How To Be A Better Therapist: 4 Ways To Be A Bisexual – Friendly Clinician by Abigail "Abi" Weissman, Psy.D.

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How to be a better therapist: 4 ways to be a bisexual – friendly clinician

 

I’ve been thinking about this post for weeks now. I really wanted it to be perfect. And then I realized that like everything, language changes and I might never have the perfect information to know, let alone to share with you. Here is my current list of ways to be a bisexual – friendly clinician.

 

Like all of my blog posts sharing certain ways to be affirming or friendly, in my ideal world, you, dear clinician, would be more than bisexual – friendly. You would be affirming. You would be knowledgeable about bisexuality and you would be educating yourself about more than the basics about bisexuality. Since I have heard many offensive utterances from clinicians and from lay people alike about people who identify as bisexual, it is my wish that you, dear reader, will be bisexual – friendly to start. Becoming bisexual – affirming might take a bit more work and, while surely possible, is a bigger education goal than one that this one blog post can address. I’m happy to talk with you more, individually, through consultation or personal therapy, about how to unpack any internalized biphobia (hatred and fear of bisexuality; please see https://lgbt.ucsd.edu/education/biphobia.html for real-world examples of biphobia) and work towards being more bisexuality – affirming clinically and interpersonally. Please contact me here at www.wavespsych.com/contact for individualized assistance in working towards becoming more bisexually-affirming in your work and in your life. Although I was hoping that this blog post would be a panacea of education and advocacy, I have to admit that if I wanted to write that perfect post, I would never ever be able to put anything out there in the blogosphere at all so I will post this piece knowing that it is one step in helping clinicians learn how to be less horrible and more bisexual-friendly. Thus, without further ado,

 

Here are my 4 ways to be a bisexual-friendly clinician

 

1)    Define your stance as that of a clinician who is interested, educated, and open-to-learning (more) about bisexuality.

 

I had been writing blog posts about cultural competence, assuming that there was such a thing as really being culturally competent when I now realize that there is not. There is no way to be fully competent about a culture, subculture, or identity as these concepts change from person to person and from context to context. One person in the subculture could have a completely different or a slightly different take on a culture than another person and both can be correct. It is not your job to know everything about every culture and it is not possible to do so anyway. Instead, it is your job to have a stance of curiosity for the sake of learning not curiosity as a way to other, compare, and objectify the other person, culture, or identity.

Don’t focus on highlighting the ways that the person differs from your identity or your value system. Although this idea of comparing yourself with the other is a part of many of the developmental stages of identity development, I hope that you will move past this stage and into the one that allows for cultures to be their own without thinking about them as solely existing in relation to yours. (For example, I’m thinking of the Assimilation stage in Berry’s model Ethnic Identity, where one feels that the majority culture is valued over any other culture. My current favorite chart comparing some different identity models is here: http://www.racialequitytools.org/resourcefiles/Compilation_of_Racial_Identity_Models_7_15_11.pdf )

It is my goal to now look towards the idea of cultural humility and away from the myth of cultural competence. In the 2013 article, “Reflections on cultural humility,” Waters and Asbill (accessed on October 2, 2017 on http://www.apa.org/pi/families/resources/newsletter/2013/08/cultural-humility.aspx ) defined cultural humility as a “process rather than an end project” where “we must be humble and flexible, bold enough to look at ourselves critically and desire to learn more,” to see our clients as knowledgeable about their own culture and positioning in the world, and we must reach to advocate for our clients through community support and the like. This blog post, then, is a process of reaching towards learning more about being a bisexual-friendly clinician.

 

2)    Know your definitions and know that any one definition, might not be the definition of your next client, current client, or even your next door neighbor.

 

In other words, the term, bisexuality, means different things to different people.

 

While searching for articles about bisexuality, I also looked to those around me for answers. My wonderful colleague and friend, Susan Writer, Ph.D. is an educator, therapist, trainer, lecturer and person who identifies as bisexual. She can be contacted for further information about her work at drsusanwriter@gmail.com. She helped me to continue to better understand bisexuality.

