There is a certain tendency among gay people . . . to plaster labels over everybody, including themselves, instead of seeing the nameless love that everybody is.
-Allen Ginsberg

BISEXUALITY
A BENT/Disgaytalk Forum

Disgaytalk is the online discussion group associated with BENT, where men discuss their cripgay lives. Like all such lists, the quality of the discussion ebbs and flows, but when it's good it's very very good.

From time to time, with the cooperation of the participants, BENT will present an edited version of an exchange we think will interest a wider audience.

Please let us know what you think by writing to BENT (editor@bentvoices.org) or by joining Disgaytalk (http://www.pairlist.net/mailman/listinfo/disgaytalk).

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THE DISCUSSION
got off to a spirited start when John mentioned his bisexuality and someone responded with, "bisexuality is just a cop-out."

BOB G: John, I hate to confess this—and I am fighting it—but I'm definitely biased in favor of the position that bisexuality IS a cop-out. I know that functional bisexuality is real, but I have a hard time believing that everybody doesn't have a preference. At best, I've always made light of the matter by quoting the old Woody Allen quip, "Bisexuality is great. It doubles your chances of a date on Saturday night."

JOHN: Well, what can I say? [grin] You're hardly alone in that view, and it doesn't bother me—not these days, anyway. If someone has struggled to come to terms with being gay, and had to fight to gain acceptance, it's easy to see why bisexuality might seem a cop-out. Perhaps sometimes it is. No two people are the same, after all.

BOB G: But lately I've met a couple of forthright guys who self-identify as "bi" (welcome to their number), which is making it more and more difficult for me to maintain my prejudice.

JOHN: You know what the hardest thing was about understanding my sexual orientation? Not knowing what to call it. When I was a teenager, I didn't know if I was straight or gay—it was very confusing to have such mixed feelings and not know what to call them. There was very little education about homosexuality, and I'd never even heard of bisexuality. For a while I identified myself as gay, but it really wasn't working. Even after I started calling myself bi, I wondered whether I was just using that as a cop-out. Everyone else seemed to think so.

Society's attitudes towards bisexuality made me doubt myself for a long, long time. But after a while I stopped wasting my time on doubt, and just accepted that that's the way I am. As a disabled man, I had enough trouble understanding and expressing my sexuality, without having to worry about what other people thought about it. There's a well-know "gay" British musician called Tom Robinson whose "Glad to be Gay" was in the charts, and a bit of an anthem when I was younger. He's now married—to a woman. Go figure.

Robinson says it was as much of a surprise to him as it was to everyone else, but that he fell in love with a person and not a gender. That kind of sums it up nicely. I'm attracted to people. Sometimes they're male, sometimes female. There's an excellent bit about bisexuality on his website that I strongly recommend to anyone who's curious. Here's a snippet:

But what of this thing called "bi"? Some are born bisexual, some achieve bisexuality and some have it thrust upon them. Until it happened to me I always thought "bi" a cop out - a kind of maimed, halfhearted version of "gay", desperately clutching at a small shred of respectability. But to hell with respectability: the real point about being bisexual, a friend pointed out, is that you're asking something other than "what sex is this person?

My head is perhaps more likely to be turned by a cute guy than a pretty girl, but it does turn for both. All I can tell you is that of the times I've been in love—really, seriously in love—the split so far is 50/50 between men and women. That's rather too neat a statistical average to last, though, and it's certainly nothing I have any control over [grin].

BOB G: Listening to you makes me amazed to discover just how close-minded one can "still" be. I'm working on it. Knowing somebody who can discuss the matter so forthrightly and intelligently does tend to shift my focus.

JOHN: Cool! Sorry to go on at such great length about it, but I did warn you not to get me started.

MAX: I'm glad you're working on eradicating your prejudice, Bob. I, too, once questioned bisexuality. My nearsighted thinking was put to rest by a couple of close friends. One is married to a woman and has two young children. He also has a male lover, who lives next door (the "family" apartment is too small for everybody!). Visiting this household is like visiting a large extended family. Yes, my mind was blown away with "how do you do it?" questions, but since everyone seems happy with the arrangement I politely suppressed my questions!

I'm also remembering married men I met in a park cruising area when I first came out. Some were dumb enough to frequent the same park with their wives and children. I wondered about their common sense, but I never wondered about their wanting men as well as women for sex partners.

BOB G: You know Max, your mention of married guys cruising clues me in to where some of my own prejudice about bisexuality may come from. I've known a bunch of guys who talked themselves out of being gay at an early age, got married (to women, that is), raised families, told themselves everything was OK because they were bisexual, but then left their wives and kids because they couldn't stand their own hypocrisy. Maybe guys of this generation aren't so tempted to do that anymore. Maybe it's not accurate for me to even think of those guys as bi in the first place.

MAX: Years back I had a bisexual lover for a while. I had known his "wife" as well before they broke up (it was one of those hippie-style weddings, not legal and yes, I am dating myself). He had also been an on-and-off lover of another close friend of mine, so his bi tendencies were the stuff of legend. He was not someone I could ever have had a lasting relationship with. His lifestyle (overage hippie) did not correspond to mine (labeled middle-class by him).

But what was wonderful was the sex. I had never met any man so in tune with his partner and so determined to give pleasure and thereby get all he could use in return. No, he was not just trying to have the best of both worlds as a matter of greed. By the way, my former bisexual lover was in a three-way later on in his marriage. The third partner was a man who was also bi and who later became a platonic roommate of mine. (The platonic part was not because I wasn't interested.) He later got involved with a woman who also became a roommate of mine after he left. Got all that? And you wonder why I don't watch "Friends". Hell, I was doing "Will and Grace" years before they even made the pilot.

