Bisexual Women’s Experience of Microaggressions and Microaffirmations: A Community-Based, Mixed-Methods Scale Development Project

Abstract

In order to better serve bisexual women, clinicians and researchers need tools that accurately reflect and capture bisexual women’s experiences of stigma and affirmation. These tools are essential as research indicates that bisexual women experience poorer mental health than either heterosexual or lesbian women. Our community-based study developed and psychometrically evaluated the Bisexual Microaggression and Microaffirmation Scales for Women (BMMS-W). We held focus groups and advisory committee meetings with bisexual women to identify common experiences of microaggressions and microaffirmations and drafted over 200 potential survey items. Exploratory factor analysis of data from 382 participants across Canada and the U.S. yielded five microaggression factors (dismissal; mistrust; sexualization; social exclusion; and denial of complexity) and four microaffirmation factors (acceptance; social support; recognition of bisexuality and biphobia; and emotional support). Confirmatory factor analysis of data from a separate sample of 323 participants across Canada and the U.S. tested the model. The development of the BMMS-W responds to calls to examine the distinctiveness of bisexual women’s experience and gives mental health service providers and researchers a tool to better understand their experiences.

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Funding

Funding was provided by Women’s College Hospital.

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Correspondence to Corey E. Flanders.

Appendix: The Bisexual Microaggression and Microaffirmation Scales—For Women

Appendix: The Bisexual Microaggression and Microaffirmation Scales—For Women

Bisexual Microaggression Scale: For Women

Please think about the number of times you have experienced each situation in the last 6 months, related to your sexual identity. Select the response that best matches your experience.

0—Never

1—Once

2—A few times

3—About once a month

4—About once a week

5—Multiple times a week

6—Every day

7—This situation is not applicable to me.

1. Someone suggested my bisexual identity is a phase
2. Someone told me I don’t belong in LGBT spaces
3. Someone said they don’t understand bisexuals
4. Someone dismissed my bisexuality as a fad
5. Someone dismissed bisexuality as just a way to get attention
6. Someone suggested I am confused about my bisexual identity
7. Someone indicated bisexuals are untrustworthy
8. Someone implied bisexuals are unreliable
9. Someone showed mistrust toward me because I’m bisexual
10. Someone suggested I would leave them for someone of another gender
11. A romantic partner asked for details about my sexual behavior with people of other genders
12. Someone was offended when I turned down their sexual advances
13. Someone asked inappropriate questions about my bisexuality
14. Someone asked me what genitals I like
15. Someone asked me about my past sexual experiences when I told them I’m bi
16. Someone asked whether I have had sex with a woman
17. Someone asked whether I have had sex with a man
18. Someone asked how many men I have had sex with
19. Someone asked me to prove that I’m bi by discussing my sexual history
20. Someone asked how I knew that I was bisexual
21. Someone asked which gender I prefer the most
22. Someone heterosexual seemed to assume I would hit on their romantic partner(s)
23. Someone made sexual advances toward me when I told them I’m bi
24. Someone asked if I wanted to have a threesome when I told them I’m bi
25. Someone assumed that coming out as bi is a way of saying I’m open for anything sexually
26. Someone indicated that bisexuals aren’t part of the LGBT community
27. Someone made me feel ashamed to date men
28. A bisexual character on a show was not labeled as bisexual
29. Someone discussed an LGBTQ issue that erased bisexuality
30. Someone defined bisexuality as reinforcing of gender binaries (i.e., the idea that there are only two genders)
31. Someone gave me less support than they gave people of other sexual identities
32. Someone who is gay or a lesbian was uncomfortable around me
33. Bisexuality was excluded from an LGBTQ space or discussion
34. Someone made me feel I had to be hyperaware of my bisexuality at an LGBTQ event
35. Gay men or lesbians saw me as an ally more than as part of the community
36. Someone assumed I cannot be bisexual because of my other identities
37. I was pressured to constantly validate my other identities because I am bi
38. Someone called my other identities into doubt because I’m bi
  1. SCORING: To calculate the scale total, first exclude or code as “0” all “not applicable” responses. Then average all items. Dismissal subscale: Items 1–6; Mistrust subscale: Items 7–9; Sexualization subscale: Items 10–25; Social Exclusion subscale: Items 26–35; Denial of Complexity subscale: Items 36–38

Bisexual Microaffirmation Scale: For Women

Please think about the number of times you have experienced each situation in the last 6 months, related to your sexual identity. Select the response that best matches your experience.

0—Never

1—Once

2—A few times

3—About once a month

4—About once a week

5—Multiple times a week

6—Every day

7—This situation is not applicable to me.

1. Someone understood bisexuality easily
2. Someone accepted my being bi without any questions
3. Someone acknowledged my bisexuality without making a big deal about it
4. Someone let me figure out my sexuality for myself without making assumptions
5. Someone supported the relationships of other bisexual people
6. Someone was attentive to discussions of bisexuality
7. Someone did something to show their support of bisexuality
8. Someone recognized biphobia as a serious issue
9. Someone challenged biphobia when they saw it
10. Someone acknowledged that being bi is not always easy
11. Someone respected my opinions about bisexuality
12. Someone asked sincere questions about bisexuality
13. I commiserated with other bisexual people about biphobia
14. Someone was happy for me regardless of the sex or gender of my partner(s)
15. Someone provided emotional support
16. Someone supported my relationships
  1. SCORING: To calculate the scale total, first exclude or code as “0” all “not applicable” responses. Then average all items. Acceptance subscale: Items 1–4; Social support subscale: Items 5–7; Recognition of Bisexuality and Biphobia subscale: Items 8–13; Emotional Support subscale: Items 14–16

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Flanders, C.E., LeBreton, M. & Robinson, M. Bisexual Women’s Experience of Microaggressions and Microaffirmations: A Community-Based, Mixed-Methods Scale Development Project. Arch Sex Behav 48, 143–158 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-017-1135-x

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Keywords

  • Bisexuality
  • Microaggression
  • Microaffirmation
  • Community-based research
  • Scale development