The Bi Failure Fallacy

By Blaize Stewart

December 22, 2022



Photo credit: Pexels/Quenani Leal

In the ruthless jungle known as junior high, I experienced what I consider to be the first formative failure of my life. Though there are undoubtedly countless other examples of missteps both before and after my pre-teen years commenced, this instance was the first in which I truly felt like I failed in the public arena. Of course, as an adult, it’s a bit laughable to think a moment like this could have such an impact on me, but at the time it was a devastating blow: the night I found out I did not make the seventh-grade basketball team.

Stepping out of a locker room polluted with copious amounts of Axe body spray and anxious chatter after the last night of tryouts, I was feeling excited to receive the letter which contained my fate from the coaches. As I stood in line with my eager peers, I was nervous but confident I would make the cut; I had played for several years and, while I was no star, thought I had done enough to earn a spot on the team. 

Positive young man thinking desire with crossed fingers and closed eyes against pink background.

When the moment of truth finally came, and my hands grasped my letter, I knew instantly I was mistaken; it was well known that those selected for the team were given envelopes packed with papers — schedules, permission slips, etc. — and mine was tragically slim. I had failed to make the cut, and I was devastated.

The odd thing is, I didn’t even really like basketball all that much. I tried out because it was the cool thing to do in junior high, and as a short, chubby kid, I desperately wanted to be a part of the in-crowd. My disappointment was less about basketball and more about feeling like I had failed to make the cut for social acceptance. While fortunately, I have grown in confidence since my junior high days (though I’d say my basketball skills remain pretty subpar) the feeling of failing to find social acceptance followed me well into adulthood, in large part kept alive by my experiences as a bi man.

This feeling of failure stems from statements — ranging from direct comments to snide jokes — I hear on a regular basis, serving as a constant reminder that according to many in this world, I am continuously failing by the way I express my sexuality.

I am told I am a failure because I am incapable of making a choice that others, fueled by narrow-mindedness and contempt, demand I make. I am a failure because I am unwilling to let an integral part of myself go to fit snugly into the hetero or homosexual boxes that these communities have constructed to maintain the status quo. Essentially, I am a failure because I refuse to fall in line with a system that I know does not represent me, or the countless others out there like me.

For many years of my life — both before and occasionally after coming out — these people were successful in making me feel like a failure, very reminiscent of the dismal social environment that is the hallmark of many a junior high experience. They were able to convince me I had somehow failed simply because they told me I was in the wrong — or, as is so often put to bi individuals, confused or in a phase.

However, eventually I realized by accepting their words as truth and allowing myself to be bullied into an identity that does not fit; I was failing on a much more profound and personal level. I was failing at being myself, at believing in myself and what makes me happy better than those passing through my life, throwing callous remarks in the direction of anyone who dares to challenge their narrow viewpoints. Once struck by that epiphany, I decided that the perception of failure from others was infinitely less important than staying true to myself.

To this day, I am still told I am a failure as a bi man. To some, I’m too queer; for others too heteronormative, and in terms of a polarized sexual orientation, I’d say they’re right: I have failed to meet the arbitrary benchmarks for validity in both communities. The only change from my younger years is that I no longer care if they think I am a failure. I do not consider it a success to provide bigoted people with random pieces of data in order to earn their approval — in fact; it’s quite the contrary.

I refuse to go through life believing I have failed just because others — who rarely, if ever, are willing to put in the effort to gain a true understanding of novel communities — have deemed it so. Of course, it’s not fun to regularly be labeled a failure, but I’ve learned that meeting the random expectations of success set by others doesn’t necessarily lead me to happiness. 

What brings me peace is finding comfort within; it’s not always easy to maintain, but it’s much more fulfilling to direct time and energy into sustaining that happiness myself than wasting it trying to convince others I have value. If they consider me to be a failure because I am a bi man, unfortunately, there’s not much I can do about it other than continue to exist proudly. As long as I do that, I can keep a smile on my face knowing I have at least not failed to be my real, imperfectly bi self.

An attractive man and woman laugh as they hold paint brushes in their hands. They are wearing aprons.


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