The largest study of bisexual Australians has led to the formation of a new organisation aimed at improving their mental health through support, education and research.
The new group Bi+ Australia is the brainchild of La Trobe University researcher Julia Taylor and follows the completion of her Who I Am study, a survey of 2600 bisexual Australians.
Taylor, who is from La Trobe’s Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, said the study found the rate of poor mental health in the bi community was worse than previously thought.
“The aim of the Who I Am study was to shed light on the little understood reasons for poor mental health among people who are attracted to more than one gender,” Taylor said.
“What we found was high levels of psychological distress among the majority of participants.
“They told us they had to pretend to be straight in some situation and gay in others.
“They faced questions about their sexuality from members of both the heterosexual and LGBTIQ+ communities.
Many participants in the study reported being told their sexuality “wasn’t real,” Taylor said.
“Gay men and lesbians tried to convince them they were really gay or lesbian and straight people insisted they were just experimenting,” she said.
“The very high rates of poor mental health and tendency towards suicide in this group are shocking and confirm why we need to do more to support bisexual people.”
Taylor said she plans to publish her findings in coming months to highlight the extent of the problem.
In the meantime, she has launched Bi+ Australia – the first national organisation dedicated to improving mental health outcomes for bisexual people.
Bi+ Australia offers specialised counselling to bisexual Australians and their families and includes an education hub for service providers and the public, as well as a research centre.
“Our mission is to support people who are attracted to more than one gender and enhance the understanding, acceptance, inclusion and celebration of bisexuality and pansexuality in Australia,” Taylor explained.
To found out more about Bi+ Australia and access the group’s resources, visit the website here.
Bisexuality Visibility Day was held on September 23, to fight bi erasure and encourage the broader community to recognise and celebrate bisexuality.
James Dominguez, the vice-president of the Victoria-based group Bisexual Alliance, said last month that awareness was needed because bi people are plagued by stigma and negative stereotypes.
“There are people who realise they’re bisexual, they find it in themselves and say, ‘This is me.’ They go out and look for a community, only to face biphobia and rejection from the community they find,” he said.
If you need someone to talk to, help is available from QLife on 1800 184 527 or online at QLife.org.au, Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.
(Photo via Flickr)