New Research: The Voices of African Descent Bisexual Women

Kristin M. Brown writes…

Title: The Voices of African Descent Bisexual Women: Experiences Related to Identity and Disclosure, in Social Support Networks and Health Care Settings, in the US and UK

Researcher: Kristin M. Brown, PhD, MSW, MPA; Email <WomenResearch7@gmail.com>

Summary: Inaugural LGBTQ Scholars of Color Conference Presentation (April 2015, New York)

In this summary, I detail findings on the well­being of cisgender bisexual­ identified women of the African diaspora (ABW). As a member of the population, I collaboratively implemented this study for our empowerment. I conducted individual face­to­face interviews with six women in the United States in 2013, and eight women in the United Kingdom in 2014. I gathered information on quality of social support and health care, related to disclosure of bisexual identity, using qualitative research principles of grounded analysis. This study focused only with cisgender ABW, as researchers with prior and concurrent studies were focusing with transgender and lesbian women.

The women shared information about barriers and facilitators of disclosure in social networks and health care settings. The women shared about their activities of resilience, including writing and activism for socioeconomic justice. The contributors also spoke of their needs for affirming social support and culturally competent health care, and their intersectional identities.

Learning about my history… is really important to me,… from Jamaica and from Africa… as a way of trying to find my own roots…. And also learning about Black feminism and Black history, and finding queers within that is something that I find really powerful ‘cause there’s a lot of silences around Black queer women, particularly in history. (Angela, UK)

While some contributors had close relationships with family, social support from relatives was generally low. Women in the UK were more likely to have a beneficial social support network of LGBTQI people of color, though some felt isolated. US contributors tended to report more social isolation. Several contributors stated they knew of no other African descent bisexual women in their social networks. The women often stated it was beneficial to have social support networks comprised of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) people of color, who accept and affirm the women’s bisexual identity.

I’ve lived in (town) now for ten years… I really have a strong support network here. It would be difficult; if I leave I’d have to start all over….I’ve been involved with the LGBT community center and I’ve made friends from the LGBT community center that are still good friends now. So I feel very comfortable in this community…. I have people that are there for me. It’s a good place. (Dreamadonna, US)

The cross­national findings highlight similarities and differences in the experiences of the women in the US and UK health care systems. Women in the UK have national health care, while women in the US can still lack adequate health care. The women in the US and UK, who have coverage and access to health care, may still prefer not to disclose bisexual identity to providers due to concerns of how they may be treated.

My general practitioner… had (a) Pride in Practice plaque, which meant that they had… training around LGBT issues; and when I saw that out on the reception (area) that was really, really helpful. It made me feel more able to… talk about being queer… I feel much more comfortable. (Angela, UK)

Several of the women said it was considerably more difficult to broach the subject of sexual health and testing with female rather than male partners. Few women in the US or UK had received health information specifically for women with a same­sex partner, from providers. All contributors in the UK stated they had received HIV testing, while some in the US had not yet taken or been offered an HIV test; all who had tested stated they received a negative result.

Even when I mentioned to my general practitioner that I’m bisexual, they don’t come and give me any more…. information…. Being bisexual, when you’re with women you have to be very careful, but they don’t have much information as to how you can do it, from service providers. (Tolu, UK)

The women who participated in this study made important recommendations toward creating more inclusive and supportive environments for delivery of health and social care. The women’s needs include: 1) More LGBTQI ­identified providers, 2) LGBTQI-inclusive nondiscrimination policies posted in agency settings, 3) universal STD and HIV screening, 4) information about healthy relationships, especially on how to communicate assertively about sexual health with a female partner, 5) access to good quality and culturally competent physical and mental health care, and 6) inclusive social services that acknowledge the families of sexual minority women. A contributor shared her experience of excellent health care:

The clinic… for women… They are just so good. So professional…. They’re absolutely brilliant…. They ask all the right questions. They give you sexual health stuff that’s appropriate. They’ve heard of bisexuals…. (laughter) and they don’t judge you… (Annie, UK)

These findings are intended to increase diversity awareness and sensitivity among health and social care providers, sexual minority communities, and society as a whole.

Publications are forthcoming. Author’s written permission is required prior to reposting, quoting or citing.

Dissertation citation: Brown, K. M. (2015). The voices of African descent bisexual women: Experiences related to identity and disclosure, in social support networks and health care settings, in the United States and United Kingdom. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Florida State University, Tallahassee.

Acknowledgments: I thank the women who courageously participated in this study, contributing from their knowledge and life experience. I credit success to the support of the dissertation chair, scholars, and community organizers, who were involved in the development and implementation of this study from its conceptual stages.

Organizational supporters: (Partial list) Bi’s of Colour, House of Rainbow Fellowship, Cara Trust (UK); Big Bend Cares, Minority Alliance for Advocating Community Awareness and Action, Family Tree LGBT Community Center, Phillip Rush Center (US)

For more resources and information on bisexual issues, please see these organizations:

BiUK: http://www.biuk.org

BiNet USA: http://www.binetusa.org, http://www.binetusa.org/bipoc

Bisexual Resource Center: http://www.biresource.net/

Download longer summary here:
Brown _ ABW Full Brief Report 1500 wds _ 3-20-2016

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