Imagine this — you match Tinder profiles with an independent man who drives a car worth fifty thousand dollars (or more). He’s smart, funny, well-traveled, he’s not an asymmetric model, but you can tell he works out by how his chest and biceps poke through his clothes, which excites you. He’s your type AND someone your friends would gush over.
He posts photos of his family and pets on his social media. He’s respectful and seems to be everything women are complaining about not finding in Youtube videos, leaving you a bit confused because, technically, he doesn’t exist.
And he may just give you “masculine” vibes or what some women call “big D energy.”
You send his Instagram profile to all your friends who confirm that you hit the jackpot. Some question his validity — “Escort?” one friend texts. “Catfish?” another friend suggests. “Gay!” a further friend proclaims.
After meditating and manifesting the whole COVID-19 pandemic, you are genuinely excited to find a man like this, which you feel you are owed after all you’ve been through.
You decide to meet the guy at a restaurant you’ve never heard of. You are taken back by the restaurants’ ambiance and the status of the customers, making you a bit self-conscious, which you playoff through subtle giggles and silence.
You begin to chat and laugh about current events and your family dynamics. The inevitable subject of “exes” comes up. You describe your last relationship, which ended a few months ago. He describes his last relationship, which ended a year ago, and mentions his ex is a man.
You feel yourself freeze. “Did he just say a man?” “A man, as in…someone with a penis?” you wonder. So, you ask for clarification, and he confirms that yes, his ex was a man.
Your mind begins to race. Mildly confused about why he asked you out, you proceed to ask, “So, are you…” and he interjects, “Bisexual, yes.”
You feel your body begin to sink into the chair — you’re melting like a stick of butter in a microwave. All your hopes, the wedding, the kids, this lifestyle you’ve always wanted begins to deflate in real-time. And you’re hoping your disappointment doesn’t show through your eyes, which it does.
In fact, you consider yourself woke and open-minded, and definitely not bi-phobic (citing the positive relationship with your gay cousin). Still, an openly bisexual guy is not something you’re interested in, and you’re not sure why.
You begin to think about what you know about bisexual men, and the last thing you heard about was some Oprah episode in the 2000s about black guys on the down low or “DL.”
You admit that you’re not 100% sure what bisexual even means. You want to ask your date questions like did he date a man once or several times? Is he the top or the bottom? All terms your cousins taught you, but you’re not sure what a bisexual person would find intrusive or offensive to ask.
As you go through these mental acrobatics, your date says, “I understand if you’re not interested,” which makes you even more confused because he appears to be so casual and confident and doesn’t attempt to explain himself to you.
Explain yourself to me! Your mind begs.
You politely power through the evening before getting on video chat with your friends and cousin later in the evening. You slowly stop responding to your dates texts and block him from social media.
BISEXUALITY & DATING
The world still seems to have issues understanding us who identify as bisexual or those whose attractions are not binary and contingent on many factors.
While the world has created space for bi women, in some cases celebrating them, which is progress, I want to hone in on my experience with dating as a (black) bi man, which until recently has only been the option of straight women and gay men.
It wasn’t until I was thirty years old that I understood dating other bi or fluid people was an option if I could only find them — which required my visibility as bi.
The dating sequence above may happen to a bi person on a regular basis. Depending on their confidence level, he may decide to conceal his identity to not be passed over or simply give up attempting to date period.
In my twenties, I experimented with various ways to tell my dates I was bisexual, as in immediately and before the date, during the date, and not at all.
Each method had its pluses and minuses. It’s important to note that I present as a masculine man so in many circumstances people cannot stereotypically detect me as not straight.
Most days it was easier not to be bothered with disclosure if I perceived my date or lover to lack the academic depth of my identity. As I’ve aged, I’ve become more content with being single than plagued by decisions of disclosure. Further, in 2021, I willfully identify as bi before a date occurs.
Unbeknownst to heterosexuals, some gay men (and lesbians I’ve heard) have a firm “no bi policy.” They cite that bi people are too close to heteronormative life.
I have found that gay men tend to be less hung up, at least initially, about dating a bi guy than women, until they also slowly stop responding to texts, too.
The idea of “the best of both worlds” and an international, buffet-style dating pool is true for some bi people but usually a misnomer and elusive fairytale for the handful of the bi-identified people I know.
