People are all too quick to pigeonhole bisexual and pansexual guys. Dating someone femme-presenting? You’re straight. Dating someone on the masculine side? Secretly gay and not ready to admit it. Dating a non-binary person who presents androgynously? Also gay, probably.
The thing is, bi and pan (short for “pansexual”) guys exist – I know, because I am one. These fundamental misconceptions swirl around mainstream gay scenes and straight spaces alike. I once had a threesome with two gay German guys and afterwards one playfully referred to me as a “baby queer” – erm, no, I’m just as queer as you mate; did you not notice when I was sucking your dick?
But let’s say you’re a guy who’s realised that, like me, you might not be totally straight – but you’ve only ever been in heterosexual relationships. You’re keen to explore, but you’re also anxious about the whole thing. Does that sound like you? In honour of Bisexuality Visibility Week, here are some pointers to help you navigate the terrain. Not you? Maybe still read on, so you can understand our sexuality a little better.
So you've got an inkling you're not totally straight, but how do you know for sure?
“You may not have that lightbulb moment,” warns Zachary Zane, a queer sex columnist and sex expert for Promescent. “I thought the moment my lips touched another man’s, I’d know definitively if I was gay or straight. Either I’d love it and suddenly know, or I’d clearly not be into it. Sometimes we have a lot of unconscious internalised homophobia and biphobia that inhibits us from initially enjoying the experience.”
Robert Hutchinson is a personal development coach and the co-founder of the Gay Happiness Project, a mindfulness-based group training programme for queer men. “Sexuality is in the body,” he says. “You'll feel it – it's really important to listen to your body and take notice of what it's telling you.”
“Things like a warm feeling around your heart might be a sign of a romantic attraction to a guy. And if you've got the unexpected butterflies in your stomach when you're talking to a guy who you might fancy, that can be a sign of sexual tension.”
I’ve never even flirted with a guy. How am I going to date one?
“In my experience, guys are a lot easier to flirt with than women,” Zane says. “You can be more direct and make more sustained eye contact. They often make it very clear very quickly if they’re into you or not. But in general, flirt the way you like to be flirted with. Make eye contact, smile, ask questions, listen.”
If you’re nervous, ask verbal questions – “Can I sit closer to you?”, “I’m thinking about kissing you, is that OK?” – which immediately eliminates any ambiguity. This is a good strategy, regardless of who you’re looking to trade bodily fluids with.
Bisexual activist and Bisexual Brunch podcaster Lewis Oakley has a few more tips: “Gay clubs are obviously a good bet, and there are loads of apps. Chatting and messaging and seeing if you get on with people is a decent start.”
He added: “Maybe this is old-fashioned, but I do think being in-person, seeing each other's facial expressions and body language is probably better. Go to places where it's not frowned upon too, because you don't want to think, ‘Oh, I also might experience homophobia’.”
If we have sex, won’t they figure out that I’m so inexperienced?
This could be a non-issue. “Luckily, a ton of guys are into men who have little experience and have never hooked up with guys before,” Zane says. “To be honest, it borders on fetishisation. So be open about it; if they’re into it, great. If not, find a guy who is.”
He adds: “On Grindr you can be very, very direct. Write in your profile, ‘Newly out and just looking to hook up.’ Most guys on Grindr aren't looking for anything serious.”
Personally, I find Grindr sometimes a bit intense – I am open-minded, but I’d like to see a pic of your face before your asshole, thanks. Feeld, on the other hand, has been a reliable source of queer sex (and straight group sex) for me.
Zane’s sentiment is echoed by Cohen. “Try an app like Grindr,” he says. “And be as open and direct as you can. It's okay to be upfront about your past and your sexuality – in fact, many guys are especially turned on by guys who are just beginning to explore queerness.” Be very clear about your desires and expectations, though. “The more you talk about what you're looking for and what you're not, the more comfortable you'll be going into the experience.”
Oakley was also quick to point out that the first sexual experience with the same gender – much like any sex-related first times – probably won’t be a mind-blowing experience. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
“For a lot of guys, it can feel like you’re 14 years-old again,” he says. “It could be awful and over quickly. Let's just manage those expectations right now, because obviously if you've been thinking about this for a long time and maybe watching porn, it’s unlikely to live up to that.”
What about dealing with biphobia?
Unfortunately, bi and pan guys have to put up with a tornado of assumptions and stereotypes. Let’s get some of them out of the way now: 1) We’re all slutty. 2) We’re always non-monogamous. 3) We’re always kinky. 4) We’ll automatically cheat on you and give you an STI. All bullshit – although personally, I am slutty, so feel free to slide into my DMs.
These biphobic beliefs have knockon effects on our community. Compared to 63 percent of gay men and lesbians, only 20 percent of bi people are out to all of their family, and two out of five of us have hidden or disguised our identity at work for fear of discrimination.
(Side note: Many bi people also identify as pansexual, Cohen and myself included. “I’m bisexual, and my spouse is non-binary,” Cohen says. “Most bisexual people I know are also attracted to trans and non-binary people. ‘Pansexual’ is usually used to mean ‘attraction regardless of gender’ which has a huge overlap with bisexuality, ‘attraction to two or more genders’.”)
Zane told me that he deals with bi erasure “all the time”, but he picks his battles when it comes to tackling it. “If I corrected someone every time they called me gay, I’d have no life,” he muses. “But when you have the energy, you should try to engage and educate.”
Getting used to communicating assertively and confidently around your sexual identity is really important. It’s not easy at first, but it does get better. If you’re confident, the other person will usually respect your identity.
“Take the lead with language in your communication about how you define your sexuality,” Hutchinson advises. “I'm talking as a gay man now, but even if they're fully supportive, other people might not realise how intense the experience of exploring and being open about your sexuality can be. It's really about developing assertiveness but also vulnerability. Maybe open up and be a bit more vulnerable about your experience and what's going on for you.”
In addition to all the above, find your community. Locate queer-friendly groups. Into gaming? Join a bi gaming subreddit. Into clubbing? Go to a filthy queer club night complete with a darkroom for happy endings. Interested in different relationship structures? Get yourself down to a polyamory social. Everything gets much easier once you find your people – and way more fun, too.