The bottom line is (at least for me) that being bisexual is another variation on a never-ending them of human sexuality, something I hope we are all here to find out more about. So I've been very glad that some men straddle the sexual fence.

BOB G: Max, we're exhausted by your versatility!

RAY: Well, as a bi guy, I think it's great to see this discussion taking place. In my experience, identifying as bisexual is often seen by people (on either side of the fence) as a cop-out. I could go on about being attracted to people, not parts, but that's not exactly true. I am attracted to parts, and sometimes the people they're attached to. Someone doesn't have to have a dick for me to lust after them, but oftentimes it helps! And thanks to Bob G for his honesty. It takes a big man to cop to a bias like that, and it's refreshing to see everybody else's comments as well. Keep it up.

JOHN: Well said, Ray. A lot of bi people go on at great length about being attracted to the person not the gender, and while that can be true to some extent, it can end up making us sound like we're so totally above the concept of physical lust that we're almost saintly. It's not like that at all, really. But there's a world of difference between attraction and love. When I've fallen in love it hasn't always been with people I immediately fancied.

BOB F: I still don't think there is such a thing as being bisexual. I can't believe that attraction for one sex doesn't always take precedence. Many gay guys can get it on with women, but they still feel primary attraction for their own sex. I think that makes them gay.

JOHN: By your reasoning, Bob, guys who have stronger feelings for women but still fancy guys are straight. Sorry, I just don't buy that and I know a lot of bisexual people who don't buy it either. But it's an argument we're used to hearing. I simply don't think it's true that one kind of desire always takes precedence, at least not consistently. Nothing in life is constant. Twenty-five or so years ago the word "gay" covered just about everything that wasn't heterosexual, but these days it doesn't work that way. Bisexuals often aren't welcomed at gay marches, and weren't allowed any representation at the recent Pride marches in London. When did gay men and women become so narrow-minded? Surely a Pride march is about affirming your right to follow your heart instead of conforming to the dictates of society.

BOB F: Well, OK, John, but your speaking voice sounded so wonderful when we talked on the phone that you'd better be more gay than anything else, or I'll come over there and spank you with Harley's leash! [Harley is Bob's guide dog.]

JOHN: [Laugh]

BOB G: This is getting pretty steamy, guys!

DON: For a long time I was dismissive of the whole idea of bisexuality. The thing is, the loftier side of me, thinks it's the ideal, being able to love regardless of organs. But I can't do it. So maybe my skepticism comes from a less-than-lofty place, simple envy! I sort of hate to add that I suspected that '' bi's '' would be less reciprocal in the sack, too, yet it's among gays that I keep reading about "tops" and "bottoms," best applied to pajamas, in my ever-so-humble opinion.

I've felt that bisexuals—wherever they fall on the straight/gay continuum, escape the derision that a lot of us have experienced, while they get to do the same things.

JOHN: I can appreciate that feeling, but it's reaching the stage now where it's almost more acceptable to be gay than it is to be bi. There's a fair amount of anti-bi sentiment in the "mainstream" gay community (whatever mainstream means), and straights just don't understand it at all. And as funny as that Woody Allen quote is, it's a bit of a burden too. A lot of people think bisexuals are just people who'll shag anyone and anything, and are unable to maintain a monogamous relationship.

DON: I guess I don't think the sex-act alone determines your identification.

JOHN: Nope, nor do I. It's about physical and emotional attraction.

MAX: My feeling is that everyone is born sexual, with a probable bent towards either men or women, no matter what your own sex. I think it's society that tries to make us exclusionary in our responses. The fact that gays can be unwelcoming to bi's might back me up there. Bisexuals often seem to be as much outside of the gay mainstream as are disabled people.

DON: I think this is a conundrum . . . and I'm almost willing to leave it that way. But at least I want company in my puzzlement!

JOHN: Rest assured, Don: 100% of the population is puzzled— just not everyone will admit it [grin].

DON: OK. But I want to thank Bob Guter for legitimizing my feelings. It's good to know that I'm not along in feeling confused/biased on this issue. And, John-of-the-mellifluous-tones, thank you for hauling me kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. So many of my ideas are influenced by experiences that are thirty, forty, even fifty years-old. In the Truly-Dark-Ages, when I was a kid, to merely say that a boychild was "sensitive," was code for "get this child a tutu!"

As a recovering SK [sensitive kid ], or better, a survivor, I've some bitterness impeding my attempts at reason and objectivity. John, you've helped me focus on things as they are now. I first stopped sneering (in self-defense) at bisexuality when my therapist, somebody I trusted and respected, called me on it. And to prove to you guys how far I've come, I'll admit that I've fallen head-over-heels for one! Absolutely Gaga. OY!!!VEY!!! Since I'm in love with a person and not a label, I have no choice: I have to stop sneering.

BOB G: John, since you're the troublemaker who started all of this by matter-of-factly coming out to all of us, I'm going to give you the last word.

JOHN: I guess I'll continue to try and figure things out as I go along. Many years ago someone posted a short poem to uk.gay-lesbian-bi that I've always liked. It's not a bad way to sum up:

"Sometimes the path I take is straight,
Sometimes it tends to deviate.
I have no preference for sex or race,
I just want to hear your voice,
I just want to see your face."

 

© 2000 BENT

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READINGS

Four new titles from Harrington Park Press:
Bisexual Characters in Film by Wayne M. Bryant
The Bisexual Option edited by Fritz Klein
Bisexual Politics edited by Naomi Tucker
Journal of Bisexuality edited by Fritz Klein

 

 

 

 

 

BENT: A Journal of Cripgay Voices/September 2000