Why Sexual Orientation Labels Can Be Bad For Your Health

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two women kissing cheeks
Avoiding the label of "bisexual" could be good for a woman's health, says new research.

While celebs like Anna Paquin and Tom Hardy have embraced their bisexuality, a new study has cast light on the problem with the label itself. In research studies, bisexuals are commonly lumped with homosexuals. But this newest study, from researchers at Indiana University, uniquely targets women who identify themselves as bi, and just how that identification affects their overall health. They studied more than 2,500 ladies who have had attraction to or sexual encounters with other women, asking questions about their mental, sexual and physical wellness. The findings showed that "women who identified themselves as bisexual or lesbian reported the best health when their sexual identity matched their recent sexual history."

But the researchers still warn against sticking to strict labels. Rather, they believe allowing for flexibility in terms of labeling sexual identity will help maintain the health of these bisexual women. The head researcher of the study specifically pointed out women who identified themselves as "queer" — which, according to the study authors, is a descriptor typically adopted by those who want to reject rigid sexual labels — saying that they typically didn't rely on the gender of their most recent partners to feel comfortable in their identities. From the authors: "Unlike the other women in the study, the mental, physical and sexual well-being of queer-identified women was not related to the gender of their recent sexual partners. This suggests that, instead of encouraging women to adopt labels that are more descriptive of their behavior, we should be more flexible in the behavioral expectations that we attach to these labels."

Essentially, the message — especially for women who may take issue with the term "bisexual" — is to not subscribe to sexual labels. Falling victim to the confines of a social label (be it related to sexuality, musical preference or another category) comes with a lot of constrictions, so peeling the label away might be just the thing you need.

How do you feel about the term "bisexual"?

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