For an African nation with a notorious history of discrimination, I have to say that folks here are pretty open-minded.
And I’m talking about gay rights and acceptance. Not only is South Africa the first country in Africa to legalize gay marriage, but they’re also the first country in the world to have language written into a constitution outlawing any sort of discrimination based on someone’s sexual orientation.
My first few nights in Johannesburg were spent hanging out with a few new friends in a couple of bars. Not to sound like a prude, but I was surprised to see happy gay couples holding hands and showing affection in public. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Love is a beautiful thing regardless of the orientation. However, I wasn’t expecting this in a country where straight men and women still follow closely to gender roles and traditions. Likewise, being from a country where we are still struggling with our own tolerance, and where the LGBTQ community has to beg for legislation to be treated and respected as full citizens, I have to say that I was most impressed at how much more progressive South Africa is in this regard.
At the bars, I met lots of men. (I’m not humble bragging, just stating facts.) Attention on me abound, I danced and kept the company of several men all night. And when one would go to the bar to buy me a drink, I was besieged by another dude asking if he could buy me one too. I went home that night with a handful of phone numbers and Facebook requests, including one from a fine brown-skinned dude with a head full of beautiful dreads and a thick beard. I was definitely smelling myself.
“You know that one guy you were talking to with the dreadlocks is bisexual, right?” said my one friend as we rode back to the hotel in a taxi.
Uh no, I did not. Why would I know that?
“Yeah there are many bisexual men in Joburg,” he said. My friend would know since he is bisexual too. This same friend once told me that while he likes having sex with men, he ultimately wants to fall in love with a woman.
“But it’s no big deal, right? He seems to like you. You should give him a chance. At least one date. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen? Other than you actually liking him,” he said.
And that might be the problem. Listen, I like to think of myself as progressive and accepting of all, but I must admit that I have my reservations. I have never dated a bisexual man before – at least not openly. However, I have always wondered about a couple of former flames who at times had me feeling like they might prefer a stroll on the queer side of these dating streets. And according to most research, including this report by the Williams Institute, nine million people in the U.S., which is approximately the total population of New Jersey, openly identify as LGBTQ. Likewise, among adults who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, bisexuals comprise a slight majority. And since I live across the bridge from Jersey, there is a real possibility that I may have unknowingly dated at least one bisexual man before.
Still, there is that stigma. For one, the stigma that bisexuals are indecisive and never satisfied. And while he may like me today, he could end up liking another guy tomorrow. While some people are secure enough in themselves to handle a polyamorous relationship, I always felt that three, or four, or however many folks, is a crowd. And then there is my concern about catching something…
I know it’s irrational and slightly offensive. After all, sexually transmitted diseases know no sexual orientation. Not to mention, women make up the majority of those infected with HIV. I’m willing to bet that has less to do with men having a preference for the same sex and more with folks screwing around without protection. It was certainly the case in my early 20s when I found myself sitting in the clinic clapping – and I’m not talking about a round of applause.
In all honesty, I had no good reason to reject the guy other than a ridiculous fear. Plus, he was charming, funny, and pretty sexy. As my friend said, “What’s the worst that could happen?” It’s only one date. Right?
The ironic thing is that if the roles were reversed, there would be no hesitation, mainly because society has a weird fascination with lesbian sex – or should I say, lesbian porn sex. Not only do we openly accept women’s sexuality as fluid, but in some ways, we encourage it. Much of that, I suspect, has to do with the male gaze, which assumes that sex between two women is some sort of sexy menage à trois waiting to happen.
However, bisexuality among men is not given the same fanciful treatment. Quite the opposite actually. Men who prefer intimacy with partners of both genders are only and always seen as gay men, and that is not the case. They are bisexual. Yet this stigma is likely why more men don’t actively talk about their dual interests, even as many of them are out there.
While there are no definite numbers, famed sex and human behaviorist Alfred Kinsey once claimed that “46 percent of the male population had engaged in both heterosexual and homosexual activities, or ‘reacted to’ persons of both sexes, in the course of their adult lives.” And according to this Vice article from last year entitled, “Where Are All the Bi Men and Why Are They Hiding?” “there are probably more bi people hiding who they are than gay people.”
You can take that theory however you want. But even if it is half of that number, the reality is that bisexual men are among us, and some of them may be decent, loving dudes. Perhaps it’s time for all of this to come out of the closet and for us accept the fact that just like women, men can date across genders, too. And they do date across genders. And there is nothing wrong with that.
In case you’re wondering, I did agree to a date. However, he stood me up. It seems that regardless of the orientation, men will be men.