2 people standing in rain with umbrellaBi guys – clearly gay and in the closet. Bi girls – just doing it to titillate men…

You only have to look at public attitudes to female celebrities “kissing a girl and liking it” and the fact that bi male celebrities, in general, are usually afraid to come out. There’s no question that, broadly speaking, we’re subject to very different stereotypes. Stereotypes lead to one conclusion: that bisexuals don’t really exist, because they’re all really only genuinely attracted to men. Add to this the debate about whether or not the term “bi” encompasses all genders and we have a lot of misunderstanding out there.

Francesca, 55

“In the bi support group I facilitate, I hear a lot from the guys about people assuming they’re ‘secretly gay’, says Francesca, 55. “One of the younger men in the group (the early 20s) speaks of the difficulty of asking a woman on a date, because, if she knows that he’s bi, she will either assume that he’s ‘really gay’ and simply looking for a ‘beard’ to hide behind.” She believes that men behave very differently towards women who claim to be attracted to women. “The thing about bi women identifying as bi in order to titillate men, has, in my experience, been exacerbated by the fact that a lot of straight men ARE titillated by the idea of bi women. I can’t count the number of times I’ve come out to a male friend, only to hear something along the lines of ‘That’s hot!’ or ‘Can I watch?’” Francesca believes that the idea of non-binary attraction puts pay to the idea that bisexuality is a mask or a myth. How can someone be attracted to someone neither male nor female if bisexuality isn’t possible? “I like to quote Robyn Ochs, that the ‘two’ implied by the word bisexual refers to ‘same’ or ‘different’. I am attracted to people who are (cisgender women) like me, and to people of other genders (not like me.)”

John, 61

“I’ve never hidden the fact I’m bi from any female I’ve been in a relationship with,” reveals John, 61. “I’d rather be upfront than deal with problems later. Some women have been accepting and the relationship lasted until it didn’t. Some were not comfortable dating a man who slept with other men. Some were completely hostile, telling me being bi isn’t a thing, and in one case shouting I should just admit I’m a ‘faggot’.” John found that when his ex-wife, who was bi herself, slept with another man she simply decided he was a ‘homo’ who tricked her into believing [he] was straight. When I pointed out I told her from the beginning I was bi she thought I was using her to cover my true feelings.” John once again cites non-binary attraction as proof that bisexuality must exist. “There is also the assumption bi means I’m attracted to men and women only. Again, a false assumption. Bii does not mean two. I’m attracted to people that don’t identify as male or female. I’m attracted to the person, not their sexuality, or lack of.”

Aly, 34

“I think a lot of this stereotyping comes from fear of the unknown and quite often people’s own insecurities, because maybe once or twice, they were turned on by someone of the same sex,” says Aly, 34. Aly also believes that non-binary-spectrum attraction comes as extra proof that bisexuality is not a mask or a myth. “I do wonder if my sexuality is down to the fact I identify with male characteristics more mentally and female characteristics physically,” she muses. “Does the fact I identify with both genders mean I’m attracted to both sexes? I’m not sure. I find myself attracted to people on various levels and will sleep with them if we have a connection. I never used to have anything more but sexual relationships with women after a few bad experiences. But now I’m quite happy with my girlfriend. She identifies with both genders as well, and I feel like this is really what’s making this a great relationship.”

19-year-old James

As a young bi man with an active social life on the “gay” clubbing scene, 19-year-old James has had many disappointing encounters with men. “’ You’ll change your mind when you’re older, it’s just a stepping stone, I’ve never met a real bi man, etc etc,” he sighs. James points out that it’s more socially acceptable from a very young age for women to experiment, hence perhaps the hurtful stereotype that women are doing it as a laugh and men have to really “mean” it when they say they are attracted to the opposite sex. “I never played ‘spin the bottle’ with male friends at school. It just isn’t done. But plenty of straight women have kissed other girls. It’s almost a rite of passage.” So, the message here is clear: biphobia hurts men and women equally. But it pays for us to be mindful of the fact that our lived experiences of it aren’t always the same, despite our similarities.