“Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right, Here I am , Stuck in the middle with you…” –Stealers Wheel
Sometimes I wonder how far we’ve really come. Oh sure, in the legal sense, we’ve gone a mile a minute; more and more states have marriage equality and it looks like the Supreme Court may be gearing up to settle the question once and for all, our reflection is posted all over Main Street USA, with Lady Gaga racking up millions in record sales and Glee coming in on top of the ratings. Hell, even our opponents seem to be on the retreat, with the notorious and once powerful National Organization for Marriage (NOM) being reduced to a mere shadow of their former selves, their primary activity these days is sending out emails begging for money.
But somehow in all this excitement and seemingly forward movement, I feel left out. I’m a bisexual dude, the “B” in LGBT you might say, and to quote Rodney Dangerfield, I don’t get no respect at all.
Bisexuality is a strange thing in America, it seems if you’re bisexual and you’re female, it’s somewhat respected (manly because heterosexual guys fantasize about having two women at the same time), but if you’re male and bisexual, you get a lot of stick from all sides.
To give you an example of what I’m talking about, when I starting coming out publicly (a process that took seven years and towards the end, enough liquor to float the liver of Charles Bukowski) I got a lot of flak from gay guys. I heard it all, “Oh you’re just too afraid to come all the way out of the closet”, “It’s just a phase”, “You’re just experimenting” or the biggest kick in the balls, “You’re just riding our coattails, you’ve never suffered for your sexuality!”
And this attitude isn’t just confined to the gay guys I knew in Indiana, noted gay journalist Dan Savage at one point even denied the existence of bisexual guys. He has since amended his position and has acknowledged our existence.
But beyond just questioning my very existence, once someone accepted the fact I was bisexual, it opened up a lot of other odd questions. A primary one I got was just “how bisexual” I was, you know, did I dig mainly dudes and just sleep with the occasional woman or was it the other way around, that sort of trip. Was I mainly gay? Was I mainly straight? I’m neither, I’m bi, I’m a guy of options. It depends on the person as to whether or not I’m attracted to them.
Apparently I’m expected to be fifty-fifty, total Kinsey Scale middle to be accepted as “truly” bisexual.
The deepest cut of this erasure and confusion comes close to home for me. Like many LGBT folks, coming out to my family was the hardest part and some of them still don’t know. But one person I didn’t want to find out was my grandfather. He’s very conservative and pretty stuck in his ways, especially when it comes to LGBT folks. I had a lot of respect for him; he taught me the art of telling a really good story and how to take pride in turning an honest dollar. The last thing I wanted was for him to disown me because of my sexuality.
Well one night earlier this year, I was out to dinner with my Aunt Debbie, who could be counted as “liberal”, at least by my family’s standards, and the subject of my sexuality came up. I mentioned that when I came out to my mother, the one thing we agreed on was that we wouldn’t tell grandma and grandpa. Well apparently grandpa knew.
She told me my cousin Morgan (her son) had been over at our grandparents’ house with a friend of his and grandpa was showing them some family photos. When grandpa flipped to my picture, he said to my cousin’s friend, “This is W.T., he’s gay, we just don’t talk about it” and moved on.
Now on one hand, I’m glad grandpa didn’t disown me or have another heart attack, but on the other hand, I resented being called gay, because I’m not. I’m not straight either for that matter. This black and white, one way or another bit really frustrated me.
As much as it hurts to admit, part of this erasure does fall on some members of the bisexual community. I’ve known people who are bisexual who end up in a long-term relationship with a man or a woman and they just publicly identify as either gay or straight, whatever the case may be. I’ve asked a few of them why and the response is usually the same, “Oh I got tired of explaining it, I got tired of the hassle.” Damn it, brothers and sisters, hoist that bisexual flag high and proud! Don’t identify yourself one way or another just because folks won’t accept it!
I don’t want to be all heavy here, so I will leave with a laugh. When I finally finished coming out publicly, a lot of my friends were surprised, telling me, “You’re bi? Huh, never saw it coming.” My response was, “Really guys? Have you ever been to the liquor store with me? It takes me half an hour to pick out a damn drink! I’ve always liked my variety and options.”
Coattail Rider Blues
(By Walter Beck)
Dancing on a tightrope
Strung across two worlds,
Time warping on a high wire
Over a sea split by colors.
Yeah, I’m a fence rider,
Leaning one way or another,
With the person holding on
I’m gonna jump ship
And swim in the other side.
Boots boogieing on a thin rail,
No pan tapping to hold my rhythm.
I’m a coin toss
Betting on heads and tails,
Fizzling out and plummeting down
Into the melding middle stripe
Strung between two worlds.
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