By Dr. Herukhuti
Being a bisexual man in a world dominated by straight or gay thinking, I continue to resist the pressure to conform to one or the other way of being. – from the Preface to Recognize: The Voices of Bisexual Men
Today, as part of the Bisexual Awareness Week #BiWeek social media campaign, we invite bisexual men and our allies to post selfies with the hashtag #RecognizeBiMen.
Pose in the photo with your copy of the anthology Recognize: The Voices of Bisexual Men published this month by the Bisexual Resource Center, and co-edited by Robyn Ochs and me. If you don’t have a copy, you can use this image of the cover, available here. See my selfie at the end of this article.
In his book Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison wrote on being a Black man in a nation founded upon white supremacy. He explained, “I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me…. When they approach me, they see only my surroundings, themselves or figments of their imagination, indeed, everything and anything except me.” In straight and gay spaces, a bisexual man can find Ellison’s sense of invisibility painfully similar.
Because of sexism, the abundance of media representations of bisexuality focus on showing women as lusty, hot nymphs catering to the desires of straight men. In pornography, girl-on-girl action was originally created by straight men for straight men. Popular media embraces the idea of female bisexuality to the degree that it fulfills the fantasies of men.
It is no wonder that sexual assault and rape is disproportionately high among bisexual women (and men). In the same ways people of European descent have historically used myths about the promiscuity of African women (i.e., Jezebel) to justified their rape and sexual assault of those women, so too have ideas about the sexual messiness of bisexual women justified the abuse they have experienced.
Bisexual men don’t factor into the sexual desires of straight men, except as potential competitors in seeking female partners. This makes it easy for a media industry that largely caters to straight men and women to ignore us. Individual gay men, some of whom who have a very limited but important sphere of influence in the world, may have relationships with bisexual men as sexual partners and lovers. But gay men in positions of power and authority have traditionally not been reliable or consistent allies who view the prejudice, discrimination and oppression that many bisexual men experience as being tied to their own struggles for liberation.
The media has told women to be suspicious of us as vectors of HIV transmission, closeted men seeking cover from/with heterosexism under the protection of their bosoms or sex fiends who cannot be honest and true to our commitments. Websites, books and articles have coached women to complete checklists and purity tests to determine if their man is down low, undercover, or closeted. And while it may seem idiotic to tell women to play with a man’s anus to determine if he enjoys it as a test of his sexual identity, there are well-established scientists who show pornography to men and measure the degree to which their penis’ enlarge to test their sexual identity.
All bisexuals do not experience the same desires in the same ways or to the same degrees for each and every gender. Some argue, however, that such diversity among bisexuals makes it difficult for others to respect and acknowledge bisexual equality as a collective movement.
A source of bi* pride is our diversity. We live the intersectionality, liminality and queerness about which others speak. The strength of our movement is our understanding of the complexities of sexual orientation and the inadequacies of rigid, limited identities that do not fully capture those complexities.
If bisexual men are invisible to you, ask yourself if you are truly prepared to perceive us in all our complexities. If bisexual men are hidden from you, ask yourself if your worldview is expansive enough to conceive of the fullness of who we are. Because we’ve always been here, we urge you to work through the barriers that have prevented you from recognizing that reality.
Let’s shatter what Ellison referred to as the “mirrors of hard, distorted glass” that have obscured the presence of bisexual men. Post a selfie with your copy of Recognize: The Voices of Bisexual Men or the digital image of the book cover. For more information, listen to this recent interview about the anthology on The Bi Cast
Let us no longer tolerate the myth of the invisibility of bisexual men. #RecognizeBiMen