Being a Bi Man Isn’t About Being a “Masculine” Fantasy
I’ve been volunteering for Bi.org booths in PRIDE festivals at various cities now for several years. It’s fun, rewarding, and I love doing it. Bi people, being the majority of the LGBT community, are nevertheless woefully and shamefully underrepresented at most, if not all, Prides. So, it’s wonderful to see the faces of thousands of bi people who visit our booth, delighted to see themselves represented at their local PRIDE festival.
In addition to giving away tons of sweet bi prizes, including our fun and kicky “Bi Kisses,” the Bi.org booth welcomes visitors to “Ask a Bi Person.” There are a lot of misconceptions out there about bi people, so it is a meaningful opportunity to set the record straight (so to speak) one visitor at a time. Not every question we get asked is polite. Some are outright hostile. And some, while well intentioned, demonstrate an unintentional lack of sensitivity, as well as a lack of understanding. But, hey, that’s why we’re here: to address these issues. So, I try not to take offense (and even if I do, I try not to show it). It’s a bit like being a bi diplomat for a day.
I’ve been asked if I’m “really” bisexual. I reply that I am and if they still doubt it I sometimes joke that they are welcome to interrogate my wife and my boyfriends about it. I’ve been asked if someone has to be exactly “50/50” into men and women to be bisexual. They do not; “homoflexible” and “heteroflexible” definitely qualify.
One question I’ve never been asked is “are bi men more masculine than gay men.” But that’s only because the assumption is so ingrained in the minds of some people that they wouldn’t think to question it. Instead, I’m constantly asked questions that clearly assume this stereotype is true. Recently, at San Diego Pride, a gay gentleman asked me, and I quote: “Are these the colors of the bi flag? Pink, purple, and… lavender? Because I would have thought you guys would choose more ‘manly’ colors – you know like green and brown or something like that.”
I found this question amusing for several reasons.
1) The bi colors are pink, purple, and blue (not lavender). I guess the sun was hitting our flag just wrong at that moment.
2) There’s nothing inherently “feminine” about these colors. In fact, attitudes around color like this are extremely arbitrary. Just a couple generations ago pink was regarded as the color for boys and blue was a color for girls.
3) The flag’s colors were chosen very carefully. The purple between the pink and blue represents bisexuality – the combination of homosexual and heterosexual attractions.
4) Bi men aren’t all perfect examples of our culture’s “masculine” ideals (which are also arbitrary and constantly evolving, anyway).
5) There are bi people besides men, and they deserve to be represented by the bisexual flag just as much as we guys do.
I had quite a few reasons to laugh at this fellow’s question, but I resisted the impulse. Instead, I carefully explained all of these things to him. I then added that some bi guys feel fetishized by certain gay men who see our sexuality as a kind of kink – a chance to be with a “macho” guy. After all, bi guys are attracted to women – and that somehow makes us more manly, right?
NO! (Forgive the bluntness, but this premise, underlying the gentleman’s entire question, is just so insanely homophobic and sexist that it deserves a blunt reply). Why is this assumption sexist, homophobic, and biphobic? Well:
1) It assumes that gay men are more “feminine” than straight or bi men. I mean, I’ve met some gay guys who better embody “masculine” stereotypes than I do. Who hasn’t?
2) It assumes that being “feminine” is somehow undesirable or inferior to being “masculine.” While it may be that this particular gay man prefers “masculine” guys, not all gay men do. Not all people do.
3) It assumes that bi men are all more “masculine” than gay men. As I’ve already stated, this is not true. Being attracted to women doesn’t automatically make someone masculine. In my case, it makes me bisexual (and sexual orientation is quite distinct from gender performance).
4) Just like colors, ideas of “masculinity” are culturally determined and extremely arbitrary.
In short, being a bi man isn’t about being a gay guy’s “masculine” fantasy. Who can really meet all of the impossible standards set by our culture’s oppressive idea of “masculinity”? Bisexuality is about liking more than one gender. That’s it. If you’ve never met a feminine bi guy, you haven’t been looking. Just like not all lesbians are “butch” and not all gay men are “queens,” not all bi guys are a fantasy of masculinity. Our sexual orientation is more than your porn fetish. Sorry.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Personally, I don’t mind being fetishized in this way. I think fetishes of all sorts are related to taboos and who am I to judge what consenting adults do with one another for fun? Please don’t let the sexist assumptions that fuel your fetishes infect your worldview as it relates to an entire group of people. Let’s all just be ourselves, date whomever we like, enjoy whatever fetishes we have (even those inspired by taboos) and not be jerks about it.
So, if you’re someone who fetishizes “masculine” stereotypes, cool. That’s fine. That’s between you and your partner(s) – and maybe your search history. But it’s totally unrelated to bisexuality. Please don’t assume all bi guys are exactly the same. Bi guys exist, even if some of them aren’t your type.