I'm A Young Bi Dad. Here's What People Get Wrong About Me
"It's not until recently that I've learned to accept my sexuality within myself."
My Best Friend
Many bisexual men stay closeted, whether single or in relationships (in my experience, with those of the opposite sex), because they're scared of the stigma towards them — especially when they have a child, which shifts things. It's time to evoke pride in male bisexual parents. Recently, I spoke with my lifelong pal Ryan Nelder, who is a bisexual single dad. He publicly acknowledged his bisexuality when he was 19, and had a child with an ex-girlfriend in 2015. He has long felt that bisexuality is still in a continuous phase of erasure — with stifled improvement in media depictions and so on. These are his words about his lived-in experiences as a bisexual navigating love, parenting, and dating.
The Stepping Stone
Let's start with the easiest misunderstanding of being bisexual: Stereotypically, people assume that bisexual men are softening the blow that leads to 'accepting' the reality that you're a gay man. If only it were that easy; bisexuality is not a binary journey in a vessel to binary homosexuality. I'm still attracted to women and had a child with one.
While, validly, there are often gay men who sometimes embrace a bisexual front before segueing into exclusive homosexuality on the journey of self-discovery. But plenty of bisexual men will attest that this is not the intention for everybody. We're not all on the gay train heading to Homosville.
"Muuuuuuum, it's not a phase, I promise!"
Bret Anderson of the band Suede once said he's "being bisexual without ever kissing a guy" and was accused of doing so to boost sales and fit within a zeitgeist. Foremostly, you can sit anywhere on the sexuality spectrum without needing to validate it with sexual activity. But, no, I'm bisexual. It ebbs and flows. It is not a phase. Previously, I have been in long-term relationships with women and men alike, but my bisexuality is still there. It won't expire like the date of a supermarket taco or bratwurst. I wish it were that simple.
My child, who is my priority, and I keep from the feeble nature of dating like an adult in general, has met only a handful of partners, the ones who went on to be long-term. He understands that dad has had boyfriends. Dad's also had girlfriends.
Sexualities that sit in a binary have, generally in my experience, pegged bisexual guys as being on the submissive end. Women, too, possibly because I have enjoyed experiences with men, assume I'd love to be fucked by a girl. They fetishise it for themselves, to an extent.
Naturally, everyone has different preferences, and we do not kink-shame in this haus. Still, I'd love for people to stop assuming I want my ass to be beaten at every given opportunity. I tend to take a more dominant role when having sex with females and, admittedly, a submissive part with males. However, I'd love to stress that these are my personal preferences and are unreflective of what each bisexual person likes in the bedroom.
Any hole is not a goal.
This one's my favourite.
I have an average sex drive compared to most, anecdotally. I'm even a vast romantic with a big heart, but in the eyes of dates, I have to quickly attend to that queue of horny women and men outside of my door.
Well, don't buy a ticket because this is one ride on which you're not hopping.
Bisexual people are stereotypically viewed as being promiscuous or a non-committal relationship from the get-go, and whilst this reality works splendidly for some, it simply isn't what we like. I've met people who broadly state that bisexual people are always in limbo, on a tangent with no end, which isn't the case for everybody.
If I were polyamorous or enjoyed multiple partners nightly, that would be okay. But that is not my vibe, yet people cannot comprehend anything beyond that when I ask why people peg it on my being bisexual. I like "both", so I constantly want and crave both, allegedly.
A cheap shot, in my opinion.
Am I still a "man" in a conventional sense?
I self-identify as a cis-gendered man with elements of androgyny.
In my own personal experience, it tends to be women who, after I tell them I’m bisexual, distance themselves quickly, but not the other way around. I ask why, and the response tends to be that I’m "less of a man" — in the atypical convention. And we haven’t even discussed my desire for monogamy yet. Naturally, I must emphasize that this is not a sweeping case for all minds and hearts.
