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10-year study debunks bisexual ‘phase’
Women were more likely to identify bi as time passed

by David Stout . Q-Notes staff

The landmark study was conducted by Lisa Diamond, an associate professor of psychology and gender studies at the University of Utah.
In January the Journal of Developmental Psychology, a publication of the American Psychological Association, reported on a landmark study that concluded “being bisexual is a distinct orientation in women, not a temporary phase.”

The study was conducted by Lisa Diamond, an associate professor of psychology and gender studies at the University of Utah.

In 1995, Diamond interviewed 79 women ages 18-25 in New York state who identified their sexual orientation as lesbian, bisexual or unlabeled (but not heterosexual). She followed up with telephone interviews every two years for the next decade.

The study challenged the conventional wisdom that bisexuality is a transient state for people who are in an early stage of embracing their true, gay orientation.

“Some people mistakenly believe that bisexuality is merely a transition stage from straight to gay. Lisa Diamond’s 10-year longitudinal study proves that’s not true,” said Marshall Miller, founder of the BiHealth Program at The Fenway Institute at Fenway Community Health in Boston. “At the 10-year point in her study, Diamond reports that more women identified as bisexual or didn’t choose a label at all, not less.”

“If it was a phase,” Diamond observed, “it should have burnt out. [Participants] might have a change in identity and relationships, but that pattern of non-exclusive desire is still there, even among those who have married. It debunks the notion of it being a phase.”

Amy André writes and lectures extensively on sexuality, with a focus on bisexuality. She said, “Lisa Diamond’s recent findings come as no surprise to the nearly five million women in the U.S. who identify as bisexual. Where Professor Diamond has broken ground, and quite successfully, is in letting the rest of the country in on the news.

“Half of all those who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual, identify as bisexual, according to research from the National Survey on Family Growth, as well as other sources. That means that bisexuals make up the largest group within the LGB population.”

Julie Ebin manages the BiHealth Program at The Fenway Institute. She remarked, “Health care providers can learn from this study: It’s important to ask about all patients’ sexual behavior and sexual identity, accepting their self-identification as valid and serving them according to their actual physical and mental health needs.

“Too many individuals experience biphobia from health care providers, and we need to do better at getting people the care they need.”

Along with the news that bisexuality is a valid, long-term sexual identity for many people, André believes another important point needs to be accepted.

“But, as we’re rushing to state that bisexual identity is usually not a phase, it’s important to recognize that there is also nothing wrong with phases. If there is one thing I learned from getting a master’s degree in sexuality studies, it’s that, for many people, sexuality evolves over the course of a lifetime.

“For example, research from Lisa Diamond shows that many women who used to use the word ‘lesbian’ to identify themselves later in life come to identify as bisexual. For these women, identifying as a lesbian was a phase — but one that was as valid and true for them then as bisexual is now.”

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