Binge drinking problem for young bisexuals

Many young people attracted to more than one gender tend to binge drink because they feel stigmatised and socially excluded, a study by the University of Otago in Wellington has found.

Passing legislation for marriage equality - also known as same sex marriage - is suggested as a way to help alleviate the problem.

Binge drinking was higher among young people attracted to more than one gender than for other sexual minorities or for heterosexual young people, lead author, Frank Pega, from the university’s public health department and the Harvard School of Public Health, said.

He noted it was still a minority of those attracted to more than one gender who were binge drinking.

The study involved in-depth interviews this year with 32 people aged 18-25 in 11 focus groups in Auckland, Wellington, and Dunedin.

A significant factor leading to binge drinking was found to be wide-ranging social exclusion experienced by young people attracted to more than one gender, from heterosexual, lesbian and gay communities.

"Most study participants reported that they commonly experienced biphobia (an aversion toward bisexuality and bisexual people) and discrimination, and some had been verbally harassed and physically abused for their sexual attraction.

‘‘For many, these experiences resulted in a sense of being stigmatised, which caused daily stress and anxiety,” Pega said.

“While many participants were very resilient and responded positively, some participants binge drank to manage this stress.”

Sexual minority communities, health practitioners, and policy makers had long wanted to tackle the issue, but too little information had been available.

The report suggested more attention needed to be paid to reducing social stigma towards young people attracted to more than one gender.

Proposed measures included increasing opportunities for more-than-one-gender attracted young people to meet, socialise and organise, along with broad anti-stigma campaigns.

The study also called for social policies that ensured equal rights for sexual minorities.

"One example is the marriage equality legislation, currently before parliament," Pega said.

"Going from US evidence, we can expect marriage equality and similar legislation to improve the health of sexual minority populations in general, including to reduce binge drinking.”

The report said the demographic of people sexually attracted to more than one gender included people attracted to both men and women.

It also included those attracted to people regardless of whether they were cisgender, transgender or gender queer.

Cisgender meant people whose gender identity and biological sex were congruent, while transgender referred to those whose gender identity differed from their biological sex. Gender queer encompassed all alternative gender identities, other than cisgender.

The 32 participants in the study included 24 who identified their gender as female, seven who identified as male, and two who identified as female-to-male transgender - one of whom also identified as female.

The study said it had been estimated that 2.9 to 3.8 per cent of young people at high school in this country were more-than-one-gender attracted.