Monday, January 06, 2014

Tom Daley - Bisexuals Versus Gays

Personally, I was please when Tom Daley came out as apparently a bisexual.  His announcement that he was dating a guy but that he still liked girls wasn't so well received by some in the LGBT community who thought that Daley was copping out and avoiding using the gay word.  I think sexuality is fluid and differs from person to person.  True, there are gay men who will use the bisexual label until they can get comfortable with saying they are gay.  But that doesn't apply to all.  Thus, in answer to the question, are there really bisexuals, I would say yes since attraction is a complicated thing.  There are many straights - especially among the homophobes - who think gays are ready to jump in bed with any other male.  That is clearly not so - there are many men I find decidedly NOT attractive - and each of us has their own particular "type" that they find attractive.  And beyond the physical attributes one finds attractive, there is the essential element of personality and "chemistry."  A piece in the New York Times that I bookmarked some days ago looks at the issue Daley ignited:
“Of course I still fancy girls.”

Those six little words, tossed off like a request to please hold the mustard, were among the most deconstructed in Tom Daley’s YouTube video last month, in which the 19-year-old British Olympic diver announced that he was dating a man. 

Leaning against Union Jack pillows, he continued, “But, I mean, right now I’m dating a guy, and I couldn’t be happier.” Mr. Daley’s message was sweet and simple, and gay rights advocates seemed thrilled to welcome an out-and-proud athlete into their ranks. (The cattier comments came later, when the “guy” was reported by numerous tabloids and blogs to be the screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, who is two decades his senior.) 

But the cheers were premature, or at least qualified. Despite the trending Twitter hashtag #TomGayley, Mr. Daley never used the word “gay,” and there was the matter of his still fancying girls. While many commenters embraced the ambiguity (“I don’t care if Tom Daley’s gay or bi or whatever ... He’s still fit,” one tweeted), others raised eyebrows. 

Was it a disclaimer? A cop-out? A ploy to hold on to fans? Was he being greedy, as some joked? Or was he, as the video’s blushing tone suggested, simply caught up in the heady disorientation of first love, a place too intoxicating for labels? 

Whatever the answer, Mr. Daley’s disclosure reignited a fraught conversation within the L.G.B.T. community, having to do with its third letter. Bisexuality, like chronic fatigue syndrome, is often assumed to be imaginary by those on the outside. The stereotypes abound: bisexuals are promiscuous, lying or in denial. They are gay men who can’t yet admit that they are gay, or “lesbians until graduation,” sowing wild oats before they find husbands. 

“The reactions that you’re seeing are classic in terms of people not believing that bisexuality really exists, feeling that it’s a transitional stage or a form of being in the closet,” said Lisa Diamond, a professor at the University of Utah who studies sexual orientation. 

Population-based studies, Dr. Diamond said, indicate that bisexuality is in fact more common than exclusively same-sex attraction, and that female libido is particularly open-ended.

Male bisexuality, by contrast, is more vexed, and much of the skepticism comes from gay men. In the aftermath of Mr. Daley’s announcement, Ann Friedman wrote a post for New York Magazine’s The Cut blog predicting that male bisexuality would become more visible as gender mores evolved. “Traditional definitions of masculinity — which tend to go hand in hand with homophobia — are going through a real shake-up,” Ms. Friedman wrote. “More hetero men are tentatively admitting that they’re turned on by certain sex acts associated with gay men.” 

The gay conservative pundit Andrew Sullivan swiftly countered on his own blog, The Dish, saying, “I suspect, pace Friedman’s dreams, that there will always be far fewer men who transcend traditional sexual categories — because male sexuality is much cruder, simpler and more binary than female.” He called Mr. Daley’s claim about liking girls “a classic bridging mechanism to ease the transition to his real sexual identity. I know because I did it, too.”

Such thinking has irked bisexual advocates, who see bias within gay circles as evidence of “biphobia.” The claim has been lodged repeatedly at the sex columnist Dan Savage. In 2011, the blogger Chris O’Guinn accused Mr. Savage of saying “blatantly hurtful, cruel and insulting things about bisexuals,” including his remark in the documentary “Bi the Way” that “I meet somebody who’s 19 years old who tells me he’s bisexual, and I’m like: ‘Yeah, right, I doubt it. Come back when you’re 29 and we’ll see.’ ”  

[A] follow-up study at Northwestern concluded the opposite: male bisexuality is real. Why the change? Whereas the first study advertised for subjects in gay-oriented publications and included men who identified as gay, straight or bisexual, the second recruited from places catering specifically to bisexuals and selected only those who had seriously dated both men and women. 

Advocates, a touch exasperated, applauded the new results, though some pointed out that physical stimulation is only one ingredient of sexual orientation, which also stems from emotional intimacy.

In Mr. Daley’s case, the difference may be generational. People who have grown up in a more assimilated world may not see the value in labels like “gay” or “bisexual,” when the communities they describe are no longer as marginalized. 

“Among the younger generation, I’ve seen much more openness about bisexuality in both men and women, and often a rejection of all labels,” Dr. Diamond said. “They’re more open to the idea that, ‘Hey, sexuality is complicated, and as long as I know who I want to sleep with it doesn’t matter what I call myself.’ ”

In my own case, it was very hard to get to the point of looking in the mirror and admitting to myself that I was gay.  That said, I clearly knew that it was guys to whom I was really attracted.  Sexuality is complicated and we should not judge others. 

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