Building Bi-Inclusive Community Spaces

Work to rethink the way we use labels!

On the last day of our campaign’s Action Week, Bisexual Health Awareness Month focuses on community-based action steps that can best support bisexual+ youth.

In one report, bisexual+ youth were less likely to be out to their families, friends, and communities, and only 4% of pansexual youth reported feeling like they “definitely fit in” with their community. In addition, bisexual youth are less likely of having attended a queer youth group compared to their gay and lesbian peers. Therefore, it is critical for community centers and places of worship to provide bisexual-specific and -inclusive spaces for bisexual+ youth.

Some action steps for these community centers and places of worship to build upon their bisexual+ inclusivity include:

  • Implementing bisexual-specific programs, services, and resources; Often bi+ people avoid LGBTQ+ spaces if they don’t see themselves truly represented!
  • Bisexual+ individuals often experience biphobia, transphobia, racism, ageism, and/or ableism, so organizations must work towards creating safer and more inclusive spaces; Supporting bisexual+ youth and their intersecting identities is critical in improving their overall health and well-being
  • Filling your LGBTQ+ resource library or suggested reading list with bisexual+ literature; Great listings of bi+ books can be found here and here
  • Connecting bisexual+ youth with their community; Bi-specific groups are listed here and here, and a listing of LGBTQ+ religious groups can be found here
  • Working towards addressing LGBTQ+ issues in the criminal justice system, particularly for transgender* youth and youth of color who often experience oppression, unfair treatment, and discrimination; A recent report by the Movement Advancement Project provides various recommendations and resources for fixing this broken system

What else can we do to support and care for bisexual+ youth in our communities? Let us know in the comments!

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Caring for Bisexual+ Homeless Youth

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Today Bisexual Health Awareness Month provides action steps for homeless shelters and social service providers working with bisexual+ youth

A higher percentage of bisexual students reported running away from home one or more times compared to their gay and straight peers. In addition, more bisexual youth stated they were homeless because of physical abuse by parents than their straight and gay peers. Gay, lesbian, and bisexual homeless youth also have greater HIV risks and these risks are greater among bisexual female youth. Therefore, stronger policies are needed to provide bisexual+ youth with safe environments to live that are off the streets.

Bisexual+ youth who are homeless or at risk for homelessness also need:

  • Additional education- and community-based support systems, such as affordable housing,  job training, and college prep programs
  • Social service providers who understand and can address all their unique needs and intersections
  • More LGBTQ-specific homeless shelters, like the Thrive Youth Center in Texas
  • Programs and services that can care for their sexual, physical, and mental health and wellbeing
  • For those at particular risk for HIV, comprehensive sex education, needle exchange programs, and PrEP distribution

Work to end homelessness for bisexual+ youth today! Get involved with the National Alliance to End Homelessness here.

Supporting Bisexual+ Youth in School

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Today Bisexual Health Awareness Month highlights ways to support and protect bisexual+ youth at school.

A recent report found that 37% of gender-expansive youth are verbally harassed at school, and another report found that 44% of bisexual youth were bullied about their weight or physical appearance one or more times during the past month. In addition, a report by the GSA Network chronicles harsh discipline and school push-out often faced by LGBT youth of color. Therefore, it is important to build safer, more inclusive and accepting environments for bisexual+ (e.g. bisexual, pansexual, queer, fluid, no label) youth in schools.

A report by the Human Rights Campaign provides several recommendations on how to better support bisexual+ youth in schools:

  • Use bisexual-inclusive language when talking to youth about bullying and harassment
  • Be an ally to bi+ youth by calling out biphobia and stereotypes about bisexuality when you see it
  • Be inclusive of bi+ youth in programs and resources. Listen to them and their stories, and use terms like LGBTQ+ whenever possible
  • Invite bi+ leaders to speak at LGBTQ+ events so that bi+ youth can see themselves represented

Other tips and steps include:

  • Call out all forms of discrimination and oppression in schools and classrooms – biphobia, transphobia, racism, ableism – that affect bi+ youth
  • Implement stronger policies in schools that protect bisexual+ youth of color from harassment and discriminatory discipline
  • Learn about issues affecting the bisexual+ community in order to effectively address the needs of bi+ youth

What do you think we can do to improve the health, safety and wellbeing of bisexual+ youth at school? Let us know in the comments!

Boosting Bisexual+ Competency for Healthcare Providers

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Today Bisexual Health Awareness Month provides action steps for healthcare professionals who treat youth in order to boost their bisexual+ competency.

