A ground-breaking report published today by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation reveals that 40 percent of more than 10,000 LGBTQ youth surveyed by the organization identify as bisexual — and many of them say they face more challenges coming out and gaining acceptance than their lesbian and gay peers.
The Supporting and Caring For Our Bisexual Youth report,based on one of the largest surveys ever of LGBTQ youth and released in partnership with the Bisexual Resource Center, BiNet USA, and the Bisexual Organizing Project, also reveals a troubling chasm between the experiences of bisexual youth in America and their non-LGBTQ peers.
And many of the young people surveyed expressed the potential to be attracted to more than one gender, but rejected the term “bisexual” when describing their sexual orientation. Instead, they wrote their own descriptions, including “queer” and “pansexual.”
The findings, released on the 15th annual Celebrate Bisexuality Day, also show that bisexual youth in America are overwhelmingly female, and confront broad skepticism and misunderstanding about their sexual identities.
“It hurts deeply when young people are told they are not legitimate, and, unfortunately, that is what many bisexual youth are hearing from their family and friends,” says Ellen Kahn, director of the HRC Foundation’s Children, Youth & Families Program. “This report will help bust the myths and misunderstandings associated with bisexuality, and create a space for young people to be more open, and to find the support they deserve.”
The survey of 10,030 young people ages 13 to 17 and commissioned in 2012 by the HRC Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, found that bisexual youth remain deeply disconnected from the larger LGBT community and its services. They are less optimistic about their futures than their non-LGBT counterparts, less engaged in their communities and schools, and highly susceptible to sexual harassment.
“Bisexual teen girls provided troubling descriptions of sexual harassment, an unfortunate early indicator of just how dangerous stereotyping is to our safety,” says Faith Cheltenham, president of BiNet USA. “Statistics show that these threats continue for adult bi women, who, during their lifetimes,report alarmingly high rates of rape, physical violence and stalking by an intimate partner.”
The report also illuminates a disconnect between bisexual youth and caring adults, be they parents, teachers, or those working in LGBT support organizations. Biphobia, the report found, remains a serious problem in the LGBT community, and compounds the challenges faced by bisexual youth.
“Those who work with youth know how important it is for their success to have at least one person they can turn to when they are struggling with their lives,” says Ellyn Ruthstrom, president of the Bisexual Resource Center. “This study sadly indicates that bi youth are not accessing support services – in fact, most of them don’t even know that there are services available to them.”
The HRC Foundation, BiNet, the Bisexual Resource Center, and the Bisexual Organizing Project anticipate that the report, its findings and recommendations, will help guide important figures in these young peoples’ lives – including those in the LGBT community – to reach, support, and meet their unique needs.
“We have a responsibility to educate ourselves and to open the doors for young bisexual people to live openly, and to thrive,” Kahn says. “We adults must step up and change the conversation about bisexuality, and accept and embrace our bisexual youth.”