Perspectives: Bisexuality
I have a secret...

October 17, 2007 Print version       Other articles by this author

I like girls too! There, I said it. And I don't just mean "like", akin to how some men like the way women dress or how the walk in high heels like "you better work, bitch" or like "she's so fierce I love her dress". I have the fashion sense of a Home Depot clerk and am accidentally fashionable at best. Sometimes, though likely with more discretion that I've come to like boys, I like girls too. I grew up feeling that I was only capable of romantic attraction to the male sex. The idea of heterosexuality, while having some compulsory draw, never quite felt natural. I remember the first time I kissed a girl (and all the times after that I'd do it again). I also remember the first time I kissed a boy. While the kisses with girls happened many years before I first kissed a boy, the latter confirmed what I felt in my spirit to be a natural attraction. I kissed girls because it's what I was supposed to do. I kissed a boy because it was what I wanted to do. I came out with a vengeance, my orientation qualified by the magnificence of a first real kiss, and a desire, not shaped by what I was told was right to do, but by what felt right.

A happily qualified macho homosexual who'd busted down the closet door with my timberlands, coming out with a vengeance meant denying, at every instance of hetero-suggestive possibility, that I was "not interested", "played for the other team", or (yes, in my pre-feminist and less conscious days) "didn't do fish". My masculinity was relevant here, because I didn't as easily read as "gay" as most of my friends, so I interestingly grew both tired yet empowered with every iteration of the words "I'm gay". There was something about the shock value that I got a kick out of. Negroes are so "delusionally" comfortable with how "heterosexual" we are as a people. Any opportunity I get to counter that is something I gladly welcome. We've never been just heterosexual, though often we've had to hide those feelings from everybody but God.

Not long after I came out was I told that only white men identify as gay, so I tried identifying as same-gender loving, but it didn't hold the cultural resonance that gay did. I was clearly a black man, so running from the whitened connotations of the term "gay" made less sense to me that embodying gay in a way that would broaden its signification(s). People knew what gay was; and even if they saw it as white and male, it was the term most readily understood, so I was about having it carry different signification: black, visible, revolutionary. But something strange happened only months after I came out. I'd met a young woman my sophomore year of college who I developed a friendship with. She and I met through an activist hip-hop collective that was about addressing a range of political issues for people of color. She was curious about rumors she'd heard that I was gay. We had a conversation or two, not just about sexuality, but also about life, future aspirations, goals, fears. And I began to develop an attraction, beyond the recognition of her beauty I'd never been able to deny. I was falling in love with this woman.

Now imagine that you've just declared this homo-revolutionary stance to the world and all the sudden, you've got a girlfriend. You're seen holding her hand, kissing, spending lots of time together. The buzz was deafening. While, I felt conflicted about having declared full acceptance of my desire for men while dating a woman, it seemed that accepting my desire for this woman released me to a space of freedom that I ideologically believed was right. I wanted a world where I was welcome, if I so chose, to desire any consenting adult I wanted. I loved how my girlfriend touched me, loved her lips, loved holding her and how my hand felt on her back, loved her breasts, her eyes, loved that she loved me. It was an attraction, not unlike what I'd began to experience with guys just before we met. I was not, however, "confused" or "hiding from my homosexuality"-- notions that seemed to go hand in hand with the term "bisexual", so I shrugged the term altogether. I was a gay-identified man, with a girlfriend.

Well, because I still identified as gay, my college sweetheart soon broke up with me. I think the rumors and conflama around my sexuality was far too much for a woman to deal with, in her first year. While my behavior may have been bisexual, I didn't identify as such, something that, I believe she felt negated her, though that wasn't the intention. We were both very honest and open about our attractions, to both men and women, though (to my knowledge) she'd only expressed exploratory curiosity about women. Monogamous, I did not miss men when I was dating her, as many suspected. I still maintained my friendships with gay men and lesbians, and was very much a part of that community; my girlfriend became, by extension. But there were clearly straighter men. There were men who were perhaps not man enough to admit an attraction to men who would aspire to love her, though none more than I did. I'm almost still convinced of that. When she notified me, a few years back, of her marriage, I felt feelings of jealousy not unlike what I've felt when male exes I no longer want seem to get it right with someone else. I believe, still, that I could love her.

In retrospect I understand that, more than 15 years later, the notion that a male who desires men, could be faithful and/or devoted to a woman is not something people believed or can understand. I found that it was easier to just "choose one" and stick with that-- even as it was contrary to my feelings. In our society, we are told to just be gay or just be straight; and many think that people are incapable of sexual desire for both men and women, while I think that the majority of people likely have some bisexual capacity. I've thought about this recently with the whole "ex gay" hoopla, and the numbers of gay-identified men choosing to consider lives with women, children, etc... While I take issue with those who deny their attraction to men and who feel the need to demonize homosexuality, I know and respect men who've decided that a family life is something more valuable than "sex with men" and who find rare women who are self-confident and emotionally mature enough to accept that. This isn't to suggest that "family" life means heterosexual or that love between men is reduced to sex, but few of the men I have ever dated truly wanted the kind of family I've always desired-- a life, out in the open, unafraid to share the love we've formed, with all. At 35, and with lots of failed relationships (both male and female), I can't say that I'll be partnered with any specific type of person. For all the aspiration to love and be loved by black men, I'm sure that there are women, non-black men, hell, maybe even transexuals who might be able to love me better than I've been loved. And at some point, that'll outweigh the pressure from the gender and/or sexuality police.

If I made a life with a woman, would I stop desiring men? No. Will I be able to manage a relationship with someone who is not male identified? I believe I'm made like that. I'm not knocking those who aren't made like me, or who have no such desire or inclination. I'm not suggesting that I'm more of a man because of it. I'm a man for owning that truly being "OUT" for me has come to mean affirming the full breadth and depth of my desire. Perhaps the person with whom I'll find the most happiness won't be what I've imagined for much of my life. I'm growing to be okay with that. Perhaps unfortunately, I have largely closed off the possibility of dating women because many or most wouldn't be able to deal with my attraction to men, or my HIV status. Keeping either on the "Down Low" just isn't an option for me. I'm too much of a man to cower about aspects of me that are critical to not just my self-image but also my self-affirmation. I'm not saying that being with a woman is impossible. I'm just saying that I wouldn't be with a woman as a way of redeeming some awful past life. I love that I've loved, do love, and will always love men, even if my primary partner turns out not to be one. I will also not deny my attraction for women-- another limitation of a term like "same-gender loving".

Yes... Some will say I'm wounded. While I've both hurt and been hurt, I have good relationships with men I've loved and will always be a warrior, not just for the gay community but all peoples. As I get older, I gravitate to people with common interests, giving little regard to their sexual preferences. Believe it or not, I have many close friends (male and female) whose sexuality isn't known to me. I simply don't care, unless they care to inform me, so long as my desires are respected. Am I bisexual? I still struggle to identify with a term that has so many negative connotations: selfish, greedy, confused, nympho, etc... I have grown more aware and insistent about distinguishing gay from gay-identified. I've also been more vocal about the beautifully complicated experiences with desire I've had over the years. Bringing light to the truth is about illuminating whatever truth lies there, bravely. With the years, I've come to own how liberating such self-awareness can be-- especially when shared with others who, in revealing some secrets, feel pressured to harbor others. I want to grow more committed to the truth: the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Therein lies my power and liberation.