So Tom Daley has finally come out, good on him but he says he still likes girls, OI DALEY, NO! That’s just greedy!
— John Lenihan (@JohnLenihan4) December 2, 2013
Ann Friedman is distressed by some of the reactions to Tom Daley’s coming out:
“Of course I still fancy girls,” said British diver Tom Daley last week. “But, I mean, right now I’m dating a guy and I couldn’t be happier.” There were some standard-issue homophobic reactions (which Buzzfeed and HuffPost obligingly collected), but Daley also elicited a more specific sort of disapproval from certain fans – biphobia, the Advocate called it. These were the people who assumed Daley was gay but unable to fully admit it, or unwilling to relinquish the privileges of being straight. He was called greedy and accused of trying to have it all. (Which is baffling. It’s not as if he’s dating six people at once.)
By contrast, a few days before Daley’s announcement, actress Maria Bello published an op-ed revealing she was in love with a woman after years of dating (and marrying) men. While the headlines were conflicted – some said she’d come out as gay, other said she was bi – her son summed it up best: “Mom, love is love, whatever you are.” The idea of a woman being legitimately attracted to both men and other women was heartwarming rather than confusing.
Let me place a bet with Friedman: Daley will never have a sexual relationship with a woman again, because his assertion that he still fancies girls is a classic bridging mechanism to ease the transition to his real sexual identity. I know this because I did it too.
Maybe we’ll check back in in a few years’ time, and see which one of us has turned out to be right.
Her broader point is the rather tired and utterly uncontroversial notion that “a tiny multiple-choice list of sexual identities doesn’t capture the breadth and depth of the human sexual experience”:
I know women who married men, then divorced them and are now partnered with women. I know women who were in serious relationships with women throughout high school, college, and their twenties, only to meet and marry men in their mid-thirties. I know women who get off on lesbian porn but only sleep with men. I know women who are happily married to men but have an open relationship that allows them to sleep with women occasionally. Some of these women call themselves bisexual, but many don’t.
I know far fewer men who transcend traditional sexual categories this way, but I don’t think this will be the case forever. Traditional definitions of masculinity – which tend to go hand in hand with homophobia – are going through a real shake-up. More hetero men are tentatively admitting that they’re turned on by certain sex acts associated with gay men. And Daley’s ambiguous coming-out had some mainstream sports sites sounding like a Gender Studies 101 classroom. “In truth, there should be no need for him to declare his sexuality,” wrote a blogger at BleacherReport. This is progress.
Not much evidence of fluid sexuality among men there, is there? And a reality check: just because straight guys would totally be into rimming their girlfriends (I can write that on the Dish) doesn’t mean they are somehow in any way gay. They’re just using gay men’s sexuality to get their hetero on. And there’s nothing wrong that that either.
I suspect, pace Friedman’s dreams, that there will always be far fewer men who transcend traditional sexual categories – because male sexuality is much cruder, simpler and more binary than female. It’s much more nature than nurture, even though the precise balance has always been close to unanswerable. So, as the cultural constraints recede, we may soon find out a lot more. Or not very much at all, as I confidently predict.
Read the rest of our popular thread on bisexuality here.