Bisexual youth face skepticism and harassment, are significantly less happy than non-LGBT peers, and face more challenges than gay and lesbian teens, says a new study from the Human Rights Campaign.
HRC released the “Supporting and Caring for Our Bisexual Youth” report today, the 15th annual Celebrate Bisexuality Day, in partnership with BiNet USA, Bi Resource Center, and the Bisexual Organizing Project.
The findings indicated that bisexual youth face many of the same issues as lesbians and gays regarding coming out, bullying, harassment, and family acceptance. But young bisexuals encounter additional challenges specific to their orientation. In coming out, many were told bisexuality doesn’t exist, that it is just a phase, and that they are indecisive. They met with other misconceptions about bisexuality as well. And they must deal with biphobia not only from straight people, but within the LGBT population.
About a third of bisexual youth reported they have been harassed frequently or called names at school, and 56 percent said they didn’t have a supportive adult in their family. Only 5 percent described themselves as “very happy,” compared with 21 percent of non-LGBT youth.
For the report, researchers surveyed more than 10,000 LGBT youth between the ages of 13 to 17, 40 percent of whom indicated they are attracted to more than one gender. The sudy also found that many young people rejected the term “bisexual” for themselves, opting for “queer” or “pansexual” instead.
The findings are important, if sometimes distressing, noted officials with HRC and its partner organizations. “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,” said Ellen Kahn, director of the HRC Foundation's Children, Youth, and Families Program, in a press release announcing the report. “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.”
“Bisexual teen girls provided troubling descriptions of sexual harassment, an unfortunate early indicator of just how dangerous stereotyping is to our safety,” said 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.”
“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,” said 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.”
Read the full report here.