- Bi activist Lewis Oakley explains how to make other bi friends and what can go wrong.
I’ll never forget the first time I met another bisexual man. As someone who felt like the only bi boy in the world, I wanted to run over and hug him.
However, when I eventually got talking to this friend of a friend, things could not have gone worse. Forget never meet your heroes, never meet your fellow bi guys.
I was basically shut out from all conversation and told I was secretly gay – by a bisexual man. That hurt. I thought meeting another bisexual would mean we would instantly be friends, that we would have so much to talk about, that it would be us against the world.
Since then, I’ve met a bunch of lovely bisexuals, where we have shared those meaningful conversations, traded notes on the monosexuals and fostered friendships.
But the truth is, there have been bisexuals along the way that have been horrible. I worry for the young bisexuals out there that will have the same experience, those that naively think sharing a sexuality will make you instant friends or that you might find a deeper understanding of yourself.
Openly bi people are too rare
What we have to remember is that bisexuality is unique in comparison to other minorities.
According to figures from the Pew Research Center, only 19% of those who identify as bisexual say all or most of the important people in their lives are aware of their sexual orientation. In contrast, 75% of gay and lesbian adults say the same.
What that means is, it’s really unusual to get two out bisexuals in one place. As a result, being bisexual can be an isolating experience.
Many learn to walk the path alone, realising that they don’t have to conform. After all, they can write their own ticket, interpreting their sexuality the best way they see fit. They don’t have to consider a ‘culture’ and they aren’t subconsciously influenced by others like them.
Walk that path long enough and another bisexual showing up is a threat. Someone who can challenge the narrative you’ve written for yourself.
Bisexuals spend most of their time on the defensive when talking about their sexuality. ‘No it doesn’t mean I’m secretly gay.’ ‘No, the sex of my previous sexual partners doesn’t prove I have a preference.’ And of course: ‘No, it doesn’t mean I can’t be monogamous.’
So what happens when a shiny new bisexual shows up and says that actually they agree, bisexuals can’t be monogamous?
Bisexuality is a spectrum so we don’t always have a lot in common
Bisexuality comes in so many forms that you could have 100 of us in a room and still not find two people with the same experiences.
Some bi people have a gender preference, some are virgins, some are closeted. The spectrum of experience means bisexuals don’t always have a lot in common.
It’s important to recognize that some bisexuals can have their defenses up, even when it comes to other bi people. In these moments we need to display empathy and understanding. To show that whilst your experiences might differ, you’re not a threat to their version of bisexuality.
Unfortunately, one thing we are all united in is experiencing prejudice and preconceived notions about how our sexuality must impact our character. That’s not a bad place to start a conversation.
And whilst the majority of bisexuals do get along when they meet each other, I think it’s important young bi people manage their expectations.
Just like you shouldn’t expect other people to validate your sexuality, you shouldn’t count on other bisexuals to do that for you either.