“It’s just a phase” is something former
congressman Michael Huffington, who identifies as
bisexual, never wants to hear again—and he plans to
make that happen. The onetime Republican candidate for U.S.
senator from California, who spent a reported $30
million on his campaign in 1994, is now putting some
of his money into a small documentary still in
production called Bi the Way. In addition to his
personal connection to the subject matter—he
came out in 1998, over a year after his divorce from
author and commentator Arianna Huffington—Huffington
has a personal connection to one of Bi the
Way’s two filmmakers, Josephine Decker and
Brittany Blockman: Decker is his goddaughter.
In his first
interview with The Advocate, Huffington talks about
educating both straights and gays about what is means to be
bisexual in America.
What do you see as the purpose of Bi the Way?
To capture something that frankly I
haven’t found anywhere else. And that is,
“What is bisexuality?” Forty years ago, if you
asked the question, “What is gay?” not a
lot of people could tell you. Today, I think—not
only with Will & Grace and all of the other TV
shows and movies that have come out, including
Brokeback Mountain—people have a
much better feel that being gay can be anything. But are
there any images, really ,of the bisexual man or
woman? Not really. [Josephine and Brittany] have been
on the road for about four months all across America.
There are four people in particular that we followed all
over the place.
Who do you hope will see the film?
This movie is targeted not only to the LGBT
audience but also the straight audience, and I would
say primarily to people in their 20s and 30s. We are
trying to enlighten people, educate people, entertain
people, and hopefully eliminate some discrimination in
society. And we want straight people to understand
that if they have some sort of pull toward someone of
their own sex—and it may not be sexual—that
they should go ahead and let it rip: Hold their hand,
give them a hug, give them a kiss if they’re
comfortable. Women are much better at expressing [same-sex]
affection. But I just think it’s terrible that men
won’t hold hands. If you go to Europe or
certain parts of Southeast Asia, men hold one
another’s hands and think nothing of
it—straight men. I have a lot of straight
friends I’ve known over the years who are very
comfortable hugging me or even giving me a
kiss—not an intimate kiss, but a kiss. But they
won’t do it with their own friends. I’d like
to see that, for their benefit, change. And I think
women would like to see men letting their feminine
side come out. I think it’s good for every community.
Do you think bisexuals in the gay community are marginalized?
Let’s say it this way: They are not fully
Can that be changed?
If people just think and remember how they were
discriminated or are discriminated against today, do
they really want to discriminate against someone else?
And the answer is no, you don’t. So I don’t
worry about the fact that the bis in our society
don’t have a huge movement or aren’t
strong in the gay community. I mean, bisexual people are
people who are straight and gay. They’re both.
They are who they are. They just need to express
themselves. That’s all.
Where does fear of bisexuality come from?
On the straight side, [there’s] fear of showing
any [same-sex] affection whatsoever because it means
that they’re “gay.” On the gay
side, it’s been more that you’re saying we
[might] have a choice, and we don’t have a
choice. There are many people who would classify themselves
as being gay [who] had sexual relationships with women, and
yet over a period of time they have just basically
stayed with men only. Many gay people would say,
“OK, you’re just gay, and you just had to go
through a phase,” or “That’s what
the culture wanted you to do, therefore you did it,
but that’s not really who you were.” Well,
maybe that is true in some cases. However, it’s
not true in all cases. We have got to get over this
fact that you’re either gay or you’re
straight. There are colors in between; it’s a
continuum, like Kinsey’s scale—0 [totally
straight] to 6 [totally gay].
Where are you on the Kinsey scale?
I’m probably a 4. I’m not right in the
middle, but I’m close to the middle. I know
that for a fact.
You were in the closet before you came out in
Esquire. Do you think it’s easier
for bisexuals to remain in the closet?
I think a lot of bis are in the closet. I think the gay
community is doing a better job coming out of the
closet, but I don’t think bis are. I know
people who are married today as well as 20 years ago, who
are still married, and they are bisexual. In some
cases their wives know that they like men, and in
other cases their wives do not. But they are bisexual.
