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Here you will find the journal of a Queer, Mormon, Transhumanist.

More Than a Statistic

More Than a Statistic

I’ll begin by acknowledging this post might be too much, too intimate, too real, too vulnerable. I have learned genuine intimacy and vulnerability can leave people uncomfortable or frightened. Honesty, genuine honesty, isn’t always wanted. Even so, if we aren’t brave enough to embrace the intimate intricacies of diverse human experiences, I fear we will continue to make the same mistakes over and over without regard to those we injure. I’m breaking social codes, so you’ll have to forgive the unbridled expression of my experience as a bisexual woman.

More studies come out every year with new findings concerning the anxiety, depression, and suicide rates of LGBTQ+ folks. I’m tired of the statistics. I am tired of listening to others debate our suicide ideation, attempts, and reasons. I’m tired of listening to inaccurate assumptions, bad stereotypes, and ignorant comments.

More than anything, I’m tired of burying my friends.

Of all sexual orientations, the bisexual population experiences the highest rates of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.[1] Bisexual females exhibit the highest suicide scores.[2] Bisexual girls are the most vulnerable, with nearly 48 percent saying they had considered taking their own lives.[3] Much of this is due to victimization, peer judgments, biphobia, and family rejection. Bisexual individuals also reported higher rates of mental illness.[4] The Pew Research Center also shows that bisexuals are significantly less likely to disclose their sexual orientation to their family and friends than their monosexual peers. Only about 28% of bisexuals say all or most of the important people in their life know they are bisexual. By comparison 70-80% of gay and lesbian participants say all or most of the important people in their life know they are homosexual.[5]

It is one thing to study the statistics and it is quite another to be the statistic. The statistics are important, but they don’t tell the whole story. They don’t tell how it feels to be one of the statistics. I am more than a statistic. I am a person with a story to tell, and I will not let the statistics speak on my behalf.

I have spent the last year in therapy for chronic suicide ideation. What started as unwelcomed dreams, turned into constant ideation—at home, at work, at school, at church.  At my lowest, there were days I could not leave my room other than to feed my children. Even the mountains I wandered through couldn’t bring me the healing they once did. Week after week, sometimes several hours a day, I contemplated if, how, when, and why I should and would take my own life. Intrusive thoughts would come without consent, and the smallest details or comments could be triggering.

This post is primarily directed toward the experience of bisexual women, but I presume there is some overlap with the experience of bisexual men and other members of the LGBTQ+ community. I suspect there will be cisgender women and racial minorities who can relate to some of these issues. It is not my intent to neglect the experiences of others. I’m merely speaking from my lived experience, which may or may not relate to you.

I have compiled a list of issues which have been most triggering to my suicide ideation and anxiety. Hopefully the expression of these issues will offer education and understanding. I hope for change. I hope for a world where these tragic statistics about bisexual women are relics of the past.

 

Media

Representation matters. It sounds trite, but it’s true.

I remember watching one of my favorite shows, Westworld, and a sexually explicit scene portrayed one of the villains, Logan, as promiscuous bisexual. Granted he was not the only person to be portrayed as careless with his sexual partners in the show, but why make his character bisexual? His character is based on a harmful trope of bisexuals. Logan is greedy, careless, and unempathetic. His character is hypersexualized with hedonistic interests. Bisexuals are often portrayed as greedy, selfish, hypersexualized people due to the fact our sexual orientations are not exclusive to one gender. It follows that because our sexual orientations aren’t exclusive to one gender that we aren’t exclusive or thoughtful with our sexual partners. Just as Logan’s character is portrayed, bisexuals are only interested in sex. We don’t have feelings, our romantic interests are impure and selfish, and above all, we are promiscuous and untrustworthy. Apparently having no gender barriers is tantamount to no barriers at all. Even the consent of bisexual women can’t be taken seriously (see Sexual Assault and Consent), because we are presumed to always be ready and wanting for sex with anyone who has a pulse.

Logan’s character is nothing new. The media has always used harmful queer stereotypes to make the plotlines and characters more sensationalized for the cisgender, heterosexual viewer. The bisexual sociopath is just one of many bad queer tropes.

