Lesbian and bisexual women are being incorrectly told they don’t need smear tests, LGBT charities say


Half of all eligible lesbian and bisexual women have never had a smear test, an LGBT partnership revealed
CREDIT: ALAMY

Women who have sex with women are often wrongly told they do not need
to attend cervical screening test, LGBT charities have warned.

omosessualiResearch highlighted by the National LGB&T Partnership – an alliance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender charities – reveals that 37 per cent of women who have sex with women have been told they do not require a cervical screening test due to their sexual orientation.

This results in half of all eligible lesbian and bisexual women never having had a smear test, they said.

The human papilloma virus (HPV), which causes most cervical cancers, is passed on through intimate skin-to-skin contact, which includes sex between two women.

The partnership surveyed women on their experiences with sexual healthcare as part of the inaugural National Lesbian and Bisexual Women’s Health Week, which aims to highlight that “lesbian, bisexual and other women who have sex with women are experiencing a range of health inequalities and both face barriers to accessing healthcare and are having poor experiences when they do”.

“Lesbian, bisexual and other women who have sex with women (LBWSW) lack acknowledgement both in mainstream society and LGBT communities, and to the NHS we are largely invisible,” says Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Elizabeth Barker in the foreword of the report published in November.

“It is unacceptable that LBWSW continue to experience discrimination and that thoughtlessness compromises our healthcare.”

Other issues highlighted by the partnership’s report are that 21 per cent of bisexual women and 12 per cent of lesbian women reported a long-term mental health problem, compared with 4 per cent of heterosexual women, and that 29 per cent of lesbian and bisexual women report more binge drinking compared with 12 per cent in the general population of women.

Around 3,200 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the UK each year. About two out of every 100 cancers diagnosed in women (2 per cent) are cervical cancers, according to Cancer Research UK.

Article from: Telegraph.co.uk

Isolation, Health, And The Bisexual Community

Isolation_StreetAt the beginning of June, a study came out about the health differences of BLGT people versus straight people. When I heard about it I figured it would show something similar to what previous studies with the same idea have shown: that overall BLGT people have worse health, more depression and higher suicide rates than straight people. Considering the hurdles so many have to face, such results are unfortunately not surprising.

However, this study was different in two ways: first, its sample was from one entire state, Massachusetts, and second, a major difference was noticed and pointed out about bisexuals and how they compare to both straight people and gay and lesbian people. The ultimate finding: bisexuals, especially bisexual women, have the worst health of all of the groups that were studied.

This quote sums up some of the more alarming findings: “Compared to heterosexuals, gays, lesbians, and bisexuals were more likely to say their health was worse on 16 of 22 measures. They were more likely to be tense or worried, to smoke, have asthma, abuse drugs, or be victims of sexual abuse. Bisexual men and women were also more likely than heterosexuals to say they faced barriers to getting health care, had higher cardiovascular risk, felt sad, and had contemplated suicide in the past year. Binge drinking was more common among bisexual women than heterosexuals. Bisexuals, but not gays or lesbians, were more likely than heterosexuals to be poor. Bisexual women were the most likely to report having been sexually assaulted. ‘All told, bisexual women had the worst health,’ Conron [the scientist who did the study] said in an interview. ‘We were surprised that there were such differences for bisexual people compared to gay and lesbian people.’ Although the study didn’t investigate the causes for the gaps among people with different sexual orientations, Conron said she hopes further research will look at the social stigma bisexual people may face not only from heterosexuals, but also from gay men and lesbians. ‘Bisexual people may feel in between the two and may not necessarily be fully accepted by either group,’ she said. ‘I think it merits further investigation. We know isolation is bad for health.’ ”

I have to admit, it was nice to see the researcher of a study come right out and admit that isolation is a big problem for many bisexuals instead of trying to make the usual excuses. Of course, this is not good news. But as much as I hate to say it, is it really surprising? Bisexuals face some of the worst ostracism of any sexual minority group. Often we are rejected by the straight world, and contrary to popular belief, this can happen even if we are in an opposite-gender relationship if we admit to being bisexual. We start to hope there is an accepting community out there for us, and hearing the letters BLGT gives us hope.

However, too often, we face ridicule, exclusion, and social pressure, as well as being told we don’t exist, and being blatantly made fun of in some cases. Who wouldn’t have issues when their existence in constantly questioned? The very first comment under the article that totally misses the point of it illustrates how far we still have to go: “They may have the poorest health, but they get to play for both teams. So they have their perks.”

