Category Archives: Bisexual & MHS

5 Ways Bisexual Women Can Pursue Better Healthcare

Many individuals in the LGBT community face significant issues with regard to health care. For example, bisexual women face a high risk of physical and mental health problems and have a higher likelihood of experiencing violence and addiction. Discrimination is often experienced within the healthcare system. The bisexual community is fighting this, to spread education and make quality healthcare more accessible.

There are some general guidelines that may be helpful for bisexual women who are looking for quality health care. Read on to learn the five ways bisexual women can take care of their health, even while facing exceptional challenges.

5 Ways Bisexual Women Can Pursue Better Healthcare

Be aware of risks
Bisexual women are more likely to experience addiction, smoke, have depression and have suicidal thoughts and/or attempts, compared to other groups. Bi woman are also at a higher risk for cancer than heterosexual women or lesbians and less likely to get screening. Amy André, a co-author of Bisexual Health: An Introduction said, “Research shows that bisexuals experience more discrimination, violence, and stigma than gays and lesbians.” She believes that the fact that bisexuals have the worst health is directly linked to the violence, stigma and discrimination.

Seek quality health care
Unfortunately, it’s not possible to assume that every doctor is able to cater to the unique needs of LGBT patients. It is easier in urban areas, but still more difficult to find a provider that doesn’t group bisexual patients with gay or straight women. There is a list of providers in the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association directory and the Bisexual-Aware Professionals Directory. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and compassion.

Be your own advocate
You’ll need to be more assertive at times because some doctors will ask questions that are heteronormative. If you find that the doctor assumes you are a sexuality that you aren’t, you may need to answer broadly. You’ll want to make sure that you’re giving proper information about your past and current partners, and your sexuality. Some women will find it more difficult if they live in a small community with few doctors. Push yourself as far as you feel comfortable and remember that you can request certain types of screening for your physical and mental health.

Know your financial barriers
According to LGBT MAP’s Unfair Price study, bi women are more than twice as likely to live in poverty than the general population, and 29% of LGBT women have trouble finding affordable health care, compared to 19% of heterosexual women. Women in rural areas may experience even more difficulty. It’s of vital importance to have access to affordable health care. This could mean a visit to a free clinic, Planned Parenthood or a doctor’s office that takes your health insurance.

Get the word out
Form a support system and be supportive to others in a similar position. Doing this not only positively affects your chances of receiving affordable health care, it improves your health.


Study Shows LGBT Women among Most at Risk for Poverty

A study conducted by The National LGBTQ Task Force, Movement Advance Project, and Center for American Progress, called Paying an Unfair Price: The Financial Penalty for LGBT Women in America, shows that LGBT women are presented with challenges that obstruct their economic well being in health coverage, jobs and getting legal recognition from their families. The study emphasizes the many obstacles that LGBT women in the US face, including exclusion from insurance coverage, wage differences and inflexible workplaces.

LGBT women (transgender in particular) risk employment discrimination
Sixteen percent of LGB individuals said they lost their job because of sexual orientation and 35 percent said they were harassed by their employers, as recently as 2008. Sixty-two percent of LGB people in the study said they heard jokes about lesbians and gays while at work. Out of the transgender women surveyed, 55 percent of them said they were turned down for employment due to their gender identity.

LGBT women are asked by healthcare providers to pay higher rates
They are twice as likely as non-LGBT women to not have a doctor who they visit on a consistent and regular basis. LGBT women with incomes at or below $47,000/yr tend not to have healthcare coverage. The fact that there are exclusions in care for transition-related issues, it’s incredibly expensive for needed services for trans women.

LGBT women are more likely not allowed to be legal parents of their children
They often lack protected family or medical leave at work, and face obstacles in obtaining safe, affordable health care for their families. This is due to the lack of marriage equality throughout the US.

Study Shows LGBT Women among Most at Risk for Poverty

LGBT women pay higher rent and longer rental applications
One study by H.U.D. showed that opposite-sex couples were favored over same-sex couples by 16 percent when they applied for the same rentals. Same-sex couples were given higher prices, longer application processes and less incentives about promotions.

