Presentation Matters: Exploring How Gender and Sexual Expression Affect Mental Health Outcomes in Bisexual Black Women Open Access

Dys, Gabrielle (Spring 2021)

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Black bisexual women have an increased risk of adverse mental health outcomes such as depression, anxiety, and stress because of the complex intersecting identities of sexuality, race, and gender. Unlike race and gender which are more visibly apparent, sexuality is an identity that bisexual individuals must commonly disclose, especially those who dress along the lines of heterosexual expectations. Bisexuality is often dismissed as a valid sexuality because of its perceived lack of legitimacy and stability. Bisexual individuals often struggle with sexual identity because of these reasons, in addition to society’s emphasis on male sexual pleasure and the assumption that people are inherently straight. The goal of this study is to explore the mental health outcomes of bisexual Black women when related to gender and sexual expression. This project will be conducted through the Arts Based Research method of photovoice, a method that allows participants to share stories and experiences through photography. A documentary will present as the results for this project’s discoveries. Ten bisexual Black women participated in the project using photos that represented their relationship to sexual and gender expression, and how it affected them mentally. It was uncovered that adverse mental health outcomes like anxiety and depression resulted from constantly being erased and isolated from the LGBT and straight communities. Additionally, participants felt stress from constantly having to validate their identity to others through outer presentation. Pressures from presentation feel performative, sometime unauthentic, don’t resolve the feelings of isolation, and more often exacerbates the feeling of otherness among bisexual individuals. Desire for validation from others resulted in a lot of identity issues and occasional self-doubt among participants which affected overall self-esteem. These findings highlight that although a part of the already marginalized LGBT community, bisexual individuals are further ostracized without validation from their community. Bi-visibility and affirmation must be prioritized within straight and LGBT communities to provide support and representation.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Background and rationale 1

Problem Statement 2

Purpose Statement 2

Research question 2

Key terms 2

Literature review 7

Health disparities of LG(B)T people 7

Privilege and power in identity (gender and sexual orientation) 12

Methods 14

Photovoice 14

Documentary/visual interpretations 15

Recruitment and demographics 15

Photo discussions 15

Results 16

Discussion 16

Public Health Implications 18

Literary References 20

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