Aaron Carter’s problematic bi comments prove why celebs need to be more responsible with their sexuality

Lewis Oakley March 27, 2018
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Last year I wrote in support of Aaron Carter when he came out publicly as a bisexual man. Bisexual men being out of the closet is a rarity with research revealing only 12 percent of bisexual men in the US are out compared to 77 percent of gay men.

Having a bisexual celebrity out is even rarer and that’s something we must change, if celebrities can be useful for anything, normalising orientations outside of heterosexuality wouldn’t go amiss.

Unfortunately, as we have had with past bisexual celebrities, they so often let us down. This week Aaron revealed his coming out had been ‘misconstrued’ explaining that, “I see myself being with a woman and having kids. I want to have a family”.

He hinted that his sexuality was just something that happened in his youth. “It was more just a story that happened when I was like 17 with somebody, and I can find men and women attractive, but when it comes down to it, I think it was a little misconstrued.”

Related: The 50 most powerful gay, lesbian and bisexual people in politics

Bisexuals around the world do have a right to be angry with Aaron over this, I certainly take back the public well done I gave him last year.

You could argue this is none of my business, he’s his own person and is free to say what he likes about his attractions and experience.

But the truth is, it is my business when it affects me. Celebrities are people society has elected to hold up as examples, or at least hold larger talking sticks than the rest of us.

Many gay men I have met over the years have negative views of bisexuality, some think we are just closeted gay men, and others think we are using them for youthful fun and will eventually settle down with women. Aaron’s comments only strengthen this assumption.

Aaron Carter

Aaron may be new to his bisexuality but I’m not and I know you can’t go into sexuality with a game plan.

I’m attracted to men and women, that’s inescapable and when someone comes along that catches my eye I go for it, I can’t bank on ending up with a man or a woman – that’s for life to decide.

How would it even work? I meet a guy, we like each other, get together, move in and start building a life.

Then the day before my 30th birthday I sit him down and say: “I know this relationship is amazing and I love you more than anything but I told myself I’d have a wife and kids by the time I’m 32 so we have to break up.”

That is insanity, life doesn’t work that way, we can’t help who we fall in love with.

This issue isn’t uncommon in the heads of bisexuals, not knowing the gender of the person you will end up with is unnerving – you actually can’t plan for the future.

I dare say many bisexuals try to make a ‘decision’ about gender but in time come to see that they don’t have that control.

Perhaps this is a rite of passage for bisexuals. You have to come to terms with the fact that until you put a ring on it, you won’t know the gender of the person you’re going to spend your life with.

Related: Meet the bisexual, black cabaret dancer and spy who dated Frida Kahlo and helped defeat the Nazis in France

The internal conflict here is normal, the problem is Aaron Carter playing this out in front of the media and giving portraying the worst assumptions people already have about bisexuals. How many gay men in a relationship with a bi man read this headline today and had insecurities about their relationship?

How many gay men felt reassured that bisexual men always end up with women in the end?

The sorry truth is, there is so little discussion on bisexuality that one celebrity’s experience does have an impact on the general public’s perceptions. That is a lot of pressure for them and an unfair circumstance for us.

Bisexuals are crying out for good media representation, it’s really the only way this orientation is going to be normalised.

Bisexuality is invisible, when I walk down the street with my girlfriend, people presume me to be straight.

We can’t even represent ourselves and normalise the orientation the way a gay couple holding hands in the street can. We need positive portrayals in the media. However, the ones we’ve had have been completely lacklustre.

First, there was Tom Daley. To his credit, he never actually said he was ‘bisexual’ choosing instead to say he was attracted to men and women.

Related: Everything you’ve always wanted to ask a bisexual person but were always too scared

It was the media who inferred the word bisexual which is what people took his coming out to mean. Which meant when he later came out as gay it was a real blow to bisexuals who were happy the UK finally had a current famous bisexual man.

Then we had Ollie Locke. He identified as bisexual for years before coming out as gay. This is a bit of an ethical issue, on the one hand, we cannot judge someone’s coming out journey.

On the other, we cannot deny the damaging impact famous bisexuals coming out as gay has on bisexuals.

I recently shared a stage with Ollie at Student Pride and found myself unable to be nice to him.

I’m sure he’s a lovely person but as I looked at him I couldn’t help wondering how many young bisexual men have come out only to be told: “Ugh yeh like Ollie Locke was? How long did that last?”

Whether he intended it or not, his coming out journey is now used as ‘proof’ that bisexuals turn gay, his story will be used to intimidate bisexuals across the country.

This made working with him a real struggle, I couldn’t make eye contact with him the whole time we were on stage, I gave him one-word answers and did my best to stay away from him backstage.

It wasn’t my finest moment and truth be told if it hadn’t been such a positive event I would have had it out with him.

It may not have been his intent but he made the work I’m trying to do as a Bisexual Activist a lot harder.

So, what are we to do? Ban celebs from talking about sexuality? Of course not, we need them to talk about it.

But they need to show more responsibility and be more aware that they bring hope to people when a big name is out and proud.

They need to realise it’s not about generating headlines or seaming momentarily interesting, their actions have real consequences for minorities.

Related: Bisexual lighting is your new favourite viral meme

We not only need famous bisexual men to come out but also need them to help remove the stigma that surrounds the orientation. We need them to sell it the way they sell their apps and social media channels.

One day bisexuality will be normalised and the stigma will be gone, then one disappointing bisexual in the media won’t matter – unfortunately, we are not there yet.

Lewis Oakley is a bisexual activist. He tweets @lewyoaks and more of his articles can be read here.

More: Aaron Carter, bierasure, bisexual, tom daley

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