Being visible on Bi Visibility Day.

The first time I saw a penis that wasn’t mine or related to me, I was around 6 or 7 years old. If I was out and about with my mom on a weekend day, she would usually drop me off at the library (small town — tell the librarian I’m there, and tell me to stay in her eyesight) while she went to the post office or the hair store. Then she’d pick me up — with my new collection of books to read — and we’d either go to the movies or go bowl a few games, eat at our favorite fish restaurant (order some to-go for Dad or to eat for breakfast with grits the next day) and then head home.

If I was out and about with my dad on a weekend day, we roamed around Home Depot or Lowe’s for approximately 73 hours, give or take. Then we’d go to some kind of cafeteria like K&W or a buffet place like Ryan’s, where I’d steal yeast rolls and put them in my backpack to eat later. Then we would go bowling, and after 3 to 6 games, we’d hit the pro-shop so he could talk to Big Jake about bowling balls and lane conditions for another 73 hours, give or take. He’d work up an appetite, so we’d stop at Waffle House on the way home.

None of that has anything to do with the rest of this post really. I was just thinking about my parents today and how nice my childhood was.

Anyway, my dad had surgery on his thumb when I was 6 or 7, so our weekend trips couldn’t include the bowling alley for awhile. Instead, we would go to the community center because they had a pool and a sauna. The first time I went into the locker room, I remember sitting on a bench while my dad and two of his friends had a conversation about something I don’t remember because I was eye level with approximately 73 dicks of various shapes, sizes, and hues, ya know, give or take.

From that point on, I wanted to see Every Penis.

World Book Encyclopedia – Volume P
National Geographic – remote tribes of wherever
Little League – standing at the trough peeing with your besties

When I was 8, I had my first crush on a boy. He had gotten held back a grade, so he was Older & Dangerous, and I thought about him constantly. I didn’t really understand what a crush was until I was older and saw boys & girls holding hands, and realized I’d wanted to hold hands with him, and I still wanted to hold hands with boys. By then, my schoolmates had already built a colorful repertoire of names to call me from Sissy to Faggot, because I was smart and flamboyant and I wasn’t into “boy stuff” like getting dirty or getting hurt.

When I was 11, I had my first crush on a girl. I met her on AIM in a chatroom and she happened to live just 25 miles away from me, in the largest town close to my tiny rural community of 400 people. It was the town where my parents bowled in a league 3 times a week, and when I told her the nights I would be there, she cooked up a plan to have her parents take her and her friends bowling on one of those nights. When I met her in person, I wanted to hold her hand. I was shy and a little awkward — I still am when I meet new people I have a crush on — but that meant I wasn’t as expressive as I was in school. My voice wasn’t as high. My hands didn’t move as much. She didn’t read me as a Sissy, because I was too uncomfortable to give that much of myself.

She had a cousin who was in my grade at my school, and at some point the two of them connected the dots and she realized the boy she met on AIM was the faggot at her cousin’s school, and I never heard from her again. (I did look her up on Facebook recently and her husband looks awful and gave her a gaggle of ugly kids with huge ears.) That same year, I had a crush on another girl who had quickly become one of my best friends after I officially came out in junior high school. We were in marching band together, and like any gay guy / straight girl Band Best Friend pairing, we always sat together on the bus to and from away games. One away game, she sat with another guy on the way there, a senior she liked. He didn’t pay her enough attention, and she sat with me on the way back. When she put her head in my lap, I cried because I realized there would always be boys she’d like, and none of those boys would be me. I’d just be the gay best friend she could sit with again. She caught me crying and asked me why, but I couldn’t tell her I wasn’t GAY-gay. Just a faggot who also liked girls.

I didn’t let myself like girls after that. I went away to boarding school, painted my nails every Wednesday, wore heels everywhere, and sucked off every guy who would accept my promise to not tell anyone. It would be nice if the community of guys familiar with being called sissies were accepting of a wider variety of mannerisms and gender presentations, but it was much harder for me to find gay men who would talk to me with my nails done than it was for me to find straight ones. So in college, I shaved my head, put on sneakers, started going to the gym, and traded my Delia’s croptops for Abercrombie & Fitch tanks, because I wanted a real GAY boyfriend, not a straight guy who just wanted a blowjob in secret.

