Bisexual Women Smoke More Weed Because of Biphobia, Study Says
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Bisexual women use marijuana at a much higher rate pot than straight or gay women, ongoing research shows. And a new study claims biphobia—the exclusion of bisexuals by both gay and straight peers—may be a contributing factor.
An older survey from 2000 showed that nearly 38% of bisexual women reported using marijuana compared to just 5% of straight women and 20% of lesbians. A more recent study of U.S. college students found that bisexual women were nearly three times as likely to have used pot than their straight or lesbian peers.
But why? Dr. Margaret Robinson, a research scientist at the Ontario HIV Treatment Network, conducted a series of one-on-one interviews and focus groups. Based on her findings, which were published in the journal Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, she believes that bisexuals face a combination of stigma and social exclusion that influences their marijuana use.
“My concern isn’t with bi women using cannabis so much as it is with what’s prompting the high rates of cannabis use,” Dr. Robinson told The Daily Beast. “People use substances for a reason, so when we see a pattern like this in the U.S., Australia, France, and the UK, we have to wonder what’s going on.”
She says the spike in pot use among this population is a strong indicator of the social isolation bi women experience.
Among the participants in the study, many said they smoke weed for typical reasons, like managing pain or reducing anxiety. But several claimed that they used the drug to cope with experiences of exclusion or rejection from both their straight and gay peers, including the misconceptions that they need to “pick a side” or that their sexual orientation is “just a phase.”
“I think that, in some ways, the anxieties that we experience as being sort of a ‘sandwich community’ which isn’t really here and isn’t really there plays into why more of us smoke,” said one 48-year-old woman in the study. Another woman, 43, said “as a bi person, you can feel homeless. Like you don’t have a community backing you, necessarily. So it may be that the weed is a way to sort of distract yourself, or cope.”
One woman in the study said she used marijuana to alleviate anxiety surrounding the feeling that she needed to “be gay or straight.”
Though biphobia seems to be a contributing factor for elevated marijuana use among bi women, the same trend isn’t seen among bisexual men. Dr. Robinson believes this is because bi women face an added layer of discrimination as women.
“The big difference, I think, is that bisexual women are exposed to sexism as well as biphobia and homophobia,” she says. “It could be something about the anxiety we feel living at the intersection of multiple oppressions that instigates such elevated use of cannabis.”
Past studies have found that bi women tend to suffer from significantly higher rates of anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders than straight or gay women. While bisexual men also experience more anxiety than their straight peers, the rates are still lower than among bi women.
Whether or not anxiety is the main reason bi women smoke more weed requires “a lot more research” says Dr. Robinson. She does not suggest necessarily that bi women need to reduce their marijuana use, but that they need to develop better “skills for coping with stigma, stress, and anxiety.”
Increased acceptance and support among their peers could also alleviate the problem. “Bisexual women aren’t treated with respect, which is the broader problem overall,” she says.