January's Highlighting Minority Masculinities column: Bisexual Masculinities
Check out January's Highlighting Minority Masculinities column featuring Dr. Chris Davids discussing bisexual masculinities.
Highlighting Minority Masculinities is a blog spotlighting psychologists whose work examines the masculinities of underrepresented groups. This column is part of Division 51’s goal to raise consciousness surrounding the psychological challenges and strengths of living outside mainstream masculinities. Current authors and editors include Zachary Gerdes, M.A., and William Elder, Ph.D. Questions or comments can be directed to Zach at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following column is part of a Division 51 task force whose goal is to bring awareness to the psychological challenges and strengths of minority masculinities. For comments or questions, please contact Joshua G. Parmenter at email@example.com.
Dr. Davids engages in research, clinical practice, and advocacy for sexual and gender minorities with an emphasis on the visibility of people who identify as bisexual. He is an assistant professor of psychology at Westminster College and is a licensed psychologist in the state of Utah. He has been an active member of the LGBT Affirmative Psychotherapists Guild of Utah, the American Psychological Association, Society of Counseling psychology (Division 17), Society for the Psychology of Women (Division 35), and the Society for the Psychological Study of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity (Division 44).
What initially sparked your interest in psychological work with bisexual populations?
“My initial interest in bisexuality and psychology stemmed from undergraduate work I did related to body image and eating behavior. As a starry-eyed bisexual student, I found it unusual that researchers would combines samples of gay/lesbian and bisexual individuals or would drop bisexual respondents from analyses altogether. Since that time, I have been motivated to do clinical work, research, and professional advocacy around bisexuality due to psychology’s underrepresentation and misunderstanding of a population that estimates suggest constitutes half—if not more—of sexually diverse people.”
Broadly, what are some ways bisexual men construct or experience masculinity in unique ways?
“A good place to start is an analysis of…masculinity as inherently heteronormative. Although gender and sexual orientation are distinct, many traits and beliefs pertaining to masculinity assume a heterosexual and binary construction of the world. For example, ideals identified by Gender Role Conflict Theory include: men should be financially successful and providers at home, which inherently implies having a wife and family; restricting affection toward other men shames same-sex intimacy. There is limited psychological scholarship that examines bisexuality and masculinity, and instead there are some authors who combine bisexuality with gay identity. It is important to understand that a) experiences of bisexual male identity are inherently different than those of gay men, and b) bisexual men experience a unique interaction between their sexual identity, masculinity, and societal myths about bisexuality compared to heterosexual and gay men.
What are some important clinical considerations in working with bisexual men?
“There is limited research information about how bisexual men respond best to mental health treatment. In my view, a useful reframe of this question is “how can I provide psychotherapy to a bisexual male client in a culturally-informed way?” It is important for providers to understand that sexual identity is neither binary nor static. There are many levels of understanding sexuality, including sexual behaviors, emotions, sense of identity, romantic attraction (and aversion), and an ability to grow and change over time. Providers who assume differently risk alienating bisexual clients by invalidating lived experiences, committing microaggression in session, and endorsing myths of bisexuality that are false and harmful.”
What are some protective factors or strengths for bisexual men?
“Bisexual men often develop remarkable resilience. Due to myths about bisexuality, bisexual men question their sexual identity and more deeply commit to self-understanding. There is opportunity for self-liberation due to the level of exploration that can come from being questioned (although for some this can also cause identity questioning). Bisexual men also develop an ability to operate outside of artificial social binaries related to sexual orientation, which is a template that can be used to examine other false social binaries that our society constructs, such as gender.”
If others are interested in learning more about masculinity and bisexual men, what resources would you recommend?
Elder, W. B., Morrow, S. L., Brooks, G. R. (2015). Sexual self-schemas of bisexual men: A qualitative investigation. The Counseling Psychologist, 43, 970-1007.
Parent, M. C., & Bradstreet, T. C. (2017). Gay, bisexual, and transgender masculinities. In R. F. Levant & Y. J. Wong (Eds.), The psychology of men and masculinities. (pp. 289–314). Washington, DC:
American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.1037/0000023-011
Sánchez, F. J. (2016). Masculinity issues among gay, bisexual, and transgender men. In Y. J. Wong & S. R. Wester (Eds.), APA handbook of men and masculinities. (pp. 339–356). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.1037/14594-016