I didn’t find one, but I did find another girl I wanted to hold hands with. I worked in the mall, and so did she. She came into my store, and I was smitten. I would talk to her whenever she came in on a break, and then I worked up the nerve to ask her out. She said (and this is a quote that I distinctly remember), “Uh uh. I don’t do that gay bisexual DL bullshit.” She said it with a laugh, like we were both in on a joke, but it wasn’t a joke to me. It was my visible faggotry, even through the Straight Costume of the 00s, once again making me wholly undesirable to women.

Eventually, she did succumb to our common interests, our similar senses of humor, and our attraction to each other, and she went out with me. The first time we hooked up on her kitchen floor, I was elated. She was disappointed in herself for having sex with a gay man. When she took me to a small gathering at her best friend’s house, I stood in the living room with a bunch of people I didn’t know, listening to her best friend yell at her in the bedroom about the dangers of dating a faggot.

“I know you know that nigga is gay, don’t you! Listen to his voice! I’m trying to save you from AIDS and shit!”

She never took me seriously as a partner. When I introduced her to my best friend, who said “oh it’s nice to meet his girlfriend! I’ve heard so much about you!,” my “girlfriend” laughed and said “Obviously we’re just friends.”

I’ve had sex with a lot of girls since then. Not counting the blowjob spree I went on in boarding school, I’ve been intimate with more women than men. Some of them have given me fake numbers, so I can’t call them after. Some of them have told me I was a safe, no-strings-attached fuck since I’m “basically gay so it’s not like feelings will get involved.” The last girl I thought I was dating insisted we use condoms every time, even though we got tested together, even though we had moved in together. She did not insist her very heterosexual, very masculine guy on the side use condoms as well, and when she had a baby by him, we broke up.

I haven’t had the same kinds of issues with gay dating that some bisexual men describe. I’ve never had a gay man tell me he can’t date me because I’m bisexual. Usually, if my sexuality is an issue between me and a gay man, I end it with him because he doesn’t believe me. I’m not the Black DL Bisexual made popular by Oprah and E. Lynn Harris. I don’t hide my attraction to men from women, I’m not muscular, I don’t have kids, my life will not be ruined by exposing my sexuality, and nobody thinks I’m straight when I walk into the room. I wear dresses and call everybody Sis. When I tell a gay man I’m interested in that I’m bisexual, they can’t picture me with a woman, so they never make the audacious and inaccurate leap to “He’s going to leave me for a woman.” He negates my experience or assumes I’m actually gay or makes jokes.

There’s not a lot of space for openly bisexual men on the dating scene, but there’s even less space for bisexual men who don’t live in a heterosexual box most of the time. If you’re a bisexual man who reads gay, women don’t take you seriously and gay men invalidate your sexuality.

I wanted to say that on Bisexual Visibility Day. A couple of years ago, I decided to be more “visible” about being bisexual. Some of your “gay” male friends are attracted to women, but they’ve been socially conditioned to ignore it because their social life is “gay” and their mannerisms are “gay” and we don’t allow “gay” men to expression interest in women any more than we allow “straight” men to express interest in men without being categorized as “gay” forever. Centering the penis as the basis for sexuality is the problem and leads to every incorrect assumption perpetuated by a patriarchal society that can’t see past the dick:

Bisexual women are only into women because it titillates men.
Lesbians are only into women because they haven’t met the right men.
Gay men are into men because they were abused by a penis at some point.
Men who experiment with men are gay — 100% gay fullstop — forever.
Bisexual men are only into women because they can’t accept that they’re gay and they don’t want to be ostracized by their community.

We’re familiar with those bisexuals, and hopefully everyone reading this is smart enough to ignore the stereotypes and misconceptions, but the bisexual (Black) man as fed to us by media and anecdotes is not the bisexual (Black) man I am. We’ll never be visible unless more of us insist on being seen. This is me. Let’s hold hands.

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