LGBT women lack intimate partner violence protection
The study showed that bisexual women were less “out” in the workplace, which may cause them to stay in an abusive relationship because they fear being outed by their partner. It’s also possible that women who report domestic violence when they’re in same-sex relationships are not taken seriously because of gender stereotypes.

LGBT women/families may not be aware of their eligibility for government assistance
It’s challenging for same-sex couples to navigate state and federal benefit systems because of the legal jumble of relationship recognition for them.

Unique Concerns for Bisexuals Regarding Healthcare

Because they’re all sexual minorities, it’s common to group lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people into one group. 

The problem with this arises when studies involving bisexual men and women involve information specific to them that begs for our attention.  One study in particular reported that bisexuals experienced significant obstacles with receiving health care,  experienced suicidal ideation within the past year, reported feeling sad, and had more cardiac disease risk than heterosexuals.

A study by Diamant et. al. showed that bisexual women were less likely to have insurance during the previous year, we’re not as likely as heterosexual women to have health insurance in general,  and had a greater chance of experiencing difficulty receiving needed medical care.  In another study,  bisexual women we’re shown to be more likely to experience frequent mental distress and worse general health than lesbians, the difference being even more extreme for bisexual women who lived in urban areas.

Research has shown that bisexual women and men are at a higher risk for a poor quality of life, healthwise, including a greater incidence of certain cancers.  Bisexual women reported higher rates than lesbians or heterosexual women, for any type of cancer, in a large U.S. study of women, ages 50-79.  Bisexual women are impacted the most with breast cancer, as never having given birth is one of the risk factors.  And, bisexual women are at more risk for endometrial and ovarian cancers because they’re twice as likely to not have given birth as heterosexual women.

It’s interesting, though; bisexual women were twice as likely as heterosexual women to have given birth during their teenage years which also impacts health.  Unfortunately, bisexual women were less likely than other groups in the LGBT community to have received a pap smear or mammogram, which are two ways of screening cancer and lowering the cases of cancer.

It’s incredibly important to recognize these health differences within the LGBT community and in comparison to heterosexual individuals.  It’s obvious that this group is more burdened with cancer than the general population, but still studies need to go more in depth in order to understand the specific differences for individuals in the LGBT population.

LGBT Youth Experience More Cyber Bullying

LGBT youth face significant difficulties with discrimination, harassment and lack of family support.

It also happens that they face more harassment online–a place where many youth go to feel as if they’re more part of a community, receive support, medical information, and other opportunities . One study by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) found that LGBT youth faced cyber bullying three times more than non-LGBT youth. The study points out that those living in more rural areas experience even higher levels of harassment online and shows that 42 percent of LGBT youth face a higher level of online bullying, compared to 15 percent of those who are straight/cisgender. Part of the study resulted in findings that show LGBT youth were twice as likely to report bullying through text messages.

This study, called “Out Online: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth on the Internet”, included results from a national survey which included 5,680 middle and high school students, grades 6-12. It was found that lower grade point average and self-esteem, and a higher chance of depression were linked to youth affected by bullying.

LGBT Youth Experience More Cyber Bullying

Dr. Eliza Byard, GLSEN’s Executive Director said, “LGBT youth continue to face extraordinary obstacles in their day-to-day lives whether at school or online, but the Internet can be a valuable source of information and support when they have no one or nowhere else left to turn to. As social media evolve, so must our efforts to serve LGBT youth to ensure their safety, health and well-being.”

It is important for LGBT youth to have access to resources available on the Internet that they either would not be able to find elsewhere, or that they don’t feel comfortable seeking offline.  For example, this study shows that LGBT youth (particularly those who are transgender) are twice as likely to look up medical information online than their straight/cisgender peers. It is vital that LGBT youth know they have a safe place to be themselves online, especially if they don’t feel that support elsewhere.

LGBT Health Disparities and Cancer

We don’t know a sufficient amount about cancer in the LGBT population.

There are specific prevention and treatment programs that have been designed for groups based on statistics. Such data comes from certain geographic, racial and ethnic groups. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people need to know exactly how prevalent cancer is among their groups because they currently don’t.

