Bisexuals: The Unwanted Unicorns of Healthcare Funding

After recently explaining bisexuality to a friend their response was, "So...you're an unwanted unicorn?" Meaning like unicorns no one believes we exist and due to biphobia potential partners and institutions ignore us. (Plus he figured unicorns make a great gay icon). At first I laughed at his absurdity, but after reading Amy Andre's article on the fact that of the over $97,000,000 spent on health programs for LGBT individuals, $0.00 went to fund bisexual specific health programs, well, his responses feels less ridiculous. In contrast, the amount of money for programs specific to gay men increased by 24% last year while funding for lesbian specific programs increased by 12%. Funding for transgender specific healthcare programs demonstrated a 5% increase.

According to a study by the Williams Institute and Hunter College half of lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans identify as bisexual. Essentially, the largest segment of the LGB population did not receive any specific funding this past year, despite the fact smaller segments of the community received substantial increases to their identity specific health programming.

Some may argue that programs for gays and lesbians would indirectly serve bisexuals, but the reality is bisexuals have unique health needs and experience health disparities at higher rates than lesbian women and gay men. These unique health needs are outlined in the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce's report "Bisexual Health: An Introduction and Model Practices for HIV/AIDS Prevention Programming." The report indicates that on average bisexuals physical and mental health was poorer than the health of their gay and lesbian counterparts. In addition, bisexuals have higher rates of alcoholism, depression and suicide attempts.

Andre posed an interesting explaination for the disparities. Instead of claiming biphobia (which to be honest was my first response to the disparity), she suggested instead it was sexism. Her reasoning behind this explaination was that the same study from the Williams Institute found that a higher percentage of self-identified bisexuals were women. I think the fact that fact that the funding increase for programs specific to gay men was double that of the funding increase for programs specific to lesbian women's health also points to potential sexism in LGBT program funding.

After drawing this conclusion Andre states that while sexism exists in the non-LGBT world, it should not exist within the supposedly more aware and activist/educated LGBT community. While I agree with her desire to eliminate sexism from our community, I think that the impact of sexism and biphobia on bisexuals' health is representative of a wider problem in our community. First of all, while we may call ourselves a community, this does not mean that we exist in a separate sphere from the wider society in which we struggle with issues of class, race, sexism, transphobia, biphobia, etc. Just because we all identify as LGBT and have a shared marginalized identity does not mean we all actively work to dismantle the privileges some of us may have more of than others. In LGBT communities we bring with us these intersecting issues.

I believe that the only way to dismantle these issues and to improve health disparities facing bisexuals and other marginalized populations within the LGBT community (i.e. transgender individuals, people of color, immigrants, etc.) is through discussions of these inequalities that are informed by quality research, such as the information Amy Andre brought to our attention.