Erasure, mislabeling, and utter dismissal are some of the greatest challenges to bisexual visibility.
In a recent op-ed, New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow wrote,
“As much progress as has been made in the acceptance of L.G.B.T.-identified people in society, there is still a surprising level of resistance to people who identify as the B in that list of letters (bisexual) — or pansexual or omnisexual or even asexual — and that resistance comes from straight and gay people alike.”
The need to label behavior as gay, straight, or a passing experimentation puts bisexual or gender-fluid individuals in the position to constantly define, qualify, quantify and standardize their sexual experiences.
SFGN takes a look at seven bisexuals in the public eye and how they’ve defined and defended their sexual identities under public scrutiny.
Despite coming out as bi in a 2009 interview with Barbra Walters, and being an outspoken LGBT supporter, Lady Gaga’s sexual orientation has been called to question.
According to Queerty, Gaga defended her bisexuality saying “It’s not a lie that I am bisexual and I like women, and anyone that wants to twist this into ‘she says she’s bisexual for marketing,’ this is a fucking lie. This is who I am and who I have always been.”
Lady Gaga announced her engagement to longtime boyfriend Tyler Kinney via Instagram last February, after Kinney proposed to her on Valentine’s Day.
Born in Pensacola, Joe Dallesandro became an underground sex symbol after appearing in Andy Warhol’s “Lonesome Cowboys” and San Diego Surf, and Paul Morrissey’s trilogy “Flesh,” “Trash,” and “Heat.”
He was featured on the covers of the Rolling Stones’ “Sticky Fingers” and the Smiths’ self-titled debut album. He’s also referenced in Lou Reed’s song, "Walk on the Wild Side," about the characters Reed knew from Warhol's studio, The Factory.
In the biography, “Little Joe Superstar,” Dallesandro said “I consider myself bisexual. It wasn’t that I was sexually attracted to men per se, but if you do something for a while you can acquire a taste for it.”
He has been married three times and has two sons and a daughter.
The Scottish actor, writer, singer, director has had varied roles spanning across stage and screen, including the Emcee in Cabaret, Boris Grishenk in the Bond movie GoldenEye and Nightcrawler in X-Men United. He came out as bisexual in 1998.
“I feel that’s what I am,” he told the Advocate in an interview. “I see a worrying trend among LGBT people, that if you identify yourself in just one way, you close yourself off to other experiences. My sexuality has never been black and white; it’s always been gray. I’m with a man, but I haven’t closed myself off to the fact that I’m still sexually attracted to women.”
Cummings married his husband graphic artist Grant Shaffer, in 2007. The couple remarried for their fifth anniversary. Prior to Shaffer, Cumming was married to Hilary Lyon whom he met in grad school. He also had a two-year relationship with actress Saffron Burrows, and a six year relationship with theater director Nick Philippou according to Heavy.com.
Before writing and starring in the Emmy and Peabody award winning sketch comedy Portlandia, or playing Syd in the Amazon series “Transparent,” Carrie Brownstein was a musician in indie/punk groups Excuse 17, Wild-Flag, and a guitarist in the lauded Sleater-Kinney.
Brownstein was outed to her family after an article published in Spin magazine described an earlier break up with Sleater-Kinney bandmate, Corin Tucker. Since then Brownstein has been referred to on and off in the media as “openly gay.” However, in an interview with Willamette Week, Brownstein clarified.
“I definitely identify as bisexual,” she said. “Every interesting person I’ve ever read about, sexuality’s all over the map for them. It never was clearly defined. I’ve always just kind of existed in that world of openness.”
In 2014 Conner Mertens became the first college level football player to come out publically as bisexual. Mertens is the kicker for Willamette in Salem, Oregon. His story is featured in the 2015 LGBT sports documentary “Out to Win.”
In an interview with America Tonight at the South by Southwest festival, Mertens talked about his decision to come out.
"For me growing up, I always felt the biggest thing that caused my depression was the feeling of being alone," Mertens said. "I hate the stereotypes that go along with liking the same sex. You don't have to follow the stereotype to be this way. I made the decision that if I could help anyone else avoid feeling the way I felt, I would."
Rebecca Walker is the author of “Black, White and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self” and “Baby Love: Choosing Motherhood After a Lifetime of Ambivalence.”
In an interview with After Ellen, Walker talks about the criticism she received with the first book.
"Everything you would expect from being a biracial, bisexual person," Walker explained. "Jewish people got upset because they felt I only represented them as wealthy. Sometimes gay people got mad because they wanted me to have a whole coming-out moment, and even though I talk about my woman partner at the time [Ndegeocello] and her son, they didn’t feel I was out enough."
Walker was in a long-term relationship with musician Meshell Ndegeocello, but now has a male partner, Choyin Rangdrol with whom she raises a son.
"Everyone else seems to only feel comfortable with me being bisexual when I’m with a woman," she said. "Now that I’m with a man, there’s [a] twinge that used to not be there – as if I no longer speak the language or I don’t know the code."
IN THE PRESS
Charles M. Blow
In his 2014 Memoir, “Fire Shut Up in My Bones” New York Times columnist Charles Blow, talks about the misconceptions and confusion in understanding his own level of bisexuality.
He explained in an interview on SiriusXM Progress.
“[Bi]sexuality presents in a lot of different ways," “People can be bisexual and heteroamorous, meaning they can have sex with both men and women but only fall in love with people of the opposite sex. Or it can be the inverse. It can be people who fall in love with both, but only want to have sex with one. There’s a huge spectrum….All identity labels are umbrella terms to some degree, but this term bisexual is not only serviceable but it is sufficient. And yes, it brings together a bunch of people who are maybe shades different from one another. And maybe that’s the beauty of labels: that they force you to be with other people and see the difference.”