I’m less of a man for a woman because I date or sleep with men. For men, dating or fucking women, and having a child with one, has, so far, not been an issue.
I worry that some bisexual men bite into a toxic masculinity sandwich by trying to mask their innermost sexuality around women due to being spurned like so.
Men are still "men" if that’s how they feel, in whatever sense they identify.
Dad, do you like boys or girls?
As a 26-year-old dad to a 6-year-old boy, he does not care. I've openly discussed with my son: I like boys and girls. His response: "I don't want a boyfriend or girlfriend; I just want pizza". Same, TBH. I do not hide my sexuality from my son in a way that is appropriate for a young person to learn that love isn't always the same as conventional imagery seen in the wild. By this, I mean that he's not had his eyes shielded from the screen when an unruly episode of Hollyoaks shows two women walking, talking, and holding hands.
Whilst shielding your child from the pitfalls and changes of dating as an adult is paramountly essential to me, I raised my child to understand that people can love who they love, and there is not much else to inhibit that choice. I consciously raised him to understand that love is not taboo, and in doing so, I hope he'll grow up to know and feel that he can utterly be himself.
He cares that we are happy, and unwaveringly, undoubtedly, he's my top priority and number one person in my life, despite talking so much about love from other people outside of my familial world. But equally, he doesn't care if dad has had a boyfriend, and a girlfriend, once upon a time. People have expressed concern about him turning out "messed up" or "confused", but he is beginning to understand that people are not linear. My son is sound of mind with people's differences and similarities alike. And, when he grows up, if he wants to date, he'll be all the more of a conscientious person for it.
Children don't see the world as bleak, but as adventurous, and we should encourage them to be the future of progression and fight stereotypes we face in our generation. He's also only interested in pizza, remember?
So if you're with a girl, do you miss being with men or vice-versa?
No. If I'm with someone and it's long-term and going well, it's monogamous. Some enjoy open relationships or polyamory, so give them slack, too. But for me, in monogamous relationships, I've never "missed" one gender when with someone of another.
Ex-partners have previously asked me if this is the case, that I maybe miss other aspects or elements of being with someone of another gender. I generally tend not to, as a general rule, watch porn. But, thus, sometimes I do watch porn. That's as far as I'd ever go. I'd never cheat for want of another body, no matter what.
I believe that perceptions of bisexuality stem from the myth that bisexual people are merely carnal beings with greedy natures. These people exist only to transpire as 'gay' in people's eyes or 'straight' in others.
The jokes aren't funny!!! (There I said it!)
You're not funny saying, "oh, be careful. You might fancy her and her husband!".
No, Rupert and Mary, you aren't my type. And it's just not funny.
My sexuality does not define me. My dad jokes and bad haircuts represent me instead. But, seriously, they are not funny. It's just cheap shots taken by people who scarcely have their identity questioned. I have a dark sense of humour, and with friends, the air turns blue, but if we're stripping away the joy and comedy just for a second, these jokes perpetuate harmful stereotype types. I feel that gay or straight men don't get the same sorts of jibes that bisexual men get. My heartstrings stretch out to others on the LGBTQI+ spectrum because I, on the "B" part, feel pained enough by these "jokes" that grind down my ability to take a joke on the chin, so I can only imagine and empathise with you.
I also don't remind you of that one bisexual lad you know from watching that programme.
Erasure in media
There is much discussion that Brokeback Mountain isn't a "gay" film. That in fact, Jack and Ennis are actually bisexual!
The fact that nobody even considered that the characters could be bisexual illustrates how bisexuality can be skipped over or suffer "erasure" because the media entirely dressed it up as an image of two closeted gay men. Growing up, this deletion of bisexual people’s stories in the films I watched, books I read, and music I listened to isolated me in being unable to see myself mirrored anywhere — this was at its worst when social media was taking off, about a decade ago like a juggernaut.
It's a shame: as attitudes and awareness in production for TV and films has evolved (caught-up), we now have good depictions of bisexuality in the media which we consume (think: Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Good Place, and so on), but these are seldom men. I am not saying there are no bisexual men on-screen, but it's a diamond in a mine to see.
