Image Credit: Anna Clark
I was 17 when I first realised I was bisexual. I found myself at a turning point in my life and I didn’t know what to do; I was scared people would judge me if I came out, that friends would find it awkward and that it would eventually come to define who I was. I spent months stressed and anxious until a year later when I found the courage to open up to my close friends and girlfriend. Even now it’s still something I’m quite private about, in fact this is the first public space I’ve spoken about my sexuality at all (Hi Mum.) Since I came out to friends there’s thankfully been no real confrontation and it’s been easier than I had expected. There is, however, one thing that I still struggle with.
I don’t feel gay enough.
One of the reasons it took me so long to come out was because I didn’t know what it truly meant to be bisexual; there are many vicious stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding the topic that as a teenager it was hard to come to terms with it all. I just didn’t know what it truly meant to be bi. I’d never heard it talked about in a positive light, or even really talked about at all. Growing up I was told bisexuals are “just gay but in denial”, “sitting on the fence” or that they “ just want more people to get with”. Being bi was a playground punchline, a wildly misunderstood concept that became entangled with rumour and stereotype.
At the time I thought nothing of it but looking back on it, this taboo made discussion about sexuality virtually impossible and has spawned a whole variety of anxieties about what it means to be gay or bi in 2019. Firstly, I feel like many members of the LGBT community are isolated by the fact they don’t ‘look’ or ‘act’ in the parameters of what is considered to be gay or bisexual. It sounds ridiculous and it is. For some, the LGBT community is just Queer Eye, RuPaul and the occasional camp guy at work - if you don’t fit their narrow scope for queerness then you just aren’t gay enough. But where does that leave those like me, those who are distinctly masculine but find themselves attracted to both genders? For a bit of context, I look more like a car thief than someone who belongs on a Pride float.
It can often be hard to feel part of a culture that you don’t see yourself in and there are so few examples of bisexual men in the media that look and talk like me. I didn’t fit the LGBT blueprint and I felt alienated, that maybe I wasn’t actually bi because I didn’t fit these static ideas of gay culture. For a while I had a sort of queer imposter syndrome where I found it hard to see myself as bisexual. I didn’t feel gay enough but I knew I wasn’t straight.
It’s a ridiculous situation to find yourself in, sexuality isn’t about how you look or act, it’s about who you are and how you feel. Still, I struggled for a while to accept my sexuality due to a narrow view of LGBT culture that I grew up with and that still circulates today.
It’s often hard for men to come out as bisexual because it’s a something that clashes with traditional ideas of masculinity, that men who are bisexual either aren’t gay enough or aren’t manly enough. Not that this issue isn’t also an incredibly important one for women, but a recent study has shown that men are half as likely to come out as bisexual. That leaves an awful lot of men who are too scared to come out and it’s not hard to see why. Studies show that men who are openly bi often struggle to find a partner, straight women might not like the fact that they’ve slept with guys and gay men might struggle to be with someone who isn’t purely attracted to the same sex. I’m so grateful for my girlfriend being comfortable with my sexuality as this was something that I was worried about when I first came out. I know for many this is unfortunately not the case.
These anxieties are also an issue of identity, bisexuals are sometimes told that they don’t belong. In the few months I’ve been out and proud I’ve been told that I’m “too pussy to admit I’m gay” by a straight person, “ just attention seeking” by another and that I’m “not actually gay, like not properly” by a member of the LGBT community. It shattered my confidence and left me doubting why I came out in the first place, or even if I was actually bi. It felt like I just wasn’t gay enough.
So you many wonder why I’m telling you all this, why should you care?
In brief, I feel like there’s an often toxic stigma attached to bisexuality and a distinct one linked to men. It manifests itself in crude jokes, off hand remarks and misguided opinions that chip away at the confidence of gay and bisexual individuals, leaving many scared to come out. These anxieties are not specific to me, they’re not even specific to bisexual men. They’re something universal and unless we start tackling them head on, they will continue to make life unpleasant for members of the LGBT community struggling with their identity and sexuality.
These are some complex and wide reaching issues but they need to be challenged if we wish to create a more open and tolerant space for those scared to come out. Queer people aren’t going to feel accepted if their sexuality isn’t accepted as legitimate. We also need a greater variety of gay, lesbian and bisexual figures in the media from a broader range of backgrounds. While 2019 has shown far greater diversity in the media, the scope for sexuality from differing backgrounds seems fairly narrow and it’s easier to feel comfortable about who you are when you have role models who reflect your upbringing. We also need to address the root cause of all these issues, starting to properly educate children on sexuality to break down these insecurities and prejudices that build up as a result of an overwhelming lack of knowledge.
We may live in a more tolerant society than we did 10 years ago but there is still more to be done to make people feel comfortable in their identity and sexuality, no matter who they are. Perceptions of bisexuality need to change - I’m tired of being told I’m not gay enough and I know I’m not alone.