Even still, I was taken off guard with Logan’s character. His bisexuality had nothing to do with his character or plot development. The portrayal of his bisexuality was just an extension of his lack of empathy and morals. Is this how the media sees us? Why wasn’t Teddy’s character bisexual? Why is bisexuality constantly portrayed as impure, dirty, and hedonistic? Does my sexual orientation make me impure, unloving, inconsiderate, and immoral? Because that’s the message.

 

Passing Privilege

Passing privilege is the idea that when people interact with you on a regular basis they assume you are either heterosexual or homosexual—heterosexual being the more privileged of the two. Passing privilege, like the trans experience of passing privilege, is a two-edged sword. Passing privilege also comes with erasure. If I pass as straight, then my authentic bisexual experience gets erased. Bi erasure is the neglect, removal, or falsification of the bisexual experience. Bisexuality comes with the trauma of being homosexual with the bonus of being told that because you have “hetero-passing privilege” your trauma isn’t worth acknowledgment or treatment.

Passing also seems to imply I’m getting away with something—that bisexuals are somehow being dishonest when we pass as heterosexual or homosexual. Passing is a verb that assumes I am doing something to deceive you of my sexual orientation. To compensate for this, in an effort to be completely honest, some bisexuals become overt about sharing their bisexual orientation. However, this can sometimes come off as being hypersexual. This puts bisexuals in a double bind. We’re either too sexual and overt about our orientation, or we are dishonest and trying to hide what we are. We must learn how to walk the tightrope of impossible social expectations to be the “right kind of bisexual.”

It’s no wonder bisexuals like myself suffer from crippling social anxiety. We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t. We’re either constantly worry about being “found out” or worrying about being perceived as a hypersexualized maniac. Every social situation puts us in a situation where we are either too honest or dishonest.

The reality is my “passing privilege” is not my privilege—it’s my bi erasure. At least that’s how I experience it. It is emotionally exhausting being around monosexuals—so much so that I seek solitude over friendships. I grow tired of being misunderstood and erased while taking the blame from my so-called “passing privilege.” Sometimes it’s easier to be around no one than to meet new people, make new friends, and “come out” to strangers to avoid being accused of being dishonest.

It’s for reasons like these, I tend to have a handful of exclusively close friends. It’s quite humorous. Bisexuals are often accused of being promiscuous, untrustworthy or noncommittal, yet when it comes to my friendships, my most intimate relationships, I am quite exclusive, loyal, and committed.

 

Friendships

This is not exclusive to bisexual women, but it’s still worth mentioning.

I cannot tell you how many friends I have lost over the years due to being openly queer. The majority of those friendships were LDS Mormon. If our friendship was contingent on my staying in the closet, perhaps it’s not a friendship I should want to continue. However, that doesn’t change the fact that it hurts deeply to lose friends I’ve had for years.

If you are genuinely interested in LGBTQ+ suicide prevention, be a friend. Don’t forsake friendships over the discomfort of knowing your friend is queer. Don’t implicitly and indirectly ask them to stay in the closet to coddle your insecurities and fears. Be a friend. Listen. You might be surprised by what you learn about yourself in the process.

 

Sexual Assault and Consent

According to the findings in Victimization by Sexual Orientation Survey, in comparison to heterosexual women, bisexual women are 2x’s as likely to experience sexual assault and 3x’s as likely to be raped. Bisexual women have a 46.1% chance of being forcibly raped. This rate is 2.6x’s higher than straight women and 3.5x’s higher than lesbian women.[6]

Bisexual women share a harmful stereotype with women of color and male victims of sexual assault. Both seem to be perceived as always wanting sex, therefore sexual assault against them isn’t taken seriously. Her consent isn’t important because it’s always implicitly given. Sadly, she is the person most likely to experience sexual assault and is also treated as the least trustworthy. It’s not difficult to understand why bisexual women are reluctant to even report their assault. When they do, bisexual women receive the fewest positive social reactions overall, and have higher rates of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).[7]

It’s one thing to be assaulted and raped. It is quite another to be assaulted and rape, then told you deserve it by those who you thought were there to help you. When someone tells you they’ve been sexually assaulted believe them, even bisexual women. We’re not dishonest—we’re traumatized by the assaults perpetuated against our bodies.

