When I came out roughly five years ago, I did not have a large network of friends within the LGBTI community. Aside from the people I encountered discreetly online, I wasn’t sure how the LGBTI community functioned and how the various elements interacted with each other. However, even during my minimal interactions with those I chatted with online, one thing became abundantly clear to me: bisexuality was not welcome. In fact, the first guy I ever told I was bisexual replied, “Yeah, I was bisexual once too, but eventually you’ll ‘turn’ gay.”
That is one of the many reasons why, when I finally did come out in an online article, I came out as a member of the LGBTI community and did not specify where I fit into it. I did this because coming out was scary enough and I didn’t want to be immediately bombarded with messages about how I’m confused or how it is just a phase. After years of self-reflection, I knew who I was… I just wasn’t ready to fight the world over it.
Of course, soon after I came out, I did tell people that I identified as bisexual. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the reactions of my straight friends and family. While it’s certainly possible that many didn’t fully understand what I meant, I experienced universal acceptance from all of them and encouragement to bring any partner I may wind up with home. To this day, this is the group that has been most accepting of me… which feels odd to say as a member of the LGBTI community. Straight people are often painted as the bad guys and, in some cases, rightly so. But my experience as a bi man have been quite different.
The most critical and vocal opponents to my bisexuality that I routinely encounter are gay men. From sarcastic comments to outright dismissals, time and time again I’m told I’m not valid or really accepted by them; I’ve even been told I do more harm than good for our community by being openly bisexual. Since diving into the LGBTI community, this has been an ongoing issue and, while I have found an incredibly supportive group of gay men to call friends, it is one that I still see no end to. It is just something I have come to expect from this community.
Of course, after years of defending myself I am more than ready to go toe-to-toe with an ignorant person when they start attacking me; it’s certainly not how I like spending my time but sitting there doing nothing is as abhorrent to me as their misguided insults. I don’t seek out these altercations, but I am not one to back down from them once they get going. I’m not an angry or combative person by nature, but I feel like it imperative for people spewing this negativity to understand the harm they are doing to others.
It’s particularly devastating to hear because I know firsthand there are men out there who feel pressured to identify as gay instead of bi. I have had several conversations with numerous men, both in person and online, who have confided in me that they think they are really bisexual but are afraid to explore it or share that information with their gay peers.
They’re so afraid of the judgement, ridicule and dismissal that is associated with bisexually that they’re stuck in an entirely new closet, hiding from the persecution of others who, once upon a time, were in closets of their very own. I find it even more hurtful to be ridiculed by gay men for this very reason: they know exactly how much it hurts to be judged and persecuted for something they have no control over, yet here they are doing it to members of their own community and calling it a win trying to shame someone out of being who they really are.
Even thought it has been years, I still intensely remember what it felt like to have my bisexuality dismissed by the first person that I ever told— a gay man. My face flushed, my stomach swooped, my head spun and I felt such shame, embarrassment and confusion that it took years… literally years for me to build up to confidence to try to tell someone else again. During that time, I did a lot of self-reflection that only solidified my confidence in who I am, but I can’t help but wonder how my life would be different today if I had found acceptance instead of a dismissal all those years ago.
That’s part of why I am so vocal today. That is why my heart breaks every time I hear someone who is already a part of the LGBTI community tell me they are scared to be their true self. If I can help one person avoid those years of confusion and doubt, then it will all have been worth it to me. So please, if you need someone to talk to, never hesitate to reach out. All I have to offer are my own insights, opinions and experiences, but I can assure you that you will find no dismissals here.
If you’re one of the people out there routinely bashing bi poeple, I beg you to consider this: in our story, you are the oppressor. You’re the one who is keeping people down. You’re the one stopping people from living their true lives. Is that really the legacy you want to leave in the LGBTI community? If not, I’d urge you to reconsider your actions and join us here in 2020 where we are working towards acceptance, not intolerance, for all.