Bisexual men exist. They don’t have to pick a side. They’re not sexually confused. And they’re bi even if they are currently seeing a woman.
Those were just some of the messages expressed by bi men Tuesday on Twitter as #BisexualMenExist trended throughout the day.
Some used the viral hashtag as an opportunity to come out:
Others jumped on the chance to explain how bi men tend to get dismissed by the LGBTQ+ community and straight people alike:
The hashtag even got a little love from Ryan Russell, an NFL veteran who previously played for the Dallas Cowboys and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and came out as bisexual in August in a powerful essay for ESPN.
The powerful hashtag was created by Vaneet Mehta, a software engineer and LGBTQ+ rights advocate who’s grown tired of seeing biphobia on Twitter.
“The biphobia towards bi men recently has been so shit,” Mehta said in his original tweet. “So I’m bringing back #BisexualMenExist for some much needed positivity! Drop a pic below with the hashtag and retweet this thread!”
Mehta told HuffPost that he tweeted in response to a Twitter conversation that recently broke out over a conversation on Netflix’s new reality show, “Love Is Blind.” In one episode, a couple gets into a tumultuous fight after the man in the relationship, Carlton, comes out as bisexual to his fiancée, Diamond. Diamond casts doubt on Carlton’s sexuality, and many on Twitter took her side.
“One of the main things I saw on Twitter was a poll trending asking women whether they would ever date a bi man,” Mehta said. “Most people voted no. I also saw quite a few comments insinuating that bi men were basically gay and just lying to themselves. It was upsetting.”
Mehta said the conversations on Twitter highlight how many people still believe that bisexuality doesn’t really exist or that it’s “just a phase” ― an unfair assumption that leads to bisexual erasure, or bi invisibility, as it’s also known.
“These stereotypes about bisexual people erase my identity entirely, telling me I’m not valid,” he said. “And it means people feel that they couldn’t date me because I’m only going to come out or I’m still in the closet.”
Kyle Payen, a college student from Brooklyn, New York, was one of the many men who chimed in on #BisexualMenExist.
Growing up in Spring Valley, New York, a predominantly black and Latino community undergoing gentrification, Payen said many of his neighbors were casual about their homophobia and biphobia.
“Growing up, I always heard the people in my community call gay people ‘faggots’ or ‘masisi,’ as my fellow Haitians would say,” Payen told HuffPost. “Specifically on bisexual folk, I remember people saying that bisexual men were ‘just gay men still in the closet.’”
When he finally came out as bisexual, his girlfriend at the time told him that she questioned “if she was enough” for him.
“I was able to help her understand that her assumption was rooted in biphobia and ignorance and eventually everything worked out,” he said. “I don’t think people are disposable. I’m willing to help re-educate people and build community with them.”
Steve Faciana is an aspiring filmmaker from Chicago who also added his voice to the hashtag. He said bi erasure plays out when friends and family insist you can’t be bi because you’ve never dated a man (or a woman, if you’re a bisexual woman).
“All my friends and family were supportive, but I don’t think any of them really took me seriously until I actually dated a guy,” he said.
“My biggest pet peeve about how people look at bisexual people is how they feel if they date the same gender, they’re gay,” he added. “If they date the opposite gender, they’re straight. We’re always bisexual, we are always attracted to both genders. People just don’t like to view it that way.”
Dan R., a 25-year-old artist from New York City, said he felt emboldened when he woke up Tuesday morning and saw #BisexualMenExist trending. His personal experiences highlight another way biphobia plays out: People often believe that bisexuals just want to have sex with everyone and are promiscuous.
“Even an ex-partner’s parent insisting I was going to cheat on them because I’m bi,” he told HuffPost. “This ignorant mentality even bled into the viral hashtag and the comments on my photos.” (There’s a lot of support underneath Dan’s tweet, but there’s negativity, too ― including one reply from an older man who told Dan that even if he comes out, don’t expect “real men like me to respect you.” It’s that kind of hostility that underscores the need for the hashtag.)
There’s more bisexuals out there than the hashtag’s trolls probably realize. Bisexuals make up the largest share of the LGBTQ+ population in the U.S. In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 5.5% of women and 2% of men said they were bisexual.
While erasure is clearly a problem, viral campaigns like this and visibility wins ― when TV and movies feature prominent bi characters, or when Russell, the NFL player, came out a few months ago ― make it easier for others to live an open life.
William Tracy, a sci-fi and fantasy author, is among them. He came out last year after being married to a woman for 15 years.
“I’m married to a woman, so I pass ― and did pass ― as straight for many years,” he said. “It took confidence in myself to admit the full scope of my sexuality.”
Sometimes, seeing viral campaigns like #BisexualMenExist is just the push you need, Tracy said.
“I’ve had such a welcoming response from the community, that’s why I wanted to add my voice,” he said. “Maybe if I had known more about bisexuality before, I would have come out sooner.”