Even without official data, it’s pretty safe to say that LGBT people are disproportionately affected by cancer. There is plenty of research to confirm LGBT people have a specific “cluster of risk factors” that would give them greater incidence of cancer and diagnosis in a later stage. It is estimated that there are currently over 1 million LGBT cancer survivors in the US. This disproportionate amount of risk factors and burden of disease is referred to as “health disparities”.

Although there aren’t any biological or physiological differences between heterosexual and LGBT people, disparities exist due to a combination of economic and social factors and behaviors. These can frequently be linked to the stresses that come with living as a gender and/or sexual minority in the US.

LGBT Health Disparities and Cancer

One study of health disparities of lesbian, gay, and bisexual women found that bisexual women and lesbians were more likely than heterosexual women to:

  • Generally be in worse physical and mental health
  • Have asthma
  • Have diabetes
  • Be overweight
  • Smoke
  • Consume too much alcohol

This study showed that these women were at a higher risk for breast cancer and other cancers associated with alcohol abuse, obesity and smoking.

Health disparities in the LGBT community are not limited to cancer incidences. The quality of life for cancer survivors in the LGBT population is profoundly different from heterosexuals with regard to sexuality, relationships in general, and interactions with medical professionals. For example, gay and heterosexual men are affected much differently when it comes to changes in sexual function due to prostate cancer treatment. Unfortunately, few health care professionals will bother asking gay men about their sex lives or even know how to respond if the patient inquires about the issue. It is important that those in the LGBT community receive competent, compassionate medical treatment, with unique problems considered and addressed.

LGBTQ Teens Engaged in Sex Work for Survival

There’s a difference between sex work that is legal and that which is criminalized, as far as protection and health-regulation goes, but it’s all work. People are doing this work for many different reasons, very rarely because they want to. It can be incredibly dangerous.

What appears to be a study that is the first of its kind, was released by an Urban Institute report on survival sex and LGBTQ youth in NYC. The study took interviews from 300 participants between 13 and 21 years of age and was done in collaboration with the organization Streetwise and Safe. The study was conducted with participants speaking to their peers, which likely made it much more effective.

This approach seems to have been a good move, resulting in straightforward and complex responses from LGBTQ teens who have taken part in survival sex. To say they choose to do this is misleading and damaging–it’s for survival; they’ve often run out of options. The main reason LGBTQ teens turn to survival sex is homelessness. As many as 50 percent of youth who are homeless or runaway, trade sex for money to care for themselves or for shelter. Forty-eight percent of transgender people who engage in sex work report that they’re homeless.

A 2007 study of LGBTQ teens in New York showed that transgender teens were eight times more likely to have traded sex for shelter than heterosexual teens and that LGBTQ youth in general were seven times more likely. More than half of the respondents of the study said they used the money from survival sex to buy food first.

LGBTQ Teens Engaged in Sex Work for Survival

Often, LGBTQ youth are introduced to this way of survival by a friend. Meredith Dank, a senior research associate at the Urban Institute believes these are relationships and circumstances too fraught to be labeled as “good” or “bad”. These teens have little control over meeting their own needs for survival and don’t have support systems, so they turn to each other as family and protection. Dank said, “They’ll say, ‘I needed a parent and I didn’t have them.’ Peers are serving that role of support they really need.”

The community ties these teens have built make it difficult for them to leave survival sex, even when they are presented with other employment opportunities. And, almost all of the youth interviewed in the study said they wanted to be able to support themselves differently. They reported they did not want to be engaged in survival sex, not even in a year and that, “They wanted a job. This wasn’t a job to them, it was just how they were surviving.”

Dank says, “What we knew was mostly anecdotal, and now we have data to share. LGBT youth are having these experiences all over the country. Whoever is passing the laws about this, we need them to know all of this.”

The end of the report includes a list of recommendations that is intended to reach social service agencies serving LGBTQ youth beyond NYC.


