Inside the mind of every bisexual is a gay man struggling to get out. At least, that’s the view of many. It’s a widely held view that bisexuals are people who either want the best of both worlds, or, who are still too scared to embrace their inner gayness because they are on hold in some sort of mid-way sexuality transit lounge.
Back in 2013, Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski announced to his local constituency party that he was bisexual. Apart from Simon Hughes, so far as I know, no MP has ever done that. To his utter astonishment, the thirty people present rose as one and gave him a standing ovation. I wondered at the time whether they would have done that if he had said he was gay.
It is commonly thought there are degrees of bisexuality. On a scale of sexuality where 0 means completely straight and 100 means completely gay, a bisexual, could, I suppose, be anywhere in between. Are you bisexual if you have had a one off tryst with the same sex? Does that mean you are at 10 on that scale, or can you be bisexual if you are 95% gay but still appreciate the curves of a female? I can still appreciate a women’s breasts, yet my partner says he never notices them. Does that me more of a bisexual than him?
I suppose a true bisexual is someone who is at 50 on that scale and doesn’t have a particular preference one way or the other.
I always knew I was gay, but I was 28 until I did anything about it. Times were different back then. I had numerous girlfriends, but when it came down to “it”, I pulled away. That’s not to say I didn’t find women sexually attractive or didn’t do anything, short of “it”. I did, but I always knew I didn’t want “it”. I think most gay men have experimented with a woman “just to be sure”, and who can blame them, but experimentation does not a bisexual make.
I think there are comparatively few people who are what I would call ‘genuine’ bisexuals. Simon Hughes may or may not be one of them, but the former Liberal Democrat deputy leader seems to be a politician who can’t quite manage to get out of the transit lounge. Should we blame him for that, should gay men criticise him because he can’t bring himself to admit what most people assume he is – gay? Not at all.
In the end sexuality is something very personal. It is something that most people don’t have to speak publicly about and declare their sexuality to the world. Hopefully the day will soon dawn when it is exactly the same for politicians. It would be nice to think that many a shoulder will be shrugged when a politician declares himself or herself to be gay. But even in these days of so-called sexual liberation, politicians’ sexualities are still phenomena which set the media and political worlds a-tittering and a twittering.
Daniel Kawczynski no doubt felt a weight has been lifted from his shoulders when he went public. Yes, he was the subject of gossip at Westminster, but that goes with the territory. There will have been members of his family, long term friends who felt let down by the fact that he hadn’t been honest with them. But in the end they will have come to realise that for people of a certain age, these things are incredibly difficult.
I was 40 when I came out to my family, although most of my friends in London knew. Two of my best friends, who I had known since university days didn’t, and it was one of the hardest things I had to do when I told them that I had been lying to them for the best part of twenty years. It turned out that both of them had guessed anyway, but even so, I found it very difficult to get the words out without blubbing.
In twenty years’ time I really believe that no politician will have to come out of the closet, because the closet door will have been open for years. And if there really has been as much progress as I hope, no newspaper will be remotely interested in a politician’s sexual proclivities. I can but live in hope.
This is an updated version of an article I wrote for Attitude Magazine in 2013