It has long been known that the LGBT community as a whole engages in substance abuse at a much higher rate than heterosexuals. However, what about the comparatively safe medicinal and recreational drug marijuana and those within the LGBT community itself?
According to data comprised from the 2000 National Alcohol Survey, nearly 38% of bisexual women reported using marijuana in the last year compared to only 5% of straight women and just over 20% of lesbians. More recently, a study sampling U.S. college students and examining the relationship between their sexual orientation and substance abuse found that bisexual women were nearly three times more likely to have used marijuana than lesbian and straight women.
Also worth noting: Despite comprising a majority of LGBT individuals, bisexual Americans are the least optimistic about the social acceptance of LGBT people, with 28% of bisexuals saying there is only a little or no social acceptance of LGBT people today compared to 16% of lesbians and only 15% of gay men.
Gathering from this information, one can easily infer that this is largely the result of bisexual women facing heavily biphobic social attitudes and social stigma from both segregated sides of the sexuality spectrum, including the basic notions and common misconceptions that bisexuality is just a “phase,” that bisexual people need to realize they’re “gay” and just accept it, or that bisexual women are “secretly straight.” Therefore, marijuana use can be seen as a coping mechanism to manage the pain and alleviate the anxiety stemming from biphobia and bisexual discrimination.
But if biphobia and marijuana are strongly correlated, then why aren’t bisexual men smoking and using marijuana the same and as disproportionately as bisexual women?
By using a community-based mixed-methods study to draw on the quantitative data from 92 bisexual women reporting past-year marijuana use in a large provincial study of bisexual mental health, Dr. Margaret Robinson, a research scientist at the Ontario HIV Treatment Network and a bisexual woman herself, was able to answer this question.
“The big difference, I think, is that bisexual women are exposed to sexism as well as biphobia and homophobia,” she tells The Daily Beast. “It could be something about the anxiety we feel living at the intersection of multiple oppressions that instigates such elevated use of cannabis.”
These findings underscore the importance of examining bisexuals as a separate group rather than combining them together with homosexuals. Also, these findings indicate the presence of unique risk and protective factors based on not only sexuality but also gender, therefore favoring a more intersectional approach.