Many of us experience an inevitable build-up to the moment of “disclosure.” There’s an internal debate (which feels like anxiety) about when, where, and how to tell someone you’re bisexual without losing the chance to date them or at least hook up.
For some, disclosure is too risky and they rather die.
Dating while also facing bi-erasure in society at large is at the root of this article. For years I felt I would rather be alone and not bothered with anyone than take on this iceberg of a task by dating outside of my orientation.
With the one or two bisexual people I was able to “find” who were single, interested, and physically and mentally attractive, I found myself being toxically clingy and desperate to keep them in my life, despite them not being a long term match.
Someone’s disinterest in another’s sexual identity should be debated. Another root purpose of this article is that debating is not worth the bi person’s time, nor does the bi person innately possess a responsibility to debate, educate, or refute stigma.
Of course, it’s crucial to denounce stereotypes and problematic beliefs as they pop up because they can lead to physical violence. Still, the idea of converting, pressuring, or bullying a straight person or gay person into accepting or validating me hurts me and removes social responsibility from them. My time is worth more.
Bisexually-identified men, and bi people at large, from my observation, face unique challenges should we be able to access the courage to inject ourselves into the digital dating worlds of Tinder, Bumble, Grindr, Jack’d and future apps bringing singletons together.
CHALLENGES BISEXUALS FACE WHEN DATING: PARANOIA
Many bisexuals, no matter our gender, hide our identity or are hyper-selective with who we ‘come out’ to, with many bisexuals electing not to be visible at all, period.
But why do we feel the need to hide? This is 2021. Love is love, right? Welllll, yes, for some.
Yes, some people are biphobic human beings. I have described biphobia in the past as not simply throwing a brick at someone who has purple hair but subtle discrimination and microaggression.
Calling someone biphobic, though, disengages them from the conversation by putting them on the defense about their character. To be clear, this does not gloss over their comments or beliefs, but strategically it is not effective communication.
I also identify as a black man, and this is similar to calling a non-black person “a racist.” These encounters can quickly become emotionally charged, and opportunities for genuine exchanges are almost immediately lost unless the person experiencing the judgment is willing to carry this weight.
First, for those who are open about their bisexuality, we are met with unfair assumptions that we will be more promiscuous and inclined to sleep around or that being in a relationship with one gender isn’t fulfilling enough. We will cheat to be fulfilled. And for men, our identity puts our women at risk of contracting an STI.
I’ve always wondered how bisexuality was assigned connotations of promiscuity and cheating when people of all sexualities indulge in these things. I was a bisexual virgin before I was a bisexual non-virgin.
Even now, as a thirty-something, I have gone a year as a celibate bisexual man as opposed to an active bisexual man. While our sexuality does allow us to be attracted to different types of people, sexual health is a conversation that impacts everyone who is active.
Still, the burden of disapproving stereotypes exists to a higher degree for bi folks dating outside our orientation. Thus, bisexuality may get sanitized to be seen as valid. The people who have numerous sex partners or are working through character issues like cheating are forced into other closets. They may also decide to participate in sanitizing their experience of bisexuality to appease the possibility of a date.
2. Second, it is not uncommon for bisexuals to be met directly with comments regarding “paranoia.” Sometimes people will use the word “paranoia” or the phrase, “I’m too paranoid to date a bisexual,” as a “nicer” way to reject.
“Paranoia,” in some cases, politely implies sexual disgust. Some homosexual people make insensitive jokes about how gross it is that a bi man may have engaged with [insert the body part] or how they are scared of [body parts]. Heterosexuals may respond with disgust at the thought of dating someone who has sexually engaged with [insert the body part].
But the essential issue here is that bisexuality is always seen as performative instead of experiential. Bisexuality inherits compulsive promiscuity, non-monogamy, and character flaws instead of inheriting what it actually is — the only orientation and identity with the capacity to take a non-discriminatory approach uninhibited by expression. And what if I am polyamorous and have multiple partners?
Some heterosexual women believe that “men cheat” or have “wandering eyes,” which heightens their sense of paranoia toward a bi-identified man. I have also heard gay men state that their paranoia derives from not having a vagina or a womb to produce children to please their partner in the long term.
