The childhood rhyme says that sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you. If only it were true. In reality, hurtful words can have a damaging affect on mental health. British bisexual activist Lewis Oakley is called attention to that impact in a nude photo series for Bisexual Health Month.
“Gay in denial,” “attention seeker,” and “greedy” are among the insults tagged on Oakley’s naked torso in a series by photographer Tom Dingley intended to show the vulnerability of facing biphobic insults on a daily basis.
“It’s one thing to say these words, it’s quite another to see them projected on to someone’s body like this,” Oakley said in a Metro column. “Sometimes we need a visual reminder of what we are doing, these are comments said to bisexuals every day. Sometimes you have to hold a mirror to society and show them the consequences.”
Bisexual people face higher than average rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide, which is linked to mistreatment and distrust from straight and gay people alike.
“Bisexuals get a double whammy of prejudice, with large amounts of both straight and gay people believing us to be promiscuous, confused or simply that we’ll never be satisfied dating just one person,” Oakley said. “These assumptions are not true and i’m hoping people might see these images and ask themselves why they have these negative views of bisexual people.”
In the UK, as in the United States, the number of young people identifying as bisexual is on the rise, increasing 45 percent over the last three years, according to the UK Office for National Statistics. A recent YourGov survey found that 43 percent of Brits ages 16-24 said they identify as something other than gay or straight.