It’s 23 September and as usual the newspapers are awash with discussions and analyses of problems facing bisexual people. LOL JK, we are invisible. Superpowers are nice and all — after all UKIP recently gave me the power to control the weather by virtue of a forthcoming same-sex union. But, you know, there is something a tad grating about having your identity routinely scoffed, disbelieved, patronised, or exploited.
I came out less than a year ago. Well, sort of. At school, it never occured to me to not be open about who I fancied. Not specific names, of course (Sarah, Daniel, Amy, Josh …. hi). Being perhaps slow to grasp social norms, and having parents who raised me more open-mindedly than their parents raised them, I never thought anything of it, until my best friend was bullied for being attracted to people of the same sex. This would be mid teens, when I found it prudent to simply not have a sexuality.
University. Got a girlfriend. Got a secret boyfriend (secret because he was closeted). Got a girlfriend (marriage was discussed). Got a boyfriend (marriage was discussed — this was apparently the coming out experience…). Conversations went like this:
Me: Have you met my boyfriend?
Them: Oh, James… I always suspected.
Me: Suspected what?
Them: Well… I suppose I’ve always known. Yes… even when you were with Kate…
Me: That I’m bisexual?
Them: If that’s easier for you…
And so on. Easier? Easier?! The easier thing was to join gay communities and live as a gay man. And this is what I did. You don’t need the full story. Flings with men were relationships or mistakes or whatever and flings with women were ‘experiments.’ In gay communities there is a kind of homo-orthodoxy that is intimately linked with structural misogyny. And I found it much easier to play into all that. I think I called myself ‘80% gay’ or ‘homoflexible’ or something. I actually thought that was witty. Sigh.
I’m not proud of the level of self-hatred and self-denial that went into denying my own bisexuality. I never denied that of others but so many people do say that bisexuals are lying or stupid. Last year, I briefly got tumblr and shared a post about the bi-flag. Then someone very close said, ‘it’s not appropriate for you as a gay man to get involved in bi communities.’ So I decided to come out. First, in person. Very few people even listened.
Choose your reaction. To a 24 year-old. These are all genuine responses:
[_] TROLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL GOOD ONE
[_] WHY ARE YOU INNING YOURSELF?
[_] If that’s what you need to say for now.
[_] But I’m not judging you as you are… you don’t have to lie to me.
[_] No, sexuality is more fluid than you understand.
[_] But what about Alan [who then identified as my boyfriend]?
[_] You cannot be bisexual because
—– (a) You’re not banging a woman
—– (b) You don’t talk about ‘hot women’ the same way you talk about ‘hot men’ on social media
—– (c) I have never heard you talk about this before
—– (d) Bisexuality doesn’t exist.
A thousand weeps. I don’t pass because I’m not appropriately promiscuous and because as a feminist I am not going to objectify women online. Allow me to drown myself in tears of non-identity and to stylishly don the shawl of invisibility. Anyway, I came out on tumblr, Instagram, and Twitter, and people were much nicer.
This was at the tail-end of celebrities creating a golden five minutes of bi-visibility. So around this time, bi-hero Mika came out as gay, bi-hero Lady Gaga chose NY Pride to come out as straight, and bi-hero Jessie J qualified previous identity claims as ‘just a phase.’ And, of course, our garbled Guardian-level commercial critical feminism has discovered ‘spectrums of sexuality’ as a new way to claim that bisexuality enforces outmoded gender binaries, etc. etc. [It’s more complicated than that. You can’t get your feminist theory and identity politics from the Huffington Post. Sorry.]
Maybe this would be a good place to define a bisexual. Just to be clear. A bisexual person is a person who identifies as bisexual. I guess I’m attracted to cis men, cis women, trans men, trans women, nonbinary people, and others — never really thought about it. But I identify as bi and not pan-sexual or multi-sexual, or anything because that is the label I’m most comfortable with.
And, for me, it’s important to be open about that.
Even if this means potentially giving up my superpower. But, hey, I’m surrounded by cries of accio invisibility cloak! on my behalf.
Some bi opinion pieces published today on popular mainstream and LGBTQ+ media. Mostly published after I wrote this piece. In the afternoon. It’s almost as though when a topic isn’t remunerative it ceases to interest:
- Popular culture is still afraid of bisexuality (Guardian, Owen Duffy)
- 22 reasons why we’re celebrating (Huffington Post, Alex Berg)
- People around the world mark Bisexual Awareness Day (Joseph Patrick McCormick, PinkNews)
- Op-ed: my bi choice (Advocate, Michelle Garcia)