The Big One, or, How Many Times Do I Have To Say This?

This is the big one. This is the misconception about bisexuality that is used every day to harm us. For the most part I have gotten away from the kind of “mythbusting” that basically every bisexual activist starts out by doing.

But this is one of the basic issues that plague us.

So let me say it loud and clear.

Being bisexual is not being in the closet.

Now, are there gay people, especially it seems to be gay men, who for an hour day week month claim to be bisexual to others and even to themselves, claim to be bisexual because somehow they think it will make their lives easier?

Sure. In fact, these days it seems that the majority of gay men tell me that they identified as bisexual “for a while”.

But they were not bisexual for a while, if they are gay. They just claimed to be. And they came out that way. And then at a later time (and usually not that much later) they came out as gay, thus somehow “finishing”.

Here’s the part where I get angry (oh, don’t make that face, you knew that was coming, it’s written on the top right corner of the page).

Too many people think that anyone who identifies as bisexual is either really an open-minded straight person, or a gay person who just hasn’t figured things out yet. The first assumption denies us our place in the LGBTQ+ community, a place we need in a community we worked just as hard to build as the people who identify themselves as gay. The second denies us our integrity of knowing who we are.

Because I was NEVER straight. And as I’m not faking my attraction to the person who right now is sleeping not ten feet away, and who is a different sex and/or gender than I am, I’m pretty clearly not gay. So what am I?

I’ve known I was bisexual – even though I didn’t have the words for it – since I was 13. That’s 33 years. Now over those years I’ve had some girlfriends, I’ve had some boyfriends, been married a couple of times (once long-term). I also spent 28 of those years in the closet to all but a few of my closest. And when I say in the closet, I mean trying to tell everyone I was straight. I used every dodge – flat lies, misdirection, hiding (to my shame) behind my wife. But she wasn’t my beard, she was my (not always willing) co-conspirator.

So eventually I finally judged it safe to come out – or more properly, determined the corrosive effects of being in the closet had done and were continuing to do so much damage that the costs and risks of being out in the time and place I was in were less than the risks and costs of staying in. Of continuing to lie.

I’m not kidding or exaggerating when I say that the closet damned near killed me. Seriously, it was worse than grad school, which those of you who are close to me know took a good swing at it.

But when I came out, I came out bisexual. And have continued to do so pretty much every day since then, because although it’s not the complete description of my identity, it is salient. It is an integral and integrated part of who I am. It’s sort of like being 6 feet tall and having hair that’s gray and brown (where I have hair, which as I age seems to include my back, I haven’t the foggiest idea who thought that was a good idea). It’s not the only thing that defines who I am, but no description of me is complete without it.

I’m going to repeat that for all the people who say “Oh, I hate labels” or “Quit talking about your sexual orientation, it doesn’t define who you are.”

No description of me is complete without the information that I am bisexual.

And no one, straight or gay, gets to pat me on the head and tell me how I need to just get with the program and finish coming out. Jeebus, people, if I’m not all the way out of the closet yet there’s no hope for anyone! I mean, have you met me? What do you want me to do, get up on the stage and try to get one past my tonsils? I mean, not to be crude about it or anything, but I can and have – not on stage, though. But what kind of proof do you need?

Because gay men don’t have to prove it. I don’t know about lesbians, because I’m not one, so I don’t know if there’s pressure on them to prove their queerness. All I know is if a man says “Hey, you know what, I’m gay” the gay community will rally around them. No matter what their age is, no matter if they are a virgin or Casanova, no matter what the sex/gender of their last known sexual partner is.

Yup. A man who has had sex with one or more women, who declares in public they are gay, will be accepted as such. And, in fact, if they later say “You know what? I’m pretty fond of {insert euphemism for whatever in your mind constitutes Definitively Gay Sex}, but I also really enjoy {insert euphemism for the other team}”, they are likely to be disbelieved or ignored, or simply erased. At best they are expected to prove it somehow.

What’s the ultimate source of this double standard, this exiling from the community, this devaluation and invalidation? There are a lot of theories (including the one you simply must read, Kenji Yoshino’s Epistemic Contract of Bisexual Erasure). But here’s one that covers at least one part of it, especially for bi men.

The only way that gay man can justify the lies they told, is to normalize it for themselves by accusing everyone else of being liars too. Because if everyone is lying, well, that’s just like telling the truth!

Guys (and it’s guys that are the worst offenders, I think), stop doing this. Stop telling other people where the closet door is. Because for people who can be fairly described as bisexual, it’s behind us.

About fliponymous

Bisexual activist, thinker, writer, husband, father, Licensed Professional Counselor.
This entry was posted in Bisexuality, Identity Politics (non-monosexual) and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to The Big One, or, How Many Times Do I Have To Say This?

  1. kdaddy23 says:

    The thing that gets me about any of this is that it seems that those folks fostering biphobia just cannot get into their tiny minds that there are people who really do swing both ways and we don’t see sex and sexuality as just black and white or there are only straight and gay people.

    Now, I knew a couple of guys who started straight, settled into bisexuality, and then (or finally) learned that they were gay; I knew a few who tried pussy once… and went right to being gay (do not pass go, do not collect $200). I knew two gay men who married women for, as they said, appearances but they insisted they were still very much gay and not bisexual because, “as we all know” gay men have an aversion to pussy – or that’s what they want us to always believe.