 

Never Queer Enough

Bisexuals are often perceived as not being “queer enough.” They can’t be taken seriously by the community, and they certainly don’t experience legitimate oppression and rejection. Bisexuals are only “half queer.”

The “half queer” premise assumes heterosexuality and homosexuality are mutually exclusive categories. However, a person can be both at the same time. Even more importantly, a person can be both wholly. What I mean by “wholly” is bisexuals aren’t having a partial heterosexual experience and partial homosexual experience—we are experiencing many whole experiences at once.

For example, I’m not 50% straight and 50% gay. This assumption causes a lot of stress to bisexuals because it assumes we don’t fully belong in either category—that we aren’t having a "whole" experience worthy of consideration. This is why bisexuals are often perceived as never “gay enough” and never “straight enough.” It’s as if our sexual orientation excludes us from full fellowship of either community. In fact, it leads many bisexuals to believe we don’t belong anywhere. Our hetero-privilege keeps us feeling just enough guilt to refrain from expressing the trauma induced by homophobia, biphobia, and monosexism.

It’s no wonder bisexual women suffer from anxiety, depression, and suicide ideation more than any other sexual orientation. We bear the burden of homophobia, biphobia, oppositional sexism, monosexism, misogyny, and traditional sexism. On top of that, because many of us are attracted to trans, non-binary, and intersex folks, we aren’t trusted or taken seriously because our orientation doesn't exclude any gender. This is monosexism. It means that persons sexually attracted to only one gender are somehow superior to persons attracted to multiple or all genders. This assumption that bisexuals are only 50% straight and 50% gay needs to be dispelled—posthaste.

I am wholly straight, and I am wholly gay. I am wholly bisexual. I’m not having a partial experience. I’m not a part you can cut up and cut out when my identity is inconvenient to the LGBTQ+ community. I am “gay enough” and I am “straight enough.” It would be helpful if my communities accepted me as enough too.

 

Sexual Fluidity

I’m not certain as to where this attitude came from, but there is a notion that sexuality is fixed because you were “born that way.” While that might be true for most of the population, that’s not true for everyone, especially sexually fluid bisexuals. While I understand how the “born that way” campaign has been helpful in furthering the cause of LGBTQ+ acceptance, it doesn’t tell the whole story. While I don’t think sexual orientation is something a person consciously chooses, that doesn’t mean a person’s sexuality doesn’t fluctuate, change, or adapt.

There have been times in my life I thought I was exclusively homosexual, and other times I thought I was exclusively heterosexual. During these times I wasn’t confused about what I wanted sexually. I knew quite well what I wanted. My wants simply changed. While I certainly don’t presume sexual fluidity as a universal phenomenon or a reason to impose conversion therapy onto fixed homosexuals, I do think sexually fluid bisexuality is just as legitimate of an orientation as fixed monosexuality.

Yet, for some reason sexually fluid bisexuals are accused of being confused or illegitimate. Strict, fixed, monosexuality might work for most of the population, but it doesn’t work for sexually fluid bisexuals. Our wants might even change from one night to the next, but that in no way makes our experience or orientation illegitimate. I like what I like, when I like it. That doesn’t mean I always get what I want, but it also doesn’t mean I’m confused about what I want. It means my sexuality is fluid. I’m adaptable and my sexual attraction is not limited to a fixed type of genitalia.

Granted, some bisexuals are more fluid than others. It is not my intention to suggest that all bisexuals are as fluid as myself. I also do not intend to convey that I think sexual fluidity is better than sexually fixed orientations. What I am saying is my husband could change his body, biology, morphology, genitals, or esthetics, and I will always want him. If that makes my sexual orientation gross, repulsive, or illegitimate to you, that’s your problem. My desire for my husband will never be limited by his genitals or pronouns.

