Societal standard for masculinity threatens bisexual identity for men

Valeria Pizarro

It’s no secret that when discussing sexuality, people generally avoid using the word “bisexual.” Sexuality is a spectrum, and a recent study found that 43 percent of young people in England identify as something other than strictly homosexual or heterosexual. For men, the struggle is unique and affected by their gender’s role in our society. There are men who feel too pressured by masculinity’s strict standards in our society to openly, and internally, identify as bisexual.

Gender roles promote the rejection of this label because the mainstream idea of self-assured masculinity makes it hard to believe that a man can be attracted to both men and women. Men feel threatened when someone questions their identity as a masculine figure. For instance, a study by psychologists at the University of South Florida showed that men who braided other men’s hair — a stereotypically feminine act — behaved more aggressively afterwards than those who did not.

Furthermore, Austin Dowling, psychology and theater and dance senior, said in an email that men find it more difficult to explore their identities when they strongly identify with a conventional masculine image.

“To someone who doesn’t feel like they’re masculine, or that they meet the expectations of being masculine, they might find it easier to question their sexuality/identity,” Dowling said. “Whereas someone who has always met the expectations, or gender norms, they may find it harder to question and even harder to be okay with what they find out about themselves.”

Tyler Curry, a writer for the LGBT magazine Advocate, wrote, “The male bisexual may be an elusive creature, but only because we create an environment where these men would rather adopt one label or another instead of facing the firing range of doubt.”

Ana Ixchel Rosal, executive director of Student Diversity Initiatives, cited consciousness and awareness of gender roles as an important factor in how a man chooses to identify himself.

“Gender roles, gender norms, gender identity and then sexual orientation — they’re all really distinct things,” Rosal said. “For people who aren’t as aware of this, there is a much stronger connection to their gender roles and how they identify in terms of their sexual orientation.”

Dowling offered advice for how to help those who might be struggling with this. He said he reminds people that one’s identity belongs to themselves only.

“I think the biggest thing I can offer is to explore it, and to take your time,” Dowling said “To remind yourself that there is not a rush to label yourself. It’s okay to not know.”

UT offers diverse resources for students regarding issues of gender and sexuality. The Gender and Sexuality Center will host a workshop called “Bisexuality: Getting to the Rarely Discussed ‘B’ in LGBTQA” on  Oct. 8 to offer students a safe place for discussion. Men who feel conflicted in their identities can find support and help through programs like these.

Pizarro is an English sophomore from El Paso. Follow her on Twitter @preciosx.