Meet Thad. Thad is in the Closet.
Meet Thad. Thad is bi. Thad is in the closet.
“I’m afraid if I come out as bi, it will be more difficult for me to date women,” Thad answered when I asked him to describe his fear of coming out fully as a bi man in just a single sentence. I know exactly how he feels. I had this same fear. You’re afraid you won’t have the opportunity to date women because women will reject you when you come out as bi. Which, as it turns out, isn’t entirely true. Although there are some women who will reject bi men, there are plenty of women in this world who are dating, married, and actively engaged in sexual relationships with openly bi men.
I asked Thad whether he felt the straight, gay, lesbian, and ace communities accept his bisexuality fully. He responded, “I don’t really think in terms of communities. I don’t live in an area with a very visible LGBT scene, so I don’t have any interactions with the community. Straight, gay, and bisexual individuals who I have come out to, however, have been very accepting.” Many of you reading this article might be in a similar boat. You might live in an area where there isn’t a noticeable LGBT scene. If you’re in a metropolitan area, it’s probably there. If you’re in a more rural area, it might be less noticeable or nonexistent. That’s where I plead with you to find bi communities online, or if you can’t, find a greater LGBT community on social media or from a quick type of the words into a search engine.
Thad says he also uses several words to describe himself other than bi. “I have used terms like ‘heteroflexible’, ‘undefined’, and ‘poly’, along with ‘bisexual’, he confessed. Flexi (short for heteroflexible or homoflexible) has become quite common in recent years to describe people who are either straight or gay/lesbian but who also have leanings towards other genders than they’re normally attracted to, and less so than the ones they are. “Undefined’, ‘unlabeled’, ‘no label’, or ‘labelless’ are often used for people who prefer not to label their sexuality but who are often attracted to many genders, as bi people are. And ‘poly’ (or more recently shortened to ‘ply’) are people who prefer the term polysexual as a descriptor for their sexuality, the prefix poly- coming from the Greek word polýs or polus meaning many, much, or plus.
Thad also noted an issue he had with our most recognized label. Thad remarked, “The ‘sexual’ root word of bisexual is troubling me, as it makes it seem that my orientation is solely focused on the sexual aspects of human interaction.” The concern Thad has about adding ‘-sexual’ to the end of bisexual is a concern many have had and not just in our community or even with that specific word itself. The gay and lesbian communities of late have recently started to push for eradicating the word homosexual from usage in print, opting for the friendlier and more commonly used slang terms for homosexuals: gay and lesbian. Also, when was the last time you’ve heard someone call themselves heterosexual? Most non-queer people just call themselves straight, at least in the circles I run in. And in the asexual community, they shorten it to ‘ace’. There is a similar push in our community to use ‘bi’ instead of ‘bisexual’, and bi.org and the American Institute of Bisexuality, it’s parent organization, is certainly a part of that campaign. In a world where it often seems everything is sexualized, it gives us a good feeling to also provide a way, through our own words and on our own terms, to dampen the sexualization of our own bi bodies by society as a whole.
Everyone has a moment in their lives when they first realize that they are bi. Thad was no exception. “As a child, I remember feeling strong attractions to certain male celebrities or even characters in comic books, without really knowing that this was, in fact, attraction. Around the same time, I was also becoming very interested in girls, and both sensations felt very much the same. I just assumed that my feelings for other males was something that I needed to keep private.”
Thad has evolved quite well over the years in his feelings towards his sexuality, but he has found that getting to experience the broad range afforded him by being bi isn’t always as easy as one would expect. He said, “I’ve fully accepted my bisexuality, but I’ve found that I’m increasingly attracted to a narrower range of women. With online apps and sites, it’s just been easier for me to meet guys who are more of my ideal physical type. I haven’t been so lucky with women. I also find that men are far more interested in me than women are. I’m not unattractive, but women have never really lined up to beat down my door. Guys, however, are really into me in a way that I’ve never experienced before. The ego and self-esteem aren’t blind to this positive attention, so my attractions get focused back on males more often than women.”
