In an attempt to let Israelis peek into the complicated life of bisexual men, journalist Michal Israeli interviewed Pablo Utin, Israeli Film Critics Association’s chairman, who is openly bisexual and who talked about some of the prejudice from within the LGT community and outside it.
“Bisexual people just started putting their foot in the mainstream,” Pablo Utin said in the interview. “A friend once saw me talking to a very pretty woman who looked androgynous, and asked me,`’is this a guy or a girl?’ and I replied, ‘If you like this, what does it matter? ‘He was shocked and said to me,’ It matters, it matters! ‘”
In the gay community, he says, the situation is not much better. “For years, gay men used to patronize us, thinking we were cowards who were not willing to recognize that we were gay too… Today, young people are more willing to talk about a variety of identities, but it’s not really acceptable yet. I still sometimes feel that gay men look at me strangely”.
Utin is not the only one who has experienced such incidents and feelings. Surveys in the world have identified two parallel trends in recent years: More men report themselves as bisexual, or at least have experienced sex or relationships with other men. And these men don’t feel that the environment supports them, even less than women who share a similar preference. A study at Columbia University of 200 bisexual men in the closet found that they were completely confident of their sexual preference, as opposed to the “confused” myth, but preferred not to expose it out of fear of hostile reactions. Some expressed concern that if they came out of the closet to their female partner, she would simply leave.
“Several years ago I was in couples therapy with my girlfriend, and the subject of my attraction to men came up,” says Utin. “At that time I began to feel the attraction more and I started hearing and seeing the definition of bisexual. But the couples therapist called me out, dismissed my attraction and said I was just saying I’m bisexual as a way to avoid commitment to a relationship. She said that these things are studied or talked about at age 16 or 20, and that I was 35 years old and it didn’t have anything to do with my life. ”
Utin said that he found the therapist’s statements hurtful at first, but than realized that she was right about one thing: that bisexuality didn’t have any place in his life up to that moment, and that needed to be changed. “So I started to Google it, and while the concept of community was too much for me, I was just looking for people like me. I found a group of bisexual people organized by Shiri Eisner (one of the prominent bisexual activists in Israel) and her partner, Lilach Ben-David, and we would meet every other week and talk about our identity and our experiences. It saved my life and my relationship, it gave me air to breathe. For years I’ve been defining myself as a straight man who is also attracted to men because the definition of gay didn’t sit well with what I was feeling, and finally I understood that there was another option.”
Quite a few bisexual people also suffer from the feeling that they are not man enough, maybe even more than gay men. “I was very occupied with that thought,” says Utin. “I’m a man who cries, a man who loves romantic comedies, who is afraid of horror films, who does not drive, who talks about his feelings. Straight masculinity needs reinforcement all the time, to prove that it’s ok, that it’s not falling apart. Masculinity is built upon very permanent models of what is masculine and what is not, and if something deviates from it, it immediately shakes. It is very fragile. Being with a man is perceived as something that women do, so if a man is going with another man, you are perceived as ‘less than,’ because a woman is perceived as inferior. It’s only recently that even the gay community also adopted the image of the fighting man, the patriot, the gay man who is nevertheless a ‘man ‘s man.’ ”
Bisexual people, says Utin, are also required to fight the stigma — that they want to sleep with everybody, all the time. “This is one of the most common prejudice: that bisexuals are hyper-sexual, never satisfied, and always want more, which means that women are more likely to be accused of sexual promiscuity, and in the case of men it is common to want a lot of sex. It’s important to say that there are some men who are hyper-sexual, but there are also asexual. However, there is something positive about this stigma: talking about sex, sexual exploration, and all the possibilities our body has to offer. “