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Disclosing Bisexuality May Not Be Helpful for Bisexual Men

 

For decades, research addressing the mental health of gay men has grouped bisexual and gay men together. This is a disservice to the LGBTQ community, and to bisexual men in particular. There are significant differences in behavior, identity, and attractions between gay and bisexual men. While gay men are attracted to other men and identify as homosexual, bisexual men can be attracted to either sex. And although it has been shown that disclosure of sexuality is beneficial to mental health for gay and bisexual men, bisexual men are more likely to conceal their sexuality than gay men. Therefore, they report lower levels of psychological well-being. This could be due to the fact that many bisexual men are in committed relationships to women and are torn between their desire for that relationship and their attraction to men. Or perhaps bisexual men are at war with their own homophobia.

To explore why bisexual men do not reveal their sexuality as often as gay men, Eric W. Schrimshaw of the Department of Sociomedical Sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York recently conducted an online survey of 203 bisexual men. He asked them about their levels of social support, mental health, internalized homophobia, and general demographics. He found that the men with the highest incomes were most likely to conceal their sexuality. This was also the case for men in committed relationships with women or those who identified as heterosexual. Concealment was also associated with more frequent female sexual encounters for bisexual men. Overall, the men that concealed their sexuality had poorer mental health than those who disclosed their sexuality.

Schrimshaw believes that these findings underscore the delicate nature of sexuality for bisexual men. Internalizing homophobic beliefs and lack of emotional support may be more dangerous to the psychological well-being of bisexual men than concealment alone. However, concealment can indirectly affect those domains. Although disclosure appears to be beneficial for gay men, this may not always be the case for bisexual men. Rather than interventions that focus on encouraging men to disclose their bisexuality, “Interventions addressing concerns about concealment, emotional support, and internalized homophobia may be more beneficial for increasing the mental health of bisexual men,” said Schrimshaw.

Reference:
Schrimshaw, E. W., Siegel, K., Downing, M. J., Jr., and Parsons, J. T. (2012). Disclosure and concealment of sexual orientation and the mental health of non-gay-identified, behaviorally bisexual men. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0031272

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Comments
  • Howard January 26th, 2013 at 11:19 AM #1

    I am one of those people who struggles not with myself being bisexual but in understanding how others can feel this way. I am fine with heterosexuals and homosexuals, but the whole idea of being bisexual just confuses me. How can you be attracted to both sexes equally? I guess I am a one way or the other kind of guy and this concept of jumping back and forth between partners of a different sex and not settling on one that you like more than the others kind of is beyond what I can understand. It’s not that I’m not willing to try, but it doesn’t come too naturally to me.

  • carmen r January 28th, 2013 at 3:52 AM #2

    anything on how this same thing would affect women?

  • Martin January 28th, 2013 at 10:11 AM #3

    While coming out with their orientation may not help them, I’m pretty sure being comfortable about it and open to their partner is. Because although your friends and colleagues may not know of you being bisexual, if your partner knows and acknowledges it it can be a huge relief.

  • Laura B January 28th, 2013 at 3:37 PM #4

    Disclosing may not be beneficial but I’m pretty sure not disclosing is causing problems. I know at least one person who is bisexual but refuses to come out with it or even acknowledge it. yes it is not anybody else’s business but by keeping it within him he is definitely hurting himself psychologically. I’ve heard a lot of homosexual people say coming out made them feel so much more relieved. it is hard to imagine it is any different for bisexual individuals.

  • Max the Communist January 28th, 2013 at 8:25 PM #5

    This synapse makes it very unclear just what kind of support these bisexual men have for coming out as bisexual. Do they have access to or are they even aware of the existence of bisexual organizations? Has any interaction with a general LGBT community given them a chance to find support for their bisexuality or has their local LGBT community been negative toward their sexual orientation and added even greater pressure on issues like disclosure? A bisexual man or woman may find that stigmatization from both straight and gay cultures only adds to mental health problems like depression and anxiety.

  • jim February 26th, 2013 at 10:58 PM #6

    I am a bisexual male in a relationship with a woman that does not know. Most people that know me do not know and I think it’s best for me to keep it that way. Bisexual men are not well liked by society.

  • Mat July 26th, 2013 at 5:12 AM #7

    I have always been “out” as bisexual and sometimes in the art circles I run in it has been OK. But even in the most liberal and open minded sub-culture of the art world there is a lot of discrimination, misunderstanding, and prejudice. In the last few years the negativity and stigma has resulted in a three year depression. I think bisexual men should be selectively out. And if there is a preference for women bi guys should actively seek out bisexual women for long term partnerships. I have been monogomous in most of my relationships with women. But now I date a bi woman who wanted an open relationship. Part of what I find depressing is still even after “proof” of male bisexuality it is still thought “not to really exist”. Anxiety comes when you are perpetually told to be a non-existent person. I must also say I have preferred women and being “out” and coming out to a female partner and being rejected is very heartbreaking and stressful much less having gay men out right tell you that you never loved the women that you have loved.

  • John Garrett Jones September 20th, 2013 at 8:09 AM #8

    I have been a happily married man for 56 years, have two grown daughters and four delightful grandchildren. But I am also bisexual!My wife knew about my gay drive before we got married so there was never the problem about disclosure. I have written a book called “Coming Clean about Bisexuality” which is based partly on my own experience and which many other men have found helpful. It can be read or freely downloaded from my website, “Love – not war.”
    As you will see, I feel it is important to recognise that a bisexual man is not in the same position as an exclusively gay man and this affects the kind of gay sex he adopts. I would urge all bi men seeking male partners to concentrate on what makes men male and to avoid getting drawn into anal sex – which is in any case pseudo-heterosexual.
    I have placed the book in the context of an anti-war site (which you may also find well worth reading) because men who know how to love each other should be appalled by the fact that so many men are still happy to kill and maim each other – and also any women or children who get in their way – if ordered to do so.
    I’d be glad to hear from you if you care to reply,
    John Garrett Jones

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