Bi Men in Ordinary Time
By Peter Ruggiero for Bi Pride Day
It seems the past calendar year has been a banner one for bisexual men: actor Alan Cumming married his longtime male partner and spoke about his bisexuality…again; producer Clive Davis came out as decidedly bi in his recent memoir; singer Frank Ocean explained his feelings about a certain man to GQ; and singer Billie Joe Armstrong’s bisexuality was in the news again although he came out in 1994.
So, I should be thrilled, right? OK, I admit that I am. Every little bit of affirming – or more importantly self-affirming – news about bi men gives me a rush. I go from reading an article to posting a link on Facebook in nothing flat. Each bit of news lifts the veil of invisibility that bi men feel. Each bit of news gives the feeling that there is indeed another one of us out there. Each bit of news gives us the opportunity to exhale.
And that’s where things get – shall we say – interesting. While Cumming, Davis, Ocean, and Armstrong have been clear, direct, and up-front about their attractions and can thus serve as models, they live in that faraway world of entertainment which for most of us is untouchable. Once the rush of reading or hearing a story about another bi male celebrity wears off, I’m still living my life.
After the thrill has worn off, ordinary time sets back in. What we bi men need then is each other. The smaller community is critical because being bi is less captivating. It is the stuff of every day, with all the joys and problems that come on a basic level. With that in mind, I’d like to honor the other bi men in my life who make me proud to be bi every day and who remind me that there is community.
First, there’s Alex*, the intensely practical engineer. Getting to know him was a pleasure because we shared similar experiences in terms of when we came out – college – and how we feel about relationships and relationship choices. With Alex, I can breathe and let bisexuality be the wallpaper – it’s so much a part or who we are, we don’t have to remind each other about it. In other words, there is no constantly having to come out or having to remind.
Then, there’s Don, the musician. I met him on a road trip to New York City. What I remember from that is our discussing our dating types. Although we have a significant about of overlap in our tastes, it’s just nice to take as a given that the gender of the person being talked about will always be a surprise.
Next, I’m thinking about Jimmy. He’s a father who works in IT in the Midwest. Our conversations had a lot to do with finding community close by, and the frustrations of being out as bi and looking for love. It can be a struggle, but it is possible.
Finally, there’s the newest of bi friends, Brian. I met him on a recent trip to another part of the Midwest. Brian is an artist whose sexuality has been put into question and has been the cause of a fair bit of angst for him. As we get to know each other, the theme of what it means to be bi in the world keeps coming to the fore. We talk about such things as how being bi influences not just how people react to us, but how we see and respond to the world. This is going to be a long and fruitful conversation.
These are bi men who make serious decisions about who they come out to and what relationships they can pursue and still be true to themselves. None of this is enticing or headline-grabbing, but it is life. It is being a bi man in ordinary time.
Peter M. Ruggiero is an educator and bisexual and environmental activist in the Boston area. His academic interests include the intersection of gender, sexuality, and society. When not in the classroom, he’s usually on the yoga mat.
*all names have been changed to protect privacy