 

Sexism

This is obviously not applicable to only bisexual women, but all women. There have been many books written on sexism, misogyny, gender supremacy, and patriarchy, so I will not elaborate much here. However, it is worth noting that sexism and misogyny is a lived experience queer women face in addition to the queerphobia we are confronted with.

My first sin was being born a woman. That is my original sin as a daughter of Eve. I will be punitively reminded every day that my gender is a sin I can never fully repent of when I am eternally bound to my assigned gender in the metaphysical eternities. Whether by government, religion, or any other means, my womanhood and femininity will define my place in the community and by extension my existence. This is not by choice, but by assignment. As a woman, my trustworthiness and rationality are already in question, and as a bisexual woman, my trustworthiness and rationality are held with such skepticism that even my own identification isn’t taken seriously.

 

Religion and Theology

Perhaps one of if not the most triggering causes of my suicide ideation is rejection from my LDS religious community.

In a certain sense, I didn’t choose my LDS religious community. I was born into an LDS religious home. I am Mormon, and nine generations of Mormon pioneers flows through my veins—that isn’t something easily removed from one’s identity. Mormonism is an essential and vital characteristic of my personal identity. It is as intimately bound to me as my sexual orientation. Asking me to choose between my Mormonism and sexual orientation is to strip me of essential aspects of my sense of self. It is quite literally an existential death. If I cannot be queer and Mormon here on earth, nor in the eternities, what I’m really hearing is there is no way for me to authentically exist. In fact, in a very real way it means I don’t exist at all according to my community, or to exist as a Mormon I must contort myself into a caricature that suits the tastes of the community. Furthermore, if there is such a thing as being Mormon and queer on earth it has been made clear by ecclesiastical authority that I cannot be queer and sealed to my loved ones in the highest degree of celestial glory.

It hurts. It hurts deeply.

I don’t know if I have the words to describe the pain of being rejected eternally by those I love most because of my gender and sexual orientation. Even if I choose to live in a hetero-monogamous marriage, as a woman, I am still bared from full participation when I am denied full priesthood access in the LDS community. Like I said, my first and original sin was being born a woman, and it’s not even a sin I can repent of.

Every time I hear a general authority or priesthood leader tell me they love me I cringe. I want to believe them—I want so badly to believe it’s true, but it feels false.

For example, the words of Elder Bednar feel particularly cruel and false when he says, "What’s more, I love you. My Brethren among the General Authorities love you. I’m reminded of a comment President Boyd K. Packer made in speaking to those with same-gender attraction. ‘We do not reject you,’ he said. ‘… We cannot reject you, for you are the sons and daughters of God. We will not reject you, because we love you.’” (Bednar, February 23, 2016)

Elder Bednar, if you love me, why does your love make me want to die? Why is it when I sit in your pews I contemplate the most efficient and responsible way to end my life, instead of contemplating eternal life? If this is love, please stop loving me. Your love is killing me. I cannot imagine this is what love should feel like. If you do not reject me, why as a woman am I rejected the opportunity to baptize my son? Why do you deny same-sex families the blessing or eternal sealings? Why are children from some queer parents denied full fellowship? You lie. You have rejected us. Do not delude yourself into believing these actions and rhetoric are a product of love. It is disrespectful of the word love. I have felt love, genuine love, and it doesn’t make me want to die—it makes me want to live. Your so-called “love” provokes suicidality. Your love is our death.

There nothing more dangerous than a benevolent abuser. My LDS community has taught me that the words “I love you” are often followed by a kick to the ribs. They kindly whisper “We all have trials” as the back of their hand bruises my cheek. Just because God has allowed agency and trials, doesn’t make it acceptable to abuse people in your community. Jesus said to turn the other cheek and I do my best to follow that teaching, but at some point a girl must move out of the line of fire. I never knew the words “I love you” could cause so much pain, trauma, and PTS. What the LDS church has done with the words “I love you” toward the queer community is nothing short of evil—an ignorant evil that goes without discipline because it’s accepted under the guise of “God’s will.” I no longer want to hear the words “I love you” from a general authority—those words are poison. They would love us to death. They would dig our graves and tell us it’s for our own good.

