Closet Minded: Bi-Naries

30 November 2013

I never expected him to out himself as bisexual while we were watching Panic Room.

Had I provoked it by showing the claustrophobic Jodie Foster thriller with a cardboard Kristen Stewart? I mean, she was sort of in a closet during the film, wasn’t she?

We’d been going steady for a few weeks: a handful of dates, a few coffee moments in Kensington, and one or two cheeky workplace pop-ins.

My assumption was that he was as ‘gay’ as I was, since the subject was never raised. Just as many heterosexual couples assume a secure straightness in those they date, I took him to be just as queer as any of Liza Minnelli’s husbands.

But as we snuggled on the couch and settled into the gun-toting, anxiety-inducing drama about a secret closeted room (see?), he paused the film and said to me, “I know it’s probably the worse time to say it, but I thought I’d be open with you and tell you I’m actually bi.”

I told him that it wasn’t really necessary. You could be in love with Jodie Foster and still be gay, I joked. Obviously unsure about how I would respond, he apologised and said that he should have told me earlier in our dating game. Frankly, I didn’t mind either way but his ‘coming out’ to me provoked some rumination about the erasure of bisexuality or bi-curious identities in our culture.

One thing I began to consider was how being bi is a sexual subjectivity that is constantly erased in our minds. Because of our binary-rich way of thinking and way of perceiving sexuality, bisexuality is often overlooked as a temporary or non-existent state.

The commonly associated phrase ‘Bi Now, Pay Later’ negatively epitomises this idea that it is a passing ‘phase’ to homosexuality or same-sex attraction. Since bisexuality cannot exist independently from hetero- or homosexuality, its presence between both of these orientations means that is often erased or considered illegitimate.

Many within the gay male community stigmatise bisexuality because it is associated with self-loathing that hinders gay men from coming out as ‘gay’. Similarly, bisexuality is shamed by straight people for how it undermines heterosexuality; it is both gay and straight at the same time and threatens to unravel heterosexual desire.

This precarious positioning means that bisexuality is often an orientation that some people do not acknowledge—some closet themselves to avoid shaming, as my boy did—or ignore it all together and say that they’re ‘gay’ or ‘straight’ to avoid the ordeal.

Panic Room went down a treat in the end, although we were disappointed Kristen Stewart was allowed to survive the narrative. When I asked who was better looking, me or that cardboard cut-out Stewart, he grinned and said, “Both of you.”

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