I know I’m going to get asked this eventually, so let me address the topic explicitly. What’s a guy who wrote Soulfully Gay, the memoir of his integral spiritual development, doing talking about being bisexual? Gay is not bisexual. Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?
Yes and no. If you read the book and not just the title, you would have heard how I came out of the closet first as bisexual and only later identified as gay. In fact, as a Harvard senior, I had the opportunity to enroll in the world’s first-ever college course devoted to bisexuality (Robin Ochs taught it at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1991). If you’ve only been paying attention to the labels I have worn like a garment and not stripped them off, then you’ve only been looking at half of me.
Truthfully, from age 20 to age 23, I identified as bisexual, not gay. But I was open about my preference: I was not a “Kinsey 3”, exactly half-way between homosexual and heterosexual. Few self-identified bisexuals are, in fact. My preference was on the gay side of the street, and anyone who asked about my preference as opposed to my orientation knew this. I didn’t think of my homosexuality as a rigid orientation which I could not shake off so much as it was the side of the sexuality street I was more inclined naturally to be comfortable playing on. Make sense?
I only stopped identifying as bisexual after testing HIV positive (at age 24) and realizing that my life’s choices were probably going to be drawn from a shorter menu than I had previously contemplated. I wanted to find a partner, preferably one who was also HIV+. Basically, I looked at two exigencies: first, by looking for another partner who was also HIV+ there were many more gay men than straight or bi women who were HIV+; second, biphobia among gay men meant that if I refused to also identify as gay I would likely be seen negatively. And who wants to be thought of as a “sexual orientation traitor”? (Yes, someone actually called me that when I came out as bi and didn’t always see the same way as the “politically correct” party line.)
Once I grew comfortable identifying as gay and no longer actively sought out female partners, everything got a little bit easier for me socially as an HIV+ man. I suppose that’s what postmodern theorists would call monophilic privilege.
There’s actually a term for what I was back then: a gay-identified bisexual. It is more or less what it sounds like. It’s someone who has bisexual feelings and attractions, but calls himself gay for whatever reason. This is not to say that I ever “chose” to be gay, only that given the many different curve balls that life threw at me from prenatal hormones to genes to socio-cultural ideologies, I really had very little choice other than deciding to be myself or live a miserable life of denial, lies, and distortions.
Now many of you are probably saying “who cares”, and I applaud your tolerance. Many people keep such topics private, but as an author I have something of a professional responsibility to deal with the public dimension of the topics that I choose to write about. I won’t labor the point, or use this self-revealing moment to expound upon my exquisitely elaborate philosophy of Homophilia and Heterophilia and their connection to a Big Picture of the Evolution and Involution of All-That-Is. I’ll be talking about that topic down the road.
What changed that I am now calling myself bisexual? Sometime in 2011, I was separated from my then-boyfriend and started thinking about what it meant to be single again. I realized that I didn’t care anymore about whether my next potential mate was a boyfriend or a girlfriend, and so I started practicing a bit of homoflexibility before I even knew there was a term for it. I even wrote a blog post at the time in which I flirted with calling my sexual orientation “fluid” rather than either gay or bisexual. Shortly after this time, my boyfriend and I got back together and we stuck out a monogamous partnership for another five or six years. So I went back to being gay.
I’m not going to call Shambhala and tell them to change the title of my memoir to Soulfully Bisexual. It’s fine just the way it is. I’ve lived the vast majority of my entire adult life as a gay man and that’s unlikely to change. But times have changed, both in terms of my views and the cultural views. The younger generation is increasingly rejecting rigid sexual orientation labels for themselves, and that’s a bit of cultural evolution at work.
I am single again and noticing that the bisexual or homoflexible or gay labels don’t have to be a handicap. I believe in wearing such labels lightly; it’s not the social identity that penetrates to the soul or spirit level, it’s the intermixing of homophilia and heterophilia (and homo-Eros and hetero-Eros) in the subtle and spiritual realms. Nor does having a sexual identity have to be a preoccupation: I’m also okay with not being with anyone else romantically or sexually at the moment. But if I choose to date again, it’s just another aspect of being Amorously Human.