Opinion

This is what it's like to be a bisexual man in 2018

Posted by
Emily Reynolds
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This is what it's like to be a bisexual man in 2018 2

Tabloids went wild when Harry Styles, fashion icon and all-round heartthrob, appeared on stage singing lyrics hinting at his own bisexuality: “The boys and the girls are in, I’ll mess around with them, and I’m OK with it.”

But what is it really like to be a bisexual man in 2018? ShortList spoke to three men to find out.

Lewis, 26, in a relationship with a woman

How did people react when you first came out as bisexual?

It’s sad but I think a lot of people thought my coming out as bisexual was me taking the first step to coming out as gay. Whilst many would call this reaction biphobia, I think of it more as bi-ignorance. Maybe I’m too optimistic for my own good, but I think people just haven’t had bisexuality explained to them properly and that is why they come out with some rather inaccurate assumptions.

What do you think the biggest misconceptions are about bisexual men?

My girlfriend is asked quite regularly if I still sleep with men or if we have an open relationship, which we don’t. Just because I have the capacity to be attracted to men and women doesn’t mean I need both all the time. In truth, I’m no different to a straight or a gay person in a relationship: yes, I see people all the time that I’m attracted to, but I chose to be in a monogamous relationship with the woman I love so just like anyone else I don’t act upon it.

Is dating easier or harder? 

I think being bisexual has made me better at being a boyfriend; dating different genders teaches you a lot of things you don’t even realise you’re learning. For example, even when dating a girl there are fewer subconscious gender roles because I have the experience of being in a relationship with a man. I think the open mindedness helps you tackle any issues that come your way in a relationship.

How do women you date generally feel about it? 

The sad reality is some women can be downright outrageous when it comes to bisexuality. I have had women that I am not even interested in look me in the eye and confidently say “ugh I could never date a bisexual.” Personally, I don’t feel they would be so confident to look me in the eye and tell me they wouldn’t date me because I’m mixed race. In my eyes there is no difference: someone is discriminating against me because of something I cannot (and do not want to) change about myself. 

This is clearly not the case with all women; my girlfriend and I met at a house party where I was kissing another man. It didn’t bother her in the slightest. Yes, here and there she has questions but no more than anyone encountering something they haven’t experienced before.

Lots of bisexual men say they face stigma within the gay community, too. Have you ever experienced this?

In my experience the stigma from the gay community is the most severe. I recall one instance where I was kissing a girl I’d met in a club and my gay friends took a picture which they posted on a group chat with the caption ‘disgusting, a gay guy getting seduced by a girl in Soho’. They spent days laughing about that. It’s not fair, I am there for any gay person suffering homophobia but all too often gay men are the ones perpetrating biphobia.

I do feel that a lot of gay men struggle to understand sexuality outside of their own experience. Many of them will have called themselves bisexual on their way out of the closet, and they struggle to realise that’s not what everyone is doing.

This is what it's like to be a bisexual man in 2018

Harry Styles, who made headlines when he alluded to bisexuality in a song lyric

Do you feel like there should be more representation of bisexual men in the media?

I think representation of bisexuals in the media is the only way we are going to change things. Only very limited research around bisexuals exist, but one study found that only 12% of bisexual men are out of the closet compared to 77% of gay men. That’s almost 90% in the closet! 

The thing is: bisexuality is invisible. When I walk down the street with my girlfriend, people presume I’m straight - bisexual people can’t even represent themselves in everyday life. Media could be a powerful tool, to have many bi characters showing all the different shades of bisexuality.

One area that I would love to see tackled is the idea around bisexuality being a phase. I’d like picture campaigns on public transport of old couples hugging while one holds up a sign saying ‘Married 25 years and I’m still bisexual.’

Do you think it’s now easier for bisexual men compared to when you first came out?

I think it’s harder to be bisexual today! We’ve seen just this week a young boy driven to suicide when he came out as bisexual. All the old issues are still there; we still don’t have a bisexual community. I always say despite being 26 and living in London I’ve still never knowingly been in a room with ten other bisexuals my age. It’s lonely, I’ve no one around me who understands, no one to run things past, I’m always at the mercy of gay and straight advice.

Tom, 23, not out

How do you identify, and what’s your relationship status?

I’m currently single and identify as bisexual/queer. I find both men and women attractive, but also trans men and women, so I don’t always like to put myself in the bisexual label, as it feels trans exclusionary.

What do you think the biggest misconceptions are about bisexual men, and do these contribute to you not being out? 

Among some heterosexual men there is a general anti-gay vibe, verging on militant, so when I hang out with straight men and they might be aware of my attraction to me, they suddenly think I’m obsessed with trying to fuck them. I guess gay men face this too.

I’m not fully out because I’m young and don’t think I’ve fully formed a sexuality yet. I’ve only ever been in serious relationships with women, so I find it easier to relax into this assumed heterosexuality than have people quiz me about my orientation and try and work it out on the spot.

How do you find dating?

I find it easier to date women because, as above, I’m assumed to be straight so find it easier to hide behind that. As for trying to date men, apps like Grindr have got me worried that I’d only be used as a sexual object. It’s certainly more difficult to date in the gay/male bisexual community because of a lack of emotional need, and more of a physical relationship desired.

Do you think it’s easier for bisexual man than it has been in the past? 

As mentioned above, I’ve been able to use this assumed straightness, so being bisexual has always been quite easy for me because I’m not totally out about it. As a white man also I benefit in a lot of ways in society, meaning that it’s never really been that hard. 

This is what it's like to be a bisexual man in 2018 1

Pedro Pascal, who plays bisexual Oberyn Martell in Game of Thrones

Andrew, 25, single

How did people react when you first came out as bisexual?

I had loads of different reactions, mostly neutral. But some people have made jokes about me being promiscuous and “greedy”, as well as being told to “pick a side and stick with it”. 

What do you think the biggest misconceptions are about bisexual men?

Some friends tell me that it must be “so much easier” to be attracted to both genders, as it almost doubles my chances of finding the right person. But I think the opposite is true. I find myself worrying whether I’d be happier with the other gender when in monogamous relationships.

Another misconception that’s probably more familiar is that bisexual men (and only men) are really just gay closet cases. I’ve heard this so much that it forced me do some real soul searching in my younger years to see if that was the case – for me it wasn’t.

Is dating easier or harder?

Strangely, I find dating a little easier probably because of my own fear of commitment – in the back of my mind I kinda know I won’t be seeing the other person for very long, which allows me to have fun and be less anxious.

How do the women you date generally feel about it?

Recently I dated a bisexual girl who was totally cool with it. We didn’t talk too much about it but she said “you’re just trying to work it out, that’s fine”. I also dated a girl who was really, really into it, which made me super uncomfortable.

I have had experiences where girls were instantly turned off by it, saying that they want to be with a ‘real man’. Which sucked. A few sugarcoated their reactions with excuses of their own insecurity of having to compete with other men but I believe it wasn’t that.

Lots of bisexual men say they face stigma within the gay community, too. Have you ever experienced this?

Yeah, a lot of guys have flat out told me that I am not bisexual and that I’m gay. I’ve often told guys that I’m gay just to avoid that.

Do you think it’s now easier for bisexual men compared to when you first started dating or first came out?

Yeah, I think it’s quite a normal thing to say these days. I still think it’s a huge statement to make but I know of lots of my straight male friends who have hooked up with guys – the stigma is less today.

(Images: Getty)