Tips for Lesbians Seeking a Love Life Boost

Do you feel a little bored with your sex life? Or, maybe even feel like it’s a chore? That’s not what anyone wants when it comes to sex. It’s okay. It’s normal to go through periods of time when you’re somewhat stuck and need to put a little more effort into spicing things up.  Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Spend time together
It’s wise not to assume things will work out on their own.  You need to put some effort into creating a more satisfying love life.  Mark your calendar and set aside an entire day for the two of you to explore each other completely — mind and body.  Both of you may be pleasantly surprised about what you discover.

Kiss for awhile
Why don’t both of you spend a lot more time kissing, without worrying about doing anything else?  Often, lovers spend a lot of time thinking about the end result. You may find that if you spend time kissing, you’ll become much more intimate and sex will be phenomenal.

Don’t become too comfortable
You and your lover need not become victims of lesbian bed death.  Make sure to spend some time away from each other once in a while; make your own friends, and just socialize.  A little bit of time away from each other will make you both appreciate one another that much more.  Of course, this appreciation and excitement will extend to the bedroom.

Tips for Lesbians Seeking a Love Life Boost

Buy some sex toys
Even the thought alone and the decision to purchase a good toy is exciting.  If you’re both inexperienced, check out some websites that sell adult toys, and communicate about what turns you on.  Maybe start with a dildo, which is pretty versatile. If you decide you want to go all out and use a strap-on for sex, do that, too. It’s your choice, and that can be arousing on its own.

Pick out a good lube
This is important to use on your sex toys, but also in general.  It can be rubbed in all sorts of sexy places and is even more arousing if you choose one with stimulant properties.

Incorporate some massage into your love life.  Make sure to explore every inch of your lover’s body. Using lotions and oil makes it that much better. You may discover new places you both like to be touched.

Dress up/Role play
You might decide to go for some power playing if you’re in a respectful, trusting relationship.  This may strengthen your trust towards each other.  One person playing the dominating role can be incredibly arousing.  You may also choose to use costumes and uniforms.  Invite a light-hearted sense of humor to set the mood.  Laughing together can be sexy…and maybe you’ve always been turned on by a woman in uniform–here’s your chance to make that happen.

Study Shows Truvada Cuts HIV Spread 86%

A recent UK trial shows that a pill taken by men who have sex with men (MSM) on a daily basis, can protect them from HIV infection. Experts are saying that the drug called “Truvada” offers hope that the spread of HIV will be reversed. Truvada can be taken daily, as a regular part of the routine for MSM. The National Health Service (NHS) will be looking at the results to consider whether it is cost effective for men who risk infection.

Truvada was approved in the FDA in the US in 2012 and is available through Medicaid and many private health insurance plans. It was the first pill approved by the FDA to be taken daily to help prevent HIV and is already used extensively here in the US.

Proud (Pre-exposure Option for reducing HIV in the UK: immediate or Deferred (the  name of the study) shows that Truvada decreased infections in MSM by 86 percent. Experts in the study were thrilled, particularly because the study was conducted in “real world” circumstances. The participants were allowed to take (or not take) the pills as they wished. Proud has entered the scene following a line of other trials, with a greater rate of success than all of them.

Study Shows Truvada Cuts HIV Spread 86%

The 545 men involved in the trial were deemed to be at a high risk for HIV through sexual health clinics; the median of partners the men had was 10 within the past 90 days. Fifty percent of the men were given Truvada immediately, while the other half received the drug after one year. Three HIV infections occurred among the men who were given the drug immediately and 19 among the men who didn’t receive the drug.

These results are very encouraging. Richard Gilson, principal investigator for the Proud study thinks the drug “appeared to be an important and practical solution” for high risk men who were willing to take it on a regular basis. He believes the next step should be cost-benefit analysis from the trial. Gilson said, “I shall be surprised if it is not cost-effective at the usual threshold they apply, at least for individuals with this high-risk profile.”

This important study proves that pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) can prevent HIV infection and has been tested in real life circumstances. It is a significant form of defense against HIV.

Understanding Anal Cancer Screenings

It is a rare disease, but anal cancer does exist and deserves our attention.

