Category: Gay / Lesbian / Bisexual / Transgender Issues

Symposium

Characteristics of Those Who Attempt to Make Their Bisexual Identity Visible and Strategies They Use

Saturday, November 18
10:15 AM - 11:45 AM
Location: Aqua Salon C & D, Level 3, Aqua Level

Keywords: L / G / B / T | Stigma
Presentation Type: Symposium

There are numerous forms of stigma that contribute to the de-legitimization of bisexuality as a valid sexual orientation and to the erasure of bisexual identities. To reduce such stigma, efforts are needed to increase bi-visibility. Little is known, however, about whether bisexual individuals attempt to attain greater bi-visibility (i.e., make their bisexuality visible to others) and, if so, how they do this. Using data from a survey study of 397 individuals reporting attractions to more than one gender, we examined the proportion who attempt to attain greater bi-visibility, the strategies they use to do so, and factors that distinguish those who make bi-visibility attempts from those who do not. Results indicated that 58% made bi-visibility attempts, with the most common being direct verbal communication (e.g., telling others) and visual displays (e.g., wearing bi/pride clothing, jewelry, tattoos). Less common attempts included indirect forms of communication, engagement in LGBT-related activities, and public behavioral displays. Those who made bi-visibility attempts differed from those who did not on variables related to identity and internalized binegativity (though not mental health). Specifically, attempters were more likely to feel connected with the LGB community, more likely to be affirming of their bisexuality, and less likely to view bisexuality as illegitimate. Attempters also were more likely to view bisexuality as more central to their identity than were non-attempters. These findings shed light on the reasons people may or may not choose to attempt to make the bisexual identity visible. For example, people may not attempt to do so because it is not a central aspect of their identity, or because they do not believe it is a legitimate sexual orientation. Future research will be needed to shed light on the potential benefits and challenges that attempters and non-attempters may face, the role of binegative experiences in likelihood of attempting, as well as the nuances and success of different bi-visibility attempts. 

Joanne Davila

Professor of Clinical Psychology and Director of Clinical Training
Stony Brook University

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