by Lindsey Brooks, Ph.D.
Lindsey is a psychologist at the Gay Therapy Center. She sees clients in San Francisco. You can read more about Lindsey here.
If you’ve read many articles or research on bisexuality and mental health, you’ve heard all about the “stresses” and “risk factors” for bi+ folks.
I’m a proud member of the bi+ community. I’m excited to share the positive psychological aspects and strengths of our community for a change.
And yes, I promise, there are many.
For example, coming out as bisexual is shown by recent research to be associated with improved relationships, a feeling of living more authentically, and improved mental health (Brownfield et al., 2018).
I see this reflected in my own work with bi+ clients: The stronger you feel within your own LGBTQ identity, the more you can genuinely connect with others. This connection has powerful benefits for a sense of happiness and belonging. (It’s also important to note that not everyone has the privilege and safety to come out, and not sharing your identity may also be an equally important choice for your mental health.)
In my work with the bi+ community over the past decade, I have witnessed many strengths of the bi+ experience. Here are some of my favorite strengths of being bisexual, based on my experience with bi+ clients and supported by recent research (Scales et al., 2010).
- Self-awareness. Recent research suggests that bisexuals make up more than half of the LGB community (Gates, 2011), but have less visibility than their LG counterparts in our culture and society. In the journey of becoming self-aware, it may take time and introspection to first understand that bisexuality even exists, much less understand your own bisexuality. Making sense of your attractions across the gender spectrum can take time. During this reflection time, you can gain more clarity not only on your sexuality, but on who you are as a person. What a wonderful bonus gift of a bisexual identity!
- Strong sense of self. Being bisexual in a binary world often means dealing with people who invalidate, erase, or simply refuse to believe your identity. This can be very painful! And, it also gives you practice at reaffirming for yourself, over and over, that you know who you are. You learn to provide yourself that unconditional love and acceptance. Over time, this can build a powerful inner strength and sense of self-love.
- Infinite capacity for empathy. The bi+ experience creates a great amount of space to empathize with a wide range of life experiences, including multiple marginalized groups from cultural, sexual, and gender diverse communities. Perhaps it’s the experience of relationships with people across the gender spectrum, or the experience of feeling “in between,” that allows for this empathy to grow. I find this deep empathy benefits bisexual folks both personally and professionally in so many ways.
- Positioned to be an ally and advocate. As a bi+ person, you are more likely to move in and out of different community spaces. Perhaps you have queer, straight, and bi+ communities you move within. This gives you opportunity to be a bridge between these communities. You can speak up and advocate when you hear biphobia in the straight or gay community. You can speak up and advocate when you hear homophobia, transphobia, racism, or sexism in any community. As a trusted part of more than one community, your voice can carry weight and influence that others may not have access to.
- Write your own script. There is no societal script for what it means to be bisexual. This gives you space to write your own script, and to create relationships and make life choices that work for you. This makes room to break gender expectations, explore what LGBTQ relationship boundaries work for you and your partner(s), and live by your values. You get to define your own life in a way that fosters creativity and joy!
What are your strengths as a bisexual person? I’d love to hear people talking about this at your next BABN get-together!