The Challenges of Coming Out Bisexual
It’s not easy for young Australian men to come out as bisexual
The “What’s Up in Your World?” survey heard from 11,000 18 to 29-year-old triple j listeners. The survey asked questions about the private lives of young people in Australia.
The survey revealed some interesting data.
Coming out as LGBTIQ is rarely easy, but one interesting stat from this study showed it’s hard for young Australian men to come out as bisexual.
It turns out women are more likely to identify as sexually diverse and to be open about their sexuality but young men who identify as bi are the least likely to be out of all young LGBTQ people.
In fact, young men who identify as gay are twice as likely to have come out compared to bisexual guys.
I spoke on the ABC triple j radio show The Hack about this study and the challenges of coming out for bisexual men.
Here’s a summary of the main points I discussed. You can also listen to the audio recording below this summary or read the transcript of my speaking highlights.
The stigma of being bi
For many bisexual men, there’s a stigma associated with being bisexual. There are a number of reasons for this stigma including:
- There are a lack of bisexual role models today. When you look around in popular media there are now more gay and lesbian role models but there are very few bisexual role models.
- Bi-erasure is real. Bi-erasure is a phenomenon that refers to a common myth about bisexual men. Many people believe that if a man says he’s bisexual, he just hasn’t come out of the closet as gay. Bi-erasure is a way of dismissing the possibility that bisexuality is a legitimate sexual orientation.
- Some gay people perpetuate bisexual sterotypes. Gay men are often guilty of not believing that bisexuality is real. Some gay men believe bisexual men are “greedy” and are secretly gay, but don’t want to commit to a gay identity.
- Bisexual men can’t be monogamous. This is a myth that says if you’re bisexual you can’t be monogamous. Some women believe a bisexual man will cheat on them with another man.
- Lack of social support. While there are many support services for gay and lesbian people, bisexual people often feel left out. They are a minority of the LGBTIQ minority and sadly, our society doesn’t offer them much acknowledgement or support.
- Bi-phobia happens in LGBTQI spaces. Sadly, bi-phobia exists not only in the heterosexual community but also within queer spaces. This can lead to many bi men feeling outcast and disconnected from the one community they thought they were a part of.
Facts about bisexuality:
- Bisexuality is a real sexual orientation. Bisexuality is on a spectrum because there are variations within a bisexual orientation. For example, a bisexual man may enjoy sex with men, but be only interested in romantic relationships with women (this is often called hetero-amorous.)
- Bisexual men can be faithful. Many bisexual men are in sexually exclusive relationships. Others are in open relationships. Bisexual people can and do form faithful relationships. There is no evidence that bisexual men have more affairs or cheat than heterosexual men.
- Young men are less hung up on labels. We are seeing the emergence of men who describe themselves as, “I’m mostly straight” or “I’m hetero-flexible.” This means they are predominately heterosexual but if they meet the right guy and the conditions are right, they’re open to having a bisexual experience.
Listen to my interview on ABC triple radio station The Hack below:
Jo Lorda: [00:00:00] Hey Jo Lorda here with you for the Hack podcast. Tom’s off getting more surgery this week. Don’t worry he’s fine. He’ll be back on Monday but I’m really excited to be with you to talk about what’s up in your world. It’s the Triple J survey where you’ve told us all about your lives including your private lives. Today we talked about why it’s so hard for men to come out as bisexual. Gay men are twice as likely to be out as bisexual men. And we had a fascinating conversation on the show about this. And we have people calling up who were bisexual or their partners were bisexual kind of a lot around the stigma they face and what holds them back perhaps. Do you identify as bisexual? If so have you come out to your family and friends. It turns out your gender can really affect your coming out experience as part of what’s up in your world survey. We heard from 11,00 18 to 29-year-old triple j listeners and we asked you about your sexuality. It turns out women are more likely to identify as sexually diverse and to be open about it but we found that young men who identify as bi are the least likely to be out of all young LGBTIQ people. In fact young men who identify as gay are twice as likely to have come out compared to bisexual guys. And does it surprise you that of the Triple J audience that gay men are twice as likely to have come out as by men.
Clinton Power: [00:01:27] Not at all because I think your listener Sam he touched on what I heard was a stigma around being bisexual that you know there are so many different factors here but one is certainly there’s a lack of role models I mean we look around today in 2018 and there are many gay and lesbian role models but how many bisexual role models can you actually identify. Not many.
Jo Lorda: [00:01:48] Yeah not many at all. And what about that message before from someone who said that for guys it’s seen as halfway or like a stopover and that they’ll inevitably come out as gay. Is that something that your clients have told you that they’ve kind of experienced before? That idea.
