Humanizing an Invisible Population in India: Voices from Bisexual Men Concerning Identity, Life Experiences, and Sexual Health
Research examining the sexual identities, behaviors, and experiences of bisexual men outside of Western contexts (including in India) is limited. Individuals who self-identify as bisexual due to their orientation toward partners of more than one gender face distinct psychosocial challenges relative to exclusively heterosexual, gay/lesbian, or other individuals. We conducted four focus group discussions (n = 22) and in-depth interviews (n = 50) with self-identified bisexual men (age 18 years and older) who were recruited from the metropolitan area of Mumbai, India, between June and August 2013. We triangulated and analyzed focus group and interview data using standard qualitative research techniques. Findings from our study suggest that multiple factors influence the sexual experiences of self-identified bisexual men in Mumbai, including contexts of sexual interactions, sexual positioning, and the gender of sexual partners. Participants described cultural meaning systems and psychosocial dynamics that regulate bisexual identity development, disclosure, and sexual decision making with male, female, and other partners. Secrecy, discretion, and sexual pleasure also influenced sexual behaviors and relationships. Although Western sexual identity categories are not necessarily equivalent in the Indian context, it is interesting and important to note that a number of individuals in India continue to use the identity label of “bisexual.” Before developing interventions to meet unique sexual health needs of bisexual men, it is crucial to understand how these men perceive themselves, reconcile the ordinary aspects of their lives with their sexuality, and structure their relationships with partners.
KeywordsBisexual men Mumbai India Identity Life experiences Sexual health Sexual orientation
We would like to thank all the staff of the Humsafar Trust, whose insight and collaboration guided the researchers throughout the study process. We also deeply appreciate the investment and support in this ongoing partnership, in particular, from the Office of the Vice President for International Affairs, as well as the Institute for Advanced Study, at Indiana University—Bloomington.
The formative and sustaining resources for this academic–research partnership were sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for International Affairs at Indiana University—Bloomington (Brian Dodge, Ph.D.). Additional grant funding was awarded by the Institute for Advanced Study at Indiana University—Bloomington—and the Indiana University School of Public Health—Bloomington (Brian Dodge, Ph.D.). During the process of data collection, Dr. Banik was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse Grant R21 DA033719 (Swagata Banik, Principal Investigator). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.
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