So, what can we in the bisexual community do about this? Fighting for acceptance is the first step, and not backing down about it. If we are excluded from something, we should do what the transgender community does (and possibly team up with them!) and have our own version of the event. We also need to reach out to newly out bisexuals or people who may be about to come out as bisexual; they need to know that there is a community that supports them. Secondly, there need to be health programs specifically aimed at bisexuals to help us deal with our unique set of problems, something other than just lumping us in with “BLGT.”

I’ve read that more health programs aimed at bisexuals are popping at BLGT centers, so that is a good place to start. Bisexual organizations need to strongly encourage such programs. Thirdly, there need to be more studies like this one done that take the unique experiences of bisexuals into account; hopefully more such studies will lead to a dialogue between the straight, bisexual, and gay and lesbian communities. I hope this study and others like it will get peoples’ attention and eventually lead to some gains, understanding, and acceptance for the bisexual community.

The Bisexual’s Guide to the Universe

guideWhenever I visit my local book store (which is often), I always peruse the gay and lesbian section. While there, I am looking for one thing — books on bisexuality. I am nearly always disappointed. Leaving aside the fact that I am rarely able to find anything other than gay or lesbian erotica; the books that are available fall into one of three basic categories (not counting the aforementioned erotica):

1. Tragedy (see Prayers for Bobby by Leroy Aarons)
2. Gay (see The Greeks and Greek Love by James Davidson)
3. Lesbian (see Lesbian Couples: A Guide to Creating Healthy Relationships by D. Merilee Clunis)

There are a great number of titles available, but it seems that they all can be categorized into these areas. It is rare to find a book that deals exclusively in bisexuality; which leaves bisexual men reading books about being gay and bisexual women reading books about being a lesbian, almost exclusively; contributing to the confusion of bisexuality as a valid orientation. On my most recent trip to the bookstore, I was pleasantly surprised.

The Bisexual’s Guide to the Universe, by Nicole Kristal and Mike Szymanski is a poignant, researched and fun look at the “invisible orientation” of bisexuality. The book offers the reader (who should be bisexual) a journey on the path of bisexuality, breaking it into three parts. Part One: Beginner, seems to be all about coming to terms with being bisexual. Chapter One: The B-Word – starts the journey by referencing the “flip-flop” that we all know so well. That period of time in our lives when our families believe that we’re straight and our friends have seen us flirting and have labeled us as gay. It goes on to define bisexuality, both by its dictionary definition (pointing out the absurdity of the hermaphroditic and botanist connotations) and the etymology of the word. It turns out that bisexual was added to the dictionary in 1892, while the abbreviation “bi” was coined in 1956. Chapter 2: Measuring Sex continues on the beginner’s journey to discover who they are – bi, gay or straight. The Kinsey Scale and research of the Kinsey Institute reveals that 13% of women and 37% of men achieve orgasm with a partner of the same sex. The Klein Grid (expanding on Kinsey’s research) makes things more detailed by breaking things down to seven elements of sexuality. Antonio Galarza has developed the “Three Circle Graph” which shows 70-80% of men to be bisexual.

Part Two: Intermediate, recounts what it’s like to be bisexual. Chapter Four: Two Closets opens with a step by step “how to” for coming out. “Coming Out Without Coming Out”; this guide shows the method of creating an air of mystery around your sexuality. Never fully explaining who you’re interested in, feeling that your sexual orientation isn’t really anyone’s business; refusing to label it for even those that ask point blankly. “Coming Out to Your Conservative Mom” suggests using television to your advantage, appealing to things your mother already knows and likes and then pointing out that they’re gay. “Coming Out to Your Hippie Mom” offers a humorous how to, suggesting any time any place and cautions the reader of learning too much about their mother’s past. “Coming Out to Your Radical-Right Dad” this how to is extreme in its recommendations of caution; saying “Do stand a safe distance when you utter any word or phrase containing sexual.” The guide does not limit the situation to parents, however. Providing additional advice and how-to’s for “Coming Out to Your Straight But Not Narrow Siblings” and “Coming Out to Your Curious Co-Workers.” Chapter Six: Doubling Your Chances opens with a quote from Woody Allen “Bisexuality immediately doubles your chances for a date on Saturday Night.” This chapter tends to focus more on how to attract members of the same sex. Providing tips for both the guys and the gals; while also providing the transition into Part Three: Advanced.

The four chapters of part three cover sex and love for the bisexual person. Everything from getting laid to playing “bi” heart. When I closed the book, I fervently wished for two things. 1. That it wasn’t over. 2. That there were more books like it. To my utter delight, I was able to find more information from these wonderful authors as there is a companion website to the book, linking the blogs of the authors. As I said before, it is poignant, researched and humorous. It was a joy to read and it had the calming effect of letting me know that things really aren’t that bad if you’re bi. Something we may need reminded of occasionally.