Mambaonline | 20 January 2014
My grandfather always used to joke that being bi doubled your chances of a date on a Friday night. (Woody Allen said it first, I later discovered.) Actually, what I think it might do is halve your chances. It seems to me that hating on bisexuals is one of the last prejudices still standing – a prejudice that many gay people are quite happy to hold.
Let me be the first to admit it: I don’t really understand bisexuality. I can get my head around straight men wanting to have sex with girls. Shame, after all, it’s not a choice; they’re born that way. But I can’t relate to someone being attracted to both men and women. What makes men so deliciously attractive is their masculinity. It’s body hair and stubble and muscle and assertiveness. What makes women sexually attractive, I imagine, is their soft, gentle feminine beauty. How can both do it for you? They are not just completely different; they are polar opposites – defined in relation, and in contrast, to one another.
Genuinely bisexual people ‘love the person, not the gender’ I’m told. That makes it no less inexplicable to me, since I don’t really believe there’s any connection between love and lust. Sometimes they overlap, sometimes they don’t. I love my mom and my friends – but I don’t want to shag them. And I have lusted over people that I actively dislike. But I suppose the height of Buddhist enlightenment is to accept and love all things. Bisexuals are probably more rounded, better people. They are undiscerning, but that is almost certainly a virtue. And they can appreciate the beauty in all things (I do too, it’s just that not all beauty gives me a boner. And as a thoroughbred homosexual, the thought of having sex with a woman makes me want to cry.)
At any rate, not understanding something is no justification for holding a prejudice against it. If it were, the whole gay rights movement may as well pack up its bags and go home since most people don’t understand us wanting to shack up with boys. There’s more to bisexual-bashing than a lack of understanding. I think the reason many gay guys struggle to accept bisexuality is because of a lack of trust.
I know that I would struggle to be in a relationship with a bi guy, despite his additional straight-guy appeal, because I would always feel vulnerable. Every time we fought, I would worry that he would just want to throw in the towel and go date a woman. The world is structured for straight relationships. It is easier to be straight, and that adds a lot of pressure to any same-sex relationship. You know, as the male partner of a bisexual guy, that you’re always competing against a wife and kids and ‘the ordinary life’. You need to really trust that the love you two share is real, and not just an experimental sexual vacation for someone who is going to choose to settle down with a woman in the end.
It’s made worse by the fact that so many ‘bisexual’ men aren’t bisexual at all. They use the term as a stepping stone on the path to accepting that they are gay. They come out as bi first, because they can’t quite admit to themselves that they are gay. This bisexual safety-net is so common that most gay guys react to someone’s news of being bi with utter dismissal: “bi now, gay later.” When Tom Daley came out recently in a YouTube confession he told us ‘of course I still fancy girls’ and yet most media completely ignored that and said he’d come out as gay.
But there are real-life bisexuals. They are not all nervously pretending to be bisexual to help them accept their homosexuality, nor are they indulging in a ‘phase’ before going back to being straight. The real deals are rare, but I know a number of them. And the tragic thing is that they are not only mocked and mistrusted by gay guys; they find it harder to get into a relationship with women, too.
While gay guys might find the idea of a bisexual guy quite alluring but emotionally risky, most women find the idea of a bisexual guy off-putting. It’s a complex mess of subconscious cues, but I imagine it’s largely because in our patriarchal society, the thought that your guy has been with other guys is emasculating. It sends the wrong message in terms of power and the ability to protect – he’s not a ‘real man’ because society has decided that gay guys are girly. Women, so my bi friends tell me, often feel that dating a bisexual guy makes them look a fool.
It’s quite revealing that both men and women feel threatened by bisexual guys. They struggle to trust that the relationship is authentic, and that they’re not being used for fun before the ‘real’ orientation of their partner makes itself clear. This lack of trust is massively insulting to the character and agendas of bisexuals, and also shows a lack of understanding of human sexuality, which runs along a spectrum (the Kinsey Scale) and is not composed of two separate camps.
I’m not sure what the solution is. Perhaps we all need self-esteem group therapy sessions to accept that we are worth holding the attention of someone who also fancies the other sex. Perhaps we should trust our partners until we are given reason not to. And we should try, if we can, not to assume every bi guy we meet is a big fraud.
Despite my grandfather’s joke and the generations of gay guys who adopt the label as a baby step to acceptance, I think being bi is probably harder than either being straight or being gay. And I admire those who have the courage to live like that; openly, honestly and generously with their love, despite the suspicion all around them.