The Happiness Factor: Bisexuality, Wellbeing and Being Well

800px-Happy_face_high_resIt’s hard to be bisexual, but we can learn to be happy

So much of our experience as bisexual people is characterised by struggle: the struggle for recognition and acceptance in an unwelcoming culture, the struggle against biphobia, and the struggle to challenge the myriad of misguided beliefs about bisexuality prevalent in our society.

It’s right that we engage with these struggles, and it’s right that so much bisexual writing and activism focusses on them.

But if our lives are dominated by struggle, then we risk losing sight of other important areas of bisexual life, such as thinking about how we can thrive and be happy as bisexual people, despite the society we live in.

The kind of happiness I have in mind isn’t necessarily the fabled concept described in self-help books – after all, happiness, in a general sense, means different things to different people.

The happiness I’m thinking of is a state of calm, confident self-acceptance, a state where our internal experience of being bisexual doesn’t hold us back or trouble us in our lives. It’s a happiness underpinned by the absence of shame, low self-esteem and embarrassment.  It’s a state of being in which we are free to be ourselves and express our sexuality as we wish.

This kind of happiness can seem like a pipe dream to many bisexual people, given the prevalence of biphobia and bisexual erasure in our society. Around a quarter of bisexual people have never told anyone that they are bisexual. Research also shows that bisexual people suffer higher rates of mental health problems than gay or lesbian people, who themselves suffer disproportionately to straight people. Despite this, I believe there’s a great deal we can do as individuals to enhance our wellbeing as bisexuals. Becoming comfortable and happy with our bisexuality is something we can actively cultivate.

Changing how we understand our own bisexuality can be an important first step. We internalise so many misleading messages from society about what it means to be bisexual, that we often need to clarify and affirm more accurate beliefs about our sexuality if we are to feel better about ourselves. Having a clear idea of what bisexuality is, and why the myths are wrong, can help us develop confidence, even when society generally does not accept our sexual orientation as real and acceptable.

happiness

Engaging with the experience of other bisexuals is also crucial. Blogs, vlogs and forums provide invaluable spaces to learn from and interact with bisexual people online. Meeting bisexual people in person can also be a powerful way of overcoming the isolation that many bisexuals feel. Bisexual social groups offer the chance to develop friendships with a wide range of people, as well as providing peer support and a sense of community.

Changing our understanding of our bisexuality and engaging with bisexual experience can help us identify more confidently as bisexual. Frequently, bisexual people feel pressured to identify as straight or gay. It’s truly liberating when you can feel comfortable to assertively identify as bisexual.  Identifying ourselves as we want to helps us to feel grounded in a community and to express ourselves freely.

We can also learn practical skills to nurture our wellbeing as bisexuals. Coming out as bisexual is often very difficult due to widespread prejudice and misunderstanding, but it’s possible to learn ways of coming out more effectively and to a wider range of people.

Our ability to manage our emotional wellbeing is also something we can improve by learning new techniques. We can learn, for example, how to overcome common psychological problems that affect many bisexual people, such as negative thinking about our sexuality, and repression of unwanted sexual desire.

Our wellbeing is important. Bisexual people deserve to thrive and experience positive emotion. We deserve to realise our potential as unique individuals, unencumbered by negative self-image or lack of confidence related to our sexual orientation.

Focussing more on our happiness as bisexual people won’t stop us from being troubled by the prejudice and social injustice that affect us. Rather, by boosting our personal wellbeing, we can build a lasting sense of inner confidence, which will make our efforts in challenging the biphobic society we live in all the more effective. We’ll also enjoy our lives more fully.

Neil Endicott blogs on bisexuality and wellbeing at happybisexual.com

 

Image 1 “Happy Face” by Jersyko . Shared under GNU Free Documentation Licence Via Wikimedia Commons.

Image 2 “Happiness is excitement that has found a settling down place…” by thephotographymuse. Shared under CC BY 2.0. Via flickr.

 

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