“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”.
“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!