Living as a straight-identified bisexual male is not unlike being a zebra.
No, stay with me on this.
According to Science Bob, the question of whether zebras are black with white stripes or white with black is somewhat dependent on perspective. But what if a black zebra with white stripes lived among a bunch of white zebras with black stripes? Would any of the other zebras notice? And what would happen if the white-on-black zebra finally decided to tell the black-on-white zebras what the score really was? And why would he?
Back in March, The New York Times Magazine published an article which told us that science was trying to prove bisexuals exist. Reading it, for me, was like standing around a watering hole on the African veldt with the other zebras and listening to them talk about about whether white-on-black zebras were real.
Of course we exist. It’s so obvious. To me, anyway.
From The Times…
In the eyes of many Americans, bisexuality — despite occasional and exaggerated media reports of its chicness — remains a bewildering and potentially invented orientation favored by men in denial about their homosexuality and by women who will inevitably settle down with men. Studies have found that straight-identified people have more negative attitudes about bisexuals (especially bisexual men) than they do about gays and lesbians.
So let me clear a few things up about this particular bisexual man:
- I am real.
- I am not a media invention.
- I am not bisexual because it’s trendy. (Is it trendy again? I think it may be, but I don’t read People so maybe it’s not.)
- I am not gay and never will be. Seriously.
- I am not confused about my “true” sexuality (see point #4).
- I do not want to have sex with everyone all of the time. In other words, I can be trusted to hang out with you/your significant other/your sibling/kids/clergy/whatever.
That was the first thing that made me think it was time to fess up to the other zebras who was hanging around in their midst. The second was Oberyn.
I suppose I should give the requisite spoiler warning, so…SPOILERS!!
Oberyn Martell was, for the time before he was stupid and died, my favorite character on Game of Thrones. Not just because he was a bad-ass with a sexy accent, but because he was unapologetically and fantastically bisexual. As C.A. Pinkham from Jezabel put it, he was “the most important male bisexual character in TV history.”
That’s why Oberyn Martell is so important to me: to see him fearlessly being himself, in one of the most (if not THE most) popular TV shows in America is to be told, in no uncertain terms, “your existence matters.” It’s a powerful answer to everyone, gay or straight, who would tell me my identity is a lie. Don’t think such demonstrations aren’t necessary; we’re still a society where every single major piece that touches on bisexual men, even from no less an august source than the New York Times, is about whether or not we’re real.
Oberyn Martell truly couldn’t have given less of a shit whether people cared that he was bi, and they could damn well think whatever they wanted to think. When Tywin Lannister (not exactly a friend to dude-on-dude action) interrupted him mid-orgy, Oberyn gestured with utmost politeness to the bed where the festivities had been taking place and asked, “Would you like to sit?” It might be my single favorite moment of the show other than, “What do we say to the God of Death?” That scene, and every one of Oberyn’s appearances on the show, was a giant middle finger to anyone, gay or straight, who would tell me I’m lying about who I am. Taken together, they served to tell me I don’t have to be hurt by anyone who would claim bisexual men don’t exist.
That’s no small thing, because I strongly suspect there’s a tiny voice in the mind of even the most stridently avowed bisexual asking the question “what if they’re right?” I know that voice is wrong — at this point in my life, I’m well aware of who I am — but the paucity of characters like Oberyn (or even better, real-life people like him) can make us feel far more rare and alone than we ever really are. I remember what it was like before I figured myself out, and seeing that still hits me right in the feels. To a bi guy struggling with his identity in a way I’ve moved past, seeing someone confront that voice without doubt or hesitation has to mean something I can’t even begin to describe.
So back up there, I said I wasn’t confused about my sexuality and, truly, I am not. Bisexuality can be a kind of weigh-station between Straightsville and Gay Town, but it does not have to be nor are those who find themselves bi on the verge of being gay. But because that’s been the accepted and prevolent wisdom on the subject for so long, I spent literally years of my youth waiting for the other shoe to drop. How could I know I wasn’t gay? I mean, really know.
The only way I know to make sure nobody else wonders if people like me (and maybe themselves) are real is to say that I am.
The thing Oberyn Martell has to do with my writing all this is what Pinkham said. “The paucity of characters like Oberyn (or even better, real-life people like him) can make us feel far more rare and alone than we ever really are.” And for so long, I felt very, very alone with no personal contacts like myself and no archetypes in the media or culture to associate with. But now I know different. I know I’m not alone. And I know I’m real. And the only way I know to make sure nobody else wonders if people like me (and maybe themselves) are real is to say that I am.
“Coming out” seems like a very tactical act, most of the time. One does it so one can live the life they feel they were born to live. Thing is, I’m already living that life. I have the relationship and the family I always knew deep inside I wanted. It wasn’t until I met the person I wanted to have that life with that everything snapped into place for me. There is no practical reason for me to come out as bisexual at this time. My wife knows (and has for longer than we’ve had a romantic relationship). A few other good friends know. The vast majority of people I know don’t because why should they? What difference does it make?
Pinkham said, “To a bi guy struggling with his identity in a way I’ve moved past, seeing someone confront that voice without doubt or hesitation has to mean something I can’t even begin to describe.” So it makes a difference because sometimes the most important thing you can do is to tell the truth. Even if it doesn’t matter practically. Even if you can’t pick the zebra out that’s different. Knowing he’s real and there is what matters. Especially if you’re one of the oddly striped zebras, too.
I have written this post about a half dozen times already. The whole thing. There’s so much I could say about sexuality and “choice” and the remarkable prejudice that exists against those who don’t act like “normal” straight people in our society, even now as marriage equity and equal rights appear poised to wash over the country, and how I think the kids today appear to have finally moved past a world of labels and societal expectations and how optimistic that makes me. Maybe I’ll get to that other stuff sometime. The one big thing I needed to get to now I’ve already said.
I am bisexual and I am real.