Why More Bisexual Women Struggle to Afford Food

Bisexual men and women are more likely than gays and lesbians to rely on food stamps.
(Photo: Getty Images)
Jul 21, 2016· 1 MIN READ
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

More than 30 percent of young people identify as falling somewhere between gay and straight—a rate far higher than past generations have shown. But despite the growing prevalence of sexual fluidity, bisexual adults continue to face heightened levels of discrimination, often with severe consequences.

Compared with their gay and lesbian peers, bisexual adults face higher rates of food insecurity, according to a meta-analysis report released Monday.

Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles’ Williams Institute analyzed data from four national surveys of nearly 20,000 LGBT respondents to highlight a correlation between sexual orientation and food insecurity. Participants were asked whether they’d skipped meals for lack of money, were unable to afford a balanced diet, or participated in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (commonly referred to as food stamps) in the past year.

“Across gender, age, educational attainment, and racial/ethnic categories, bisexuals 18 to 44 consistently had higher rates of SNAP participation than lesbian and gay adults 18 to 44,” study coauthor Taylor Brown wrote in an email to TakePart. (Transgender people only participated in one of the four surveys analyzed, so researchers did not find enough data to make a direct correlation between gender identity and food insecurity.)

Female bisexuals were the most likely to use food stamps; 26 percent of bisexual women over 18 reported participating in SNAP in the past year, compared with 20 percent of lesbian women. Seventeen percent of bisexual women also reported experiencing food insecurity within the past 30 days, compared with 12 percent of lesbians.

Brown noted that bisexual women also have higher levels of poverty than gay and lesbian people do. Nearly 30 percent of bisexual women live at or below the federal poverty level, compared with 23 percent of lesbians and 21 percent of heterosexual women, according to the 2013 National Survey of Family Growth.

“Poverty is closely related to food insecurity and SNAP participation,” Brown wrote.

Perceptions that bisexuality doesn’t exist, that bi people are “going through a phase,” or that they are promiscuous are pervasive in both the gay and straight communities. The misconceptions can take a toll on employment and earning ability. Roughly 60 percent of bisexual people reported hearing bi-phobic remarks at their job, creating a hostile work environment, according to a 2014 survey. Twenty percent believed they had not received a job or a promotion based on their sexual orientation.

While bisexual women face higher rates of food insecurity than their gay and lesbian peers do, all members of the LGBT community were 1.6 times more likely to report being unable to afford to feed themselves or their families.