The bilemma

Published

Credit: Unsplash

Hugo McGregor
Writer

Hugo McGregor spills the (bisexuali)tea on the treatment of bi-curiosity between genders.

As I was midway through binging Netflix’s bonkers new dating show, Love Is Blind, I was hit with a sobering reminder. The show (which can only be described as Blind Date on crack) aims to remove the physical barrier of falling in love, by encouraging men and women to date — and subsequently get engaged — without seeing one another. The theory behind the format is couples will feel comfortable enough to be vulnerable with one another, allowing them to form deep emotional connections. However, despite the veil of anonymity, one man, Carlton, didn’t feel safe sharing a part of himself with his fiancée, Diamond. You see, Carlton is bisexual, and he was fearful his past relationships with men would jeopardise his blossoming one with Diamond. Eventually, as their bond grew stronger, Carlton felt secure enough to let his guard down… only to have his fears confirmed. Diamond’s reaction was a disheartening blend of confusion and off-put, followed by the million-dollar question every bi person dreads:

“How do you know?”

It goes without saying that their relationship was thrown into turmoil; eventually coming to a bitter end less than 24 hours later. Now, while I doubt Diamond is actually biphobic, her response does highlight a damaging view of the bisexual community.

There is a commonly-held belief that bisexuality is a halfway house between heterosexuality and homosexuality for men. A man who comes out as bisexual is immediately pigeonholed as having just not come to terms with the fact he’s gay, but it’s assumed he’ll end up with another man later in life. Bi now, gay later. However, if a man was to tell you he’s gay, you’d wholeheartedly believe him. So why is it that bisexual men have to “prove” their sexuality?

While it’s important to acknowledge that some homosexual men come out as bisexual on their journey of self-discovery, it’s absolutely not the rule. According to a survey by Stonewall, nearly half of bisexual men admitted they were not open about their sexuality in the workplace, compared to only 7% of homosexual men. This is because, as a result of toxic masculinity, homosexual relationships are still considered emasculating. Take one look at the comments on a GlasKnow post about homosexuality, and you’ll see, tribes of straight men tagging their (straight) mates for a cheap laugh.

Its disappointing homosexual relationships are still a punchline in 2020, despite the fact it’s long-established that sexuality is a spectrum. Some people lie at one end of the spectrum, while others are more fluid. However, it’s rarely black and white. Yet, many males are restricted from being able to explore their sexuality for fear of being outcast from their friend group or, in Carlton’s case, how it could affect future relationships with women. Given that men are three times as likely to die by suicide than women in the UK, the need for self-compassion and healthy masculinity among males has never been more urgent. It takes time to unravel your identity, and bi-curiosity is a freedom that’s seldom afforded to men.

On the other side of the coin, there are bisexual women. Bisexual women are (mostly) excluded from the “bi-today-gay-tomorrow” narrative. However, they face a different kind of prejudice: fetishisation. Female bisexuality is regularly written-off as a fun, kinky phase that girls go through in young adulthood, before settling down with a man. Some small-minded straight men hear “bisexual” and think of one thing: threesome. This kind of prejudice is equally as damaging as the one experienced by bisexual men. It strips bi women of their identity, reducing them to little more than a male fantasy. Speaking to bisexual female friends of mine, the general consensus is they often find their sexuality treated like a trophy by straight men; their genuine attraction to women diminished to a goal on someone’s bucket list.

The problem isn’t helped by the fact lesbian porn — PornHub’s most popular category in 2018 — is created with the intention of catering to straight men. The extreme dramatisation of lesbian intercourse fuels the fetishised-illusion of female-female relationships and feeds the idea that lesbian/bi women are “performing” for men. This mentality can have dangerous consequences. Human Rights Campaign found that 61% of bisexual women experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner. The notion that bisexual women are hypersexual is incredibly detrimental to their safety.

Bisexual erasure is nothing new. For generations, the bisexual community has been grossly misrepresented in society and the media as promiscuous, indecisive, or simply made up. People find it easier to dismiss bisexuality because it’s an “invisible sexuality.” But, just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. When I came out as bisexual myself, I debated whether it would be more straightforward to say I was fully gay. That way, at least, I’d avoid the constant scrutiny and cross-examination of my sexual preference. Plus, I’m a guy with nearly-all female friends, who, until the age of 12, would only refer to Lady Gaga as “Mother Monster”… So it wouldn’t have exactly been an Earth-shattering revelation. However, whatever your sexuality, it’s vital to live your truth. Not someone else’s. Until we learn to stop forcing people into neatly-packaged boxes, we will never achieve true acceptance. So, as we continue to progress as a society, make sure you don’t forget the B in LGBTQ+.