In his upcoming memoir Fire Shut Up in My Bones, New York Times columnist Charles Blow shares that he is attracted to both men and women but doesn’t want to use the word bisexual, as he believes it has “derisive connotations.”
Richard Prince of the Maynard Institute, an organization focused on media coverage of people of color, obtained an advance copy of the book and reports that Blow says he had difficulties coming to terms with his sexual identity.
"In addition to being attracted to women, I could also be attracted to men,” Blow, the Times’ only African-American columnist, writes in the memoir, according to Prince. “There it was, all of it. That possibility of male attraction was such a simple little harmless idea, the fight against which I had allowed to consume and almost ruin my life. The attraction and my futile attempts to 'fix it' had cost me my dreams. The anguish, combined with a lifetime of watching hotheads brandishing cold steel, had put me within minutes of killing a man."
Blow’s experiences reflect those of the general bisexual population, who continually show higher rates of depression, self-harm, and even suicide than both their heterosexual and homosexual peers. Still, Blow writes, "While the word 'bisexual' was technically correct, I would only slowly come to use it to refer to myself in part because of the derisive connotations. But, in addition, it would seem to me woefully inadequate and impressionistically inaccurate. It reduced a range of identities, unbelievably wide and splendidly varied, in which same-gender attraction presented in graduated measures — from a pinch to a pound — to a single expression. To me it seemed too narrowly drawn in the collective consciousness, suggesting an identity fixed precisely in the middle between straight and gay, giving equal weight to each, bearing no resemblance to what I felt. In me, the attraction to men would never be equal to the attraction to women — in men it was also closer to the pinch — but it would always be in flux."
The label bisexual is often rejected because those who identify as bisexual typically face discrimination from both straight and gay people. The discrimination typically stems from the lack of understanding around bisexuality, as in the case of Slate advice columnist Emily Yoffe, who recently told a bisexual woman to stay in the closet and was condemned by GLAAD for doing so.
Fire Shut Up in My Bones is due to be released September 23.