Bisexual youth are less likely than gay and lesbian youth to disclose to their physician about their sexuality. Therefore, there are many ways that healthcare providers can better care for their bisexual+ (e.g. bisexual, pansexual, queer, fluid, no label) clients — Because our health matters too!

A report by the National LGBTQ Task Force provided several tips to healthcare providers who treat bisexual individuals, including:

  • Not making assumptions when working with bisexual clients; Treat us as individuals, not stereotypes!
  • Supporting and validating people’s diverse experiences and identities; Listen to bisexuals and what we need
  • Knowing that a person’s sexual behavior and sexual orientation are two different things
  • Including “bisexual” when talking to clients about sexual orientation; It’s not just gay and lesbian!

Other tips and action steps you can follow as a healthcare professional are:

  • Recognizing that sexual orientation can be complex. Learn more about this particular area with the Klein Grid
  • Having bisexual+ materials in your waiting area, like our brochure about mental health in the bi+ community
  • Knowing that your bisexual+ clients are not just impacted by biphobia; They also experience other forms of discrimination such as transphobia, racism, ageism, and ableism that significantly impact their health
  • Making your medical practice more welcoming and inclusive by displaying information about bisexuality+
  • Connecting your bi+ clients with their community; Bi+ groups are listed via BRC and BiNet USA
  • Learning more about bisexual+ health issues with these reports and materials and brushing up on your Bi 101 with this bisexual issues presentation
  • Becoming listed as a bisexual-aware health practitioner on the BiZone Directory

Today’s Featured Resources: E. shares their experiences with therapists in hopes more will become bisexual+ competent. And, for Bi Health Month this year, Samati Niyomchai shares his experiences with his doctor, which are more exception than rule.

How do you think health providers can better care for bi+ youth? Leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments!

Supporting Bisexual+ Youth at Home

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This week Bisexual Health Awareness Month focuses on action steps at home, in school, and within communities for better supporting bisexual+ youth. Today’s post provides tips for parents and guardians!

With low coming out rates, bisexual+ (e.g. bisexual, pansexual, queer, no label) youth need more support and affirmation, starting at home from parents, guardians, and family members. Bisexual adolescents in particular report less family and school connectedness than their straight peers.

Are you a parent or guardian of a bisexual+ youth? Two reports by the Human Rights Campaign provide several recommendations for caring for bisexual+ and gender-expansive youth:

  • Talk to your children about being LGBQ+ and tell them you will support them no matter their sexual orientation
  • If your child comes out to you as bisexual+, reach out to relevant organizations and support groups to learn more
  • Read as much as you can about gender and connect with organizations, support groups, and online forums for resources
  • Insist that others around your gender-expansive child are respectful and affirming

Other tips and places to start include:

What other advice do you have for parents or guardians of bisexual+ youth? Leave them in the comments below!

Mental Health Resources

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Photo by Lauren Sageer

On the last day of this week, Bisexual Health Awareness Month promotes mental health resources for bisexual+ youth.

Bisexual+ (e.g. bisexual, pansexual, fluid, queer, no label) youth often experience higher levels of mental health issues than their gay and straight peers, including suicidality, substance use disorders, depression, and anxiety. Therefore, it is important to connect these youth with bisexual-specific and -inclusive resources, programs, and services that can best serve their mental health needs.

Today’s Featured Resources:

There’s help. There’s hope. So reach out today!

Resources for Building Safer Spaces

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Photo by Lauren Sageer

Today Bisexual Health Awareness Month aims to provide resources on building safer, more inclusive spaces for bisexual+ youth!

Unfortunately, bisexual+ youth are often told that their sexual identities “don’t exist” or are “just a phase.” This biphobia and bisexual erasure causes a lot of harm, distress, and invalidation. Therefore, it’s important to recognize and address biphobia and bisexual erasure (in addition to other forms of discrimination and oppression, including transphobia, racism, and ableism) in schools, communities, and homes to improve the health of bisexual+ youth.

Today’s Featured Resources:

Biphobia

Creating Bi-inclusive Spaces

For Families

Allyship

Bullying and Interpersonal Violence Resources

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Today’s Bisexual Health Awareness Month focus is on bullying and interpersonal violence resources for bisexual+ youth.

In one study, 44% bisexual youth reported being bullied about physical appearance one or more times during past month, and a report by the Human Rights Campaign found that 37% of gender-expansive youth were verbally harassed at school. In addition, bisexuality was associated with a history of forced or unwanted sex among female high school students, and compared with gay male youth, bisexual male youth were 5.4 times as likely to have been threatened with outing by a date or partner. Therefore, it is important to build safer, more inclusive school environments for bisexual+ youth, and to connect these youth with interpersonal violence services, resources, and prevention programs that can support and protect them.

