For as long as I can remember, I’ve needed someone to look up to: a role model. A guiding force. A person who knows exactly what to do and can help me solve all of life’s problems, personal, professional or of the “Why can’t I get a text back?” variety.
Sadly, those perfect people don’t exist. But that never stopped me from trying.
In the 20-odd years before I came out as bisexual, I was a very lost soul. My only exposure to bisexuality was the promiscuous partygoer or the flirty college girl tropes you see in movies. I viewed it as a women’s thing, and, in my warped mind, any man identifying as bisexual was just lying to himself about being gay.
Oh, how blind I was.
Now, having been out for about two years, I know that there’s no shame in who I am: Hey, I’m just RCM and I’m attracted to more than one gender. Big whoop!
But coming out is just the beginning. It’s the next phase that seems harder — and I’m still searching for wiser bi men to serve as role models.
There are a number of high-profile bisexual women: Lady Gaga, Margaret Cho, Anna Paquin, among others. These women have done wonders for the community, but none speak directly to what it’s like be a bi man.
Bisexuality is on the rise: According to a survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5 percent of women (up from 3.9 percent reported in a 2010 study) and 2 percent of men (up from 1.2 percent) identify as bisexual. The number of people who’ve had sexual experiences with someone of the same sex has gone up, too. For men, it jumped to 8.2 percent in 2014 from 4.5 percent in 1990. And yet, in a recent Match survey of LGBTQ singles, bisexual men were the least likely to say they feel supported by the LGBTQ community.
Clearly we’re out there (and people are becoming more experimental), but where to find them?
YouTube is a good place to start. It brought me to R.J. Aguiar and his YouTube series, “Ask A Bi Guy.” The series, which premiered on Sept. 23, 2014, (a.k.a. Celebrate Bisexuality Day), was his way of dispelling the misconceptions about his sexuality.
“Happy day where I have to prove I exist,” he deadpans in the first episode. From there, he touches on everything from self-acceptance and stereotypes to sex and dating. With almost 130,000 subscribers on YouTube, he’s one of the more prominent male voices in the bisexual community.
“Being out,” Aguiar told me over the phone, “sort of also meant accepting that I’d have to do a lot of explaining, because there are a lot of people who don’t understand it yet.”
Aguiar didn’t understand bisexuality until he met some women who identified as bi. They weren’t “seeing which [attraction] will win out,” as Aguiar said he spent years doing. They were just real people who were out and proud.
Bisexual people are often stereotyped as promiscuous. If you’re a bi man, for example, many in the gay and straight communities will say you’re actually gay. And if you’re a bi woman, it’s assumed that you’re experimenting with your sexuality and will eventually end up with a man.
Nichole Goble, a bi woman in Washington, says she’s rarely viewed as a person with her own sexual needs and desires. “You become a sex object basically,” Goble says, treated as if “you’re just there to fulfill some sort of fantasy.”
So how do we get past these hurdles? We can start by sharing our stories. “There just have to be more of us that are willing to take the heat of stupid in the short term as people start realizing that [being bisexual] not a big deal,” Aguiar said.
Aguiar, who recently married fellow YouTuber Will Shepherd, has been sharing his story for years and he still revels in those “ah-ha moments” people have when they finally seem to understand him.
I suppose he’s right. The more comfortable I feel with myself, the more I want to talk to others about my sexuality and help them understand what it means to be a bi guy.
In my short time being out and proud, I’ve seen some of these moments myself. Close friends responded to my coming out with their own; others thanked me for speaking up. One stranger even made me the first person they ever told.
It’s funny. While I was looking for a role model, I realized: I’m slowly becoming one.