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How Social Stigma Is Hurting You as a Bisexual Collegiette

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Being healthy is important, regardless of sexuality, but most people associate being healthy with a healthy weight and balanced diet. While these two things are crucial, you should also keep up with your mental health. There are so many services to help you deal with the toll your daily life can take on you, but factor in the social stigma that you are faced with as a bisexual collegiette and your physical and mental health can plummet. It’s way too easy to fall into an unhealthy pattern, and studies show that it gets even worse as a bisexual. Luckily, there are plenty of steps you can take to protect yourself from the negative effects of stigma.

How social stigma harms you

Because the LGBTQ+ community has only recently gained more and more visibility, the society we live in is still overwhelmingly heteronormative, including when it comes to healthcare. For Dr. Pascha Bueno-Hansen, an Assistant Professor in the department of Women and Gender Studies at the University of Delaware, “the health system assumes heterosexuality. The dissonance between [these] assumptions and bisexual women's lived reality creates a sense of being out of place, wrong, abnormal. These feelings, when reinforced by other key factors in their life such as school, family and peer group can lead to mental and physical health problems.”

Monroe France, the Assistant Vice President of Student Diversity at New York University, agrees that it is not the bisexual lifestyle that leads to unhealthy living, but the social stigmas that bi individuals face every day. “I don't believe bisexual women face any greater mental or physical health issues than other women,” France says. “Though they do face greater potential of social stigma and discrimination, which could impact their access to or accessing mental and physical healthcare.” In areas where the general population isn’t so accepting, access to proper healthcare might be barred for LGBTQ+ individuals; But even in more progressive environments, bi women can be reluctant to seek out proper healthcare, for fear of being stigmatized.

Additionally, the U.S. Department of Health’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services (or SAMHSA) state that while gay men and lesbians have many available support systems, bisexuals tend to have fewer places to turn to. SAMHSA stresses the importance of building a safe environment, where individuals of all sexual orientations can feel comfortable sharing their sexuality, and reaching out to their friends, to health professionals or to authorities if they ever need help.

The consequences on bisexual women’s health

Although bi women are not inherently less healthy than anyone else, a Norwegian studyfound that they are more susceptible to falling into harmful patterns. "These disturbing results echo international findings on mental health differences between bisexual and homosexual people,” says study lead author Lisa Colledge. So what exactly can the consequences be? The following are some of the top health issues for bisexual men and women according to SAMHSA.

1. Heart disease

Bisexual women tend to report higher smoking rates, blood pressure levels, BMI, cholesterol and alcohol use than heterosexual women, which are all risk factors for heart disease in the long run.

2. Substance abuse

Bi women are twice as likely as straight women to report smoking, and also show higher rates of binge drinking (23.7 percent, compared to 8.3 percent of heterosexual women).

3. Sexually transmitted infections

According to SAMHSA, bi women are “more likely to experience vaginal infections including bacterial vaginosis, trichomonas vaginalis and herpes.” They are also more likely to report never having had a Pap test, putting them at risk for HPV.

4. Abnormal weight

Bisexual women are more likely to be overweight than heterosexual women, but they are also more likely to be underweight than both straight and lesbian women. This means that they are at a high risk for eating disorders.

5. Domestic violence

47.4 percent of bisexual adults report having experienced domestic violence, which is a shocking figure that needs to change.

6. High risk sexual behavior

Bi women are more likely to engage in dangerous sexual behaviors, such as combining alcohol or drug use with sex, and engaging in intercourse with HIV-positive men, which can have serious consequences on their sexual health.

7. Depression, anxiety and self-harm

Bi individuals have “the lowest level of emotional well-being among people of other sexual orientations.” They are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicidal thoughts or attempts.

How to protect your health as a bisexual collegiette

Surround yourself with a support system

Your friends and family are your first resource, and chances are they will be extremely supportiveof your sexual orientation and lifestyle. They will also be there to help if you encounter any health issues. That being said, if your loved ones don’t understand your queer identity, there are people out there who will! You could join an LGBTQ+ Greek organization, or even just visit your campus resource center regularly. With loving people around you, you will be much less likely to engage in harmful behaviors.

Practice safe sex

There are plenty of easy ways to protect your sexual health, starting with using a condom or a dental dam with your partner. You should also make sure to get tested regularly for STIs, so that, in the odd chance that you contracted one, it can be treated quickly.

Know the resources that are available to you

On campus

Your friends are amazing, but they are not always enough. If you feel like you need to talk to someone more qualified about your health, you can start with your campus LGBT center. Your college counseling services are also a wonderful resource for any mental health issues you might be experiencing, and the health center can help you with any more tangible physical problems.

Online

There are so many online resources for you to use if you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone in person. These websites and hotlines can help you with whatever issue you might be handling.

Although bisexual collegiettes are more prone to all sorts of health issues than women of other sexual orientations, things are changing—slowly but surely! If you surround yourself with the right people, your Pride will grow and you will be much less prone to bi-specific health issues. 


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