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September 27, 2004

  • Theoretically Bisexual
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    There are many days when I facetiously think my life would be a lot simpler if I were gay.

    Leaving aside the fact that statement ignores a whole lot of pain and oppression, the notion might have merit. For one thing, many of my friends would be able to smile, nod sagely and say "well that explains it all along". For another, I'd finally be able to thoroughly enjoy the plenitude of intimate but platonic relationships with women that seem to be available to me. Plus, I know all the jokes within queer culture. And I'm bitchy and I can cook. And I'm fairly certain I could get a date.

    But, perhaps fortunately for my gay male friends, I am a straight man.

    There was a time in my twenties, though, when I was bisexual. Not in any kind of empirical sense, mind. It was a more theoretical kind of bisexuality. As in, theoretically there might be men I might find attractive and if the circumstances were right and I met a guy who was more stunning than any woman I've ever met then I'd probably do him.

    In those days, as it is today, many of my best friends were queer, including the mothers of my goddaughter. Most of the courses that I found interesting at university were courses that explored Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered lives. I was, and still am, genuinely drawn to, and interested in, queer culture. It is still one of the only causes I will march for. And looking back, I can see why it appealed to me: it was a culture founded upon a sense of difference. I understood, a little, what it was like to be different, and have lived my own life with an incredible sense of difference. And so, I gravitated toward queer friends, queer studies and queer causes because of their own sense of difference.

    I wanted desperately to fit in. I'd sit in my classes on Gay and Lesbian Themes In Literature and, Zelig-like, blend in and let loose my queenie side. I'd be coy, though, when it came to questions of my own orientation. There are probably professors who have googled my column and have found my profession of heterosexuality bewildering, because back then I simply kept shtum about that rather important and all-encompassing point about my sexuality. It was the most grievous sin of omission.

    Because, really, I wanted to be gay. But I wasn't. In fact, at that time, I was going through one of the most passionate relationships I've ever had with a woman. I even brought her to one of my classes, though naturally didn't bother to mention my relationship to her.

    It's kind of like wanting to be Jewish, except you can't convert.

    Declaring yourself bisexual was a way into that world of sexual difference. Even if you've never been with a man, the idea that you were open to the idea of it seemed to be good enough. And don't think I'm alone in this. I know dozens of people in progressive circles who have said they were bisexual even though they'll probably never fellate a man in their lives, and have never thought of doing so really.

    And so I started telling friends I was bisexual. And I played the part, making lusty remarks about men and developing a certain flamingness to my online persona at the time. Make no mistake; I believed with all my heart I was bisexual. I had had some intense experiences with some men that I would have defined at the time as homosocial that I thought could have gone further. And I was sure that one day it would.

    And then, that one day came.

    In 1996, I moved to Britain. One of the first things I did was find a church that, naturally, was open and affirming to gays and lesbians. And I struck up a fast friendship with a gay man whom we'll call A. He was a Northerner who had worked in the queer activist side of the church for a while. As I had done my share of activism on the church front in Canada we had some stuff in common. So we talked amiably after church a few times. He took me to a couple of the gay bars in the West End. He was charming and interesting. As ever, I didn't really talk about my own sexuality one way or the other.

    A invited me to his house for dinner. I didn't really think much about his request at the time. It was when he met me at the Ladbroke Grove tube to take me to his place on the bus that I started to get a sense that something was up. My personal space became non-existent.

    He showed me his apartment and when we got to the bedroom he said, "Give us a hug then." And I hugged him. And then he kissed me.

    It was a full mouth kiss. I went along with it for the first few seconds. And then I realized that I was feeling nothing whatsoever from this. And in that moment I had an incredible, brutal, jarring, moment of clarity:

    Dear God, I'm straight.

    I broke off the kiss, apologized for it being ‘too sudden' and we had dinner. He made risotto and it was very good. But I knew the evening was going to progress into going out for drinks and A's interest was undiminished from the way he was grabbing my knees.

    Resourceful as ever—which is to say, not very—I called my flat and got my best friend, Rob. We had friends of ours flying in from San Francisco to visit us the next day.

    "Hey Rob it's Graeme."
    "Hey Graeme. what's up?"
    "Not much. Just wondering if you've heard from Den and Christine"
    "They called then?"
    "Ummmm…do you need me to say that they have called to get you out of something?"
    (chirpily) "Yeah."
    "Oh. Well, Dennis and Christine called."
    "What's up with them?"
    "I don't know. I'm making this up so you can get out of something."

    Excuses uttered and muttered, by the time I had gotten out of A's apartment, I had thus made the uncomfortable discovery that not only was I straight, I was also very much a man as well.

    I stood on the platform at Ladbroke Grove tube and probably never felt more ashamed of myself. I had been a fraud all this time. I had lied to myself and to others and now, to make matters worse, I had led someone on.

    It got worse.

    The next day my friends arrived. It was also my birthday, so I had a party at my flat and a number of my new friends from London came over, including A. He brought a dozen red roses. I deliberately engineered things such that we wouldn't have any privacy together and even feigned passing out from too much drink at the end of the evening so we wouldn't have to say goodnight.

    I'd like to say that I eventually handled the situation well. But I didn't. In fact I behaved quite despicably—worse than I have ever been treated by any woman I had been interested in. I didn't return his calls, and avoided him at church. I was embarrassed and ashamed of myself, and ashamed of having to talk to A about it.

    Never again, though, would I say I was bisexual. And never again did I believe it to be true of myself. Today, I still hang out with gay men—I'd like to think of myself, I suppose, as a straight male fag hag—but now, I don't keep my interest in women a secret. I've learned, I hope, to accept who I am with the people I'm with.

    To this day, A is the only person to have ever given me roses. He deserved better.


    Posted by graeme | (0) Comments | Permalink

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