The prevailing message is “You don’t exist in this world or in the next. Your best option is to die and hope to be greeted by a merciful God who will change you into something you’re not. Suicide will only be your first death, God’s transfiguration of your body and soul into a ‘perfected celestial being’ will be your second death. Then you will truly no longer exist.”

The narrative that has been preached by my religious community is theologically irresponsible, and it’s killing us. If there’s no way for me to be authentically me in the eternities, I might as well end my life now and pray that a merciful God will never resurrect me into another life of such torturous cruelty. A truly loving God would let me die. My loved ones would be better off in celestial glory with the memory of me that they can mold to their liking while I will no longer be held ransom by their harmful assumptions and inaccurate projections.

 

Community

The prevailing theme of these concerns is lack of community, understanding, and recognition. Everywhere we, bisexual women, turn we are reminded we are born into a world which doesn’t want us, misrepresents us, ignores us, and abuses us. It is naive to pretend that persons of consciousness exist independent from their community. Identity is a symbiotic formation. We are intimately bound to our perceptions of each other and we are shaping and being shaped in a reciprocal process of becoming. It’s not surprising why bisexual women suffer from depression, anxiety, and suicide ideation more than any other orientation when our communities strip us of our sense of self and identity. Our authentic existence is banned by the community. The masters of the community metaphorically and figuratively rape our minds and bodies of existence. The community already killed our spirits, the suicide of our bodies is just an extension of the death of our identity.

Unfortunately, the community refuses to take responsibility for the persistent misrepresentation of our experience that makes them the accomplice of suicide. They didn’t have to pull the trigger. All they had to do is ignorantly tell us how much they love us while they hand us a loaded gun. Communities pull triggers every day without ever touching a gun. They slit our wrists without handling a razor. They suffocate us with car exhaust without ever turning a key. They poison us with drugs without filling the prescription. Yet the most tragic part is they do so ignorantly out of so-called “love,” which absolves themselves of accountability and responsibility for the murder of my kind without even acknowledging their complicity. Make no mistake, neutrality in the face of evil is complicity.

In short, bisexual women do not see themselves reflected in their community. If humans are social creatures, which I believe we are, this problem is more than an existential threat of her identity. It is the existential death of her identity. The self cannot be known independent of its community.

 

Hope

However, this is where my story diverges from the suicide statistics of my peers. I’ve never attempted to take my own life, so I can’t tell you why a queer woman chooses to take hers. I can only tell you why I choose not to take mine.

I have a family. The acceptance I receive from my family, particularly my husband and my sister, is life-saving. Parents are sometimes hypothetically asked if they are willing to die for their children. However, for queer parents like myself, the question is, “Am I willing to live for my children?” For me, the answer is “yes.” It is my hope that there is still time to improve the world I pass on to my children.

I have friends. While some of them don’t really understand what I’m experiencing, they are willing to listen. They aren’t perfect, but neither am I. One thing I have found helpful is not to ask more of them than they are willing to give—set realistic expectations. This is particularly true of my straight friends. If you are a straight friend, please don’t get defensive when your queer friend comes to you looking for commiseration, don’t defend your religious institution, and don’t explain your intensions. Instead listen and find one aspect of your queer friend’s concerns you can sympathize with.

I have activism. My story is my activism. My voice. My journal. My experience.  My pen. The continuation of my existence is my activism. Activism need not be epic to be influential. Existing is a good start. They will never accept us if they don’t have to look at us. Queer suicide allows fear and ignorance to win over love and understanding. For better or worse, I’m too competitive to lose without resistance.