Even with music, the media frequently reduces bisexuality to being chic or a joke's butt (👀). Even Freddie Mercury of the rock band Queen identified as bisexual, but the media routinely erased his sexuality, rewriting his narrative as that of a gay man.
Growing up and finding myself as a young adult, I often found it saddening to see so many topics surrounding bisexuality dismissed. Media coverage swiftly shut down Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day's bisexuality disclosure.
Musically, the bisexuality erasure is likely why I loved Placebo and their lead singer, Brian Molko. They pushed that boundary of what bisexual men can look like and deliver more representation.
I feel that a lot of the ignorance surrounding bisexual men, outside of that which is scantly covered in structured education, stems from where we all (in part) learn, sculpt and shape our knowledge: the aforementioned media. The lack of representation, I feel, trickles down into the fountain of eternal ignorance.
Whilst, in my own lived-in experiences, men are less likely to be phased by my bisexuality, I realise I’d risk demonising women if I didn’t shed light on the flipside of what I’ve experienced with — you guessed it, men.
I realise in retrospect that the issues I encounter at the hands of men have been different. Whilst many men are somewhat more willing to enter my dating doorway, plenty of them have carried a sense of triumphant, unwarranted masculinity with them. From feeling like they’ve "turned" me, tuning my body’s radio station to the XY FM, to radiating insecurity when wanting to scope out my most recent conquests with (only) females. Naturally, explaining that I’m in my twenties with a 6-year-old boy is a terrifying concept to the handful of a few men who admittedly wanted to fuck with a bisexual man in a box-ticking exercise. Those guys are the worst fucks in bed, by the way, if we're boiling things down to the bare bones.
I truly hope that this misguided thinking evolves with education, time and action. Not just for me alone, but for all bisexual men and people, across the entire spectrum, including our trans and POC communities.
Fetishisation of bisexuality
My previous point is one that I have experienced primarily with men. It's as though some men, not all, see bisexuality as a conquest, a UBO (Unidentified Bisexual Object) to be attained and had.
I understand and respect that we all have our preferences, desires. Our unknowns with whom we'd like to one day have grown acquainted. But, fuck the fetishists. I have sometimes experienced being a hollowed-out archetype of what someone wants: bisexual. That is it: my terrible dance moves and love of Doom Patrol and averseness to anything dairy don't get a look-in.
I had to quickly disconnect from individual men who preface our first conversations with how they'd find it "so hot" to date a guy with a kid who also fancies women, which has happened more than once. In this case, I'm pretty sure I'd rather be with a daddy than be the daddy (I joke, of course). My kid's wellbeing in terms of a partner they'd meet is paramount, so anyone like this would not even make it into our world.
My sexuality is not a prop for your gateway dreams.
Loneliness and isolation
I came out as bisexual, publicly, at 19. I fell in love with a man who I had dated for two months or so. Since then, I've felt ridiculed and almost isolated in a sense.
Girls have turned me down, as I've mentioned, with the blanket front of "I'd never date a bi man...no offence!" whilst most men tend to be, usually, comfortable with my sexuality. I have been called a faggot, a trend seeker, confused, a whore and a plethora of degrading terms.
It's not until recently that I've learned to accept my sexuality within myself. I had to — for my happiness. This year, I battled a deep depression, and my LTR (long-term relationship) with a woman ended, resulting in emotional exhaustion for both of us. I decided to face up to the mirror and accept again that it's okay to love who I love. I'm me, and there's nothing I'd change about that.
I'm a bisexual man — who is a good dad. My boy deserved a happy dad, not a lost one. Not everyone understands the minute particulars of my sexuality, and that's okay because we find our 'people' in time.
Bi dad's: You're not any less than who you authentically are because of who you love, like, or date. You needn't be alone in your experience. You're you, and that's great. Own it.