Despite paramount improvements to the equality and tolerance of the gay community in Britain it is fair to say that being gay still has its difficulties. Being bisexual though is just bloody awkward. You'd think the opposite; without the limitations of gender to hold you back you seemingly have double the pool to pick from, you can have both gay and straight nights out, you can wow the world with your open minded approach to sexuality and you can openly enjoy relationships with partners from both genders. Pah!
Being a bisexual man is like trying to look left and right at the same time. Naturally this is to be expected considering the paradoxical nature of what being bisexual entails, but the beliefs and dogmatic perceptions of a large section within society make it almost impossible.
Both gay people and straight people seem to have their qualms about bisexuality. Many gay people hold the misguided idea that bisexual men are untrustworthy, promiscuous and unfaithful (well, more so than the average man anyway) and there is almost certainly a feeling of resentment towards them; being attracted to women is a crime, punishable by revoking your gay card.
For straight women the prejudice is simpler - a man who has been with another man is an automatic turn off. There also exists the awkward question of when to tell a woman that you are in fact bi. Such an action is again contradictory. Telling them shouldn't be necessary, if you are in a relationship with them and you actually possess the power of monogamy (a big if, right?) then the fact you may have had relations with other men is surely irrelevant. While ignorance is bliss not telling is doing you both a disservice; you put yourself back in the closet, you deny who you are and you show her an unreasonable lack of faith and trust.
Another common, imprudent view is that bisexuality is simply a period of denial, invented to make the coming out process a lot easier. While there are examples where this has been the case, that the decision to not entirely relinquish a heterosexual life is simply another step in the coming out process, in my experience this has proven to be the exception and not the rule.
All these misconceptions and exaggerated viewpoints make being bisexual very confusing and actually quite annoying. Do you really have to correct people every time they say your gay, not realising you are bisexual (or just impertinently denying that such a thing exists)? If you are flirting with someone is it fair that you feel guilty not telling them (is it fair on them that you don't)? Should you have to justify yourself to others who fail to recognise that some people are more interested in the person than the gender? With no official book on bisexual etiquette it is difficult to know what the custom is.
Society is obsessed with the systematic labelling and profiling of anything and anyone though it seems they are yet to create the typical bisexual caricature. When we look at the variety of gay people in popular culture there is a plethora of camp dancers, elaborate queens and men with aids. Now and again there is the odd character who represents a more modern and realistic "straight-acting" kind of gay person but the vast majority of gay characters in the media live up to the narrow minded expectation of what gay men are all about (it's worth noting that the commonly used term "straight-acting" implies that really you should be an ostentatious queen, though instead you have chosen to act straight).
Yes these stereotypes do not help the situation for the LGBT community, they reinforce the assumption that all gay people are flamboyant queens, but their presence has made it easier for the masses to at least accept the existence of gay people. I can only think of a small handful of bisexual celebrities and fictional characters in popular culture and perhaps this lack of portrayal in the wider media is what is holding back people's wider acceptance of bisexuality.
Regardless of why people seem to be less tolerant to the idea of bisexuality when compared to the more simple concept of homosexuality there is no denying that there is still a long way to go in helping people become more accepting of it. What to do though in the meantime while we wait for the rest of society to catch up? Well until recently the US army had an excellent policy for the few gay people that did serve in the army (what! Gay people in the army?!), a policy which should help bisexual prevails in their promiscuous, polygamous and artificial endeavours with both sexes: Don't Ask, Don't Tell - it's worked so far.
Follow Chris Godfrey on Twitter: www.twitter.com/chrispjgodfrey