Not Just Another Male Gaze

Zach Zane

10/6/16

The more time I spend in queer spaces, the worse I get at interacting with straight people, both male and female. I seldom enjoy talking to a straight man about his life, especially when our lives are so different. They don’t understand my queer vernacular language. My “Yass Kweens” are met with raised eyebrows and cocked heads. We don’t attend any of the same events, parties, or concerts. Not to mention that my job, as an LGBTQ writer and bi activist, obviously differs from theirs. They don’t quite understand exactly what it is that I do. They don’t understand how being bi is very different than being straight.

And when the topic of dating and women comes up, I’m usually offended by something either implicitly or explicitly misogynistic. I rarely find myself agreeing with them, and am always finding myself agreeing with the woman  that they’re complaining about.

I find myself saying things like, “Well she’s acting ‘crazy,’ which you shouldn’t say because that word is inherently misogynistic, because you interrupt her, belittle her ideas, and speak down to her.”

But I also struggle engaging with straight women, especially women with whom I’m interested in creating a romantic or sexual connection. At this point in my life, since I primarily exist in queer spaces, I grow uncomfortable and nervous around straight women. This is new for me. I’m a pretty confident guy, and have no problem making conversation. The issue is: I don’t want to be another white, cisgender, (seemingly) straight man who approaches a woman, attempting to “pick her up.” This is also why I look down and away when I see a woman on the street I’m attracted to. I don’t want to be another cis guy who objectifies a woman with my male gaze.

Since I can’t comfortably talk to women, let alone look at them, this obviously makes it very difficult to meet and date women. When I end up talking to a woman who I’m interested in, I find myself unconsciously engaging in my more effeminate mannerisms. I’ll say things like “I love your shoes” or “Oh my god! This outfit is really cute.”  I only realized recently that I did this. Surely, it was an unconscious tactic I used to let the women know I’m not straight. I’m bi. Of course, I’m read for being gay at this point, but I rather that than have these women think I’m another straight dude who’s going to sexually objectify them.

So this leaves me in an awkward place. I would like to meet more women and date more women, but I can’t. I’m too nervous. So I’ve found myself dating more men. This is completely fine, and I can still be bi while dating with and sleeping with one gender more often, but it’s an interesting dilemma. One I think that many bisexual men face.

Now when I’m upfront about my bisexuality with a woman I’ve met, it often comes off as overtly sexual. It’s because these women think of me as being gay, so by saying, “No, I’m bi,” it seems, in essence, like I’m saying, “No, I want to get in your pants.” I couldn’t tell you the number of times I’ve had women in queer space say to me, “Oh my god. You’re gorgeous. Urgh. I wish you were straight.” When I tell them that I am bi, they immediately become self-conscious and afraid. They treated me different because they thought there was no way I could be attracted to them, but when they find out there is a possibility, they shut down. When this situation happens, I say, “Thank you for the compliment. Have a nice night,” and I walk away. I don’t engage because these women are clearly very uncomfortable by the fact that I am bi, since they came onto me strongly.

I’m not sure what to do with all this. I hate posting articles without having answers to the questions I ask, but I’ve been struggling with this for a while now.

How does a bi man — who doesn’t want to be like the stereotypical objectifying straight guy — reveal that they’re bi in a way that’s not overtly sexual or predatory?

If you have any ideas, please share them in the comments and let me know.

Zachary Zane
Zachary Zane is a modern day Carrie Bradshaw from Los Angeles. His writing focuses on (bi)sexuality, gender, identity politics, dating, and relationships. He's currently a contributor at Cosmopolitan, Bustle, PRIDE, and Huffington Post Queer Voices. He's working on a novel, which explores the modern relationship between masculinity, vulnerability, and sexuality.