Clinton Power: [00:02:02] Yeah it is. This phenomenon actually has a term that has caused bi-erasure and it really is a myth that perpetuates in society that a guy must be gay. If he’s saying he’s by he just hasn’t quite come out or he hasn’t quite really confirmed it and it is a myth because bisexuality is a legitimate sexual orientation it actually is on a spectrum all of its own there’s actually variations within bisexuality so unfortunately, I think it’s an education issue that a lot of people kind of think black and white they get gay they get straight but they’re just not so comfortable with grace.
Jo Lorda: [00:02:40] And what about also that call that we heard from before he was saying he experienced a lot of issues from the gay community when gay men. I mean sorry do bi men have trouble being accepted or finding their place in the gay community as well and the straight community. Yeah, I think they have problems on both sides which is really sad. I’ve heard many times that you know gay men kind of just assume straight away as I said before that the guy is gay and he just hasn’t committed to it. But then in the straight community bisexual people can also feel ostracised with you know other myths like the promiscuity myth this idea that if you’re bisexual you can’t be monogamous and that’s a really common myth and if you if you’re a bisexual guy and you’ve got a girlfriend then you can’t be faithful they’re definitely gonna be looking for sex with men on the side. And I think that’s a really unfortunate characterisation because it’s not true and there are many bisexual people who are in completely faithful monogamous relationships if they choose that. And we’ve also got Anthony Lekkus from their Melbourne bisexual network with this. Anthony do buy men have trouble knowing where to turn for support when they come out.
Anthoney Lekkus: [00:03:51] Yes the simple answer is yes because in Victoria and I can’t speak nationally but I know in Victoria we don’t have many places for people to go to for bi-specific support. I mean we have the byline Victoria who runs monthly discussion groups and really they’ve been the sole providers of support services for people identified by Pan or multi-gender attracted here in Victoria. So there’s only one place and you have to go searching for them to find them and I think that the needs of bisexual people get really lost and obscured I guess when we start the turn to just general LGBTI services just because of what’s being talked about that the biphobia that exists within queer spaces and also in mainstream spaces as mainstream services.
Jo Lorda: [00:04:37] Yeah Anthony what advice would you give to other bi men who might be listening to these who might not have come out yet.
Anthoney Lekkus: [00:04:46] Look I’d probably be very careful about giving advice because everyone’s experiences their own sexual orientation is very different. My marriage in different ways and different at different times and I think one of the important things around being out as a bisexual person is that we get to decide how out we get to be with different people in different ways and I think that just simply coming out and being okay with it except just our friends who cares about what people think. I think that’s an unfair suggestion to make to people because work because biphobia is something that isn’t seen really as something that is that had that firstly that it occurs and that is the experience incredibly painful for bi people and that’s from people within the queer community as well. Yeah alright.
Jo Lorda: [00:05:34] Hey thanks so much for joining us. And I’ve also got Maggie here Maggie from Sydney. Hey, Maggie when you came out as bi people didn’t believe you. Wow. Like what did they say to you?
Maggie: [00:05:49] Well what I did with my mom she basically couldn’t believe it because I am very feminine in how I dress and present myself. And I think that just didn’t really match up in her head. Yeah yeah right. Sorry, we lost you there. Clinton, we heard in our survey that females are three times more likely to identify as bi than men. Why is that seen as more socially acceptable? Not always. I guess we had a different experience from Maggie that I bet a lot of the time it’s seen by society is more okay.
Clinton Power: [00:06:23] Yeah it’s a weird phenomenon, isn’t it. And I think it comes back to you know what we see just in everyday media and culture you know that if you know I mean you can even think about movies as you’re now starting to see bisexual female characters in movies in fiction. But again you don’t really see many bisexual male characters and then of course on the pornography front you’ve got that whole genre of porn pornography that is made for heterosexual males which feature lesbians. But there seems to be this kind of idea that women can somehow be more fluid they can move between men and the same gender very easily. And you know it’s not a big deal but I think you know when you think about it how often do you see two guys just having a ‘pash’ in the pub after a few beers. You don’t see it but every now then you will see a couple of girls do when they’re egged on and you know maybe the environment’s right. So I think it comes back to this stigma that there’s still this stigma around and Sam referred to it as your listener as well something about masculinity that if you express your attraction as a male to the same gender that somehow you’re not that masculine or somehow that’s under threat.
Jo Lorda: [00:07:36] Do you think it’s going to change for bi men going forward.
Clinton Power: [00:07:39] I really hope it does. I have a lot of faith in the younger generation I’ve noticed you know over the years particularly when I talk to young LGBTQI folk they’re less hung up on labels. They’re really happy. I mean we’re kind of seeing the emergence of people describe themselves as saying oh I’m mostly straight or you know we’re now hearing hetero-flexible the idea that you know you can be predominately heterosexual but if you meet the right guy and the conditions are right you’re open to having a bisexual experience and it seems to me that young folk aren’t hang up on these kinds of definitions of needing to label themselves.
Are you a gay, bisexual, or lesbian person who is struggling with coming out?
If so, contact Sydney Gay Counselling on 0412 241 410 or book an appointment online today to find out how we can help.