Charles M. Blow, an opinion columnist with the New York Times, had a very moving and much discussed piece on the cover of the SundayReview section of the paper over the weekend. It opened with Blow revealing that he had been a victim of rape as a child and closes with his complicated journey to self-acceptance and self-awareness as a bisexual man:
After my wife and I split, I decided to give male intimacy another try. The male attraction was still there, running alongside the female one—not equal, but there. I assumed my first failure might have been the result of youth and nerves and a mixed match. But now, again, my body sometimes failed to respond. Other times I was able to engage more fully, but almost always with the aid of copious amounts of alcohol, which left me barely able to remember the encounters and often wanting to forget them. This felt fraudulent to me, and opportunistic, and dangerous.
Still, no matter how much I drank, no matter how altered my consciousness, I couldn’t completely rid myself of the unease of being intimately close to another man’s body, hard and hairy and muscular and broad at the shoulders, more stem than flower—too much like my own. In those moments I was acutely aware that I missed the tug of the female form, the primary sensation and the peripheral ones. The look of soft features and the feel of soft skin. The graceful slopes of supple curves. The sweet smells. The giggles. The thing in me that yearned for those sensory cues from a woman wouldn’t quietly accept a substitute.
I had to accept a counterintuitive fact: my female attraction was fully formed—I could make love and fall in love—but my male attraction had no such terminus. To the degree that I felt male attraction, it was frustrated. In that arena, I possessed no desire to submit and little to conquer. For years I worried that the barrier was some version of self-loathing, a denial. But eventually I concluded that the continual questioning and my attempts to circumvent the barrier were their own form of loathing and self-flagellation. I would hold myself open to evolution on this point, but I would stop trying to force it. I would settle, over time, into the acceptance that my attractions, though fluid, were simply lopsided. Only with that acceptance would I truly feel free.
Blow's "lopsided" brand of bisexuality—romantically and sexually attracted to opposite-sex partners, only sexually attracted to same-sex partners—is common (particularly among bi men) but it is rarely discussed or acknowledged. It's not very visible. And as Blow's piece makes clear, writing "lopsided bisexuality" out of the bi experience, the constant and often smug framing of bisexuality as the capacity to be sexually and romantically attracted to both men and women equally, excludes men like Blow and makes it harder for men like him to accept themselves as bisexual. Men like Blow walk around believing that they're either not really bi (like this guy who wrote me at "Savage Love"), or that they're bi but defective or broken.
But bisexual guys like Blow aren't broken. That may be the case for some; there are some bi men out there whose homophobia prevents them from falling in love with other men. But after getting letters from men like Blow for years and years (two decades!) I'm convinced that most of these guys aren't damaged or defective or self-loathing. They are "bi-sexual but hetero-amorous," as Charles Pulliam-Moore put it, and there's nothing wrong with that—so long as guys who know themselves to be bisexual but hetero-amorous don't turn around and misrepresent themselves to gay men who may be after something more than sex. (Don't misrepresent themselves by commission or omission.) As I wrote in response to Pulliam-Moore...
Benoit Denizet-Lewis cited a better definition of bisexuality in his recent New York Times Magazine cover story: “I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge that I have in myself the potential to be attracted—romantically and/or sexually—to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way and not necessarily to the same degree.”
That's bisexual activist Robyn Ochs's definition. It's a a definition that encompasses the bisexual guys who write me letters wondering whether they're bi and it covers the bi guy who broke Charles Pulliam-Moore's heart. Denizet-Lewis describes Ochs's definition as "widely used." It needs to be more widely used. And seconding Pulliam-Moore: there would be less ill will between gay and bi men if more bi men were honest about only being interested in sex with men. Lots of gay men are up for NSA sex or FWB arrangements (duh)—but if there's no possibility of a romantic relationship, that's something needs to be disclosed and discussed going in.
But bi guys can't disclose that fact about themselves if they don't know that "lopsided bisexuality," or bi but hetero-amarous, is a thing—a legitimate thing, i.e. a perfectly legitimate and common expression of bisexual desire and identity. Blow had to come to that realization all by himself and it sounds like it was a long, painful, and confusing process. If more bisexuals men like Blow were out about their "lopsided bisexuality," if these hetero-amorous bisexuals were more visible, fewer bisexual men like Blow would have to struggle to accept themselves and come out as bi.