Bisexuality, LGBT, Opinion

Life of Bi: But you don’t fit any gay stereotypes!

“What did do this weekend?” He asked.
“I’ve just started watching Sex and the City, never seen it” was my reply.
“What? You’re not fitting any gay stereotypes”.
He laughs.
“That’s because I’m not gay” I chuckle.

 

The above is about the exact words used in a very innocent exchange between myself and a guy I know. Now, as a bi man, my immediate instinct after this was to clarify my sexuality. But in the moment I was on my way out of the room and it caught me off guard. Somehow in the last few months I’ve managed to avoid anyone making any remarks like this to me (possible related to being tied to work and not going out, but who can say). As such I wasn’t ready with my clarification: the “i’m bi, by the way” response.

This moment was actually the second in which I’d been singled out as a non-straight person. Now for the first I am assuming that the person thought I was gay, but they didn’t actually say it, and so for the sake of speculation it didn’t bother me as much. But this exchange did and it has been playing over and over in my head.

As someone who is very aware of bi erasure and the importance of bi visibility, I have wanted to go back to this guy and let him know that I’m bisexual. Either by reminding him of the incident and asking if he thinks I’m gay or mentioning that I’m bi as a matter of clarity. However, that feels like pushing my agenda for my own personal sense of place.

But is that wrong? Should I be leaving people with the assumption? I don’t want to.

Gay until proven Straight

My sexuality is an important part of who I am, because it affects, in larger and smaller ways, every interaction in my life. For straight men in particular, I feel there is a lack of awareness and understanding about bisexual men (not to mention HUGE issues and assumptions about how they feel about bi women).

Often there is an unwritten rule that if you don’t immediately flirt with a women in their presence or have a touch of the camp about you – I’ve been known to add flourishes for fun – then you must be gay. It stems from the cultural awareness of gay men that has saturated the media, particularly white gay men. The shadow of which hides a number of different orientations, identities and races from the view of the straight world, along with the spectrum of gay men.

Bisexuals are one of the most misunderstood and misrepresented part of the rainbow community, and thought to be one of the smallest sections of the LGBT+ when really we are one of the biggest. Our visibility is diminished significantly by a lack of acceptance and fear that means we hide behind gay and straight labels.

They’ll miss what they don’t have

While this has all been mulling over in my mind, I have been watching more Sex and the City. It’s an entertaining, if not hugely flawed and dated show. During one of its most dating moments, that is also disturbingly not uncommon enough in modern portrayals of bi people, Carrie dates a man who happens to be bisexual. Her friends advise her, mostly, to ditch him because he’ll either end up being gay or won’t be able to settle. Only Samantha actually advises that having a man who is more versatile in his sexuality might be a bonus.

It all ends with Carrie leaving a party without telling him because she is so horrified by not only the bisexual man being okay with his own bisexuality, but also that he has bisexual friends who are ALSO comfortable with their own bisexuality.

I find that what concerns me most about Carrie and her friends’ conversation is that I’m sure its the same talk that people who I would want to date will be having too. I’m a bi man and I’m trying to date but then the question becomes: how soon do I need to be making my bisexuality known?

I’ve had times where conversations have ended because the guy thinks I’m not being true to myself. I’ve had women tell me I didn’t really like them or that I’m a gay man who likes boobs (whatever that is supposed to infer). At the end of the day, I’m faced with “you’re not fitting any gay stereotypes” as the best case scenario. That or I try to only date bisexual people, assuming I can find someone who feels safe enough to admit it!

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Bisexuality, LGBT

The Pride Of Picking Up My Rainbow Flag

I bought a small rainbow flag from a man with a backpack full of rainbow flags. He probably didn’t much care about the Pride event he was selling his wares it, he was looking to make some money, supplying what we demanded. But I was nervous, a little shaky. It meant something to me, at my first Pride in Brighton in 2010, to align myself with this community of LGBT people.
I had never, within my memory, been to Brighton. I’m told I’d visited as a very small child but had no recollection. I didn’t even visit the seaside city before I accepted a university place there. So, when I did finally take the bus into town and began exploring, it didn’t take me long to realise this was a place that I would belong in.
Coming from a small town, walking through Kemp Town (the main LGBT area of Brighton), one of the first signs to catch my eye was the inclusion of small rainbow flags in the windows. Coffee shops, sex shops, bars, restaurants, book stores, hotels, not just in Kemp Town but across the city, there were these small iconic marks of LGBT+ friendliness. I saw it as a small token that said: we accept you, we welcome you.
Yes, I was young and naive-who wasn’t aged 18? The expanse of the queer community, the word queer itself had a different meaning to me then, the internal issues around representation and validity, race and gender identity, none of these had even entered my mind. I already identified as bisexual but aside from meeting one other fellow bisexual person and a handful of openly gay men in the last two years, I wasn’t really aware of the controversy within the community.
As a result, in my youthful outlook, I saw rainbow flags as a symbol of hope. That I didn’t have to expect people to follow me home, call me “faggot” in the street, that I could be camp if I wanted (and couldn’t help it). I’ve learned more since then, but I still think of the rainbow as a symbol of hope.
When I started to venture across Brighton, exploring more of the city, I found these rainbow flags in more and more places. In fact, over the five years (and in many moments since then), I learned that while these LGBT+ friendly markers were used to show that the people of Brighton expected fully equality and fair treatment for all its residents and visitors, it was the people who made this even more known. Brighton is a place that embodies LGBT people, it is a safe haven, it is a Rainbow Flag.

