More people identifying as bisexual, but does the CDC get it right?

A recent poll by the CDC shows bisexuality on the rise, but is this survey accurate if it asks men and women different questions?
By Jason Spencer | Jan 08, 2016
More and more people are coming out as gay, lesbian, or bisexual as laws prohibiting or limiting the expression of sexual orientation are taken down. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released their annual poll that reflects the change in numbers, but is the poll accurate if it doesn't ask the right questions?

According to CNN, the poll released by the CDC revealed that those identifying as lesbian and gay remained the same, while more people were coming out as bisexual, or attracted to both genders. And more people are identifying as bisexual, the influx in women is greater when compared to men.

"It's certainly not a new idea that women and men may be attracted to more than gender," said Debby Herbenick when talking about the change. While not involved in the study by the CDC, Herbenick offers insight into sexuality and societal changes as a professor at Indiana University and author of the book "Sex Made Easy".

However, Herbenick says that coming out as bisexual doesn't mean one doesn't face public stigma, referring to the discrimination bisexuals can experience for not picking one or the other, though history has shown that sexuality is not just black and white.

"Women and men who self-identify as bisexual experience stigma not just from heterosexuals but also homosexuals," she said.

Researchers for the poll found that in 9,000 interviewees 5.5% of women and 2% of men identified as bisexual, up from 3.2% and 1.9% in last year's poll.

Yet some say these numbers aren't accurate, as the questions asked different for men and women. The Verge reports that men's questions regarding sex were more limited than their female counterparts. Women were asked if they had had any sexual encounter with someone of the same sex, whereas men were not asked this broader question.

"The difference in how same-sex sexual behaviors are measured could be one reason that these figures are so much higher among women," said Kate Estrop, co-president of the Bisexual Resource Center in Boston. Estrop explained that the difference in these questions made it seem that, "sex and sexuality itself is less fluid for men than for women, which is not always the case in reality."

"We're disappointed in the inconsistencies in definition of same-sex experiences for men versus women,"she added. "Without the right questions, policy makers think you don't count."

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