Sexual Self-Identification Among Behaviorally Bisexual Men in the Midwestern United States
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Previous social and behavioral research on identity among bisexual men, when not subsumed within the category of men who have sex with men (MSM), has primarily focused on samples of self-identified bisexual men. Little is known about sexual self-identification among men who are behaviorally bisexual, regardless of sexual identity. Using qualitative data from 77 in-depth interviews with a diverse sample of behaviorally bisexual men (i.e., men who have had sex with at least one woman and at least one man in the past six months) from a large city in the Midwestern United States, we analyzed responses from a domain focusing on sexual self-identity and related issues. Overall, participants’ sexual self-identification was exceptionally diverse. Three primary themes emerged: (1) a resistance to, or rejection of, using sexual self-identity labels; (2) concurrent use of multiple identity categories and the strategic deployment of multiple sexual identity labels; and (3) a variety of trajectories to current sexual self-identification. Based on our findings, we offer insights into the unique lived experiences of behaviorally bisexual men, as well as broader considerations for the study of men’s sexuality. We also explore identity-related information useful for the design of HIV/STI prevention and other sexual health programs directed toward behaviorally bisexual men, which will ideally be variable and flexible in accordance with the wide range of diversity found in this population.
KeywordsBisexuality Sexual identity Bisexual men Men who have sex with both men and women (MSMW) Identities
Funding for this study was provided by the National Institutes of Health (HD 059494, Brian Dodge, Ph.D., Principal Investigator). We would like to express our deepest appreciation for the ongoing mentorship of Dr. Theo Sandfort, whose wisdom and insight guided the researchers throughout the study process. We also thank the members of the study’s Community Advisory Committee. The authors acknowledge Ryan Nix and Omar Martinez for their assistance with data collection and Dr. Barbara Van Der Pol for coordinating laboratory-based aspects of the larger study. Additionally, we are exceedingly grateful to Dr. Shari Dworkin and the anonymous reviewers whose thoughtful insights and recommendations have greatly strengthened this article.
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