    When it comes to sex and sexuality, I think being closeted can be a very widespread kind of thing because there are a lot of people who are, in some form or another, aren’t “out there” when it comes to these things because it’s impolite to reveal such information about yourself so when you know that people are funny about this, you kinda understand that “being in the closet” doesn’t apply to bisexuals or homosexuals only.

    I’ve found it funny when people have asked me, “How do you know you’re bisexual?” Well, let’s see… I’ve been having sex with men and women for fifty years now so, yeah, I’m sure I’m not straight and I sure as hell ain’t gay. Like you, I’ve told doubters (usually guys) that if they need proof, all they have to do is get naked with me and I will show them that I am bisexual and more so if they bring their women along with them. It seems that when challenged like this – and no one has ever taken me up on this – THEN they believe that I’m bisexual.

    Funny how that works…

    Finally, it is my position that trying to erase me as a bisexual is a complete waste of time because even if those trying to erase us somehow managed to make bisexuality “disappear,” I know that I’m bisexual, have always been, will always be and nothing they say can ever change that. Just saying, “You’re not bisexual because they don’t exist!” doesn’t make it the truth and it sure as hell ain’t reality. They can only erase us if we believe that they can – and I don’t believe it’s possible because you cannot erase human nature.

    • fliponymous says:

      I disagree with your idea that erasure is no big deal. It hurts us for a lot of reasons, not the least of which are the people who write books about how our marriages are doomed and that we’re all just really gay and therefore need to “quit messing about with women and just accept who we are”. People like Amity Buxton, whose unsubstantiated and harmful statistics are referenced in *every* study about Mixed-Orientation Marriages, and Joe Kort, who just last week blocked multiple bisexual activists on social media because they made him look bad *by quoting his own words*, who just published a book for women on how to figure out if their husbands are sorta gay or really gay.

      • kdaddy23 says:

        The real question is why is it a big deal? Why does it matter that people who are not bisexual have an agenda to erase something that cannot be erased? These are, at least for me, very important questions because this whole thing just does not make sense and if we – bisexuals – buy into his rhetoric then, yes, it can hurt us because they’re fucking with our heads… and no one should ever allow that to take place and more so when the people doing it has no idea of what it’s like to be bisexual…

        Since they claim it ain’t real, which is equally stupid to assert. I’ve probably been bisexual longer than the people speaking out against it has been alive so all this fuss doesn’t make sense to me. We’re not gay and we know it but because we don’t want to be gay that’s our problem? I don’t think so!

        I don’t say biphobia doesn’t exist because it obviously does; what I question is the real reason why it does. If I know I’m bisexual, there is no one on this planet who can tell me that I’m not and make me believe it. So what if their apple cart is upset because sexuality ain’t black and white… If they can’t deal with it, too bad for them because they should be smart enough to know that that cannot change human nature or behavior with mere words and prejudice… But they are very stupid if they think they can.

        No bisexual should buy into this crap and this bisexual never will. If there are people who can’t believe this about me, it’s still their problem because I don’t have to prove anything to them or justify my sexuality to people incapable of believing it.

        • fliponymous says:

          It’s easy to say it’s not your problem, but when people who don’t believe we exist are in positions of power over us — therapists, marriage counselors, funding organizations, health care workers, etc — it is a problem for the community.

          It not being a big deal for you, then, does not make it not a big deal for the community.

          • kdaddy23 says:

            It’s still only a problem if you let it be a problem and I choose not to do that. Could it be a problem for othwrs? Yes, which is why I speak out about it as well but the question no one has been able to answer is still why? Then “Does it make sense?” is the next question to be answered. Do we fight this? Yes – we should always fight against such insanity and, yeah, if the LGBT community isnt going to really help us do this, we need our own community as well as more people speaking out again this stupidity and not allowing it to affect their lives.

            And just because they might be in positions of power doesn’t mean that I, as just one bisexual, am going to bow down to their shortsightedness – I just don’t roll like that, never have, never will – I don’t handle discrimination of any kind well. They could take away “everything” and I’d still be bisexual…

  2. Mat says:

    Bisexual erasure is an extraordinary problem. I came out at 17 in a small town I realized I could not stay in. And then went to a big city at 19. Since then I have been ridiculed and harassed by some straight people and some gay people. And that ignorance has persisted all the way til age 39. Biphobia has done well to destroy opposite sex relationships and same gender relationships. It has damaged my education as I was harassed in two art schools. And it has done damage to my career as I have been ridiculed at one job and lost it. And most LGBT jobs bisexuals need not apply.

    One “Gay” performance artist told me that he chose to call himself gay even though he is bisexual because his promoters said it would not be popular. So he chose to live a gay life. But in interviews he always says “I still find women sexy and attractive.”

    If I erased myself as straight or gay I would have far more social and economic benefits.

    So why? What is the erasure about? Part of the erasure is about the gay movements early history of wanting every LGBT person to say they are “gay” (see the gay manifesto). Another part of the erasure and denialism goes like this “if he is bisexual then why aren’t I”. Many bisexual men are actually pushed into believing they are really gay and may get upset when someone upsets their world view.

    But that upsetting of their world view is exactly what needs to happen. Many historical figures are bisexual rather than gay and their lives are erased to satisfy a particular form of narcissism in the gay community.

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