Bisexual Women's Health
This may be a surprise to you, as it was to me, but #bisexual women experience disproportionately poorer health outcomes in comparison to #lesbian and gay groups, and the general population. Depression, anxiety, suicidality, and other mood disorders are more prevalent in bisexual women than even those who identify as lesbian, but also more so than heterosexual women. This isn't limited to mental health though. Bisexual women also have higher risk for asthma, diabetes, hypertension, and overall poorer physical health compared to lesbian women (Smith et al., 2022).
Add to this racial disparities and we have a significantly underserved community of people. More than half of bisexual adults are racial and/or ethnic minorities. Individuals occupy multiple co-occurring identities, and these identities function interdependently influencing who we are and how we relate to the word, so imagine two, or even three, of the more prominent identities being those which endure racial discrimination, antibisexual prejudice, and even #sexism. All of this greatly impacts mood and overall well-being.
Most research regarding minorities and stress, even health, is focused on major discriminatory life events, such as being assaulted or denied a job, housing, or service. Fewer studies have focused on how microaggressions influence health outcomes in these individuals.
Microaggressions are more common and subtle verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities that can be as harmful as major discriminatory events. Studies have been clear that #microaggressions do negative impact health and wellness. Depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, and alcohol and marijuana use have been associated with discrimination and harassment.
The lesbian, gay, and bisexual community have a heightened experience of somatic complaints, which has even been associated with having heard comments such as "that's so gay." A study recently published, (Smith et al., 2022) demonstrated in more than 100 participants, that 42 percent of bisexual women experience microaggressions on a daily basis. The most frequently reported sexual orientation microaggression was someone saying something rude or insulting about lesbian or gay people, which occurred on 7.0 percent of all daily reports.
The most frequently reported type of microaggression overall was sexual objectification, being reduced to physical appearance, which occurred in 15 percent of days. Daily reports of microaggressions among women of color ranged from 2.8 to 10.9 percent, with the most-reported microaggression being that someone said something that tried to minimize or deny that racial discrimination exists (Smith et al., 2022).
Those who reported at least one microaggression of any type in their daily reports also reported higher average negative affect and somatic complaints across the 28-day timeframe. This proved true also on the individual days they reported experiencing microaggressions.
This study is really great (and should be done as well, on the microaggressions endured by nurse-midwives) but Smith et al. has offered compelling evidence that daily slights associated with cisgender, bisexual women's sexual identity, #race, and gender occur regularly, and in turn, can negatively influence mental and physical health. Interestingly, racial and gender microaggressions were reported more often than sexual orientation digs. Gender-based microaggressions were reported most frequently at both the individual level, as well as the daily level. For example, women reported being sexually objectified on over 15 percent of days recorded.
Microaggressions of any type were significantly associated with higher daily reports of somatic symptoms or complaints; for example, stomach pain, chest pain, headaches, and gastrointestinal upset were common.
This is where I want to rant, lecture, call out and call in, but I haven't the emotional reserve currently. Ladies, if this resonates with you, I am so so very sorry. Please schedule an appointment with me. I'll happily and very supportingly offer you a safe medical refuge.
Smith, A. U., Bostwick, W. B., Burke, L., Hequembourg, A. L., Santuzzi, A., & Hughes, T. L. (2022). How deep is the cut? The influence of daily microaggressions on bisexual women's health. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity.