In a deeply moving personal essay published by Men’s Health, actor and LGBTQ activist J.R. Yussuf speaks candidly about the struggles he’s faced as an openly bisexual Black man.
Yussuf, who came out to his friends at age 10, writes about something many queer men struggled with as children: being ostracized by kids and adults alike.
“As a kid, I’d head on over to friends’ houses, and their parents would look at me a certain way, or not want their son or daughter to associate with me,” he recalls.
“I was constantly asked why I talked like a girl by other kids, which led me to hate my voice for the longest time. I can also remember being called the F-word from as early as five years old, and that lasted through high school.”
As an adult, Yussuf faced a different kind of ostracization. This time, it came from gay men, many of whom he considered to be his friends.
There would be moments where I felt extremely uncomfortable, like when bisexual jokes started up, and people would speak about bi men in a derogatory way. They’d say sh*t like all bi men are secretly gay and cheaters, and they reveled in the challenge of trying to take a bisexual man away from the woman he was with. A part of learning to honor myself was to stand up and say, “That’s not cool. You know, I’m actually bi.”
In 2018, Yussuf created the hashtag #BisexualMenSpeak, which encouraged bisexual men to share their experiences. Two years later, the hashtag is still being used to continue the conversation.
“The hashtag shows how diverse a community we are,” he writes. “We talk on everything from friends and family members’ conditional acceptance depending on the gender of your current partner, bisexual men’s investment in misogyny, and how racism shapes the biphobic Black bisexual experience for men.”
In my latest #bisexualmenspeak video I answer the question, How Do I Stop Being Afraid of Dating Men? #BiWeek#bisexualmenexist
Full video here: https://t.co/LC0mCut58A pic.twitter.com/GeS5kC2sdi
— Peppa Pig Hate Account (@JRYussuf) September 21, 2020
Yussuf concludes by talking about how the LGBTQ community often “pushes” people to come out. While the encouragement usually comes from a good place, it’s not always helpful or productive.
“People don’t seem to realize that disclosing is incredibly personal, and the world doesn’t make it safe for us to be bisexual,” he writes. “There is so much stigma for bi men, especially for Black bi men, due to racism.”
We can experience violence, discrimination, and harassment after coming out. So when I hear people who aren’t bisexual demanding that bi men come out, I don’t think it’s right, especially when neither the people demanding you to come out nor the world at large are equipped to be supportive and are relentlessly antagonistic towards your bisexuality.
Instead, Yussuf says people should be allowed to do what feels right for them, not what others say is right for them.
“You do you,” he says. “The important thing is that you feel comfortable with being bisexual.”
Read Yussuf’s full essay.
He’s right about people who are inherently bi/pan or contending with fluidity/confusion/contradictions having their own internal and external struggles. It is something distinct.
The essay however is very shallow and cliche. It’s the same “bi guy” spiel. The biggest issue with the “bi guy” narrative is that there’s still a lot of ignorance. He doesn’t try to educate. Instead, it’s all about victim-hood. And even a lot of bi identifying guys are tired of being aligned with that sociological victim narrative. He doesn’t touch on more complicated issues, which you’d think he would be able to give insight to considering he’s been out since 10 years old. He also doesn’t call out a good percentage of closeted, DL or “bi pride” guys who go out of their way to distinguish themselves from “gays”, who resent gay identifying people or who contend with internalized homophobia or homo shame or non homo superiority. He doesn’t go into non homo privileges or hetero privilege or hetero pressures. He only semi touched on bi identities and/or behaviors being fetishized by people like Graham and how many bi identifying or behaving dudes indulge and promote that type of fetishism. He doesn’t give insight to struggling with fluidity or insight into the romantic, sexual, affection, emotional, relationship spectrum. He doesn’t delve into the complicated nature of identity and the fact people all over the spectrum embrace a variety of different identities for different reasons. He doesn’t talk the issues with mental health many bi or fluid “queers” face.
If you know that the biggest issues are stemmed from ignorance and by sociology you should be seeking to give insight and nuance to that discussion. “Bi guy” politics cannot continue to just be about “erasing” or about the pressure from “straights” and “gays”. One of the reasons many inherently bi/pan continue to not really connect with “bi” from a socio-political standpoint is because the narrative does not have dimension and is pretty redundant and is almost entirely about identity politics. Thats also why many “straights” and “gays” don’t get it. Merely selling identity politics and sad stories is not good enough anymore, not if you’re really pushing for understanding and unity.
” they reveled in the challenge of trying to take a bisexual man away from the woman he was with…”
Yes, it’s a contest gay bi-fetishists hold during the third week of every February. First Prize is an all expense paid trip for three to Disneyland.
He must be talking about guys on the DL. Most dudes who desire to “take” guys away from women are usually not putting their aim on out, bi identifying guys. They tend to be focused on closeted/DL/straight identifying guys who are with women. However, instead of constantly attacking “gay” and “straight” people, he does need to ask closeted/DL guys to be more responsible or maybe ask why these out “gays” are obsessed with closeted/DL guys in the first place. And from what I can tell there’s a lot of bi/pan/fluid/queer/etc. identifying guys who are also obsessed with closeted dudes in hetero relationships. Once again, the aim is too focused on shaming people who connect themselves to certain identities.
He makes the same mistake that many of these “proud to be bi” guys make when when discussing issues. They make too much about being victimized by “straight” and “gay” identifying people. And they seem to never take to task DL culture, toxic masculinity, hetero pressures, internalized homophobia, fem-phobia, gay inferiority complexes- you know the stuff that actually causes most of the problems. Nor do many bi-guy spokesmen seem interested in genuinely educating people on sexuality, fluidity, confusion, trauma, the orientation spectrum. It’s still too much about shaming “gays” and “straights”, pushing identity politics and wanting to make others feel guilty. That shit needs to stop.
And this was published in Men’s Health, an incredibly mainstream magazine. There’s hope for America.
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