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By Us or Bias? Self-Identification, Intersectionality and Resilience: A Solution- Focused Qualitative Analysis of Australian Bisexual Women’s Mental Health

By Us or Bias? Self-Identification, Intersectionality and Resilience: A Solution- Focused Qualitative Analysis of Australian Bisexual Women’s Mental Health

Introduction: Bisexual people experience poorer mental
health when compared to monosexual people (those
attracted to one gender only, e.g. gay/straight). These
outcomes are often attributed to experiences of biphobia,
monosexism, and minority stress. However, constantly
conflating bisexuality and mental health issues
has resulted in the overpathologisation of this population.
Thus, a need for research utilising resilience models
is evident, particularly in the Australian context
where there is a dearth of bisexuality research of
this kind.
Objectives: This study’s objectives were to explore
bisexual women’s positive experiences and understanding
of the label bisexual; investigate how women’s
other identities positively interacted with their bisexual
identity; and to ascertain resilience factors for bisexual
women and how these contribute to their overall mental
health.
Method: A qualitative methodology guided by a
phenomenological approach was utilised. This methodology
was underpinned by positive psychology, intersectional
feminist and social constructionist theoretical
frameworks. Twelve self-identifying bisexual women
voluntarily participated in 45-90-minute semi-structured
interviews, which were transcribed verbatim.
Thematic analysis was used to analyse data.
Results: Four main themes were identified: 1) identity
formation; 2) intersectionality; 3) sense of belonging,
and 4) resilience. Each theme comprised a number
of subthemes, which highlighted the intricate intersectionalities
contributing to the mental health of bisexual
women in Australia. Despite a focus on the positive
aspects of bisexuality, each participant discussed
adverse aspects of their bisexual identification.
Conclusion: Participants’ expressed heterogenous
personal definitions of bisexuality. Bisexuality intersected
with other identities; mental health was
impacted through these intersections and was context
dependent. A sense of belonging, community, activism/
advocacy and social support fostered positive identity
experiences and improved mental health. Participants
demonstrated resilience at intrapersonal, interpersonal
and societal levels. Structural resilience, greater visibility
through representation and de-homogenisation of
bisexual populations will further enable positive identity
development and improve mental health for bisexual
people.
Keywords: bisexual, bipositivity, identity formation,
mental health, biphobia, monosexism, women,
intersectional feminism, positive psychology
Conflict of Interest and Disclosure Statement: None

Speakers: Hannah Saltis