I’d always prided myself on being able to meet people IRL. Who needed dating apps? Not me. But when I turned 23, I came out as bisexual, and suddenly, I began struggling to meet potential romantic partners the old-fashioned way. The confidence I once had with women slowly dwindled, until it seemingly vanished entirely. Foolishly, when I came out, I thought the world would be my oyster. I believed Woody Allen when he said, “Bisexuality immediately doubles your chances for a date on Saturday night.”
Instead, the opposite occurred. I’d tell women I was bi, and they’d quickly reply, “Oh, I can’t date a guy who’s bisexual.” So I started waiting a few dates until the women got to know me better. I figured once they liked and trusted me, they’d feel more comfortable dating a bi guy. That’s when I started getting ghosted.
During the time period women assumed I was straight, I didn’t feel like myself. I kept obsessing over what their response would be when I eventually did come out to them and feared my effeminate mannerisms would turn them off.
Gay men, while typically responding more positively than straight women, simply pretended I was gay. They’d ignore the fact I was bisexual, only to get uncomfortable when I brought up an ex-girlfriend. Yet they had no problem bringing up their ex-boyfriends. Or, they assumed I would eventually transition into “full-blown gay,” and were patiently waiting for me to make the big announcement. When it didn’t come, our texting would peter out.
So I downloaded Tinder. At first I didn’t put that I was bisexual in my profile — not because I was ashamed, but because I thought more people would Like me if they didn’t know. I could tell them later. But then I found myself breaking the news before agreeing to meet up in person and getting rejected over and over again.
It’s exhausting being rejected no matter the reason, but when it’s for something innate to your identity — something you can’t change — you’re left feeling discouraged, until discouragement eventually morphs into hopelessness.
With nothing to lose, I added “bi” to my profile. Those two simple letters changed everything. Quickly, the number of matches I had with women dropped by at least 90 percent, and that is not an exaggeration, but the matches I did make were much more meaningful. I didn’t need to officially “come out” because they saw my sexuality on my profile and Liked me, which alleviated a lot of pressure. We also tended to actually chat more on the app and eventually meet up.
Prominently displaying my sexuality filtered out people, in particular women, who wouldn’t date me because of my sexuality. Most of the time, my matches were queer or if the women were straight, they loved dating bi men. In their experience, openly bisexual men were less concerned with gender norms and often better in bed. Of course, I loved hearing this, and this was a couple years before Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli, Ph.D. published her book, Women in Relationships with Bisexual Men: Bi Men by Women, in which she interviewed 78 women about their experiences with bi men, and found that well, dating an openly bi guy is the absolute best.
For the first time in my life, women wanted to date me for something that others ostracized. I felt empowered and optimistic about my romantic future.
Ross, a 27 year-old living in Chicago, had a similar experience when he added “bi” to his profile. “The few women that do [Like me] are generally more open-minded or even consider themselves on the queer spectrum,” he says. “The ratio of queer to straight women I’ve dated is drastic.”
I also found myself meeting more bi men. Men who didn’t explicitly write “bi” on their profile, but would happily say something the moment they saw I proudly displayed my sexuality. Except for my current boyfriend, who identifies as gay, every person I’ve dated seriously has identified as bisexual or queer. I don’t think that’s coincidental. When you have shared experiences with discrimination, it’s easier to date. You share common ground and trauma.
Michael, 42, who lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, has a boldy bisexual Tinder profile picture. The image depicts him opening up his suit to review a big purple “Bi” shirt, à la Superman. “I’ve always had something written about my sexuality as a filter,” Michael says. “I figure it’s important to list big, fat deal-breakers upfront, like being non-monogamous, for example.”
He credits this transparency for his positive experience. “I often attract people who are relieved someone is being open about being bi,” he says. “I get compliments and responses of solidarity, which is sometimes enough to make up for the crappy bi-hating behavior I otherwise see so frequently.”
Like Michael, I too have encountered what he so eloquently called “crappy bi-hating behavior.” It wasn’t all rainbows, unicorns, and acceptance once I updated my bio. I had people take in upon themselves to tell me bisexuality doesn’t exist. Some folks only matched with me to then “prove” that I’m not bisexual since I’ve “only had sex with men for the past six months.” But do you know what’s great about online dating? You can unmatch those people. You don’t have to reply. You don’t have to engage. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone.