“I’m a unicorn.”
That’s what I may as well have said to the handsome man sitting across the table from me. We were on our first date, having “met” on MySpace. Thanks to his online profile, I already knew he was competing for the title Mr. Gay Universe, that he often frequented pool parties wearing nothing but purple paint and a few strategically placed sequins, and that he wrote poems a first-grader would call puerile. Even so, it was he who regarded me as a potential embarrassment.
“I’m bisexual” is what I actually said.
His response, i.e., repulsion barely masked as fascination, was one I’ve become accustomed to. I’m not alone. Other members of society -- alcoholics, ex-convicts, cast members of Diff’rent Strokes -- all face similar skepticism when revealing personal information to new acquaintances. People simply don’t trust us.
Or they claim that, like a unicorn, we don’t exist. Were I to include an online poll with this article, I’m willing to bet most of you believe we’re more likely to suddenly find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq than a true bisexual.
The reasons people falsely profess to be bisexual are many and inevitably devised by people who aren’t. One classic theory is that “bisexuals are just gay people still half-hiding in the closet.” This is often true in high school or college. Bisexuality offers a kind of “acclimation” for youth experimenting with their sexual identity, like a new queer goldfish, still in bag, being introduced to the tacky tank of fornication.
But I’m 32. Furthermore, I’m a high school dropout, so I’ve had plenty of time to learn what I like in the “real world.” Heck, I’ve known since my very first crush, which I had simultaneously on both Fred and Daphne. I even had a sex dream once in which I was Shaggy seducing them into the Mystery Machine and…well, I digress. I balk at the idea that I somehow save myself from bigotry by identifying as bisexual. When redneck thugs are kicking my guts in because they saw me holding hands with another man, they don’t deduct the number of blows to reflect the hickey I gave a woman last week.
The irony is that the most fervent discrimination I encounter is from homosexuals. The straight women I know half-suspect all men not only of bisexuality but pansexuality and most of my straight male friends are inclined to believe that sexuality is somewhat fluid (perhaps because their orientation hinges on how many six-packs they’ve imbibed).
“You must see a lot of action,” said my straight friend Jason, “playing both sides.”
“You see me as having twice as many opportunities to get laid,” I answered. “What you don’t consider is that I open myself to twice the rejection.”
“Oh. Yeah. I hadn’t thought of that.”
It stings when I encounter homophobia a la homosexual. After experiencing slander and alienation for being G or L, you’d think these letters would show more compassion to little ol’ B. I find myself defending my sexuality to gays using the same words they’ve used to justify their existence in the straight world. It’s a black fly in my chardonnay.
Fence-sitters, closet cases, schizophrenics, porn stars -- there are enough nasty names for a whole box of “Hello, My Name Is” stickers, ready to be stuck on every person daring to “swing both ways” (a euphemism which never fails to leave me lurching for a Dramamine). And yet bisexuality is considered a cop out? Ha!
You think it was hard to come out as gay to your parents? Try coming out to your gay date.
Oh, sure, some men I’ve romanced are titillated by my carnal past with the opposite sex; it allows them the near-fulfillment of that Holy Grail of fantasies: dorking a straight dude. Sooner or later, though, they all worry that at some point I’m gonna go all Maurice on their ass and ditch them for a legally recognized wedding.
The fact of the matter is, coming out bisexual is arduous. I’m not always up for it. Depending on the date, folks will assume I’m on one team or the other, and I’ll often let it slide. A security guard at my workplace, with whom I enjoyed many politically incorrect belly laughs, assumed I was straight because one of our first conversations was about ex-girlfriends. It wasn’t until I explained how I got a beard-rash on my sternum that he learned the whole truth.
On the other side, my homosexual boyfriend recently “came out” to his predominantly gay coworkers that his lover was bi. (They reacted with more concern than when he briefly dated someone HIV-positive.)
I understand how my sexual identification can be mysterious, even threatening. As someone capable of loving both women and men I provide a reflection contrary to the comfort level of most, and most -- yes, it’s true -- have contemplated some degree of bisexuality within themselves, even if they rejected the idea immediately. I’m not saying we’re all inherently bisexual, just that we’ve all questioned our sexuality at some point. It’s inevitable. Human beings are downright crazy, and we can’t help but wonder why we keep dating them.
I “came out” to my date and his face froze, unsure if my confession was merely the preface to some fantastic punch line. When the statement stood, he fumbled and asked the same questions everyone asks me.
“Really?” “Do you like both sexes equally, or are you more attracted to one?” “Are you experimenting?” And finally, the one usually asked in hushed, almost-reverent tones: “What’s the difference between having sex with a man and a woman?”
All questions I would be more than happy to answer, if only I could believe he would make the effort to trust my explanations are sincere.
Which reminds me of that moment in Through the Looking Glass when Alice meets an actual unicorn:
“Well, now that we have seen each other,” said the unicorn, “if you’ll believe in me, I’ll believe in you. Is that a bargain?”
I never saw my date again.