Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Maintaining Bisexual Sexual Health and Wellness: Three Experts Share What It Means to Remain Sexually Healthy While Bi

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Maintaining Bisexual Sexual Health and Wellness: Three Experts Share What It Means to Remain Sexually Healthy While Bi

Article excerpt

IN SOME WAYS, maintaining sexual health as a bisexual is just like maintaining sexual health as someone with any other sexual orientation.

For example, Denarii Monroe of the Bisexual Resource Center says, "Staying sexually healthy for me personally means making sure that I'm getting regular STI and HIV check-ups, preferably before starting a new sexual relationship with someone."

"In terms of tips for the happy, healthy bisexual, my number one tip for sexual health is to maintain [it] by getting those exams," says Amy Andre, who works with the Bisexual Research Collaboration on Health at The Fenway Institute in Boston. She argues that routine screenings and preventative medicine are essential for long-term health.

"Unfortunately," Andre acknowledges, "studies show that compared to women of other orientations, women who identify as bisexual are less likely to get cancer screenings like Pap smears and mammograms."

It's one of the many health disparities between bisexual women and men versus their non-bi counterparts.

"Bi+ sexual health means recognizing the specific systemic obstacles that bi+ people have to [overcome] obtaining adequate healthcare, including sexual healthcare," says Monroe, who prefers the more inclusive "bi+"--a moniker meant to include pansexual, polysexual, and other orientations beyond gay, lesbian, or straight.

One of the main impediments for bisexual health is the "biphobia, bi-invisibility, and the discrimination that people face who are out as bisexual," says Andre. That stigma "impacts our physical and mental health, and even our ability to make choices around sexual health screenings."

Andre sees being out to healthcare providers as an essential part of maintaining sexual health, but acknowledges, "the unfortunate reality is that many people do experience discrimination in healthcare settings when they come out, so it's kind of a double-edged sword."

Monroe says she fights this using "my community as resources to find doctors and other health professionals that aren't just 'LGBT' friendly, but that are specifically bi+ friendly, so that bi+ antagonism doesn't creep into my doctor's visits so much when my sexual history and sexual desires are being discussed."

Andre says health care providers truly committed to serving bisexual clients should publicize that they are non-discriminatory--and then live up to that promise.

"For so many of us, even within the LGBT community, there are still enormous areas of discrimination. Just because this doctor has a rainbow sticker, or the HRC equality sign, does that necessarily mean that I'm welcome? Or that I can come out to them as someone who has male and female partners? Or as someone who identifies as bisexual regardless of the gender of a partner? I think that healthcare providers really need to go the extra mile to make it very clear that they [offer] a welcoming environment for their bisexual patients and clients."

Preventative sexual health screenings are just the tip of the iceberg, when looking at the health needs of bisexuals, Monroe argues, because, "we have higher rates of poverty than both straight people and gays and lesbians, [and] lower rates of health insurance coverage."

Andre agrees. "There's very little research on this, but what research there is shows that we tend to have less money, have higher rates of unemployment and underemployment. As we all know, healthcare in the United States can be expensive, and for many people, prohibitively expensive. …

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