There are many, but they stand in the shadows, afraid to take a place in their own community, often covering as either gay or straight. Bisexual men are probably the least-talked-about, least-acknowledged group in the entire LGBTQ spectrum—yet they aren’t few or far between.
According to a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more men than ever are admitting to having same-sex relations. Five percent of men reported identifying as bisexual in 2016, up significantly from the 1.2 percent in 2010. Still, despite this rapid increase, bisexual men are often ignored and erased.
Unlike bisexual women, who are often acknowledged but brushed under the rug with the claim that “all women are bisexual,” bi men are often treated as either straight men who just wanted to experiment or have high sex drives, or gay men who once or twice wanted to see what it was like to be with a woman.
“I think it’s much harder for a man to be openly bisexual,” said Stewart McCloud, founder and CEO of the Bi Men Network (bimen.org). “At a swingers’ party, if your wife is going at it with another woman everyone is cheering them on, but if a men starts carrying on with another man, then they get thrown out. It’s ok for women to have sex with women, but the men are just supposed to watch; you’re not supposed to have sex with other men. It’s a major stigma.”
McCloud feels that over the years, most of the men he has been in contact with are not actually looking for a way out of the closet, at least not right away. They don’t want to identify as bi, and they don’t want to become activists in the bi cause. In fact, they are ashamed of the way they identify, and feel they will either be emasculated or disowned if they come out. Instead, they are looking for solace and someone to talk to anonymously, or hunting for ways to find same-sex partners online.
“I’m representing the silent majority of bisexuals who do not want to be outed,” he told OUT FRONT. “They do not want to self-identify as bisexual; they are married; they have children, or they would be very uncomfortable at their job. The problem is, a man shows a gay man a picture of his wife and kids, the gay man will say he’s in denial. And straight men don’t want to talk about it.”
The prejudice McCloud is referring to is not a new one in queer circles—many gay men and lesbian women feel that bi people are closeted gays or lesbians fighting to come out. On the flip side, many straight people think that bi people are just confused, or promiscuous individuals incapable of monogamy. The problem is only exacerbated for trans men who identify as bi.
McCloud once encountered a porn star who identified as a trans, bisexual man. McCloud eagerly urged the young man to reach out to his network, confident that not only would the individual find all kinds of friends and allies, but his network of bi men would learn about and become more accepting of trans issues. Unfortunately, many of the men he reached out to shunned the trans man or showed no interest. McCloud believes this is because men have a hard time accepting trans men, and an easier time accepting trans women.
“I think men are more comfortable with the idea of a woman trapped in a man’s body,” he claimed. “And I think there is a certain fascination with trans women, especially the pre-op ones, because they still have the same equipment down there. It’s almost like a fetish. But if a man is trapped in a woman’s body, people don’t want to accept or deal with it.”
So what can we do for all these bi men, trans or not, who feel they have no one to turn to or nowhere to go? McCloud says that the best thing to do is give them a safe space and a sympathetic ear. In 2017, that place is the internet.
“The thing is that when I started this 20 years ago, everyday I would meet someone who thought they were the only bisexual guy on earth,” he admitted. “Now, luckily, because of the media and the internet, most bi people don’t think they are the only ones on earth, but they still feel alone.
They need a place to hide behind anonymity, to make friends, find support, and talk without ever having to identify who they are,” he continued. “They need a place they can feel comfortable without ever having to go into a gay venue. It’s very rare that someone will come out without being online for months or years. They don’t all of a sudden go to a hotel room or show up at a conference. They thought about it, got comfortable, made some connections. They need this support and they also need the support of someone who isn’t proselytizing them to become a bisexual activist or join a bi rights organization or something. They may eventually get involved, but they aren’t trying to do so right away.”
McCloud and men like him are out there showing support for bi men every day. The rest of the LGBTQ community, and all of its allies, can help make things better for bi men by listening to their stories and accepting their truths.