Writer James Dawson (pictured) on why biphobia is a very real problem among some gay men…
According to my spellcheck, biphobia isn’t even a real word and yet the most recent issue of Attitude features – but does not endorse – reader comments in the ‘Heated Debate’ section, after asking the question: ‘How much of a problem is biphobia’? Among comments from bi men and from gay men renouncing biphobia were comments like these:
“Bisexual men can’t be trusted in relationships, they will always want the other sex.”
“No such thing as a bisexual…”
“I wouldn’t date a bi guy because there’s too much competition.”
Let’s not get this twisted: there is no debate. Making sweeping, stereotypical generalisations about a minority group is prejudice, plain and simple. I always find such views especially confounding when they come from gay men, who have – at some point in their lives one assumes – experienced the sting of bigotry.
Myths about bisexuality pervade the gay scene. Bisexual people are promiscuous, deceptive or more likely to cheat; bisexual people are gay people kidding themselves; bi men are invariably gay, bi women are invariably straight; bisexuality is a phase and that old classic, bisexuals are “greedy”.
I confess, that while I held no hostility towards bisexual people, I too subscribed to the ‘bi now, gay later’ perspective for a time. Like many young gay men, I initially came out as bisexual in the late nineties. When confessing my sexuality, claiming to also fancy girls diluted my admission. I wasn’t lying – my female friendships were confusing at a confusing time – but I quickly dropped the bi label once I realised I wasn’t sexually interested in women. I wrongly assumed my experience was true of actual bi people.
This negative stereotype lurked at the back of my subconscious even when I was writing This Book Is Gay, a book which celebrates the full spectrum of sexual desire. The real change came when I actually dated a bisexual man last year. I’ll leave his name out of it, but he shared that he was bisexual on our first date at the Soho Hotel. Over negronis, he casually dropped it into conversation, and while surprised – he hadn’t mentioned anything on Tinder – I kept my cool. After all, I literally wrote the book on this.
My bi-scepticism was soon expelled. I dated this guy for about three months and he was everything you’d want in a boyfriend. From his admission, it was clear that other gay men had been less understanding of his identity, but he was adamant that when he dated, he dated one person at a time, regardless of their gender. Given we were sleeping together, it was novel to hear him describe his lust for Hayley Atwell, but why would that pose any more of a risk to our fledgling relationship than my lust for Chris (the Captain America One) Evans?
Something else became very clear during our time together. There are no ‘perks’ in identifying as a bisexual. Think about it. Anyone who exists outside of the straight, cisgendered ‘norm’ immediately loses heteronormative privilege. They risk the judgement, prejudice, stereotyping and discrimination that a ‘full gay’ would experience – plus all the additional myths about bisexuality described above. Moreover, as we can see from the reader comments, a person identifying as bisexual cannot rely on the community and fraternity gay men often look forward to on the gay scene. Is it that gay men resent bi men, perceiving that they have kept one foot in the straight world, a world from which we feel isolated? Is it that we covet the kind of masculinity associated with ‘bedding’ women? One thing is clear to me: shunned from both the straight world and the gay one, bisexual people are doubly vulnerable.
With this is mind, why would anyone put themselves through this cold-shoulder unless they really meant it? There is nothing to gain from professing bisexuality over homosexuality. The guy I dated was wholly out to his friends as bi, it wasn’t some sordid secret identity on a headless Grindr profile. I was sold. Bisexual people, whether you’re rolling your eyes or not, exist. Some people are bi – get over it.
Luckily, there are allies and there is support for bisexual men and women out there. The Bisexuality Index is an especially useful starting point resource.
Held annually on September 23, Bisexual Visibility Day encourages bi people to celebrate their identity. It’s one worth celebrating. Gay men can do our bit by welcoming bisexual people in from the cold and giving them a welcome home in the community – no questions asked.