Since coming out as a bisexual in Genre magazine two decades ago, I've experienced an equal amount of support and scorn. I was amazed at the wave of disbelief, surprise, even anger. (A letter from a complete stranger made a pretty convincing argument that I was, in fact, a lesbian.) I got strong support, but even one of my best non-gay women friends pointed out, "You've never talked about this directly."
It's true, I was always purposely ambiguous. When I was straight, I paraded my girlfriend around like a trophy. When I "came out" as gay five years ago, I did so with a vengeance -- moving to West Hollywood and adopting an in-your-face attitude toward anyone with even a faint whiff of homophobia. But then, the unexplainable happened. After putting my friends and family through the wrist-wringing angst of coming out, I was seeing a woman.
I made excuses: "I'm just a gay man who happens to be dating a woman" I told my homo friends. "I was never really satisfied with men," I told my hetero friends. The reality is, I'm embarrassed by the bisexual label. It has the connotation of promiscuity, hiding and sexual schizophrenia.
Most people think that being bisexual is a step before they come to grips with identifying themselves as gay or lesbian. For me, calling myself gay was a step to realizing that there is such a thing as being bisexual.
A poignant letter came from a friend who wrote there were definite signs that I was gay, but I talked about dating women in a way that didn't seem it was for her benefit.
She defined her hetero confusion as: "Bisexuals tend not to make announcements or talk about their duality and it seems rude to ask, and we -- people in general -- want to easily identify people. I am a woman. I am white. I am a writer. I am heterosexual. From all of these you can easily draw some conclusions about me. Bisexuality throws all of that off."
She's right. The most-asked question I've had is: "Aren't you still attracted to men?"
The answer is a resounding "YES!" Of course! When you guys are in a love-of-your-life coupling don't you occasionally turn your head for a buffed chest? When you gals are arm-in-arm with your partner don't you find your heart flutter a bit when a tight-thighed damsel strolls past? When a straight guy marries, does he suddenly become a eunuch? Of course not.
So, why is it so hard to understand that a bisexual can be sexually fulfilled with one partner?
My best gay friend seemed surprised that I was seeing a woman after all the "informational training" he'd given me about gay life and its history. I once worshipped his relationship as the perfect gay pairing. Then, his boyfriend of five years left him for a woman. During their relationship, the boyfriend said he needed to fulfill a "physical need" to go out with women, and that, I think, was the problem. The boyfriend may be one of those who are inheritently non-monogamous, or perhaps he was shopping around for a more societal-accepting relationship because he hated being gay. My friend has vowed never to date a bisexual again.
My mom—who came with me to the 1993 March on Washington and lectured with me at the Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays’ national conference—excused my dad’s concerns. “If you’re born that way and you can’t choose, that’s something we can accept, but if you like both, then you do have a choice, and he takes it personally if you choose a guy.”
My dad was more succinct, “If you can choose, why would you choose the wrong way?”
When I came out as gay, he hung his head in faux despair and told neighbors it was something I couldn’t help. It was as if I had lost a leg.
The bottom line for Dad’s irrational attitude toward me is the very same reason I’m criticized by friends in the homosexual community—my chosen “family.” My gay friends complain, “You’re embarrassing (or diluting) ‘the family’” or say, “Being bi is fine with me, but don’t tell anyone else if you expect to get a date.”
It’s true, for a group that’s stereotyped as being so promiscuous, my dating life has hit the skids since I’ve been openly bi. Straight women don’t dare touch me, and gay men shun me because they think I’ll eventually leave them for the “easy” relationship. Truth is, I’ve always sought a monogamous relationship with either a man or a woman and have wanted to raise children with that partner no matter what they have or don’t have between their legs.
It is always tough to make the parents understand. See the video above on how some people handle it.