Readers have added several more questions to our survey:
Cross-tabulated results will be posted soon. A reader writes:
I confess to being a fascinated outsider (a dude who doesn’t desire men), but if you’re wondering where all the out bisexual men are, look no further than these reader emails to see why they’re so scarce. You have a reader who “doesn’t believe” in bisexuality in guys, and then another “I know from personal experience” addendum. Well, fancy that! Do these guys have any idea how condescending that sounds? To tell someone else “I don’t believe you exist,” or to say “trust me, I know you better than you know yourself” Imagine if a straight guy like me told a gay guy that I “don’t believe” in homosexuality, or that “I know from person experience” that it’s only possible to desire females. I’d be called an absolute wingnut bigot, and rightly so.
I expect religious nutters to hate on anyone who isn’t straight, but I didn’t expect to find such ridiculous intolerance within the “LGBT community.” This is turning into a more fascinating read than I had first anticipated.
“You won’t find any truly bisexual men”? Hi, I’m a 34-year-old truly bisexual man. I’m married – does it matter to which gender? – because I believe in monogamy. My partner knew my orientation 15 minutes after we met, as has every potential partner that came before. My friends know. My family knows. My co-workers do not, but I work in the government and talking about personal relationships (beyond socially accepted marriage and children) is frowned upon. Co-workers in former jobs knew, however, especially in my 20s when I was dating more frequently.
Unsurprisingly, I’m pretty tired of the sentiment from your reader whose personal experience is somehow a proxy for “data” on the subject. I’ve heard from many people over the years that my orientation is a denial, or a fetish on breaking social mores, or a phase, or a linguistic trick, or something that will settle down when I meet the right person. Partners who have suggested this to me are often surprised at how swiftly they become ex-partners.
I don’t care who came before, who hurt their feelings, how many people have just flat out lied to them. I fought to understand myself for a long time – struggled with religious upbringing, family acceptance, and the social stigma levied by straights and gays alike – and have come to the conclusion that I get to decide who I am. Sorry haters!
At the same time, I understand his frustration.
I think the root of the problem with talking about orientation is that it conflates two types of love – sexual and relational – that are rarely expressed in the same proportion to both genders, regardless of an individual’s orientation. In my 20s, I felt more attraction to dating one gender and sleeping with the other. Though those comfort levels converged sharply over the years, I suppose I’m still not “true” enough to say that I’d approach a relationship with a man the same way I would approach one with a woman.
But then again, why the hell do I need to? What is wrong with this picture that I’ve got to justify this definition of my identity? And believe me, as an out bisexual, when I let someone know, they always have more questions. ALWAYS. (Even before I was married.) Does that happen to straights and gays anymore? I honestly don’t know. But if I were any less secure of a person socially, I’d probably keep my orientation to myself and try to fit with something simpler. Which is why I think your reader’s inability to “believe” in a “true” male bisexual is one of the very reasons he can’t meet one.
Your reader writes, “While many may disagree with me and that’s fine, I don’t find bisexuals threatening because I don’t believe in them.” This is the problem.
When I was a teenager in the early 1990s, I was attracted to other young men. I was raised Southern Baptist, so this was obviously verboten, and years of prayer failed to make the gay go away. My entire sexual outlook was subsumed with the idea that being attracted to men was wrong. The strange part is that I was sexually attracted to women, but to my teenage logic being attracted to men meant that I couldn’t be attracted to both. (Emotional attraction has never been an issue.) I read enough on AOL – this was the 1990s – to know that “bisexuals don’t exist” and “bisexuals are just what gay men who aren’t comfortable being gay call themselves.” In college, I actively embraced that logic and chalked up my attraction to women as trying to fit in.
When I was 21, I had sex for the first time with a woman, and I thought, “This is great.” I wanted to date women, but my gay friends gave me such a hard time when I shared my “secret” that I felt ashamed: from “you’re lying to yourself” to “would any woman date you if she knew you had had sex with men?”
When I was 25, I moved to Washington, DC, where I decided to be straight. It was a failure because it was horrible lying. I felt that I was playing a straight man when I fact I knew I was sexually attracted to men. Sex aside, how could I talk about college without talking about my life? I thought that women would reject me for my background, but it was really lying to my friends that was the hardest.
For about six years I vacillated between trying to be simply gay to being simply straight. Neither option worked for me: I was unhappy lying to gay men and women about my actual sexual desires, and I was hurt by gay men mocking my sexuality and scared women would reject me out of hand. Eventually my frustration grew to the point of severe depression.
After a lot of counseling, I say that I am bisexual. I once joked to my counselor that “I must be the only man who’s been ashamed he is interested in women.” His solution has worked well for me: admit that my sexuality is fluid and be honest. Unsurprisingly, many of my gay friends have rejected my statement out of hand, but I have a number of gay and straight friends who have seen my evolution over the past 15 years to know that I am who I am. I’ve dated both men and women since admitting this, and I currently have a girlfriend who knows my entire history.
It may be true that there are few bisexual men, but we do exist. I’d much rather be not bi, but it’s the hand I’ve been dealt. But it’s a hell of a lot better being honest about my sexuality.
I have been following this discussion thread with much interest. It is not easy to discuss to the subject of bisexuality with others. I have identified as bisexual since college. When I first accepted this part of my identity, I came out to my friends and family as gay. The primary reason was because I wanted to explore my sexuality and did not want to have to deal with the pressure from family to suppress my same-sex desire and exclusively date women. After I broke up with my first boyfriend, I decided to tell my family the truth. Since that point, as expected, they have pressured me to get married to a woman and have children. While I am not opposed to that idea, I would like to be free from the pressure and have the ability to pursue romantic interests on my own terms.
My bisexuality also poses problems for me in dating women. The other night I was talking to a girl I have interest in who knows I am bisexual and she said that I need to figure out what I want and stop being confused. I told her what I want is a committed relationship with someone who I love, but it could be with a man or woman. Like some of your other readers, my sexuality varies, meaning sometimes I am more interested in women than men, and vice-versa. However, when I am with someone, I am with that person.
This is the main problem I think most people have with bisexuality. They think that if they are in a relationship with a bisexual, then that person will occasionally want (or need) to be with a person of the opposite sex as them. I cannot speak for other bisexuals, but like most people, I may get caught looking at other men and women, but I have no desire that I need to act on due my bisexuality, if I am already in a committed relationship.
In short, it is hard to navigate the world as a bisexual, which may be why people chose to identify in terms of gay or straight, and why many bisexuals never explore the other part of their sexuality. It is tricky to navigate family relations, as parents want grandchildren and are upset that you are not with a woman, despite the potential for such a relationship. On the other hand, my first boyfriend broke up with me largely because he was disgusted and insecure about the fact that I also liked women (a fact I did not tell him upfront, but in my defense I was wrestling with my identity at that time).
This is why discussions like this one are so important. I am not bisexual because I am a closeted gay or a postmodernist who believes in (but does not have a) fluid identity and want to explore a possibility. I am a man who is attracted to both men and women, who dates both and wants to settle down with a special someone. Hopefully, Mr/Mrs right comes my way, because like most people, all I really want is someone to share my life with who never feels the need to question my commitment to him/her.