Being Bi You Can Still “Pick a Side”

12/10/2018

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“You’re actually bisexual?” an older new friend of mine asked during dinner last week.

“Living and breathing,” I replied, bracing myself for the inevitable interrogation ahead.

“Okay, can I ask you something?” he said, to which I begrudgingly nodded.

My friend then launched into a long story about how he had a passionate tryst with a married queer man about 20 years ago. The man explained to him that he was in fact, bi, and while he loves his wife and kids, he feels he made a huge life mistake. He would have preferred to have a gay lifestyle— going to gay bars, dating men, having a crew of queer friends, and having the occasional sexual encounter with a woman. (Instead, unfortunately, he cheats on his wife during business trips.)

My friend then asked, “Do you ever feel compelled to pick a side?”

Yes, I do, and the truth is, I already have. While I am still bi, and will always be bi — my lifestyle, work, friends, mannerisms, and the spaces I feel most comfortable in are gay.

It’s a bizarre feeling because when you “pick a side.” You are, of course, still bisexual. As we all know by now, you’re still bisexual in a monogamous marriage, you’re bisexual even if you’ve never experimented sexually with the same (or a different) gender. You’re still bisexual because your attractions to multiple genders remains intact.

Nevertheless, in my experience, you do somewhat lose your capability to be a part of straight (or as in the example with the married bi man) gay culture.

That’s not to say it’s impossible. As I wrote last week, I can go out with straight male friends and feel welcomed while still being my fabulously flamboyant queer self.

But, it is different. Even though I’m fully embraced, I still am not necessarily myself. That’s because I can’t talk about RuPaul’s Drag Race with these friends or use any queer slang — which has become second nature to me. Eyebrows get raised when I screech, “Ohh, sis, that’s a read!”

That’s why I end up being much more aware of my (queer) behaviors, language, and mannerisms when I’m with these friends. Thus, while accepted, I still am not fully me.

Since I’ve come out, my mother has consistently said that I’ll end up being more gay or straight depending on who I end up settling down. I’ve always been frustrated by these statements and reiterate, “Yes, I will be committed to a single person, but I will still be bi.”

My mother then vehemently agrees, but a few months later, expresses the same sentiment again.

Now, I realize what she was saying wasn’t accidentally biphobic, rather, she was just referencing how my life will likely play out (while also encouraging me to “settle down” and be in a monogamous relationship so I can pop out some grandkids for her).

It’s tough to effortlessly flow between gay and straight cultures. Often times, we find ourselves liking one more and then spending more time among those people in those spaces. Then, our ability to engage in the other culture/lifestyle becomes harder and harder, until eventually, we feel like a stranger in that community.

As in my case, it’s not necessarily because you’re not welcomed, it’s because you’ve become used to hanging out with a certain group of people who act a certain way, and their way of living differs greatly from the other group.

I know this isn’t true for everyone! Some bi folks have no problem navigating between both gay and straight worlds, and if you can, more power to you!

And as more bi people come out publicly and embrace their attractions to multiple genders, we will continue seeing the emergence of bi a culture, which in my experience involves playing board and card games, having short bobs for haircuts, and watching adult cartoons.

As modern bi culture continues to grow, let’s continue being our fabulous bi selves, and while never feeling pressured to “pick a side,” not feel guilty for finding ourselves drawn towards either the gay or straight community.

Zachary Zane
Zachary Zane a Brooklyn-based freelance writer, speaker, YouTuber, and activist whose work focuses on (bi)sexuality, gender, identity politics, relationships, and culture. He's a contributing editor at The Advocate Magazine, a columnist at Bi.org, and currently writes for The Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, Out Magazine, and PRIDE.