*Name and certain details have been changed for confidentiality
How many times in your life have you met a bisexual guy? Did you believe that he was actually bisexual? Or did you privately think that he was probably gay and just hadn’t fully come to terms with his sexual orientation yet?
More on this later, but for now let’s rewind a bit, back to when I picked up Noah* in front of a bar in the Nob Hill neighborhood of San Francisco.
Noah, who I guess to be in his mid to late 20s, gets in wearing black pants paired with a long-sleeved, wrinkleless red shirt. He brings with him the scent of cologne—though I couldn’t tell you what type— along with a styrofoam takeout box.
“Is it okay if I eat these?” he asks, gesturing to the box. “I’ve got napkins. Lots.”
I say sure, then watch as he places at least seven of them in his lap. He hangs a napkin from his shirt collar too—a bib-like shield against renegade chili fries—before opening the box and beginning to hack away at the heaping pile.
In between mouthfuls Noah reflects on the date he just went on.
“It was a good one,” he clarifies, his eyes turning slightly squinty as a big smile takes over his face. “I hadn’t been on a date with a girl in a while. Most of them have been with guys. But it was so nice!”
Noah identifies as demi / bisexual—with “more of an innate physical attraction to men,” but an attraction to women that tends to strengthen with time. That is, he can become attracted to certain women once trust is built and an emotional connection is in place (which is characteristic of demisexuality*).
“With a lot of women it’s never like an ‘I want to rip your clothes off’ feeling as soon as I see them, the way it is when I see a hot guy,” he shares, tipsily uninhibited. “But that feeling does start to sneak up on me after we’ve been talking or connecting for a while.”
He pauses to pop three meat-drenched fries into his mouth, then continues.
“Since women are easier to connect with emotionally from my experience, I end up becoming attracted to a lot of them,” he explains. “I just won’t like see a woman walking down the street though and be like ‘I want to fuck her.'” After a brief pause: “Well, maybe if she were Kerry Washington.”
Maybe it’s the alcohol, maybe the good date gave him energy, or maybe he’s just always this way. Either way, I appreciate his candor and emotional openness.
Noah says the people around him treat him differently depending on whether he’s on a date with a man or a woman.
Sometimes, for instance, women approach him when he’s out with another man (not knowing that the two of them are on a date).
“I mean, good for them. Way to be a modern woman. And they always get so sheepish after they find out we’re not just two guy friends out for a bros’ night.”
One time, after he and the guy he was out with invited the girls to stay, it turned into a fun night involving both jello shots and a skee-ball tournament.
“We made two friends out of it,” he recalls fondly.
Like Noah, I too have had the experience (particularly in my early to mid 20s) of the opposite sex approaching when out with women—only sheepishness tended not to be the guys’ response after finding out we were on a date.
At times guys stayed and continued trying to talk to us. Some have even brazenly requested a threesome.
Public dates with other women often bring the risk of receiving unsolicited male attention and voyeurism. Put succintly (in an AfterEllen.com post), “Lesbian couples are never alone. We are subject to unwanted participants, whom we are supposed to laugh off or pretend not to hear.”
My sharing this with Noah (in response to which he says simply, “Ew,”) segues us into a conversation about how, in contrast to women (whose sexualities are seen as more fluid), men tend to be seen as either one or the other (gay or straight). The idea of fluidity or bisexuality in the masculine gender is less accepted— often even disbelieved.
Noah, who knows he is interested in multiple genders, is frequently told he is just gay and in the closet. When he first came out as bisexual, people used to ask him whether he was just dating women as a way of fitting in. They wondered if he hadn’t fully accepted his gay identity yet. These comments reinforced Noah’s belief that bisexuality in men isn’t thought of as a legitimate identity.
“For a while yeah, I only dated guys because it was new to me and I wanted to explore that exclusively,” he acknowledges. “I’d already had plenty of girlfriends in high school and college. But that didn’t mean I wasn’t attracted to women anymore—just that for a period of time, men were more my focus.”
I think of other examples that highlight this double standard. Aaron Carter claims that his girlfriend left him after he came out to her as bisexual. In the show Insecure, Molly breaks up with Jared—a guy she’d been very interested in up until then—after finding out he’d had a “gay experience.” In Good Trouble, Mariana responds to the character Gael’s coming out as bisexual with, “Knowing that I couldn’t give him what another guy could would drive me crazy.”
In contrast, when a woman comes out as bisexual to her male partner, the more common response tends to be, “Great—let’s have a threesome.”
Take the following example from the book Love Rules by Joanna Coles:
“My friend says [hooking up with women] happened consistently, and alcohol was always involved, but it never went beyond kissing. Her boyfriend knew, but did not care ‘because they were girls.’”
In my opinion, the reasons men generally respond in a more relaxed and accepting way to their female partner coming out as bi are rooted in misogyny. As queer blogger Vee Kinsley put it: “Most heterosexual men view a woman’s bisexuality as exciting and acceptable, because in his mind no sex involving two women can truly be a threat to him.”
Part of why this is, as Kinsley writes, is that “sexual relationships are only viewed as legitimate (by society) when they involve at least one man.”
That said, when a man comes out as bi to his female partner, she may worry that he is secretly gay, and fear that he will leave her for the gender that our society deems more valuable.
One way Noah knows that his attraction towards women is genuine (rather than stemming from lack of self-acceptance or internalized homophobia) is that his social circle and family were all very accepting when he came out to them.
“There were a few relatives who took some time to warm up to it, sure—but my parents were more than fine with me being gay. They never pressured me to date or marry a woman.”
Regardless, there will always be people who will continue to doubt his identity. As for them?
“They can think what they want. I’ll continue to date who I want and be who I am and do what makes me happy,” he declares while crumpling his used napkins together and placing them in the now empty styrofoam box.
We’ve reached his destination, so Noah beams me a final squinty smile before thanking me and leaving the car.
**Check back soon for another Pride story! If you liked this post, consider sharing it on social media, and follow our IG @lyft_tales
Male bisexuality symbol— Wikipedia