Wouldn’t it be a healthier relationship if they could
discuss it with their wives?
When you were married, did Arianna know?
Before I even married in Arianna, in Houston, I told her
that I was bisexual. I think you have to be honest
before you get married. We went through our trials and
tribulations but worked through all of that. And I
actually very much love my ex-wife, always have loved her,
even after we got divorced. But let me say one thing
about her: She’s been very supportive of my
getting out in front on this issue.
Where do bisexuals fit in with the fight for
same-sex marriage rights?
If a man decides he wants to marry a man or if a woman
decides she wants to marry a woman, even if
they’re bi, then gay marriage is very
important. And I am for gay marriage. Originally I
wasn’t because I was a little old-fashioned,
but I realized that that is not fair: If two people
are madly in love with each other, they should have all the
legal rights. It doesn’t mean the church has to
agree, but the state absolutely should not
discriminate. So we should have gay marriage in every state,
but it should be a state issue, not a federal issue.
I’m in favor of states passing [marriage
equality] laws, such as Massachusetts has done through
the courts there. But ultimately I’d like the
legislatures do it.
What was your coming-out experience like?
I went to church [the day I came out] and all of my
friends who are straight, older, and married patted me
on the back and said congratulations for having the
courage to do it. They had no idea.
Why come out at all?
Famous people in society ought to come out. Whether
they’re in baseball or movies or in politics,
they actually owe it to the culture to be honest. God
wants us to be honest, not dishonest.
Did your spirituality figure into your coming-out?
I came out because I became spiritual. Just the opposite
of the religious right, who say, “The Bible
says [such and such].” I’m [helping
finance] another documentary called For the Bible
Tells Me So to set the record straight on the fact
the Bible can’t be read that literally, because
if you did, everyone who is divorced would be in the
same place that they say we gays should be. But the true
Christian loves thy neighbor as thyself. Christ judges us,
not our fellow human beings. So we human beings ought
to get out of the way and celebrate what God created,
not try and destroy what God created. We have to help
Americans come to grips with being less puritanical, and be
happy and at peace.
When did you discover your spirituality?
I was 18 years old, and I was in Beeville,
Texas, with a friend, riding horses. There was a young
lady there I wanted to impress, and the horse got away
from me. I hit a telephone pole at full gallop. I was
knocked unconscious for at least 24 hours. I could
have been killed. It was a miracle. So that’s
when I realized there has to be a God—and that I
better wake up and start thinking about things other than
just myself, my selfish self. And frankly, losing the
Senate campaign was very traumatic. Contrary to the
article that came out [in Esquire], I wanted to win
that campaign. I was devastated by the loss. And it
took me about eight months to recover.
You were very close to winning.
1.6% away. I think that was probably the closest Senate
race in the nation that year: 160,000 votes out of
nearly 9 million. But whether it’s one vote or
160,000, you have to get a majority, and I didn’t. So
I take my defeat with grace. I really had to search in
my soul, because I had always wanted to be senator,
ever since I had been a student at Stanford. And I met
a priest, a monk, over in Greece, and that’s when I
really felt the presence of God by looking into his
eyes. And that’s when I started changing. I
[converted] from Episcopalian to [Greek] Orthodox. At any
rate, through that transition, I realized that God loved me
and created me in his image, and that gave me the
confidence to come out.
Are you interviewed in the film?
Yes. It reminded me of my days in politics. I actually,
more than I used to, thoroughly enjoy getting out
there, because I’m not an actor but I have
something I want to say.
You’re still involved in politics behind the
scenes, and with the Log Cabin Republicans.
I’m working with Christine Todd Whitman, former
governor of New Jersey—[I’m] one of her
members of the board of the It’s My Party Too
project. She's trying to transform the Republican Party
[into] an inclusive party again, including on issues
of gay rights.
Any interest in returning to politics yourself?
I can do more outside government then I can in
government. But as almost every recovering politician
will say, never say never.