Today’s Featured Resources:

Bullying

Sexual Violence

Intimate Partner Violence

Sexual Health Resources

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Photo by Lauren Sageer

Get connected! Today Bisexual Health Awareness Month focuses on sexual health resources, information, and services for bisexual youth+.

Among female youth, bisexuality was found to be associated with unprotected intercourse during their last sexual encounter. Young men of color (ages 15-22) who have sex with men are at disproportionate risk of acquiring HIV, and gay, lesbian, and bisexual homeless youth have greater HIV risks and these risks are greater among bisexual female youth. Therefore, bisexual+ (e.g. bisexual, pansexual, queer, fluid, no label) youth are in critical need of programs, services, and resources that can improve their sexual health.

Today’s Featured Resources:

Story by Anonymous

These stories and poems by bisexual+ youth were collected by Bisexual Women of Color (BIWOC), a Bisexual Health Awareness Month campaign partner. BIWOC is an organization whose mission is to provide emotional support, resources, community, and a safe space to discuss intersectional issues that affect bi women of color. They welcome all with multi-gender attractions, including but not limited to: bisexual, biromantic, pansexual, queer, fluid, and questioning.

Sometimes I think it would have been easier for my mother to understand if I had been “only” a lesbian.  It would have likely taken her even longer to understand and come to terms with, but maybe she wouldn’t keep holding onto some kind of fragment of hope that I’d be straight for so long.  That if I just meet the right guy I’ll forget all this talk, that if she just holds on for long enough I’ll marry a nice straight man and that this will all be settled.

To her credit, my mother once said nearly as much to me over some (several glasses of) wine. She asked me if she was a bad person for hoping I’d marry a man eventually.  My mother and I have had a great relationship most of my life, so how could I possibly tell someone who has supported me since I was born that they were a bad person?  So I told her she wasn’t, but I tried to impress upon her that she would need to come to terms with the fact that that day might not ever come. And that even if it did, it wouldn’t change my bisexuality.

I’ve tried to give her time.  Some days we go forward, and some days we go back. One day she consciously makes sure to reference my possible future “partner” when idly discussing marriage or dating or kids, and a week later she purses her lips when I talk about a nice girl I met on a dating site.  She says she’s not ready for PFLAG, and to be honest, I’m not sure I mind too much, because I have no idea what the parents in the local chapter would tell her about bisexuality, considering what many of the people in our community at large themselves have to say about bi, pan, poly, and otherwise identifying people.

A couple months ago I had my first yearly checkup with my new doctor, since I’ve finally, begrudgingly, aged out of my pediatrician’s office.  My doctor asked me, while approaching a conversation about my sexual health, if I had a boyfriend.  I’m wasn’t, and still currently am not, in a relationship of any kind.  I said “no” before I could really let myself think about saying, “Actually, I’m bisexual, but no, I’m not dating anyone.”  My doctor is very sweet and likely would take this new knowledge perfectly well, and yet I didn’t.  Perhaps less out of reluctance, and more out of the time I needed to contemplate if I had the energy to delve into the subject and consequently deal with any possible negative reactions, confusion, or microaggressions.  And it’s sobering to think about how I even have to consider all that before answering.  In terms of my actual physical and sexual health, though, it wouldn’t have changed anything because, for that matter, I’ve never had sex.  In fact, I’ve never dated anyone.

That’s not for lack of trying, of course.  I don’t mind being the one to ask someone out, but at this moment in time, nothing has panned out for me in that department.  I’ve always viewed that as a succinct refutation of the arguments that anyone needs to date, have sex, nurture crushes, or take part in any kind of “qualifying” act to know confidently what their orientation is.  If you don’t know, then that’s awesome, too!  But don’t let anyone tell you it’s just because you haven’t done x, y, or z.  Some people, mostly online entities, have proclaimed that such a status simply means I can’t possibly know how I identify yet.  They echo the former (white, straight, cis male) friend who demanded to know if I could imagine kissing, marrying, and having sex with a woman the first time I ever mentioned thinking I could be bisexual, and then accused me of doing it as a fad when I admitted I couldn’t necessarily imagine all that.  I couldn’t imagine having sex with or marrying anyone right then, though.  Those sentiments even echoed my own some days.

But I am bisexual.  My bisexuality is now a distinct and acknowledged – no, a celebrated – part of me.  And I know myself.  I know myself just fine, especially considering that I’ve had plenty of time to myself, with myself (and no one else) to figure that out.