As a bisexual man I frequently find myself at a bit of a loss in terms of how to identify myself to women I find attractive and might be interested in dating. Is there any way to avoid the “secretly gay” auto-dismissal?
Side question: how do you view the ethics of when to come out in this sort of situation? Being straight-forward (pun intended) is a recipe for being branded “best gay friend.” On the other hand, coming out later is taken as “deceptive creep.” Is there a way to be proud of who I am and still get a date?
A bi guy
Central San Diego
I reached out to a couple of my bi guy friends to help me answer your question. While I’ve used bisexual as a label in my past, the stigma for men and women are completely different flavors, as I’m sure you know. (Instead of being dismissed as secretly gay, I was just assumed to be mostly straight).
One friend prefers to be more strategic. He knows outing himself will change the nature of his interactions. Another said he likes to get it out there as soon as possible, because he wants to rule out bigots right away. Of course, the latter was talking about telling women during a first or second date, when he typically meets new women (usually from okCupid) — and he would presumably be past the point of gay-best-friendzoned. If you’re establishing yourself in a new friend group (with potentially datable women) who don’t know about your particulars, that’s different, too.
Ethically-speaking, it’s nobody’s goddamned business. Yeah, it’s shady to hide your past from a partner when things are getting serious, and it’s not a good way to build trust. Still, you should not be accused of being a deceptive creep just because you kept private things private. I think you should treat your past experiences with men the same as with women — if you’re bringing up the latter, then bring up the former, but don’t feel obligated to do so sooner.
Another point to consider: how you present information totally changes the reaction to it. The more you can coach yourself into showing your bi side as 1. not a big deal (which, besides being important to you and something to be proud of, it isn’t) 2. something you’d expect people to be understanding of (because they should) and 3. something that’s not going to be a problem (why would it be?)… then the more often your dates/new friends will take your social cues and react in kind. Look, it’s not your fault if bigoted people gave you some touchy hangups about your sexual identity, but it is your responsibility not to unload your baggage onto an unsuspecting love interest. Unless, of course, she’s a bigot and she deserves it.
Ultimately, I don’t think the paradigm of “am I doing the right thing?” is as helpful as coming at it from the perspective of, “what makes me feel best about myself?” My first guy friend is a little more private and starts his relationships more casual. When it comes time, he’ll unabashedly be himself, but he feels no shame for not bringing it up sooner. To him, it’s just not relevant until he feels it is. Maybe she has to earn his trust first. So, he feels fine about his strategy. My other guy friend is the type who is helplessly honest. It would be really weird for him not to share this part of himself. So, he’s happy with sharing as soon as possible.
You’ll figure this out. In the meantime, nothing replaces the support of a strong friend network filled with people who know the real you and get you. I have that. It takes a lot of the worry away about how my sexuality is perceived, and makes me incredibly happy. Find your people. That’s the mandate of this city.
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