I asked Thad about what reservations he has about coming out fully to the world as bi. “My reservations are many,” he retorted. “I can’t envision myself in a same-sex marriage, but I also want to be in an honest relationship with a partner. I’ve focused my search for romance/dating on bisexual women, hoping that I can still have a ‘traditional’ relationship, but with a woman who understands and supports my orientation. Narrowing my potential dating pool even further, obviously presents concerns about lowered possibilities of finding a good match.” I understand all too well the need to be honest. The crippling fear it brought because of my inability to confess my bisexuality to potential female dates prevented me from actually dating them and having any sexual relationships for a decade of my life. Be braver than I, please. Thad continued, “The current political climate also causes reservations. I’m hesitant to come out any further, to face potential bias and discrimination from the government. As an African-American man, I already know what it’s like to deal with bias and discrimination, so I’m not eager to add another reason for people to NOT like me.”
What negative comments had Thad heard from family and friends about bi people? He revealed, “I don’t really hear too many disparaging remarks about bisexual people, from my friends and family. Some of the friends who I am out to have innocently asked why I can’t pick one gender or the other. Some have asked if my past attractions and relationships with women were just ‘cover’. With a bit of conversation, I’ve been able to explain or educate them on the reality of bisexual attraction.”
Thad said that he isn’t aware of our large online bi presence, except for a few organizations such as bi.org and AmBi. He stated, “I’m not in an area with an AmBi chapter, so that organization is not really an option for me. Most of my interactions with members of the bisexual community comes through dating or hookup apps. I’ve done more talking and chatting, to support each other, on those apps, rather than using them for the intended purpose.”
He has also tried to be active in the LGBT nightlife. Thad noted, “I have been to a few gay bars, but as a bisexual man, I prefer places with a greater mix of sexual orientations. A bar with a ‘Bi Night’ would be perfect! As I said earlier, I really think a bisexual female would be my ideal partner, so any venue that could facilitate that meeting would be much appreciated!” Thad has also found a few people in real life who are similar to him in which he can discuss relevant issues concerning his sexuality. He elated, “I have some lesbian and bisexual female friends, so I’ve used them for support. My therapist is also a lesbian, so she is extremely important as a resource for support. I have been making efforts to make more friendships in the LGBT community for additional support.”
I wondered about whether Thad would ever fully come out to everyone in his life, and what exactly would facilitate that coming out. Thad answered, “I’m out to most of my friends and my brother. I’m not out to my parents or at work. My mother had asked me if I was gay before, but I honestly answered ‘no’. I just did not know what bisexuality was at the time. If she were to ask again, I’d be honest about being bisexual. Being bisexual, with romantic interests in both genders, coming out to my parents, or at work, would be based on if I found myself in a committed long-term relationship with another man. If I’m going to ultimately be in a relationship with a woman, I don’t think my parents or coworkers need to know about my attractions to men.” Thad said he had never been in a same-sex relationship but that he’s had long-term ‘friends-with-benefits’ situations.
What about being bi brings Thad the most joy and comfort? Thad responded, “Finally accepting that I’m bisexual has helped me stop wrestling with my sexual orientation. I’d often be confused about how I could be attracted to guys and girls, because I didn’t know what bisexuality was. Now that I can embrace both attractions, I feel that my self-esteem has improved. Being accepting of sexual and romantic interests for other men has made me feel wanted and appreciated, where in the past, being sometimes rejected by women left me feeling that I had NO romantic or sexual prospects. I also feel far more optimistic about my long-term romantic future, knowing that I have many more potential mates.”
That is Thad’s story.
In an effort to bring to the public the fears and discouragement of why many bi people choose to remain in the closet, I present to you a series of interviews with those I call “damp bi” folk. Though just as fluid in their sexuality as any openly bi person, a damp bi is someone who cannot fully embrace their fluidity in their sexuality safely or surely, and therefore are only “slightly wet”. This series hopes to instill in the reader a sense of encouragement and hope, for those in the closet, and a sense of awareness and insight to those non-bi folks who want to encourage bi people to live their lives openly and proud.
52% of LGB persons surveyed are bi, according to most recent statistical analyses. Many bi people remain slightly wet. This ranges from gay and lesbian identified people who also have attractions to other genders, straight identified people who are also attracted to many genders, asexual identified people who sometimes have sexual attraction to men, women, and non-binary folk, and the average person who gives no hint of their sexuality but is generally perceived by others to be straight. This suggests numbers may be higher among the non-LGBT demographics. What can you do to encourage bi people to come out? Do you help facilitate a safe environment for bi people to feel comfortable coming out to you? Do you see the importance of people living as their true selves, to be able to talk openly about the relationships they are in regardless of gender?