James W. Hicks, M.D.

"You’re Really Just Gay."

In Myths on July 7, 2010 at 7:33 pm

There are several reasons why few in their right mind want to call themselves “bisexual.” The term is misunderstood, which is why young people and researchers have been inventing a slew of more interesting terms, like the ones listed in the header of this blog.

With tongue partly in cheek, here’s the first of a dozen reasons not to call yourself bisexual:

Most open-minded individuals and gay rights organizations will pay lip service to the hypothetical possibility of bisexuality. But most people do not believe that bisexuality really exists, except perhaps as a transitional phase or a statistical deviation from the natural categories of straight and gay.

In fact, as I started writing the book that led me to create this blog, I was repeatedly asked, “Do you really believe that?” and, “You’re not bisexual, are you?” Friends challenged me to name a certifiably bisexual person, and examples were dismissed as “really gay.”

Both gays and straights are motivated to deny the existence of more flexible sexual orientations. Gays have found it strategic to argue that homosexuality is an unchangeable, biological category and not a choice. For straight men and women, homosexuality is the exception that proves the rule, leaving their masculine and feminine identities unquestioned. The hidden in-between is threatening to both ends of the spectrum.

In fact, studies have consistently shown that more people identify as bisexual than as gay or lesbian, and even more have had attractions to, and experiences with, both genders.

But if you don’t look for something, you won’t see it.

  1. I think you hit the nail on the head. Bisexuality is hard to put into a neat little parcel. The term is wide reaching in that there is no line on which it sits. Gay and straight are not natural categories but polar ends of a spectrum. Finite. Easily pinned. I recall a night in a gay bar where I became exacerbated by the discussion about bisexuality or as the concensus in the room sat; “there is no such thing as bisexuality”. I professed my orientation as bisexual to a volley of derisive remarks about “my confusion”. I was hurt by that. I no longer am hurt by that because I realize there is arrogance, ignorance and intollerance everywhere. Just because someone has made the journey to out, gay(lesbian too), and proud does not mean that there is true empathy within. I digress. I think that the notion of bisexuality is threatening to gay people because I believe that many people who have self identified as gay have gone through a process to get there. I have read and been told countless times that many gay people go through a bisexual phase “on their way to gay”. In that bar that night, I was told I was gay because bisexuality is “just a wiegh station on the way to gay”. Big grins all around. That I was in denial about my true feelings or attractions. One woman spoke up and said she is bisexual too and many of the lesbians reacted negatively to that as well. I watched the group carefully and thought that I saw some behaviour that betrayed a threat response. One thing did stand out and that was the vehemence with which the group attacked our statements. The response was way overboard and with about 20 people overtalking each other to address the two of us.
    Taking away the hard ground that polar opposites provides means people have to wade into the water inbetween. Many people are afraid to wade into waters unknown for good reason. There are risks to moving away from the known. I believe, however, there is a much greater risk holding on to the known at the expense of seeking that which is yet unknown.
    You also wrote: “Gays have found it strategic to argue that homosexuality is an unchangeable, biological category and not a choice”. I believe that bisexuality, too, is not a choice. Changeable perhaps; it is fluid. I say ‘perhaps’, because I feel that being bisexual is not about choosing a same sex attraction or an opposite sex attraction, but is the state of having attractions to both genders and that attraction may waver or change over time. Still, not a choice. I think that the notion of bisexuality steals some thunder from the accomplishment of the homosexual individual that has done the work to come out. I believe being out can be like wearing a badge of honour too. You can reach me at bisexual.com, I’m BiCycler.

  2. BiCycler, you’re right: I didn’t mean to imply that anyone’s sexuality was simply a choice. We have little control over the various forces that lead to affection and sexual desire. That said, many “straight” people have capacities for same-sex attraction and arousal that they choose not to explore because it is stigmatized, not because they wouldn’t otherwise enjoy it.

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