"Bisexual: A Label With Layers"
The overlap between polyfolks and bisexuals is striking. There's a fair amount of evidence that roughly 40% of self-identified polyfolks say they are bisexual compared to just a few percent of the general population, and that in the other direction, a similar fraction of bisexuals consider poly to be their preferred relationship model.
Bis were also found to outnumber gay men in a Pew Research report last August. The B is the most numerous letter in the LGBT acronym. But the report also found bis to be almost three times more likely to be closeted than either gays or lesbians.
A New York Times article explores why, and how this might be changing, following the recent coming out of Olympic diver Tom Daley.
Bisexual: A Label With Layers
Tom Daley Comes Out as Bisexual, Igniting L.G.B.T. Debate
Left: Tom Daley, far left, and the screenwriter Dustin Lance Black. Right: Actress Cynthia Nixon, at left, had children with a man before having a son, Max, with Christine Marinoni. justjared.com/Cosmo via FameFlynet; Brian Ach/ID-PR via AP
“Of course I still fancy girls.”
Those six little words, tossed off like a request to please hold the mustard, were among the most deconstructed in Tom Daley’s YouTube video last month, in which the 19-year-old British Olympic diver announced that he was dating a man.
Leaning against Union Jack pillows, he continued, “But, I mean, right now I’m dating a guy, and I couldn’t be happier.” Mr. Daley’s message was sweet and simple, and gay rights advocates seemed thrilled to welcome an out-and-proud athlete into their ranks....
But the cheers were premature, or at least qualified. Despite the trending Twitter hashtag #TomGayley, Mr. Daley never used the word “gay,” and there was the matter of his still fancying girls. While many commenters embraced the ambiguity (“I don’t care if Tom Daley’s gay or bi or whatever ... He’s still fit,” one tweeted), others raised eyebrows.
Was it a disclaimer? A cop-out? A ploy to hold on to fans? Was he being greedy, as some joked? Or was he, as the video’s blushing tone suggested, simply caught up in the heady disorientation of first love, a place too intoxicating for labels?
Whatever the answer, Mr. Daley’s disclosure reignited a fraught conversation within the L.G.B.T. community, having to do with its third letter. Bisexuality, like chronic fatigue syndrome, is often assumed to be imaginary by those on the outside. The stereotypes abound: bisexuals are promiscuous, lying or in denial. They are gay men who can’t yet admit that they are gay, or “lesbians until graduation,” sowing wild oats before they find husbands.
“The reactions that you’re seeing are classic in terms of people not believing that bisexuality really exists, feeling that it’s a transitional stage or a form of being in the closet,” said Lisa Diamond, a professor at the University of Utah who studies sexual orientation.
Population-based studies, Dr. Diamond said, indicate that bisexuality is in fact more common than exclusively same-sex attraction, and that female libido is particularly open-ended. That may explain why female bisexuality is more conspicuous in popular culture, from Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” to “The Kids Are All Right” and the Netflix series “Orange Is the New Black.” (That straight men may find it titillating doesn’t hurt.)
In a recent Modern Love essay in The New York Times revealing her relationship with another woman, the actress Maria Bello wrote, “My feelings about attachment and partnership have always been that they are fluid and evolving.” Before marrying Bill de Blasio, Chirlane McCray identified as a lesbian, which has become part of the progressive credentials of New York’s first family.
...Lesbians are not immune to this kind of wariness. Even after Ms. McCray married Mr. de Blasio, some of her “lesbian-separatist friends,” as The New Yorker put it, refused to accept her new life in Park Slope....
“Among the younger generation, I’ve seen much more openness about bisexuality in both men and women, and often a rejection of all labels,” Dr. Diamond said. “They’re more open to the idea that, ‘Hey, sexuality is complicated, and as long as I know who I want to sleep with it doesn’t matter what I call myself.’ ”
Read the whole article (paper edition dated January 5, 2013). If that link fails, you can read the text here.
See also Victoria Bond's Three Problems for Bisexuality published on HuffPost Gay Voices three days ago:
...In reading the flurry of pieces that emerged from this hotbed of bi cultural activity this fall and winter, three things stood out as making bisexuality more confusing than it actually is....
1. The idea that female sexuality is utterly mysterious.
2. People not labeling their sexuality at all.
3. Disbelief in bisexuality altogether.