From the press release:
Bisexuality, often stigmatized, typically has been lumped with homosexuality in previous public health research. But when Indiana University scientists recently focused on the health issues and behaviors specific to behaviorally bisexual men and women, they found tremendous variety, and that commonly used labels, such as heterosexual and homosexual, can sometimes do more harm than good…
…”Unlike the other women in the study, the mental, physical and sexual well-being of queer-identified women was not related to the gender of their recent sexual partners,” [Schick] said. “This suggests that, instead of encouraging women to adopt labels that are more descriptive of their behavior, we should be more flexible in the behavioral expectations that we attach to these labels.”
For a variety of reasons, men and women often identify openly or just to themselves with a label that is different from their sexual history. One such reason is biphobia, the stigma and discrimination that bisexual individuals experience from both heterosexual and homosexual individuals.
Brian Dodge, associate professor in the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation and associate director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion, found in his study on sexual health among bisexual men that factors associated with biphobia contributed to feelings of isolation and social stress reported by many of his study participants.
It is may be also true that bisexual men avoid labeling themselves this way openly because of the stigma of male homosexuality. For me, there is tension between how important my attraction to women is to my identity and how important it is that I not resist people labeling me (incorrectly) as “gay” out of fear of that stigma. While “gay” can just mean “someone who has sex with someone of the same gender”, it also has an implication of someone who does not want to have sex with people of another/opposed gender. And that does not describe me accurately, nor do implications of deep romantic attraction to men (it could happen, but historically, it just hasn’t).
This seems similar to how being mistaken for a woman is not an insult in itself, in the sense that being a woman is not intrinsically negative, but for someone like me who has strong dissonance with my body and its connection to marks of “womanhood”, that misreading is still painful. There’s an actor (I can’t remember who) that has had rumors about his sexuality circulate for years and, despite being straight, never addressed them, since he said there was no reason to correct a misperception that wasn’t an insult.
We’re never entirely understood by others, I think (nor, probably, ourselves!) and there are ways of being misunderstood which are more difficult to cope with than others.
Anyway, the upshot is that I’m glad to see bisexual people’s identities being taken seriously in psychological study.