Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 48, Issue 1, pp 199–211 | Cite as

Bi+ Visibility: Characteristics of Those Who Attempt to Make Their Bisexual+ Identity Visible and the Strategies They Use

  • Joanne DavilaEmail author
  • Jeremy Jabbour
  • Christina Dyar
  • Brian A. Feinstein
Special Section: Bisexual Health


There are numerous forms of stigma that contribute to the de-legitimization and erasure of bisexual and other non-monosexual identities (collectively referred to as bisexual+ or bi+ identities). To reduce such stigma, efforts are needed to increase bi+ visibility. Little is known, however, about whether bisexual+ individuals attempt to attain greater bi+ visibility (i.e., make their bisexual+ identity visible to others) and, if so, how they do this. Using data from a mixed-method (quantitative and qualitative) internet survey study of 397 individuals reporting attractions to more than one gender, we examined the proportion who attempted to attain greater bi+ visibility, the strategies they used to do so, and factors that distinguished those who made bi+ visibility attempts from those who did not. Results indicated that 58% made bi+ visibility attempts, with the most common being direct verbal communication (e.g., telling others) and visual displays (e.g., wearing bi/pride clothing, jewelry, tattoos). Less common attempts included indirect forms of communication, engagement in LGBT-related activities, and public behavioral displays. Those who made bi+ visibility attempts differed from those who did not on variables related to identity (e.g., centrality, self-affirmation, community connection) and internalized binegativity. Implications for understanding the reasons for and for not making bi+ visibility attempts, as well as the potential consequences of doing so, are discussed.


Bisexual Non-monosexual Minority stress Identity Internalized binegativity Sexual orientation 