The cases of anal cancer are a lot more prevalent in gay and bisexual men or, “men who have sex with men” (MSM).  Unfortunately, most MSM’s have not been tested or know that any screenings are out there, and do not know much, if anything about anal cancer. Medical professionals are actually divided on whether they should even screen for it and how they would do so. Currently, there isn’t any standardized protocol for anal cancer screening.

Facts about anal cancer:

  • Anal cancer is diagnosed in approximately two out of every 100,000 people in the general population every year.
  • MSMs who are HIV negative are 20 times more likely to receive an anal cancer diagnosis (about 40 per 100,000 people)
  • MSMs who are HIV positive are up to 40 times more likely to receive this diagnosis (about 80 per 100,000 people)
  • The same strains of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) that cause cervical cancer in women also cause anal cancer
  • In MSMs, HPV is transmitted through both protected and unprotected anal intercourse and skin-to-skin contact. HPV is very common– approximately 75 percent of all sexually active adults acquire HPV; not all HPV infections lead to cancer.

Understanding Anal Cancer Screenings

A number of men don’t have any apparent symptoms of HPV, but possible symptoms include:

  • Genital warts affecting the anus, penis and/or peritoneum
  • Abnormal discharge from the anus
  • Bleeding from the anus and rectum
  • Itching of the anus; pain or pressure around the anus
  • A sore or sores that do not heal, around the anus

Since the cervix and anus are similar, biologically, and both are target areas for HPV infection, a pap smear can be used test the anus for pre-cancerous cell changes and cancer.  More and more health activists and gay physicians believe this procedure could reduce the incidence of anal cancer as significantly as it has with cervical cancer in women.

It is recommended by them that all MSMs, especially those who are HIV positive, receive testing every 1 to 3 years, depending on their CD4 count and immunology wellbeing.  Their recommendation for HIV negative MSMs is for testing every 3 years.  Other physicians don’t believe all MSMs need to be tested due to the small number of cases, facility shortages for follow-up procedures, and the cost, pain and fear of looking at small changes in cells (dysplasia). In addition, the number of insurance policies that would cover pap smears for the anus is low.

Even though the AIDS Institute of New York recommends that HIV positive gay men “and others with history of HPV disease” be tested annually, there appears to be little agreement about the importance and practicality of offering all MSM clients this testing.


Popular Misconceptions about Bisexuals

There are many harmful misconceptions out there regarding bisexuality.

These common assumptions exist in and outside of the LGBT community.  Bisexuality is real and it’s here to stay.  Some of your friends might be bisexual (or you might be, of course) and won’t come out for fear of being judged harshly and incorrectly.  It’s time that everyone is able to put these myths to rest.  Here are some of the most popular fallacies about bisexuality:

Bisexuals are attracted to men and women equally

Everyone is different.  Some who identify as bisexual might be attracted to one gender in a different way than they are to another and possibly much more.  Others do not believe that gender matters at all when it comes to their attractions.  It’s best to refer to the Kinsey scale to understand this more thoroughly. The Kinsey scale has sexual orientation displayed on a scale from 0 to 6.  Zero means that a person is completely heterosexual and 6 means exclusively homosexual. We can each fit anywhere on that scale…and we won’t necessarily stay in the exact spot.

Popular Misconceptions about Bisexuals

Bisexuals are in a phase before coming out as homosexual

It is possible that some lesbian and gay people came out as bisexual first, but that’s not the rule.  It’s also true that some who identify as lesbian or gay end up coming out as bisexual.  Sexuality can be fluid for some, just like a lot of things in life.

We’re all bisexual or we’re all not bisexual

Bisexuality is real.  There are actually individuals who will be attracted to and have sex with both men and women for their entire lives.  This is not everyone, though.

Bisexuals can’t have a partner of just one gender

It’s a common misconception that bisexual people will need to be involved with both genders to be sexually and emotionally fulfilled.  There are many who are perfectly content having the partner they’re with at any given time and who want to be monogamous.

Bisexuals are just very promiscuous people…more than any other group

Just as with any other sexual orientation, there will be some people who are promiscuous and some who are extremely monogamous.  Sexual orientation is not the deciding factor here, the individual makes the decision.