I Can't Always Be the Only Bi Man in the Room
By Lewis Oakley
August 05, 2017
Photo credit: Unsplash/hangbok Ko
Did you know that only 12% of bi men are out in the US? To put that another way, almost NINETY percent are in the closet, terrified to reveal their sexuality to those closest to them. It should then be no surprise that the odds of getting two bi men in one place are slim.
I've often looked at my gay friends with envy; what must it be like to know others like you? To be able to discuss topics like sex positions, attractions, and if a date's behavior classes as normal. Same with my straight mates, they have each other to discuss girls and the expectations of society.
Due to there being no real effort to bring young bi men together, I don't have that. I don't have any bi men my age as good friends — sure, I've met a handful, here and there, but other than sharing a sexuality, we never clicked as friends. Imagine if every straight person had to be friends with every other straight person because they're both straight.
No one close to me shares my sexuality, which means when issues arise, I'm at the mercy of either gay or straight friends for advice. But I'm not gay or straight. Bi people have a unique worldview; our perspective is different. And it's a perspective that's difficult to understand. That's why they call us confused — they're actually saying they're confused.
Recently I attended the Pride parade in London, where I was to meet up and march with a bi group. You might think I'd be thrilled, but something else washed over me — anxiety! And then I realized why: I'd gotten used to feeling like the odd one out. I've been writing my own rules for so long I've actually grown to prefer it. Unlike many other demographic groups based on orientation, race, religion, etc., I've never been around people like me, nor is there broad representation in popular culture for me to refer to. I was left to deal with my unique bi issues in a vacuum, which also gave me the freedom to define myself without a lot of societal expectations or pressures. With so few bi men confident to come out, I've gotten used to not having them around.
This situation isn't new. For decades both gay and straight people have spent their time trying to convince bi men that they are gay. LGBTI groups have never been there to help us. In fact, the only time bi men receive funding or attention from LGBTI organizations is when we're grouped in with gay and lesbian issues. We've never been important enough to demand attention, and when people try, they're beaten back down and told bisexuality doesn't exist. That's why bi people are the least likely to be out, that's why bi people are the least likely to know others like them, and that's why bi people are the most likely to suffer mental health problems.
It's probably hard for people to empathize, so ask yourself, how would you feel if you were the only straight person you knew? The only gay person? That feeling that no one else understands, the fear of being told it's just a phase and to come out as gay already.
Whilst I've made peace with being the odd one out, the situation desperately needs to change. We must get bi venues and groups to bring people together so that people can find others who share not only their sexuality but also other interests that foster friendships. We need to create an environment where both gay and straight people stop bullying those who are bi and give us the space to live our lives authentically.
Maybe if we can make this happen, sometime soon, more than just 12% of bisexual men will feel comfortable enough to be out.