Post submitted by Beth Sherouse, former ACLS Public Fellow, HRC Senior Content Manager
Within the LGBT community, about 40% of adults identify as bisexual, making bisexuals the single largest group within the community; yet many bi-identified youth and adults feel isolated and marginalized both within and outside of the LGBT community. On Celebrate Bisexuality Day next Tuesday, September 23rd, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation will hold a panel discussion and release a new report, Supporting and Caring for Our Bisexual Youth, addressing the unique experiences and needs of bisexual youth.
The report discusses findings from the nearly 4,000 bisexual youth who responded to HRC's Growing Up LGBT in America survey in 2012.
“When I work with bi youth, they speak frequently of feeling invisible, even in LGBT-friendly spaces,” says Anika Warner, who works with student groups in the Washington, D.C., area at SMYAL (Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders).
Significant stigma against bisexuality can leave bisexuals feeling their identities are not seen as real or legitimate, and can often lead to a reluctance to identify as bisexual.
In her work with young men at SMYAL, Warner rarely hears bisexuality talked about unless it is in reference to a woman or girl who is bisexual. She has observed many youth who “code-switch” about their identities in different spaces depending on where they feel safe, accepted and understood.
“They’re good at figuring out how disclosing this identity in this space will benefit them or harm them,” says Warner, who will join the panel discussion Sept. 23. “It gives them a sense of agency and autonomy to do that, but it also makes things difficult because they can’t be completely honest.”
The report and the related panel discussion seek to raise awareness that biphobia is a serious problem that has staggeringly negative consequences for bi youth and adults. According to BiNet USA, one of HRC’s partners on the report, bisexual people face higher rates of poverty, depression, anxiety, suicidality and generally poor health than our cisgender (or non-transgender) straight, lesbian, or gay peers. The rates at which bisexual girls and women are sexually assaulted are comparable to rates seen in war zones.
This report and panel discussion can serve as an important springboard for more discussions about working against biphobia and supporting bisexual youth and adults.In addition to Warner, panelists will include Faith Cheltenham of BiNet USA, Ellyn Ruthstrom of Bisexual Resource Center, Dr. Herukhuti of the Center for Culture, Sexuality and Spirituality, bi youth anti-bullying activist Katy Butler, report coauthor Amy André, and Ari Pomerantz of HIPS. Join us from 6pm to 8pm on September 23rd at the HRC Equality Forum in Washington, D.C. RSVP here.