Every March for the past five years, the Boston, Massachusetts-based Bisexual Resource Center has organized a national campaign: “Bisexual Health Awareness Month.”
BHAM uses the power of social media to tell stories of the challenges associated with bisexuality, and to promote services and resources for those who identify as such.
SFGN talked with Laura DelloStritto, BHAM program lead, about the campaign and about the challenges that exist for bisexuals in today’s world.
How has the campaign evolved since 2014?
BHAM was founded in 2014 by former Bisexual Resource Center (BRC) board member Julia Canfield, in order to raise awareness of health disparities specifically affecting the bisexual community and highlight action steps to reduce them. Past themes have been “Bi The Way, Our Health Matters, Too,” “Mental Health,” “Bi+ Youth,” and “Social Health.” To celebrate the campaign’s fifth year, “BHAM’s 5-year Bi-ography” will highlight recent progress for the bi+ community and ideas to shape our future. Each year, the number of partnering organizations and level of engagement with the campaign on social media continues to increase.
What are some of the most common misconceptions about bisexuality?
There are dozens of negative stereotypes about bisexuals that are not worth perpetuating by repeating, that contribute to worse health outcomes for people who identify as bisexual. The twofold aim of BHAM is one: to remind bisexual people to celebrate their identity in a society where it is too often invalidated or defamed, and two: to encourage people who are not bisexual to do what they can to improve the health of their bisexual friends, family, partners, and community members.
We can all play a role in improving the health of bisexual people by supporting and validating their identity. For starters, believe that bisexuals exist and speak up when they are being excluded by others, which can unfortunately even happen in LGBTQ+ spaces. Follow and engage with our campaign @BRC_Central on Twitter for more research, resources, and action steps related to #BiHealthMonth.
How is bisexuality defined? Does one or two sexual encounters with the opposite sex qualify?
A person can be considered behaviorally bisexual, particularly in certain research studies, if they have sexual encounters with people of different genders. However, our focus at the BRC is on people who actively self-identify as being attracted to more than one gender. We use “bi” and “bi+” as inclusive terms for those who are non-monosexual/non-monoromantic and can include those who identify as bisexual, pansexual, omnisexual, fluid, queer, two-spirit, and asexual, among other free identifiers — including those who do not wish to use a label.
Do some identify as bisexual because it's more acceptable than being gay or lesbian?
Society puts unnecessary pressure on all of us to follow certain norms that may be completely arbitrary — think about pointlessly gendered products, like branded shampoo for men, as if men should not use shampoo that is not specifically labeled for them.
While for some gay or lesbian people falsely coming out as bisexual might please certain people in their lives who hope they may end up in a straight relationship, it can also be a challenge for bisexual people to come out. Bisexuals may fear that people will judge them negatively based on stereotypes or assume they must not be truly bisexual, but instead actually gay or lesbian or straight, as if bisexuality does not exist.
Fear of judgment from others makes it difficult to even consider the possibility of identifying outside of the norm, whatever that norm may be, which may contribute to why some people come out as bisexual, gay, lesbian, and/or transgender later in life. We all need to do what we can to stop perpetuating these norms so that they don't continue to confine us.
Does pop culture contribute to many of the misconceptions?
Popular culture and mass media can either cause harm by perpetuating negative stereotypes of bisexual people or they can be a force for positive change by shattering such stereotypes and identifying bisexual people as bisexual — not as straight allies, gay, or lesbian. I’m hoping that we’ll see a trend toward the latter in the coming years.
What’s your background?
I studied biology in college and then pursued a masters in public health with a dual concentration in social/behavioral science and maternal/child health. I now work as a project manager in the health care field. I have been involved in the LGBTQ+ community in Boston since coming out as bisexual in 2011, and I’m passionate about empowering LGBTQ+ people to improve their health outcomes. I joined the BRC board in 2016 and have since coordinated our annual BHAM campaign each March.
More is at BiHealthMonth.org.