 

Here, Dr. Susan Writer explains the difference between identifying as bisexual and identifying as pansexual:

 

“A Bisexual (person) is attracted to both cisgender sides. I’m attracted to cisgender men and cisgender woman.” (Writer, 2017, unpublished interview)

 

“Pansexual,” she states, describes an “attraction for cis(gender) men and cisgender women and transgender men and transgender women.” (Writer, 2017, unpublished interview)

 

For Dr. Writer, being bisexual means that one is attracted to people assigned female at birth (AFAB) who still identify as female (cisgender women or women of cisgender experience) and people assigned male at birth (AMAB) who still identify as male (cisgender men or men of cisgender experience). She stated that she, personally, identifies as bisexual and, as such, is not attracted to women or men of transgender experience and/or identity.

 

What do you think? Is this your definition of bisexual and pansexual? Please put your thoughts and feelings in the comment section below.

 

I wrestle with Dr. Writer’s definitions. I see pansexuality and bisexuality as overlapping categories. That said, in my clinical work, I look to my clients’ definitions, and I honor them over my own sense of what the words mean to me.  

 

3)    Know stereotypes so you can debunk them

 

People who are bisexual are often faced with the icky stereotypes of others. One stereotype includes:

Bisexuality equals polyamory

I’ve heard many other stereotypes that riff off of the idea that bisexually-identified people cannot be monogamous and that bisexual people always cheat on their partners. I’ve also heard that bisexual people just can’t choose between men and women and that they will always want to be with another gender when they are with one gender.

 

I have one word for this, “Yuck!”

 

There are bisexual people who are monogamously oriented (those who feel drawn to date and/or are better suited for romantic and/or sexual relationships with one person at a time) and those who are more polyamorously-oriented (those who feel drawn to date and/or are in relation with more than one person at a time, perhaps in different kinds of relationships at possibly overlapping times. For more about polyamory, please see one of my favorite resources, morethantwo.com and for more information about how Waves is a polyamory-affirmative practice, please check here ).

 

And yes, there are many bisexual people who are faithful to their partner(s) no matter the kind of relationship just like there are many lesbian, gay, heterosexual, queer, and questioning people who are faithful to their partner(s) and many who are not.

 

Please do not assume the behavior of your clients; please instead ask them questions about how they are in relationships, as appropriate. Please look at this list of questions to not ask bisexually-identified people and other ways to phrase your questions to make them appropriate. https://everydayfeminism.com/2014/06/stop-asking-bisexuals/

 

And finally (for now),

4)    Know your resources

In order to be a bisexual-friendly clinician, know that there are lots of people out there in the world who identify as bisexual and that there are some wonderful resources for clients, their partner(s), and their friends to utilize. There are some great academic sources for your edification as well!

 

Here are some of my favorites resources:

 

For a history/herstory/theirstory of bisexuality and some common reactions to biphobic comments and other resources, please see this brochure by bisexual.org at https://bisexual.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Getting_BiPRINT_2mbfinal.pdf

 

For suggestions on how to be a better bisexual ally, please see this article, 7 Ways to Be an Awesome Bisexual Ally at https://www.pride.com/bisexual/2015/7/08/7-ways-be-awesome-bisexual-ally I love how the author invites people to step up and be inclusive in their language and in their verbal support of bisexually-identified people.

 

Here’s a list of resources by bisexual.org at https://bisexual.org/pamphlets-on-bisexuality/ They have some English and Dutch resources as well.

 

My favorite oldie but goodie, is this book, Bi Any Other Name - Bisexual People Speak Out by Lani Ka'ahumanu (Author), Loraine Hutchins (Author). I’ve got to admit that this book was a game changer for me and I will always be grateful for helping me to read about bisexual people and their lives. Check it out on Amazon through my affiliate link at 

Bi Any Other Name - Bisexual People Speak Out
By Lani Ka'ahumanu, Loraine Hutchins

 

In Human Sexuality graduate school, I had a friend named Amy Andre who was all about educating others about bisexuality and making it known when bisexuality was erased from the class dialogue. At that time, I was all about thinking about queer relationships as “similar gender relationships” not as “same-sex relationships”. It got old being the one advocate for each of these ideas and one day, we decided to swap causes. I got to be a bisexuality advocate and outspoken ally. My life was then changed for the better. I ended up continuing to work on being the best bi ally that I could be during my grad program even creating a Bipride event for my minor in counseling psychology. Since then, I’ve followed this colleague, Amy Andre in the news and been impressed by her continuing interest in bisexuality activism and advocacy. Here’s a link to her main page at http://amyandre.blogspot.com/ Please check out her writing for yourself. 

