Research Finds Bisexuals in Ontario Experience Barriers in Accessing Health Care

Monday, July 26 2010

Research Finds Bisexuals in Ontario Experience Barriers in Accessing Health Care

Bisexuals in Ontario report unique health and wellness needs as well as barriers to receiving adequate health care, according to a research paper just released by the Ontario Public Health Association (OPHA).

The Public Health Alliance for LGBTIQ Equity (a workgroup of the OPHA) commissioned the research project to examine the health and wellness experiences of bisexuals in Ontario. While bisexuals share some common concerns with gay men, lesbians and heterosexuals, they also have specific health and wellness needs that need to be researched and addressed.

Cheryl Dobinson, the project's Principal Investigator, interviewed 62 people from across Ontario who identified as bisexual or who have had sexual experiences with men and women. They described a range of negative experiences such as providers equating bisexuality with having multiple partners, not receiving information about safer sex with men and women, and being told that they must be either straight or gay.

Barriers to care included not being asked about sex with both men and women and providers' lack of understanding, education and knowledge around bisexuality. Other issues facing bisexuals are the lack of bisexual supports or communities in most areas, the challenges of relationships with non-bisexual partners, and feelings of not belonging in either gay or straight communities.

"Something very striking that came out of this research is the fact that bisexuals often aren't well served by either mainstream health care services and programs or those which have been developed in some areas for lesbian and gay communities," says Dobinson. "Gay or gay-positive providers are not always understanding about bisexuality. So work needs to be done in both mainstream and gay/lesbian health and wellness services in order for bisexuals to receive quality care."

Participants offered numerous ideas for positive change such as support groups for bisexuals, resources for partners and families, programs specifically for bisexual youth, bi-focused mental health services, and education for providers. It was suggested that providers should be trained to understand that sexual identity does not equal sexual behaviour, to avoid making assumptions, and to recognize that being bisexual is a real and legitimate sexual identity.

A position paper based on this research was adopted at the OPHA Annual General Meeting earlier this month. The paper is available on line at: .

For further information, please contact:
 Cheryl Dobinson, Principal Investigator
Improving the Access and Quality of Public Health Services for Bisexuals
phone: (416) 882-9241

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