To be bisexual means that a person discovers he or she is attracted to both men and women. Simple, right? However, people frequently suspect bisexuals of being somehow different from people attracted to only one gender, suspecting that they possess the power to choose who they are attracted to. We know that no person can do this, but the friends and family of bisexuals frequently apply pressure to date only men or only women, to become either straight or gay.
Bisexual men are also frequently believed to be going through a phase. This has some basis in fact, as many gay men, during their coming-out process, believe themselves to be bisexual. This acts as a stepping stone, since it leaves them free to explore the possibility of being attracted to men, while still having the less risky option of being attracted to women.
However, there are men who realize that they are, and will remain, attracted to both sexes. They are bisexual, not “gay, but in denial.” For some reason, bisexual men are never assumed to be “straight, but in denial” since our society still stigmatizes homosexuality. This is evidenced by the self-policing among some straight men, who weed out non-straight actions with a well-timed “gay,” “homo” or “fag.”
The perception that bisexual men are actually gay is reinforced by the fact that they associate more with gay than straight peers. Not only are gay men more tolerant of sleeping with men, they are more likely to be educated about what bisexual actually means, and are also likely to be familiar with the feelings of rejection and discrimination that the bisexual man may be facing.
Sadly, this social group is not perfect either, as gays are more likely to look down on or tease about a bisexual man’s relationships with women, partly because they are not as familiar or understood, but also because this could be perceived as “traitorous.”
A man in a relationship with a woman has many more benefits than a man in a relationship with a man. Whether the couple is walking hand in hand down the street, attending prom, requesting a single bed in a hotel room, purchasing wedding rings or kissing goodbye, the public’s reactions will often be different with a heterosexual couple than a homosexual one. This is a part of “straight privilege,” which, like all privileges (male, white, able-bodied), is often noticed only when you lack it.
Gay men cannot obtain straight privilege without a great deal of sacrifice, yet a bisexual man gains it whenever he is in a relationship with a woman. Although nobody ever chooses to fall in love, some might be suspicious that a bisexual man would, to obtain more preferential treatment in society.
Bisexual men experience fear and anger from both gay and straight people, in some cases because they sleep with men, also because they don’t only sleep with men. Our society is accustomed to people being attracted to either men or women. It is hard for people to cope with the fact that someone might not be innately drawn to one and not the other. This gives monosexuals, people who are attracted to only one gender, a privilege of their own.
Society tends to push people seen as “undecided” toward one side or another, but in many cases, such as that of attraction, it is a false dichotomy. We need to realize, even if we ourselves are attracted only to men or only to women, that this is not true for all people, and it would be wrong to expect it to be so.
Happy Pride Week and many thanks to Jenna Ray, for her inspiring bisexual column.