part for their findings to have weight.
Bisexuals are the least likely of every subgroup of the LGBT+ community to be out of the closet. That makes it harder to find them and even harder to study them.
One group trying to bridge the gap in knowledge is a team of researchers at The University of Manchester in northwest England. They are seeking bisexual people to help them understand Non-suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI).
In particular, they want to examine the psychological factors or processes associated with NSSI in young bisexual people.
They are looking for people aged 16 to 25, who are attracted to more than one gender and who have had non-suicidal self-injury thoughts, urges or behaviour in the previous six months.
As Brendan Dunlop, one of the team, says: ‘If we can find out which psychological factors seem to be linked to NSSI, then we can begin to plan how to address this. This is vitally important because there are some difficulties that bisexual people face, that other sexualities don’t.’
Taking part in research like this means 100% more than your angry tweet, the fact that you happen to be comfortable with your sexuality or that you don’t feel comfortable with the word bisexual being used to describing you.
We must all pull together and help the cause. That starts by being open to research so that we can highlight the issues we face.
Only then can we make a plan for correcting inequalities and ensure that future generations of bisexuals have just as much chance in the world as everyone else.
Lewis Oakley campaigns for bisexual visibility.