Issue 13: Can't Stop Bi-ing Stuff 🤪

On capitalism, dopamine, and "straight fluidity." (Feat. a guest essay by Two Bi Guys' Rob Cohen)!

Thank you for reading The Bi Monthly! If you like this newsletter, please consider becoming a paid subscriber—you’ll keep this content free for those who can’t afford it, support guest contributors, and also get early access to exclusive content (like this piece from the archives)! 💖🌀👾

Happy almost October, angels! You know what that means: It’s time to WAKE UP!!!!

Did I mention MY FUCKING BOOK comes out NEXT FUCKING WEEK? (Just to warn you, there are gonna be a lot of capital letters in this email—brace yrself.) Currently I’m incredibly overwhelmed with all things book launch. I feel like a broken record because all I talk about these days is bisexuality and Greedy and bisexuality and Greedy and bisexuality and Greedy. Though sometimes, just to switch things up, I also talk about how tired I am from talking about those things! (Lucky you!!)

If you’ve already preordered my book you can skip this paragraph—consider it your free gift with purchase. 😘 If you haven’t yet, please know that preordering would truly mean the world and would make a huge difference for me and my work. (I barely get any royalties from sales, so supporting early and sharing widely is the best way to support me!) The book is less than $20, which means it’s not as expensive as if I were to drag you to my improv show or something. No two drink minimums here!!! But also: If you can’t part with $20 for this right now, that is 10000% fine and you can ignore this paragraph free of charge! (I hope to offer a book donation campaign once the launch settles down, so stay tuned!)

ANYWAY. Today’s newsletter features a guest essay from Two Bi Guys’ Rob Cohen (he/him), which you can read below! I’m such a massive fan of Rob’s work, and feel lucky that I got to join him on his pod a few days ago. Our convo hit its stride and we covered so much ground, especially about subjects I don’t normally discuss (fetishization, bisexual men, being bi4bi, identifying as nonbinary). You can (and should) listen here!

But before we get into Rob’s powerful words, I want to talk about something vapid!!! That is: SHOPPING. For some reason I feel ~*vulnerable*~ admitting this, but I’ve always had a “shopping addiction” (which is a catchier way of saying, “I’ve never been oppressed by classism and have had the privilege of ignoring that entire system for the majority of my life. I’m spoiled, vain, and far too obsessed with myself. TL;DR: I’m the problem with this country.”

Some people with “shopping addictions” tend to buy things that are good for them, and sure—I do buy way too many books. But I also buy clothes. Lots of them. I always have. And they’ve always been “expensive” clothes, whatever “expensive” means relative to my financial state at the time. At one point it meant buying a single $25 vintage tee on Etsy—today, it’s me seriously considering these damn $100 Maisie Wilen sweats. I clicked into MW’s latest email while I was trying to write this newsletter, at first not even noticing the irony—the only thing I have less of than discipline is self-awareness. 🙄

Annoyingly, I’d say that “just out of my price range” has been my exact price range for the past fifteen years. Even when I get a raise or a bonus at work, the cost of the clothes I seek out seems to increase incrementally. It’s impossible to escape, and keeps me from turning any of my career milestones into substantial savings for my future.

And that’s capitalism in a nutshell, isn’t it? Everything we want is always out of reach. If it were within reach, we wouldn’t want it! Maybe that’s why resistance can take the form of learning how to be content with where we are and who we are. (And once we’ve done that: Being able to redistribute even more of our funds than we already do.)

I’ve tried to stop consuming as much, but have had little success. This past year has been worse than usual—I’m lucky to have maintained a full time job throughout the pandemic, but I’ve wasted far too much of my income on FaShUnNn, hoping it might make me “feel cute” . . . even though I have nowhere to go.

The other day my partner referred to pandemic shopping as a dopamine hit, and though it was a casual aside, it fucked me up!! I realized my shopping habit had become my makeshift solution for the hellscape that is our world right now—clothes and purses are always beautiful, unlike my life! I long for an escape, and capitalism, always the empath, gives me hope for one. When life feels pointless, I tap on Instagram ads, thinking, “Maybe these over-the-knee boots will make it all go away!”

