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There are many things I acknowledge that I am: Female. Bisexual. 25 years old. And – to get it out of the way – a recovering sex addict. But the fact that I had a lot of sex in the past has nothing to do with the fact that I'm attracted to both genders (or non-binary people). So when a new doctor who knew nothing of my previous history asked me my sexual orientation during a routine checkup, I was quite surprised that she declared me “high risk.”
“Sorry?” I said. “Why am I considered 'high risk?'
“Because you're bisexual,” she said. “Bisexuals are attracted to more people, therefore they have sex with more people.”
First of all – and I shouldn't even have to say this – being bisexual doesn't mean that I'm attracted to EVERYBODY. And it sure as hell doesn't mean I have sex with more people. I have preferences just like everyone else, and even if I'm attracted to someone it doesn't mean I'm going to sleep with them. Telling me that I'm having more sex because I'm attracted to more than one gender makes zero sense.
I wasn't going to argue with the doctor, so I posted my frustration on Facebook when I got home later that evening. I had been in a monogamous relationship for 3 months at that point and had no STIs to show. The only thing the doctor had to base their argument on was the fact that I'm attracted to more than one gender. And to my surprise, that was enough for many of my straight friends on Facebook as well.
“Doctors don't make these things up,” one person said. “They've read studies.”
OKAY. The thing to remember about these 'studies' is that they're not necessarily current or realistic. Many of these studies may have been based off the AIDS epidemic and bisexual men at the time – but even a gay or bisexual man shouldn't be considered high risk because he might get AIDS. We all MIGHT get AIDS.
LGBTQ people could have acted in unsafe ways in the past – but every smaller group of people who's discriminated against will act in unsafe ways when they're not given the resources and support they need. This just means that our society needs to step up, not label them high risk for being who they are.
I mean, if we're really going to go there, what exactly is the definition of high risk? Someone who could engage in unsafe behaviour? Someone who could have sex with multiple partners?
Teenage girls get pregnant because they don't have proper sex education. Are they high risk? Women on birth control could have sex with multiple partners because they won't get pregnant. What about them? Let's just slap the label on everyone who might fit this ridiculous description. Oh wait, that's EVERYBODY.
Not only does labelling someone as high risk perpetuate a dangerous stereotype for the LGBTQ community, but it takes away the potential care that others who might not be considered high risk should get. Whether you're straight, gay, bi, trans, queer, etc, you should be given the same amount of medical attention regardless of who you're having sex with – or even whether or not you're having sex at all.
Gay marriage is now legal in all 50 states, and has been in Canada for some time. Trans rights are catching up. This is an exciting time, and I'm not trying to take away from the progress we've made. But I can't find a dental dam at a health clinic to save my life – and most of the women on Tinder have boyfriends. It's time for all of us, whether we're an everyday person or a medical professional, to become more educated on bisexuality just like we're becoming more educated on gay and trans rights.
Let me give you an example of why this is needed: When I developed warts a few years ago from an HPV strain – the most common STI that can be spread with or without a condom – I was single and had recently come out as bisexual. When I asked the nurse how I could protect my partners while I was receiving treatment, her answer was based on the assumption that I was straight. When I asked her what to do if I were with a woman, she seemed surprised and unprepared. And when I asked for a dental dam, she shrugged and told me I could cut a condom in half.
The first time I even SAW a dental dam was THIS year, at a queer, feminist porn festival. But having been with a few women prior, none of them ever mentioned using one. One partner told me that lesbians don't get as many STIs as straight people. At the time I didn't know what to believe, and I didn't know where to go for resources. When medical professionals are left in the dark, how can we expect society to be more educated?
I'm so happy that LGBTQ rights are becoming more important in society, but isn't it time to shed some light on issues pertaining to bisexuality? Being attracted to both genders might seem like a sexuality that lies on the fence between real issues, but straight men still think I kiss women for attention, lesbians still think I need to pick a side and doctors still think I have sex with more people simply because I'm attracted to more genders. Frankly, this biphobia is bullshit.