wise words

Actor J.R. Yussuf offers a powerful take on the unique struggles faced by bisexual Black men

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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.

He writes:

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.”

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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.”

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.”

He continues:

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.