Study: Straight Men Less Likely to See Bisexuality as ‘Legitimate Sexual Orientation’

Bisexuals are often given short shrift when it comes to awareness and advocacy about LGBT issues, subject to prejudice and a general lack of visibility.  According to a new study from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, there are notable differences in attitudes towards bisexuality along gender, racial and sexuality lines.  From a press release today announcing the study's results:

500px-University_of_Pittsburgh_Seal_(official).svgMen who identify themselves as heterosexual are three times more likely to categorize bisexuality as "not a legitimate sexual orientation," an attitude that can encourage negative health outcomes in people who identify as bisexual, according to an analysis led by University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health researcher Mackey Friedman, Ph.D., M.P.H.

"Bisexual men and women face prejudice, stigma and discrimination from both heterosexual and homosexual people," said Dr. Friedman, director of Project Silk, an HIV prevention initiative. "This can cause feelings of isolation and marginalization, which prior research has shown leads to higher substance use, depression and risky sexual behavior. It also can result in lower rates of HIV testing and treatment."

Dr. Friedman and his colleagues asked hundreds of college students for words they associated with bisexual people, getting responses such as 'confused,' 'different' and 'experimental.' They then wrote a 33-question survey which was administered to an online sample of 1,500 adults.  The results were illuminating, if disappointing:

Overall, respondents were generally negative in terms of their attitudes toward bisexual men and women, with almost 15 percent of the sample in disagreement that bisexuality is a legitimate sexual orientation. However, women, white people and people who identified themselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual had less bias and prejudice against bisexual people. Of note, respondents who identified as gay or lesbian responded significantly less positively toward bisexuality than those identifying as bisexual, indicating that even within the sexual minority community, bisexuals face profound stigma. In addition, these findings indicate that male bisexuals likely suffer more stigma than female bisexuals.

As the University of Pittsburgh study shows, not only does our country have a ways to go towards greater tolerance and visibility for bisexual issues–it seems the LGBT community itself has some soul-searching to do on the issue.