I haven’t curbed my bullshit yet, but maybe admitting is the first step? It’s tough to find the line because I do deeply love fashion, and any newly purchased artifact does grant me a long-lost spirit of play (at least for a few days). But to view my habit in context of the world rn helps me realize just how emotional my shopping has become. I hate consumption, and I hate myself for being the kind of person who freebases Ssense sales to get her rocks off, but at the same time I look SO FUCKING CUTE in my new white Docs and not even capitalism can take that away from me!!!

This is why I’m torn: The feeling of looking hot is EXTREMELY powerful, especially now, while most of us are still wasting away indoors. I need to separate the idea of looking great from the idea of consumption, especially as I roll into my book launch next week, throughout which I DEMAND to look fine as hell. (I already bought two new outfits, but since this is my first book launch ever, I’m just gonna say I deserved them 💖).

I’d love your tips: What free things have helped you fall back in love with yourself? What zero cost ritual makes you feel sexy and powerful as hell? Leave your thots in the comments or reply to this email.

Last but not least, I love you! And, since this is easier to say to someone else than to myself: You’re hot!!! With or without SS22 Eckhaus Latta. 😘

Everyone’s NOT Bi

But maybe they’re not so straight either.

Words by guest contributor Rob Cohen

Lately I’ve been struggling with something that, on its face, seems like a good thing: I’ve met more and more guys who are open-minded about their sexuality, expressing some degree of fluidity and attraction to more than only women.

Some are starting to notice their interest in nonbinary or genderfluid people. Others are opening up about their sexual fantasies and experiences with other men, even if they only want romantic relationships with women. Some of these men eschew labels entirely, getting more comfortable with emotional bonding and physical intimacy, even among “friends.”

Yet many of these men still identify as “straight.”

Though I now proudly identify as bi (and host a podcast about male bisexuality), I still see myself in a lot of “open-minded” straight-identified guys. I identified that way through my late 20s, when I finally started to acknowledge to myself that I was curious about men. For a few years, I explored sexual experiences with men and still called myself “straight.”

And I wasn’t alone—far from it. Just open Grindr, any time, any place, and you’re bound to come across at least a few “mostly-straight,” “DL” (“down low”) or “discreet” guys, with profiles including phrases like “str8 but curious,” “have a girlfriend,” or “looking for no-strings-attached fun.” (And trust me, they can find it—easily.)

To me, all of this behavior falls under the bi+ umbrella, which brings up the question: Why don’t these guys just come out as bi?

After all, I did! As hard as it was, for me, coming out was necessary and ultimately liberating. But the years leading up to that -- and even some negative experiences after -- helped me understand exactly why many guys don’t come out. The number one reason: bisexual men are often seen as “really gay”, and as a result, many guys fear that they won’t be able to date women anymore (a very real fear, which played out for me with multiple women after I came out).

Beyond that, there are countless stereotypes and misunderstandings surrounding bisexuality—i.e. that all bi people are polymorous, hypersexual, greedy, unfaithful, or confused—which bi men can avoid by passing for straight. And some guys are already in a relationship or marriage that they don’t want to risk losing by coming out, especially if their partner is closed-minded or outright homophobic. 

But over time, I personally found that the “benefits” of passing were not worth the costs. Keeping that part of myself hidden by maintaining a straight identity only compounded the shame I felt about my same-sex attractions, even though the experiences themselves were mostly positive (and, I was surprised to find, quite similar to my prior experiences with women). Coming out as bisexual helped me integrate the various parts of myself I had been compartmentalizing.

But I ultimately did it because I felt a responsibility to other queer people who didn’t feel safe to come out yet. I wanted to explain to those people, those “straight” men— especially those in positions of privilege, whose safety wouldn’t be compromised by coming out—that actively avoiding a “bi” identity contributes to a never-ending cycle of bi erasure and biphobia. That saying nothing actually causes harm.

