A recent study from the University of Vanderbilt found that bisexuals drink and smoke more than their gay, lesbian and straight counterparts. Now, a sex therapist may have the reason why.
“I ran a gay men’s group for 21 years,” Joe Kort, a Psychotherapist, Certified Sex and Relationship Therapist at Joe Kort & Associates, PC, writes in a blog post published by The Huffington Post. “Some five years ago, I brought in a man who identified as bisexual. The result was appalling.”
Kort explains that the group was very hostile towards the man.
“It became apparent that the group was not ready to accept this man’s sexual identity,” he writes. “What was not apparent to most was how they were doing to him the same thing that the majority of heterosexuals do to gays and lesbians–shunning, and making him an outcast.”
Kort believes the reason for this is because bisexuals often make gays and lesbians feel less secure about their places in society.
“As minorities we become a united political force fighting against discrimination,” he explains. “We feel pride and power.”
But when someone who doesn’t identify as gay or straight comes along, Kort says, “the house of identity we’ve built suddenly is rocked by winds of change, and seems less solid, more vulnerable than we imagined.”
“We feel fear,” he writes “and cling to our foundation, arguing that there must only be a binary identity–either or–and unconsciously protect our hard-won identity by rejecting [the bisexual].”
Kort continues: “Some call the person ‘traitor.’ Gone are the invitations to bars, parties, and tea dances. Lesbians and gays become angry toward the person, and say he or she is guilty of keeping a foot in the door of heterosexual privilege, betraying the cause.”
This analysis echoes that of Dr. Gilbert Gonzales, who led the study at the University of Vanderbilt.
“Findings from our study indicate that LGB adults experience significant health disparities–particularly in mental health and substance use–likely due to the minority stress that LGB adults experience,” he said in a statement last month. “Combined with the relative scarcity of bisexual communities and organizations, this ostracizing may lead to social isolation, a risk factor for psychological distress.”
In other words: The ostracization bisexuals feel from gays and lesbians puts them at a higher risk for self-destruction.
Ryan Carey-Mahoney had a similar take in a piece he wrote for the Washington Post last month.
“Bisexual people are often stereotyped as promiscuous,” he said. “If you’re a bi man, for example, many in the gay and straight communities will say you’re actually gay. And if you’re a bi woman, it’s assumed that you’re experimenting with your sexuality and will eventually end up with a man.”
So what can be done about this? According to Kort, the answer is simple: Acceptance.
“Isn’t it time to lose our bi-naiveté and our gay privilege, and to say to those who identify as bisexual, ‘You’re one of us, we accept you for what you say you are?'” he asks. “Isn’t it time to make room for the people who don’t necessarily have a fixed sexual orientation, and accept sexual fluidity as reality?”
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