One night last year I decided to come out to my university friends as bisexual. There is not one way to do this, and for me it is often spur of the moment. My chosen method was via the group chat, simply messaging: “Bi the way, I’m bi”.
It was short, effective, and I hoped it would help me avoid the normal trappings of coming out as bi. I received the usual supportive responses, alongside the casual homophobia that people feel is okay to use once they’re friends with someone in the “community”. Later, one decided to quiz me on my newly public sexuality.
“Was I being serious?” was the first line of enquiry. Bisexual people have to deal with doubt on a daily basis. This can come from friends and family doubting your sexuality, or your own concerns that maybe you are not doing enough to show that you are proud of your attraction to men, women, and those of all gender variants. I didn’t know what to say when asked the question, but swatted it away. Instead of feeling deterred, she asked, “okay, but why did you feel the need to tell us”? This question is asked often, but the answer is obvious; a straight person’s sexuality is presumed, so there is no need to come out. Plus, it is an important part of myself to share with people, whether it is for my own identity, or to help encourage others to come out. The statistics show that 49% of bisexual men are closeted at work, and mental health problems are rife in the community with 5% of bisexual men having attempted suicide in the year 2013, a figure two percentage points higher than gay men. The stigma attached is dangerous, and many bisexual men just don’t want to deal with the consequences. If this is going to change, then a concerted effort needs to be made in the media to change perceptions.
I hoped the representation of bisexual men could be given a boost by E’s new show, The Bi Life. Despite a title straight out of a 90s sitcom, I was relieved to find a positive, educational show, allowing those who may know very little about bisexuality to learn straight (sorry) from the horse’s mouth. It achieves this, whilst being entertaining and easily fitting in to the current batch of dating shows permeating our screens, with muscles, tans and too-wet-for-TV kisses.
A positive part of the show is when the cast, made up entirely of bi people, discuss the problems bisexual people face in life and in dating. In the first episode, the women on the show discuss the meagre amount of out bisexual men they have encountered in their lives. This needs to change, but one of the dates showed why it will be difficult to shift. In an interview on the show, one of the characters, Ryan, states that it is difficult to tell people you like men and women. His date confirms these fears when Ryan tells her his sexuality. Although his date puts the blame on herself, she expresses that she would be concerned that he would have a wandering eye.
This is a common trope, and I personally have hidden my orientation in the past, after hearing my friends’ thoughts. When I told one friend my sexuality, she immediately told me that she would never date a bisexual person because we are more likely to cheat. It was simple maths as far as she was concerned; we have double the amount of people to have sex with... I feel like she overestimated my niche allure
Most of the time people don’t mean to offend, but with representation of bisexual people, especially men on TV so bare, it is difficult for them to know how to treat us. Although there is a long way to go to change perceptions, The Bi Life is a positive example, that can be a stepping stone to include bi, pan, and other identities more regularly on mainstream TV.
Being bisexual is great, but it isn’t easy. Simply put, no straight person will refuse to date another straight person because they are straight. No gay person will refuse to date another gay person because they are gay. Both gay and straight people will refuse to date a bisexual person, because they are bisexual. Oftentimes you are told to choose. Here is the thing though, bisexuality is not a choice. Bisexual people are not confused. But Bisexual men don’t want to come out. When you look at what we have to deal with, do you blame us?