I have God. Others are free to mock me for my belief in God, but God is useful and powerful for me. God, even as a fiction, can be inspiring. If you don’t love your God, consider telling yourself a new story, a better fiction. Use your imagination.[8] Rest assured that’s what everyone else is doing. No one knows a damn thing about God, so if your God isn’t bringing you joy and happiness, give yourself permission to liken the scriptures to yourself. [9] You might surprise yourself with a self-fulfilled prophecy—so make your myth a good one. Even with faith, trust, and hope, there are hard days. There will still be deep, existential sorrow. There are times when it will be difficult to breath, when the crushing weight of pessimism suffocates you. Yet, discouragement need not kill hope. [10]

I have hope. I suspect suicide attempts occur when a person has lost all hope that change is possible, or perhaps there is an inability to cope with present circumstances. I still have hope. I hope for change. Even if it is a false hope, it’s a hope that keeps me living.

I am a story, not a statistic for others to debate. As members of the queer community, we can change the statistics. Be the author of your story. Defy the statistics by flourishing. I’m tired of burying my friends. I want you alive. We are more than statistics.

 

 Notes and Citations

[1] Meg Barker, Christina Richards, Rebecca Jones, Helen Bowes-Catton & Tracey Plowman. The Bisexuality Report: Bisexual inclusion in LGBT equality and diversity, http://www.bisexualindex.org.uk/uploads/Main/TheBisexualityReport.pdf

[2] Annie Shearer, Annie Shearer, Joanna Herres, Ph.D., Tamar Kodish, Helen Squitieri, Kiera James, Jody Russon, Ph.D., Tita Atte, M.P.H., C.P.H., Guy S. Diamond, Ph.D. “Journal of Adolescent Health: Differences in Mental Health Symptoms Across Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Questioning Youth in Primary Care Settings”, http://www.jahonline.org/article/S1054-139X(16)00052-5/abstract

[3] Theodore L. Caputi, BS, Davey Smith, MD, John W. Ayers, PhD, MA. The JAMA Network, “Suicide Risk Behaviors Among Sexual Minority Adolescents in the United States, 2015” (December 19, 2017), https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2666491?redirect=true

[4] Pompili M1, Lester D, Forte A, Seretti ME, Erbuto D, Lamis DA, Amore M, Girardi P. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. “Bisexuality and Suicide: a systematic review of the current literature.”

“Individuals reporting a bisexual orientation had an increased risk of suicide attempts and ideation compared with their homosexual and heterosexual peers. Risk factors included related victimization, peer judgments, and family rejection. Bisexual individuals also reported higher rates of mental illness and substance abuse. Bisexual individuals may experience more psychological distress and mental health problems than individuals who identify with a homosexual or heterosexual orientation. Clinicians should consider the potential for suicidal behaviors in bisexual individuals and be alert for increased mental health problems and poor social integration.”

[5] Pew Research Center. June 13, 2013. A Survey of LGBT Americans, http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/06/13/a-survey-of-lgbt-americans/

“The survey also finds that bisexuals differ from gay men and lesbians on a range of attitudes and experiences related to their sexual orientation. For example, while 77% of gay men and 71% of lesbians say most or all of the important people in their lives know of their sexual orientation, just 28% of bisexuals say the same. Bisexual women are more likely to say this than bisexual men (33% vs. 12%).”

[6] National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, (CDC) “The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010 Findings on Victimization by Sexual Orientation” (August 21, 2018), https://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/NISVS_SOfindings.pdf

[7] Long, Susan M.; Ullman, Sarah E.; Long, LaDonna M.; Mason, Gillian E.; Starzynski, Laura L. “Women's Experiences of Male-Perpetrated Sexual Assault by Sexual Orientation,” Springer Publishing Company, Violence and Victims, Volume 22, Number 6, 2007, pp. 684-701(18) (August 30, 2018), http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/springer/vav/2007/00000022/00000006/art00003

[8] Acts 17:29 (CSB) “Since we are God's offspring then, we shouldn't think that the divine nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image fashioned by human art and imagination.”

[9] 1 Nephi 19: 23-24 “…I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and. learning. [. . .] liken them unto yourselves, that ye may have hope as well as your brethren from whom ye have been broken off; for after this manner has the prophet written.”

[10] 1 Thessalonians 5:8 (NASB) “But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.”

Finding Unity in Diversity Through Christ

Finding Unity in Diversity Through Christ

Gatekeeping Trans and Intersex Bodies

Gatekeeping Trans and Intersex Bodies