The B sits right in the middle of the LGBTQ acronym, and like middle children, bisexuality is often ignored and misunderstood. Soon-to-be Fort Lewis College senior Brandon Castle knows this all too well. After telling a close friend he was bisexual, they responded, “Well, that’s just ridiculous. You have to choose one or the other.”
This is something bisexuals hear from both the LGBTQ and straight communities.
A 2013 University of Pittsburgh study revealed both straight and gay people reacted negatively to bisexuality. Fifteen percent of straight men surveyed believed bisexuality doesn’t exist.
“There is a backlash on either end,” Castle said.
On the hetero side, Castle said bisexuality is either fetishized or considered “too gay.” The gay community can be distrusting or standoffish, and try to determine if he is more straight or more gay. Some view bisexuality as being disloyal to their true homosexual nature, and have doubts on whether bisexuals should be welcomed, especially if they are in a straight relationship.
“The LGBT community has enough stereotypes; to have them internally is going against what we should be working toward, which is accepting one another and our stories,” Castle said.
Castle’s been studying anthropology, gender, and sexuality, and has worked as an intern at the college’s Gender and Sexuality Resource Center.
“At the Center, they are open to different ideas and explore different ways of thinking,” he said.
His work and studies helped him become more mindful and accepting of his sexual identity.
“You have to be aware that there is no such thing as a black and white world,” Castle said. “The word ‘spectrum’ comes up in so many different aspects of life.” Including gender.
When Castle was younger and only had a basic understanding of sexuality, he said he knew he wasn’t attracted to just girls or just boys.
“I wasn’t necessarily between two worlds, but that’s how I felt at the time,” he said. “I knew in my head there was so much flexibility in what I’m attracted to… Becoming more confident with it really came with an understanding that there is so much more to it than all these stereotypes. It’s real. It’s not just a stepping stone.”
That is one of the major misconceptions of bisexuality, that it’s used as a tool for someone who is not fully comfortable coming out as gay.
“If someone is bisexual and they later start to figure out a different identity for themselves, that’s fine. But if someone is telling you they are bisexual, no one should tell them, ‘Oh, you’re gay and you should just admit it,’” he said.
Another myth is that bisexuality is an excuse for the sexually promiscuous to take a dip in a bigger dating pool.
“For men, it’s different because mainstream American culture has portrayed bisexual women as fantasy people want,” Castle said. “There are many different takes on why male bisexuality is (more stigmatized), but it’s related to toxic masculinity. Bisexual men may find themselves going back and forth between a very heterocentric world view or culture.”
That heterocentric world view is being investigated more and more. Our society sells young boys fables that physical strength, financial success, and sexual prowess is what makes a man, while traits that our culture has categorized as feminine – nurturing, caring, and emotional – are less valued.
The 2018 documentary, “The Mask We Live In,” explores the lives of young men as they try to navigate fitting into the masculine status quo. The conflict and confusion these lies create in their inner worlds, and the repression of their feelings, often results in anger, violence, the objectification of women, and depression. Bisexuality is not included in the American recipe of what makes someone machismo, which is why many will keep it to themselves.
Castle, on the other hand, has been open with people around him. Whether he is dating a man or a woman, he lets his partners know almost immediately. He’s received variable responses from variable sexes.
“I dated a guy before, and he was reluctant to accept that I wouldn’t have a side-girlfriend. That was his initial worry. It might have been in a joking, playful way, but (the jealousy) came out,” he said.
One of his former girlfriends was more open-minded, but would constantly ask for his thoughts on other men.
“It almost became fetishized,” Castle said. “Sometimes the conversation would have a tone that I wasn’t comfortable with.”
What Castle wants people to understand is that bisexuality is real. It isn’t a kink and it isn’t homosexuality.
“You’re not half-straight or half-gay,” he said. “Bisexuality is its own identity.”