Not Just Another Male Gaze

Zach Zane


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.

  • I think as a starting point you need to be able to distinguish the difference between stereotyping and generalising. There is a stereotypical heterosexual man who objectifies women, but that stereotype is only reinforced when people generalise all men as living up to that stereotype whatever they do. It’s become increasingly common for men to end up stuck in a situation where they simply cannoy win, because no matter what they do they’re at risk of being labelled as sexist or misogynist. There’s no need to generalise all heterosexual men as behaving the same way, and then altering your own behaviour accordingly to try and avoid it as if heterosexual men are a contagion best avoided.

    Granted, it’s not easy for bisexual guys at all. As one myself, the greatest dissatisfaction from my sexuality stems from the sheer isolation from other people… to never quite fit in alongside anyone else. It can be a thing of pride and self-validation to take ownership of your bisexuality, but equally sometimes I feel so much happier going along with it when people presume I’m heterosexual or gay. Both are less of a minority than bisexuality is, and it stands to reason that when you off-guard present someone with a minority they weren’t expecting they just sometimes don’t know what to say. It’s a problem created by the sheer preoccupation with labels… which isn’t to say labels don’t serve an important and perfectly valid purpose, but when people can presume you inhabit this box or that box, and then you introduce them to this third box that they weren’t expecting…it can be a bit more challenging. Bisexuality is unfortunately that third box. It’s still an ‘other’ option in the minds of the majority, even those who accept it or ‘tolerate’ it.

    If the first thing a woman (or a man) does when you come out to her is presume the traits of your personality then she’s not worth your time. If you can’t honestly conclude she’s done that then you have to question how confident you actually are, as you’re planting seeds of doubt purely on the basis of gender stereotypes.

    This makes me think of the heterosexual men who end up so personally offended and insecure when a male friend comes out as gay to them. Is it really possible that that many people find themselves so irresistable that coming out as gay is code for ‘I really like you and am pursuing you right now’? It’s not much different from the heterosexual women who are perfectly fine talking to a man they presume to be gay, and then view him through completely different eyes when they discover he’s bi. In certain circumstances, yes the bisexual man may well be interested in you but if you thought he was a decent guy before why not treat him like a decent guy and let him down nicely if he’s clearly trying to make a move, or go with it if you think you might actually be interested?!

    My personal experience as a bisexual person is that transparency is key. Much as I might sometimes enjoy just fitting in as a gay guy, or being presumed as the heterosexual guy from time to time, I’ve seldom an issue with letting anyone of any gender know of my bisexuality if we’re putting that kind of information on the table. Women who view or treat you differently when you tell them you’re bisexual just aren’t worth your time. There are women who are going to be perfectly fine with it, but they may not be as easy to come across as a gay guy who is less inclined to be uncomfortable with a minority sexuality.

  • OctoberSkies

    Bi woman here. I had a very similar quandary when I first tried to connect with women romantically. There’s a huge difference between objectification and attraction: objectification strips a person of their self and anything beyond their use to you as eye candy or otherwise, and attraction is being drawn to someone physically and possibly also due to their personality. If you’re attracted to somebody, and you try to learn about them as a whole person, that’s not objectification; that’s getting to know someone better you might want in your life and that they might want in theirs.

    As for the reactions to you coming out as bi – if they’ve just complimented you like that, part of it is that they’re just embarrassed at having been so forward, and also for making an incorrect assumption about your sexuality. If they’re uncomfortable because they assume you’re attracted to them, well, isn’t that actually true in these particular instances (stereotypes aside)? And I think you just have to respect that discomfort. You don’t have to immediately walk away; you can change topics and continue the conversation for a little while, but if they’re still uncomfortable, then that’s that.

    And as the other commenter said, if you being bi is actually the problem, then you don’t need people like that in your life. Their loss.

    I have a similar problem with women, in that I don’t come across as queer at all (I’ve been asked at LGBT events if I’m there as an ally). It’s the opposite side of the same coin, but I feel your pain/awkwardness in these situations.

  • Everything’s Ungodly

    I don’t understand why you don’t just do what I do and date bisexual women. I think the gay/straight problem is the fact that they place themselves into a ideal/deviant binary. The idea that one aspect of my orientation is better or worse than any other aspect is nonsense. If you find that women don’t respond, try the common denominator, that society tells us that women aren’t worth loving. Gay men don’t really care about women loving or being in love. Bisexual men aren’t obligated to take on the identity drama that gay and straight men are fixated on. We are feared as a group based mostly on being the most difficult to control.

    Historically there’s some basis of fear. David Bowie represents a more current example. He showed up and bisexuality was admired for a period by many of the same people against the gay liberation movement. Periods where one of us has it easier than the other puts us in THEIR conflict. It’s not us. It’s gay and straight men both. I don’t have any “queer” anything. I was always told I wasn’t a “real queer” from many homophobes so I have always had a different experience with that term. However, I am 35 so I had a different experience in my teens and 20s than many bi people I know.

  • Stephen Squibb

    Wow, such honesty! I don’t have answers either, even though I’ve lived it for a good number of decades. After many years of monogomous marriage and children I was finally forced to face up to my sexual ambiguity.
    Way back then I didn’t even know there was a gay community to align myself with let alone bi. I found the gay community and have identified as such ever since (OMG more than 30 years ago). I just couldn’t imagine a woman could want to be with a man who had sex with men.

  • Steelman V

    Just say, “I’m bi”. Don’t make assumptions about what their feeling, nor responsibility for how they respond. Many people may not know how to react. If you continue to act friendly and interested and are patient with them those that are truly interested will respond to that. Kindness is a universal language and is the first step to *any* relationship.

  • Dylan

    “We are feared as a group based mostly on being the most difficult to control.” YES I want to frame this <3