I was recently on a podcast with Dr. Overstreet, a clinical sexologist. Dr. Overstreet asked me how I feel as a bi-man about men that have sex with men but identify themselves as straight. She stated that a lot of her male clients enjoy sex with men but identify as straight.
I’m an artist — songwriter and author, but I’m also bi (in real life), so when asked about visibility issues, I share my thoughts as I bring my whole self into my art and hope to help someone (like me) who may be facing suicidal thoughts over their bisexuality.
I responded that I am not the police and commissioner of how people identify, and it is apparent there is a huge disconnect between identity and performance in society that hurts bi people.
3. Third, some people see bisexuality as a code for ‘kinky.’ Many bi girls discuss this fetishization of their bisexuality by straight men online, but it also exists for bi men from gay men, and yes, even straight women.
One gay man once told me that the sheer thought of me having sex with a woman made him more interested in me because of my perceived proximity to being straight. I’ve also had a woman unknowingly bring a strap-on to a hook up expecting that was what I was into.
On the surface, many people struggle to comprehend bisexuality as its own standalone, functioning identity with a host of interests, preferences, and ideas about sex just like any other identity.
Some bi people are interested in kink. Some are vanilla. Some like threesomes and toys. Some fall asleep doing missionary on a Thursday.
Below are elements that I consider when I’m attempting to date that may be useful.
· Is this bi person interested in, and capable of, the monogamy and family dynamic I’m seeking?
· Does this bi person require sexual engagement and/or romantic engagement with the same or other genders to be happy?
· Is this bi person bi-curious or bisexual, and what does that mean to them?
· How much am I willing to educate about bisexuality and the bi community in order for this relationship with this bi person to work? Is it worth it?
· Am I secure in what I can offer and bring the needs of this relationship?
Some of these questions are through a bi lens, but I think everyone, no matter their sexuality has benefited from open and honest conversations from Day 1 or at least Day 2!
REJECTION IS PROJECTION
“Rejection is protection.” How is being rejected supposed to protect someone when it can be incredibly upsetting, hurtful, disaffirming, and sometimes feel like a personal attack when you cannot control your sexuality? How do you move through hurt when you’ve decided to be vulnerable (and honest) with a date and been met with rejection?
The cold-hearted answer is that you do not need someone who cannot accept who you are in your life. Period. You did not choose to be incarnated. Sometimes we are really, really attracted to and interested in the person who rejects us, which hurts much more. I have been there and it sucks!
But, if someone is unwilling to learn or even listen, or admit they are uninformed or express reluctance to overcome their biases, this is NOT THE BISEXUALS BURDEN. Dating is brutal for everyone, but respect and honesty go a long way.
This person is simply indicating that they have been compromised with beliefs that do not serve you. Whether internalized or externally expressed biphobia, unconscious bias is their own shortcoming to overcome.
Engaging with this energy may also reflect how you feel about yourself. It took me five to six years of real life to BEGIN to unlearn internalized stigma. And I’m here to tell you, you deserve better today. Better is out there specifically when it comes to possible romantic relationship partners.
As a black man, I am well aware of the term unconscious bias, and I think it applies here to a degree. While unconscious bias as a black man can result in my death or my ability to generate money to stay employed, people simply do not care to learn or engage in discourse that paints them as ignorant.
So, then the conversation for me becomes, “how do I find more bisexual people to date?” If we start dating with the commonality of bisexuality, this relieves some pressure and focuses on more useful topics like hobbies, interests, vision for the future, etc.
According to Pew Research, “Bisexual adults are much less likely than gays and lesbians to be ‘out’ to the important people in their lives, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of recently released survey data from Stanford University.”
How does our culture simultaneously empower people to be visible yet leave us feeling so disempowered by our bisexuality and the label of bisexual? We, bi-identified people, shouldn’t have to suffer in silence because people refuse to learn and grow.
Dating is an art with ebbs, flows, planning, and execution. Rejection is protection for all of us, no matter where we fall, but even more so for a person moving through binary expectations.
As a society, it is time we normalize asking people how they identify on the first date. By asking, “How do you identify” we indicate awareness and give people the space to self-report while also taking responsibility for our place in the world.
We can work towards tackling the biphobia we see in our daily lives and empowering bi-identified people to live their truth by creating spaces where love, in all its dynamics, is both possible and encouraged.