Sunday, December 27, 2009
Telling it like it is
This is the time of year when many of us are thrown together with various loved ones and, while this can be all warm and glowy, it also has its difficulties.
I was already thinking of this when I read this post – which wasn’t specifically about the festive season, but about sharing important things – specifically, your (bi)sexuality.
The nameless male blogger who posts at Bitheway, had a tricky December as he came out to his female partner. She felt he had lied by omission by not telling her before; he had felt unable to discuss it earlier in their relationship as he hadn’t feel safe enough. They are still together, but it has been tough.
Keeping it quiet
As Mr Bitheway said: “There are many things we do keep from our partners (as bisexual men this is typically our bisexuality)”.
Oh, how I wish it wasn’t the case, but I tend to agree. So many bi men – with the exception of activist/ openly poly/ bi community men – tell almost no one they are bi. I’m not thinking about actual sexual infidelity here, but about keeping a whole part of yourself - your history, feelings, experiences – from your partner.
I am generalising in this post, I know – something I don’t do lightly – but bear with me here.
It seems to me that it is much more difficult for bi men to come out than bi women. There are two main reasons for this:
* The widespread agreement that while women can be bi, men are “Gay, Straight or Lying” – the notorious title of an equally notorious article in the New York Times.
Spurious, over-simplistic research (such as that by Michael Bailey) tends to state that, while women are often attracted to people regardless of gender, men almost never are. Therefore, men are really either gay or straight.
This can put bi men into a terrible quandary. What are they really? And, also important, what do their partners think they are really.
Lots of gay men – some of whom wondered if they were bi for a while – consider that, because they aren’t bi, neither can anyone else be. Some hold the strange view that it is easier for men to be bi than gay, which I just don’t believe. People saying it never really try to explain why they think this, they expect it to be obvious. Why is it easy to be told constantly you are deluded and oversexed than to have a community that supports you? And also, it isn’t ever easier to be something you aren’t than something you are.
* A feeling that women (rather than men, I think) will reject them as potential lovers/partners.
This is tricky. Some women can and do reject bi men – sometimes horribly. They have a whole range of reasons for this, believing bi men to be (eg) unreliable, necessarily unfaithful, uncommitted, prone to contracting HIV ... generally not what they want at all.
But there are women who want bi men as their partners. I always did – although I am spoken for now thanks! – but never met all that many. There are others who wouldn’t mind, if only men could trust them enough to tell them.
Come out, come out wherever you are
Of course, the fewer out bi men there are, the fewer bi men will come out. It’s a vicious circle. Because if bisexuality in men is seen to be impossible, more men who are attracted to men and women will believe that they can’t be, leading to fewer bi men being out.
When I was interviewing bi men for my book on bisexuality (see archive, right) many of them found it hard enough to be out to themselves, let along others. They had totally compartmentalised their lives, with that part attracted to men tucked in the depths of their consciousness/conscience.
I do hesitate to give advice on this blog (or anywhere else) – I mean what do I know, life is complicated! But it seems to me that even if you aren’t out about your sexuality to the world at large, dropping hints about it to potential or new partners is pretty much essential. Far better you discover at the outset that it is something they could never countenance, rather than have some big secret hanging over you. Big Secrets tend to have a way of being uncovered.
There was a terrific article I read once about women in happy long-term relationships with bi men. I can’t link to it as I don’t think it’s online and I don’t remember now who wrote it, but the gist of it was... those women tended to be unconventional, who didn’t rely on their partner for all their sense of self/companionship/money, and had their own goals and interests.
There is no shortage at all of such women these days – especially those who are bi themselves. So, bi men, if you want an honest, real, happy relationship with a woman, look for someone who doesn’t want to live in your shadow.