Why Do Bisexual Women Drink So Much?

Drinking and substance-use are wide-spread in the LGBTQ+ community. The higher rates are due to queer people using drugs to cope with homophobia and discrimination as well as the relative lack of sober, queer spaces. Some of the most prominent queer spaces are gay bars or clubs, and Pride events are often sponsored by alcohol companies who show off their support through rainbow-colored vodka and beer bottles. There’s growing attention to address alcohol-abuse in queer communities but there is still a long way to go, especially when it comes to bisexual women.

Promotional event by Smirnoff

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), bisexual women are more likely than any other group to report recent binge drinking. This is a stark finding when considering that men, both gay and straight, are much more likely to drink than women. While the gender gap has decreased, straight women are still much less likely to binge drink than men are.

Percent Reporting binge drinking in past month according to NSDUH 2018.

So why are bisexual women out drinking everyone? Unfortunately, there has not been much research on the subject since research on sexual minority health tend to group bisexuals with other queer people or with straight people if they’re in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex. However, the few studies on this topic suggest that this tendency to forget about bisexuals or group them with other sexualities is part of the problem. This tendency is called bi-erasure or bi-invisibility, and it’s present in research, media, and personal lives.  Bi-erasure often takes the form of assuming that bisexuality doesn’t exist, is a phrase, or shouldn’t matter if someone is in a relationship. Other forms of bisexual-specific discrimination include assuming that bisexuals are promiscuous or will leave their partner for someone of a different gender. Many bisexuals report bi-erasure and discrimination from both heterosexuals and the gay community. 

Meme about bi-erasure

The double discrimination of dealing with general homophobia as well as bisexual-specific discrimination is a major reason why bisexual health disparities are so large. Feeling validated about who you are is important, and bisexuals who do have support in their lives show lower rates of substance use and better mental health. We need a society where all people can feel supported in their sexuality. If we want to stop LBGTQ+ health disparities then we need:

  • Legislation that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender presentation. Georgia still allows jobs to fire someone because of their sexuality.
  • Better media representation – especially for bisexuals who are underrepresented and often shown in stereotypical roles.
  • More sober queer-affirming spaces.
  • More research on LGBTQ+ health disparities that separately examine bisexual health disparities. 
  • Queer affirming counseling and substance-abuse treatment. While there are a growing number of guidelines, workshops, and classes on being an LGBTQ+ affirming counselor, many queer people still report sub-par experiences with mental health treatment. This is likely exacerbated in religious-based substance-abuse treatment facilities.

Until we address these issues. LBQTQ+ people, especially bisexual women, will continue to suffer. 


Are Liquor Stores Essential?


                                   assorted-color bottle lot on shelf

Are liquor stores essential? For every state but one the answer has been “Yes”. Liquor stores have remained open throughout social distancing and sales skyrocketed by 55% as people spend all their time bored and lonely at home. Some people are drinking more as they attend Zoom happy hours or play drinking games over Discord. But the increased sales in alcohol are not just due to fun games and virtual social gatherings. They are a sign of decreased mental health as people battle stress, anxiety, and grief during this global pandemic.

Alcohol use is not the cure people need. It is associated with many negative health outcomes including weakening immune systems, chronic health problems, and increased risk-taking, including domestic violence. Many of these problems are worse for women who drink – we are more likely to suffer chronic health conditions at lower levels of alcohol and experience the brunt of domestic violence. As Dr. Parker-Jones suggests, women might be more likely to increase their drinking right now due to the stress of COVID-19 since women are more likely to use alcohol to cope with anxiety and depression.

                                                                group of people tossing wine glass

Despite the many harms related to alcohol, almost every state in the country has decided to keep liquor stores open. This isn’t just due to the normalization of alcohol drinking or pressure to keep the economy rolling. It’s also due to the very real danger that restricting access to alcohol has on people who are physically dependent on alcohol. If these people go cold turkey, then many will suffer seizures and even death. Many will turn to non-edible sources of alcohol like drinking hand sanitizer. These individuals would suffer greatly and would burden the already stretched thin health care system.

Deciding whether liquor stores are essential is not as simple of a question as it might seem. Keeping them open may lead to worse health outcomes, more domestic violence, and encourage drinking as a way to cope with anxiety. But closing them could lead to pain and even death for those who are addicted to alcohol.

Liquor stores are essential, but only because we don’t have a good system to handle addiction and mental health. We need programs like Canada’s MAPS which ensures that physically-dependent alcohol users have access to the minimum amount of alcohol they need. We also need more affordable mental health treatment so that people, especially women, can learn better ways to cope with depression and anxiety rather than turn to drinking. Keeping liquor stores open is a band-aid solution and shows how badly we need a comprehensive mental health care system.