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Michael
Huffington: The long-awaited Advocate interview

Michael
Huffington: The long-awaited Advocate interview

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In his first Advocate interview, the ex-congressman--and Arianna's ex-husband--talks about his activism on behalf of bisexual visibility.

"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 accepted.

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.

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