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From the Editor

The ‘bisexual’ conundrum

In the Philippines, being “bi” is often erroneously used by those who simply refer to “straight-acting/looking” gay men. There is a need to re-consider this, says Michael David C. Tan, as this not only promotes internal homophobia, but also takes away from real bisexual Filipinos the opportunity to be seen and be counted in the LGBT community.

Siguro mahaba ang buhok mo, no?

The guy on the other end of the line supposed – basing only on my voice – that I may have long hair; and that because I may have long hair, that I could be effeminate.  And it is this effeminacy that, for him, is… unacceptable.

I was – at that time – working with the now defunct Remedios AIDS Foundation Inc., and (while finishing some stuff), a common friend handed me his phone so I can talk to whoever was on the other line. This guy, whose name evades me now, was supposedly “as butch as one can get”, as my friend said – he was so butch, in fact, that even if his sexual practices are exclusively homosexual, he doesn’t see himself as gay.

“Yes, I have long hair,” I said – and though I have long hair now, at that time, I sort of lied since I had shot hair, not unlike every gay clone I know (oh, those days…).

And then we met.
And he saw me with my short hair.
And he was… surprised.

Hindi ka pala gay,” he said to me apprehensively, approaching me only after our common friend pushed him. He said he felt “foolish for assuming I’m gay, considering that bi(sexual) ka pala.

“I’m gay,” I said.

Niloloko mo ako eh,” he responded, believing I was trying to fool him. “You’re bi.”

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And here lies the confusion with the “bi” in the Philippines.

DEFINING “BI”

Simplistically, people who are attracted to both men and women are bisexual.

Here’s something worth highlighting, as stated by Human Rights Campaign (HRC):

Although some bisexual people do describe themselves as ‘50-50’ — equally attracted to both genders — that’s not the case for everyone. Bisexual people may not always be equally attracted to both sexes, and the degree of attraction may vary over time and as one’s sexual identity develops. No ‘test’ exists to determine what amount of attraction to each gender is necessary to identify as bisexual.

NO CONFUSION

No, bisexual people are not at all confused – i.e. a bisexual man, for instance, is not bisexual because he has yet to make up his mind on who he is really attracted to. This scientific study, among others, already confirmed that the sexual attraction of bisexual man or woman to both men and women is real; and that “the stereotype that bisexual men are just closeted homosexuals, or simply confused” is erroneous.

No, contrary to Woody Allen’s insinuation of the “greed” or bisexuals (i.e. that it betters their chances of picking up), bisexuals are bisexuals NOT necessarily for picking up’s sake.

And, no, there’s no “right” way for bisexuals to look like…

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CONFUSING “BI”

In the Philippines, though, being “bi” is often erroneously used by those who – simply – refer to “straight-acting/looking” gay men.

At least this is what’s common in my dealings with many men who have sex with men (MSM), many of them self-identifying as “bi”.

In fact, you just need to look at the self-identification of many (from the Philippines) who use Grindr or PlanetRomeo; or those who belong to clans (informal groups of somewhat tech savvy MSM) to see how prevalent this claiming is…

In reality, the (seeming) abhorrence of everything effeminate – arguably representative of the (continuing) hatred of the feminine (heck, of women at that!) – can explain this preference to be identified with the more masculine.
This because of the assumption that self-identifying as gay means admitting to being effeminate.
As if there’s anything wrong with being effeminate…

THE REAL “BI”

I, for one, respect people’s self-identification.

That is, if one self-identifies as “bi”, then that’s that person’s prerogative.

But we need to be clear here.
If you are a man who only likes other men, and will only do “it” with other men… then you have to start questioning your notion of bisexuality.
And this is even if you are the most masculine person in the world.

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The sooner this is accepted, the better.
Not only in dealing with internal homophobia (that is, the gay hatred of those who we claim not to “act respectable”).
But in ensuring that REAL bisexuals are represented in the LGBT community.

And how is my friend’s friend who self-identified as bisexual years and years ago?
He still chooses to do so.
And he still chooses to believe that “straight-acting/looking” gay men are “bi”.

So that yes, the educating needs to continue…

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