 

I grew up on the East Coast in a very liberal area. I kept running into the Bisexual Resource Center at Pride events and the like.  I love their slogan, “We put the B in LGBT.” I am such a fan of the organization’s work and its founder, Robyn Ochs. Check them out at http://www.biresource.net/  I especially appreciate their perspectives on defining bisexuality at http://biresource.org/bisexuality-101/

 

The next book on my list to read is Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around the World, Second Edition Paperback edited by Robyn Ochs (!) and Sarah Rowley. 

Have you read it? What do you think?

 

I’d also like to read more about bisexual men. This book also popped up as I explored Bisexual Resource Center’s website for the 43rd (or so) time. One of the editors is Robyn Ochs. :)

Have you read it? What do you think? Do you have another favorite book about bi men?

Recognize: The Voices of Bisexual Men
Bisexual Resource Center

 

I’ve been looking for more resources in working with bi people of color. I found one article, Being Black and Bisexual Comes with Extra Obstacles – But They Can Also Be Overcome, that was posted on June 12, 2015 by Crystal Fleming) that made me think that there must be others but I haven’t found them yet. Any suggestions on posts to read? Please see this post at post at https://everydayfeminism.com/2015/06/a-black-bisexual-manifesto/

 

For research articles, please see the Journal of Bisexuality at http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/wjbi20/current#.UaDtKOse5Xk

 

A friend and San Diego, CA colleague, Dr. Madeline Wesh posted this article about her 2014 dissertation, Rust Revisited: An Update on Lesbians’ Opinions and the Implications for Bisexual Women”. at https://www.findapsychologist.org/the-injuries-of-social-rejection-by-dr-madeline-e-b-wesh/ I like this summary version as it contains links to her references.

 

Another way to support bi advocates is to vote for the lovely and well-known, bi rights activist, parent, filmmaker, educator, and techie gent, Martin Rawlings-Fein as he runs for school board in his district. I met Martin while a member of Congregation Sha’ar Zahav, a queer shul in San Francisco. He’s wonderful and I would totally vote for him if I still lived in the city of San Francisco. Check out him and his campaign out at http://www.martinrawlings-fein.com/. Martin is a “proud LGBT (bi+ and trans) parent with deep ties to the public school system.”

 

I love Tumblr. I don’t use it often enough but when I do, I am so happy at what I find. Please check out some images on Tumblr to learn about the bi flag, bisexuality visibility day, and oh so much more. https://www.tumblr.com/tagged/bisexuality What are your favorite images? Please share with us in the comment section.

 

What are your favorite resources? Did any of these irk you or make you so happy (or some other feeling)?  Please let us know in the comment section below.

 

To recap, the 4 ways to be a bisexual – friendly clinician are to:

1)    Define your stance as that of a clinician who is interested, educated, and open-to-learning (more) about bisexuality.

2)    Know your definitions and know that any one definition, might not be the definition of your next client, current client, or even your next door neighbor.

3)    Know stereotypes so you can debunk them

4)    Know your resources

 

In bi-solidarity,

Dr. Abigail “Abi” Weissman

 

 

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Abigail "Abi" Weissman, Psy.D.

Chairwoman and Founder, Waves, A Psychological CorporationPsychologist PSY 27497Pronouns: she, her, hers

 

Who I AmI am Abigail “Abi” Weissman, Psy.D. (PSY 27497). I am a clinical psychologist but you might also call me an empowering supporter and a self-love affirmer.

 

What I DoI help people who wish they could be their full queer, transgender, religious, liberal, activist, polyamorous, and/or kink selves but hold themselves back because they are scared they will be unloved, unemployed, and rejected by their loved ones and communities.

 

Why?I encourage them to share their deepest wishes so that they can learn to be happy being themselves. I know from my own path to wellness and years of working with LGBTQIQA clients that it is possible to survive the fear of others’ judgment, hurt, and disappointment to live your true self.

 

Contact Me TodayI believe that loving yourself will change the world for the better! That’s why I hope that you contact me today. I provide individual therapy, relationship, and group therapy; consultation for clinicians and organizations; supervision; and trainings.

 

The best way to reach me is through email at info@doctorabi.com.