What led to me taking up my first Rainbow Flag

Having been in the city for almost a year, the first summer rolled around and so did my first Pride. Working in a bar at the time, a close friend and co-worker insisted she take me to my first Pride. We made plans to walk down and watch the parade together. I agreed, excited.
But then the question became, what would I wear? What would I be expected to wear? I wasn’t a muscular, gay magazine cover man who could turn up in short shorts, sunglasses and let my abs speak for themselves. I wasn’t an uber-femme, ready with eye shadow, glitter and a fantastic pair of high heels. So, I decided to do me, as much me at the time as possible, and cautiously purchased a Brighton Rocks t-shirt; I was Brighton proud as much as bisexual proud, rainbow braces (suspenders for Americans) and jeans.
Wearing the LGBT rainbow felt like taking a stand, officially joining a group of people. I was Proud. Taking the rainbow flag in hand and cheering on the parade floats, taking stickers from eager campaigners, waving at drag queens, applauding “The Oldest Gay in the Village”, it all made it feel like being bisexual was normal.
The rainbow flag was the biggest part of that. Being able to wear it and hold it was a triumphant, scary and powerful moment. I changed from that point on. I’d made a choice not just to identity, but to be seen.
When Gilbert Baker created the flag in 1978, how could he have known the impact it would have on a bisexual man in 2010, how much power it would have to create a bond, an alliance, between LGBT people around the world. Gilbert Baker’s lasting legacy will, in part, be a lasting testament to him in all the rainbow flags that fly for years to come. But his impact will also be in how the creation of this symbol has empowered so many, driving away the fear of isolation simply because of the inclusion of rainbow flags in our lives.

Note: I want to recognise that the Rainbow Flag and what it has become for the LGBT+ community and people, it not without flaws or issues. We are complex people, with many different histories and situations. We are not a perfect, unified community at all times, though I hope one day we will be. What I want to acknowledge here, is the impact the Rainbow Flag had on me at a time when I needed it most.

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Bisexuality, LGBT, Review, Television

How To Get Away With A Season 2 Premiere (HTGAWM): Sexuality & A New Murder

When How To Get Away With Murder (HTGAWM) premiered last year (2014) I was instantaneously hooked. A mystery drama with pace, intrigue and a fierce lead in Viola Davis, the recipe was made all the sweeter thanks to a diverse cast and range of characters – something that’s been upped this year with the season two premiere.

If you haven’t watched the first episode of season two then stop reading now! This will get spoilery.

In season one we were introduced to Connor Walsh, a wise cracking and unashamed m seeking m future lawyer. His less than monogomous sexual style was treated in much the same way that a straight counterpart would be if this show was on even ten years ago. The dissection of what Jack Falahee’s portrayal of Connor means for the queer community is out there, but what is even more interesting is the dialogue that the actor has created. Tired of hearing the same limiting, expected questions, Falahee has questioned the interviewer reasoning behind asking actors who play gay characters if they are gay themselves, when we don’t ask actors playing heterosexual characters the same.

With season two, the LGBT+ spectrum has gained more representation on HTGAWM through Emmy winner, Viola Davis. Portraying Annalise Keating, a law school professor who has her own firm, Annalise was already been shown in two romantic relationships – her husband and her lover. While her husband was killed off by the end of season one, her lover lives on but hates her more than cats hate being thrown head first into water.

Viola has always given a gravitas to her role as Annalise, adding layers of complexity that shine in brilliant scenes with such natural ease. Her demanding, unyielding lawyer side takes no prisoners. She’s very smart and quick, accounting for variables but controlling outcomes both inside and outside of the courtroom. Her emotions can be hidden below the surface, used if the situation demands it, yet, she is often raw and exposed with those she loves. Her honesty and her lies are both equally convincing and that is what pushes her lovers away.

Joining the cast of season two, alongside The Guild alumni Amy Okuda, is *drum roll* Jean Famke Janssen! Cast as death row lawyer Eve Rothlow, she power walked into the first episode to a gasp from me. While her entrance was a shock; I don’t do spoilers, her brilliance was not.

