Bisexual members of the LGBTQ community face unique challenges and biases not met by other members of the community. These difficulties primarily stem from ignorance and stereotypes perpetuated about their sexual orientation and what it means to be bisexual. Bisexuals are often characterized by ridiculous generalities and exaggerated caricatures.
These include claims that they are:
- Promiscuous: “You must hook up all the time since you pretty much like everything you see, huh?”
- Confused: “Pick a team already!”
- Greedy: “Leave some for the rest of us, huh?”
- Going through a phase: “You’re not really bisexual; you just have not figured out what you like.”
Even more surprising, both heterosexuals and other LGBTQ people hold these biases. Despite all the progress of the LGBTQ community, bisexuals are still misunderstood and mistreated by their peers. This feeling of being rejected by their community contributes to the high rates of mental health issues among bisexuals. Given the link between mental health challenges and substance abuse, it’s not surprising that bisexuals are at a higher risk of substance abuse.
That is why there is a need for inclusive LGBTQ drug and alcohol detox and rehab facilities. If you are bisexual and struggling with substance abuse or co-occurring mental health issue, La Fuente Hollywood is here to help. Call 844.956.3514 today.
What Factors Cause Bisexual Substance Abuse?
There are many explanations behind the high rates of substance abuse amongst bisexuals. These include minority stress, discrimination, and homo/biphobia. While the influences might be similar, the forms they take amongst bisexuals are unique and thus deserve special attention.
Minority stress is defined as “the negative effects associated with the adverse social conditions experienced by individuals of a marginalized social group.” In other words, it’s the stress members of minority groups experience when in a social environment dominated by a majority group. This could mean general social prejudice against being LGBTQ or discriminatory laws and policies.
In general, social prejudice stems from the belief that identifying as LGBTQ is somehow wrong or bad. This prejudice could be subtle. For example, a receptionist at a pediatrician’s office asks a lesbian couple who the “real” mother is. Or it could be more explicit, like two men getting yelled at for holding hands. Years of living with daily stressors contribute to poorer mental and physical health. Both increase the risk of substance abuse.
Bisexuals are particularly vulnerable when it comes to minority stress. For starters, pervasive stereotypes and negative attitudes about bisexuality are present among heterosexuals, lesbians, and gay men. This results in a “double stigma” that helps explain the high rates of depression and anxiety in the bisexual population.
Another source of stress is coming out. As with all LGBTQ people, bisexuals don’t just come out once. Instead, it’s a life-long process of disclosing one’s sexual orientation. While these repeated disclosures are tiring for almost all LGBTQ people, bisexuals in one study described it as “exhausting.” This is likely due to the widespread misunderstandings of bisexuality coming from friends and family.
Finally, bisexuals often lack role models who are out and bi. This is especially true in movies and television. While 52% of the LGBTQ population is bisexual, only a small fraction of LGBTQ characters are bisexual. This invisibility (often referred to as bisexual erasure) makes bisexuals feel isolated and contributes to both anxiety and depression.
Young bisexuals are surrounded by stereotypes. Some say bisexuality isn’t “real,” that they’re just confused, or that they should “choose a side.” Being told that one’s sexual orientation is nonexistent or “just a phase” prolongs the sexual identity development process and leads to confusion, anxiety, depression, and anger. All of these contribute to substance abuse.
Even more concerning is the fact that higher outness is associated with higher rates of alcohol and drug abuse for bisexual women. That’s likely because of the discrimination they experience within LGBTQ organizations.
The opposite is true for lesbians or queer women. For these women, being out provides some level of protection from discrimination (and the negative behaviors associated with it). It’s not surprising that bisexual people have some of the worst mental health outcomes of any sexual orientation.
To understand biphobia, it’s important to define monosexuality. Monosexuality refers to the sexual and romantic attraction to a single gender. Examples of monosexual orientations include gay, lesbian, and heterosexual. People who are biphobic believe that monosexuality is superior.
What’s surprising (and troubling) is that biphobia isn’t just present amongst heterosexuals—it’s a huge problem in the LGBTQ community, too. That means bisexuals face potential rejection from both sides of the sexual orientation spectrum.
Having one’s identity questioned, ignored, and delegitimized understandably has negative consequences for bisexuals. For example, bisexual people are much less likely to be out of the closet than gay men or lesbians. This invisibility and lack of support may contribute to the higher rates of mental health and substance abuse problems in bisexuals.
La Fuente Welcomes All LGBTQ People
La Fuente Hollywood is a substance abuse treatment center located in Los Angeles, California. We pride ourselves on being one of the few LGBTQ-affirmative treatment centers in the country. In addition to providing medically supervised detox and inpatient rehab, we offer a variety of outpatient and counseling services. If you or a loved one are a member of the LGBTQ community and struggling with substance abuse or mental health issues, call us now at 844.956.3514 or contact us online.