I’ve discussed this issue on my podcast, in two episodes with Dr. Jane Ward, author of Not Gay: Sex Between Straight White Men. According to Dr. Ward, “The first characteristic of white straight-identified men's sex with men is that [they] have the privilege to control the narrative, so that they have been able to argue this isn't sex at all. This is hazing, this is boys will be boys, this is a joke, this is wrestling, this is drunken shenanigans... That's actually how a lot of this kind of contact looks for straight-identified white men… [That’s] precisely why it's often hard to locate straight white men's sexual fluidity, or why it has been so invisible… People are very defensive about it.”

In response, some listeners were upset that we referred to these men as “straight.” Even if these men self-identify that way, the listeners asked, isn’t that a response to their own internalized homophobia (or to their fear of discrimination or losing privilege)? And if same-sex attractions and behavior are included in the definition of “straight,” what does straightness even mean anymore? Is it just boat shoes, jello shots, and singing “Mr. Brightside” at karaoke?

To answer these questions, we must understand three seemingly-contradictory truths about sexuality—but as a bi person, I have gotten very used to multiple seemingly-contradictory things being true at once.

Truth #1: Sexuality is a spectrum. While some people are on the ends – exclusively heterosexual or homosexual – an increasing number are somewhere in the middle. And current research is finding that the largest-growing group is “mostly-straight” people, 1s and 2s on the Kinsey Scale (from 0 to 6).

Truth #2: Though our attractions and internal thoughts are not a choice, we all do get to choose our own labels for our sexuality and gender, and those choices should be respected on an individual level. When someone tells you who they are, believe and accept them – just as you would want to be believed and accepted, even while you’re still figuring things out.

Truth #3: Bisexuality is all about embracing fluidity. Bi+ people understand that not only can our attractions and behaviors change over time, but our labels can change over time, too.

So, knowing this, what do we do with these “mostly-straight” guys? Do we embrace their fluidity within a straight identity? Or should we push them toward coming out as bisexual?

The answer—of course—is that we have to do both.

We have to remember that it’s still incredibly hard to come out as queer. You are likely to face real-world discrimination in various areas of your life. You can lose relationships, friendships, jobs, and other support networks—not to mention the specific biphobic assumptions people will make if you come out as bi, pan, or fluid.

But we also have to acknowledge that it’s hard—and harmful to one’s health—to stay closeted. Some think life is “easier” if you can pass for straight, but it’s not easy to hide part of yourself, to compartmentalize, to self-censor. These guys pass for straight despite the toll it takes (whether they realize they’re suffering or not).

So we need to have compassion. We need to meet people where they are and give them the space to explore their sexuality on their own terms. We have to trust that they will take each step when they’re ready – and if they’re not, we must respect that choice.

But at the same time, we should welcome them to queerness safely when they’re ready. We need to talk about the benefits of coming out, both for oneself and for the community. Bi+ people — especially bi men — need to be visible (if we can do so safely), proud and authentic with both the joys and struggles of queerness.

When sexually fluid men (or sexually fluid people of any gender, really) continue to outwardly identify as straight, it’s both completely understandable and detrimental to the types of connections and community that we need to build. It’s almost a “default” action of societal heteronormativity and a lack of action that makes all queer people feel more alone.

That’s why we have to talk about increasing fluidity within straightness, without judging those who choose that label, and we need to make bisexuality & fluidity more visible and better understood. We can, and must, do both at the same time.

Luckily, that’s a very bi thing to do.

Thank you so much for reading and subscribing to The Bi Monthly! I love you and I’m so grateful you’re here!

As mentioned up top, this newsletter has a paid option—if you’d like to support this work directly, feel free to subscribe. Paid subscriptions help me support guest creators, so we can have more pieces and perspectives (like the above!) 🥳🥳🥳