  1. Balsam, K. F., & Mohr, J. J. (2007). Adaptation to sexual orientation stigma: A comparison of bisexual and lesbian/gay adults. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 54, 306–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Benjamini, Y., & Hochberg, Y. (1995). Controlling the false discovery rate: A practical and powerful approach to multiple testing. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series B (Methodological), 57(1), 289–300.Google Scholar
  3. Bradley, E. H., Curry, L. A., & Devers, K. J. (2007). Qualitative data analysis for health services research: Developing taxonomy, themes, and theory. Health Services Research, 42, 1758–1772. Scholar
  4. Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3, 77–101. Scholar
  5. Brewster, M. E., & Moradi, B. (2010). Perceived experiences of anti-bisexual prejudice: Instrument development and evaluation. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 57(4), 451–468. Scholar
  6. Brewster, M. E., Moradi, B., Deblaere, C., & Velez, B. L. (2013). Navigating the borderlands: The roles of minority stressors, bicultural self-efficacy, and cognitive flexibility in the mental health of bisexual individuals. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 60, 543–556.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cathain, A. O., & Thomas, K. J. (2004). “Any other comments?” Open questions on questionnaires—A bane or a bonus to research? BMC Medical Research Methodology, 4, 25. Scholar
  8. Dyar, C., & Feinstein, B. A. (in press). Attitudes toward and stereotypes about bisexual individuals. In D. J. Swan & S. Habibi (Eds.), Bisexuality: Theories, research, and recommendations. Cham, Switzerland: Springer.Google Scholar
  9. Dyar, C., Feinstein, B. A., & London, B. (2014). Dimensions of sexual identity and minority stress among bisexual women: The role of partner gender. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 1(4), 441–451. Scholar
  10. Dyar, C., Feinstein, B. A., & London, B. (2015). Mediators of differences between lesbians and bisexual women in sexual identity and minority stress. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 2(1), 43–51. Scholar
  11. Eliason, M. J. (1997). The prevalence and nature of biphobia in heterosexual undergraduate students. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 26(3), 317–326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Feinstein, B. A., Dyar, C., Bhatia, V., Latack, J. A., & Davila, J. (2014). Willingness to engage in romantic and sexual activities with bisexual partners: Gender and sexual orientation differences. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 1(3), 255–262. Scholar
  13. Feinstein, B. A., Dyar, C., & London, B. (2017). Are outness and community involvement risk or protective factors for alcohol and drug abuse among sexual minority women? Archives of Sexual Behavior, 46, 1411–1423. Scholar
  14. Feldman, S., & Wright, A. (2013). Dual impact: Outness and LGB identity formation on mental health. Journal of Gay and Lesbian Social Services, 25(4), 443–464. Scholar
  15. Flanders, C. E. (2015). Bisexual health: A daily diary analysis of stress and anxiety. Basic Applied Social Psychology, 37, 319–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Flanders, C. E., & Hatfield, E. (2014). Social perception of bisexuality. Psychology & Sexuality, 5(3), 232–246. Scholar
  17. Fleiss, J. L. (1981). Statistical methods for rates and proportions (2nd ed.). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  18. Frost, D. M., & Meyer, I. H. (2012). Measuring community connectedness among diverse sexual minority populations. Journal of Sex Research, 49(1), 36–49. Scholar
  19. Hartman, J. E. (2013). Creating a bisexual display: Making bisexuality visible. Journal of Bisexuality, 13(1), 39–62. Scholar
  20. Hartman-Linck, J. E. (2014). Keeping bisexuality alive: Maintaining bisexual visibility in monogamous relationships. Journal of Bisexuality, 14(2), 177–193. Scholar
  21. Hayfield, N., Clarke, V., Halliwell, E., & Malson, H. (2013). Visible lesbians and invisible bisexuals: Appearance and visual identities among bisexual women. Women’s Studies International Forum, 40, 172–182. Scholar
  22. Hequembourg, A. L., & Brallier, S. A. (2009). An exploration of sexual minority stress across the lines of gender and sexual identity. Journal of Homosexuality, 56, 273–298. Scholar
  23. Herek, G. M. (2002). Heterosexuals’ attitudes toward bisexual men and women in the United States. The Journal of Sex Research, 39(4), 264–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Huxley, C., Clarke, V., & Halliwell, E. (2013). Resisting and conforming to the “lesbian look”: The importance of appearance norms for lesbian and bisexual women. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, 24, 205–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Israel, T., & Mohr, J. J. (2004). Attitudes toward bisexual women and men: Current research, future directions. Journal of Bisexuality, 4(1–2), 117–134. Scholar
  26. Legate, N., Ryan, R. M., & Weinstein, N. (2012). Is coming out always a “good thing”? Exploring the relations of autonomy support, outness, and wellness for lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 3, 145–152. Scholar
  27. MacLeod, M. A., Bauer, G. R., Robinson, M., MacKay, J., & Ross, L. E. (2015). Biphobia and anxiety among bisexuals in Ontario, Canada. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Mental Health, 19, 217–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. McGraw, K. O., & Wong, S. P. (1996). Forming inferences about some intraclass correlation coefficients. Psychological Methods, 1, 30–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mirandola, M., Gios, L., Sherriff, N., Pachankis, J., Toskin, I., Ferrer, L., … Niedźwiedzka-Stadnik, M. (2017). Socio-demographic characteristics, sexual and test-seeking behaviours amongst men who have sex with both men and women: Results from a bio-behavioural survey in 13 European cities. AIDS and Behavior, 21, 3013–3025. Scholar
  30. Mohr, J., & Fassinger, R. (2000). Measuring dimensions of lesbian and gay male experience. Measurement & Evaluation in Counseling & Development (American Counseling Association), 33(2), 66–90.Google Scholar
  31. Mohr, J. J., Jackson, S. D., & Sheets, R. L. (2017). Sexual orientation self-presentation among bisexual-identified women and men: Patterns and predictors. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 46, 1465–1479. Scholar
  32. Mohr, J. J., & Kendra, M. S. (2011). Revision and extension of a multidimensional measure of sexual minority identity: The Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Identity Scale. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 58, 234–245. Scholar
  33. Mohr, J. J., & Rochlen, A. B. (1999). Measuring attitudes regarding bisexuality in lesbian, gay male, and heterosexual populations. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 46(3), 353–369. Scholar
  34. Pachankis, J. E., Cochran, S. D., & Mays, V. M. (2015). The mental health of sexual minority adults in and out of the closet: A population-based study. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 5, 890.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Paul, R., Smith, N. G., Mohr, J. J., & Ross, L. E. (2014). Measuring dimensions of bisexual identity: Initial development of the Bisexual Identity Inventory. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 1(4), 452–460. Scholar
  36. Pitpitan, E. V., Smith, L. R., Goodman-Meza, D., Torres, K., Semple, S. J., Strathdee, S. A., & Patterson, T. L. (2016). “Outness” as a moderator of the association between syndemic conditions and HIV risk-taking behavior among men who have sex with men in Tijuana, Mexico. AIDS and Behavior, 20, 431–438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Ross, L. E., Dobinson, C., & Eady, A. (2010). Perceived determinants of mental health for bisexual people: A qualitative examination. American Journal of Public Health, 100, 496–502. Scholar
  38. Sheets, R., & Mohr, J. (2009). Perceived social support from friends and family and psychosocial functioning in bisexual young adult college students. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 56(1), 152–163. Scholar
  39. Spalding, L. R., & Peplau, L. A. (1997). The unfaithful lover: Heterosexuals’ perceptions of bisexuals and their relationships. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21(4), 611–626.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Yost, M., & Thomas, G. (2012). Gender and binegativity: Men’s and women’s attitudes toward male and female bisexuals. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 41(3), 691–702. Scholar
  41. Zivony, A., & Lobel, T. (2014). The invisible stereotypes of bisexual men. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 43(6), 1165–1176. Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joanne Davila
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jeremy Jabbour
    • 1
    • 4
  • Christina Dyar
    • 2
    • 3
  • Brian A. Feinstein
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyStony Brook UniversityStony BrookUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CincinnatiCincinnatiUSA
  3. 3.Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and WellbeingNorthwestern University Feinberg School of MedicineChicagoUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA

Personalised recommendations