When it comes to selecting our identifiers, those who are bisexual are overwhelmingly slighted in popular culture as being either confused, selfish, or in denial. It is hard enough for the world to understand being gay or lesbian, and all the more hard for them to comprehend that sexuality can be of a fluid nature when their own feels cemented in stone. So they mock bisexual people, because the ability to accept a concept outside of our own experiences is the repetitive struggle throughout the ages. But the problem is, the neglect, disrespect, and dismissal of bisexuals also occur among the people who are supposed to provide shelter for sexual minorities — gay people.
Either you have said it yourself or you have heard it echoed through the gay community over and over. I know I have.
“I don’t believe in bisexuality. It’s just a layover on the way to gay town.”
“She’s not bisexual. She’s just confused. You know she will eventually marry a man.”
As gay men and women, we have all said or thought something along these lines because, quite frankly, we think we've seen it happen time and again. But we of all people know all too well that just because an opinion is popular doesn’t make it true.
As someone who is a true Kinsey 6, I was only able to get to the kissing stage with a girl before doing a cannonball into homosexuality. So in my earlier years as a gay man, I wrongly thought anyone claiming to be bisexual was just too afraid to utter the words “I am gay.” My friends and I would laugh off the assertions of people insisting that they were bisexual, acting like we knew something they didn’t and feeling annoyed that they wouldn’t just admit it already.
Then I met Brett, a coworker and friend who would often frequent the gay bars with me. Brett was always on the prowl for a new boy to bed, but still claimed to have a physical affinity toward the opposite sex. I would laugh at his assertions, refusing to believe any man could ever be attracted to both genders. Of course, this was only because I wasn’t attracted to men and women myself, and I couldn’t look beyond my own feelings and experiences to understand his.
That was eight years ago. Brett and I are still friends and he is still bisexual.
Somewhere between my twenties and thirties, I realized just how bigoted I was being to my own friend by discounting his sexual orientation. All of my slights over his bisexuality were mere projections of my own ignorance, and it was time for that to stop.
Instead of recognizing the reverse bell curve of sexuality and accepting that some people’s attractions aren’t as finite as others, many in the gay community are like I was and still opt for a more scrupulous approach to separating the gays and the straights. So with a popular attitude toward bisexuality being, “You are either with us or you’re against us but either way you are still a homo,” it’s no wonder that more people don’t publicly identify themselves as bisexual.
For a man, once you dabble in the homosexual arts, some of us may well have mentally tattooed “nelly” on your butt cheeks. Both straight and gay people I know have struggled to accept that a man can be sexually stimulated by another man and still have desires for female intimacy and companionship. The second a guy even kisses another guy, he is forever unfairly labeled a reluctant homosexual in the minds of too many of my gay friends. So why would any man with half a brain and an attraction to both sexes dare to step out of the lady pond if they are never going to be allowed back? The male bisexual may be an elusive creature, but only because we create an environment where these men would rather adopt one label or another instead of facing the firing range of doubt.
Although it may be convenient to shove people into categories that are easily defined, this rigid interpretation of sexuality ostracizes many men and women who should be considered allies, not adversaries.
Accepting that bisexuality is a valid sexual orientation is the same as accepting people for who they say they are, even if it goes beyond what you can understand. To deny the legitimacy of bisexuality because it is outside of our own comprehension is no better than the attitude of the many people who have dismissed homosexuality as being nothing more than a phase, a mental illness, or something that can be fixed.
As gay men and women, we do not allow anyone to deny the legitimacy or authenticity of who we are. We are a culture forged in the steadfast belief that we, as people, were born this way. In spite of the many well-organized efforts to dismiss the validity of our sexuality, we stuck to what we knew was true in our gut. So to casually dismiss bisexuals as either confused straight people or homos in hiding goes directly against the logic that we demand heterosexual naysayers to adopt.
Gay men and women either accept that sexuality is a continuum and that not all people fall so perfectly on one side or the other, or we admit that we are no better than all of the antigay critics who have dismissed our legitimacy because they don’t understand us.
TYLER CURRY created the Needle Prick Project as an editorial and visual campaign to elicit a candid and open conversation on what it means to be HIV-positive today. To learn more about the Needle Prick Project, visit Facebook.com/getpricked or follow Tyler Curry on Facebook or Twitter at @iamtylercurry.