Eve is an old friend of Annalise from her days at Harvard and it is immediately clear that she knows her well. While Eve puts up a strong front and looks to be putting Annalise in her place regarding people manipulation, she ends up being the one Annalise can still turn to. Their difficult past is brought to light at the episode’s close, when Annalise goes to her home. Eve casually mentions that she’s moved on from their relationship before Annalise kisses her and she takes it all back.

Now, labels being what they are, I’d love to call this bisexuality but we may have to wait to see if Annalise ever entertains the idea of naming it herself. In a way this is a big twist, as non-heterosexuality so often if, but its not dealt with in a soap opera way with dun dun duns. Instead, the swell of emotion is passionate, full of need. As with Connor’s sexuality, its another dimension and, certainly, representation for the bisexual community. I can only hope that we get to explore this relationship, though I have my doubts about whether we’ll get questions and answers re: bi people.

Except if the student team finds out. Then we’ll have Asher’s fratboy ideas to deal with which will be hilarious and illuminating. Who knows, maybe he’s bi but it hasn’t been shown yet.

HTGAWM has screamed modern and up to date drama through the choices made regarding the show, proved by Viola Davis becoming the first black woman to win the Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress. Shockingly, we are only NOW living in a time where that has happened.

Within the show, we’re going to see Connor and Oliver tackle not only Oliver’s HIV+ status but also PrEP. The relatively new HIV preventative drug is now being discussed within the LGBT+ community regarding how it should be used. Like those in Connor’s situation, many people see it as a get out of HIV free card, assuming it will stop them from contracting HIV. However, this could set a precedent, at least in the public sphere, for condom-less sex. What many have warned is that preventing HIV is one thing, but there are numerous other sexually transmitted diseases that condoms help prevent.

Add in the drama of a new murder and the time jump to Annalise getting shot, possibly by her student (and lover?) Wes, whats not to love about How To Get Away With Murder?!

If you have read this but aren’t watching the show, try season one now! Basically no spoilers for that and then you’ll be all caught up for the goodness gracious season two to continue.

I love this show.

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Bisexual Visibility Day
Bisexuality, LGBT, Life

Bisexual Visibility Day and This Guy (Thats Me)

Being bisexual has been explained a lot. We explain it to better people’s understanding in the hopes that it leads to recognition. At this stage in our social development we are pretty comfortable with what gay is – even if some people still don’t agree with it, like its optional. Lesbian is a relatively well understood term, even if the use isn’t always as high as gay. Trans we also see as on the rise. But then theres bi.Strangely whenever I read about a person being described as “openly bisexual” I still feel a bit of prideful surprise. Seeing the acknowledgement of a shared sexuality, an identity that comes with ridicule from all sides, is shocking, yet welcome. Thats the emotional journey I have in that moment.

I don’t think that bisexuality has necessarily become more visible since last year but we are creeping, inching towards widespread recognition and that is positive and worthy of note.

While my own wanderings about the world have led me to finding bisexuals in unlikely places, such as Andy Mientus (Smash) and Shane Dawson (YouTube), I have spotted some more public acknowledgements of bisexual awareness within the public consciousness.

Often it feels with LGBT+ issues that we’re preaching to the choir, talking amongst ourselves and like-minded people about what it means to be us and the difficulties that come with not being wholly equal in society and within the law of where we live, be it city, country or planet. Bi people talk to bi people about being bi. When we talk to others, it is either explaining to friends/family/other LGBTs, often to convince them to care about bisexuality as an issue.

However, the children are our future; as has been said and sung, and this has always given me hope. Research published recently spoke about the increasing percentage of young people who didn’t identify as simply straight or gay, that they saw themselves somewhere of the Kinsey/bisexual spectrum. It reminded me that, only a few years ago we were being met with news of a change in actions from teenagers, especially in men, who worried less about the labelling implications of kissing someone of the same sex. Straight men kissed straight men for dares, to show affection and it didn’t give them hetero-masc fear based egos.

Whether it was the over confidence of teenhood, the internet or simply a change born from a resistance to hateful older generations, young people have started to become instilled with new attitudes and perspectives.

After the Stonewall conference I attended for bisexuality, I thought we’d hit a great turning point with them. As a large organisation, under the new leadership of Ruth Hunt, at the time I wanted to cling to the meeting as a lifeline to hope but now I see it as a sign of progression. Bisexuals are becoming more recognised and accepted.

I consider the daily actions of myself and others like me on Bisexual Visibility Day, of allowing ourselves to be seen and proactively raising the subject today of all days, to be the best sign of changing times.

We can. We will. We are.

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