The Effects of Bisexual+ Representation on Mental Health in LGBTQ+ Families

By Isabel Corp, guest-writer

March is Bisexual Health Awareness Month, which puts a spotlight on the bisexual+ (bi, pansexual, fluid, queer, etc.) community’s social, economic, and health disparities to advocate for and enhance the bi+ community’s wellbeing. This year’s theme is the impact of bisexual+ representation in the media, politics, and healthcare on bi+ people’s everyday lives. 

Bisexual people experience a higher rate of mental illness than gay and lesbian folks. It might be hard to imagine how TV characters and movie plots play a role in an entire community’s mental health disparity, but media representation plays a key role in shifting social perception. 

As it stands, bisexual+ TV characters are killed off at a much higher rate. What’s more, healthy bisexual+ parents are even harder to find on TV or in books, even though bisexual+ people comprise more than half of the LGBT community.  

Too often the representation bi+ people do receive carries toxic messages that contribute to biphobia inside and outside of the LGBTQ+ community. These messages have far-reaching effects on our parents and families. Storylines often depict bisexuality+ in men as a stepping stone to coming out as gay and, in women, as a way to garner a man’s attention. Movies and television also perpetuate the idea that bisexual+ people are “greedy” or more likely to cheat. All of these harmful stereotypes shape society’s perception of bisexual+ people, resulting in pervasive discrimination at work (and, subsequently, higher rates of poverty or unemployment), high rates of intimate partner violence, and higher rates of depression. Bisexual+ people in different-sex relationships may struggle to create legal ties to their children, and—to avoid mistreatment at a child’s school, the workplace, or family—bi+ parents may decide it’s easier to hide their sexuality altogether, leading to poorer health outcomes.  

Creating strong bisexual+ parent role models in a wide variety of relationships on screen can be an essential part of moving the needle forward so that these parents can focus on how to raise their families without having to navigate threats of discrimination or community isolation. We need to keep pushing the media to create authentic Bisexual+ representation, as well as prioritize the diverse range of voices that make up the Bi+ community and continue to have these nuanced conversations about sexual fluidity and mental health, no matter how uncomfortable it might make some people.