Longtime "Savage Love" fanboy with a bit of a conundrum — and it's your fault! I'm a bi man in my 30s. To use Charles M. Blow's word, my bisexuality is "lopsided." This means that I fall in love with women exclusively, but I love to have sex with men occasionally. My current girlfriend not only approves, she likes to join in. We have a great kinky sex life, and at times we invite a hot bi dude to join us. You keep saying that to counter bisexual erasure, it is the duty of every bisexual to come out of the closet. If I were a "proper" bisexual, i.e., romantically interested in men also, that would be no problem — my family and work and social circles are extremely liberal. However, your advice to us kinksters and people in open relationships is that we probably shouldn't come out to our parents or colleagues, since when it comes to sex, it's advisable to operate on a need-to-know basis. While I agree with this completely — my mother doesn't need to know my girlfriend pegs me — the rule keeps me in the closet as well. Since I'm only sexually interested in men, wouldn't I be revealing facts about my sex life if I came out as bi? I also wouldn't want to mislead gay men into thinking that I'm available for romantic relationships with them. So which rule is more important: the duty to come out as a bisexual or the advice to operate on a need-to-know basis when it comes to your sex life?
— Bisexual Leaning Out Warily
There's nothing improper about your bisexuality, BLOW — or Charles M. Blow's bisexuality, or the bisexuality of other "lopsided" bisexuals. While the idea that bisexuals are equally attracted to men and women sexually and romantically used to be pushed by a lot of bi activists ("I fall in love with people, not genitals!"), it didn't reflect the lived/fucked/sucked experience of most bisexuals. Like you and Blow (hetero-romantic bisexuals), many bisexuals have a strong preference for either women or men as romantic partners. My recently "gay married" bisexual friend Eric, however, is one of those bi-romantic bisexuals.
This popular misconception — that bisexuals are indifferent to gender (and more highly evolved than all those genital-obsessed monosexuals) — left many people who were having sex with men and women feeling as if they didn't have an identity. But thanks to bisexuals like Blow coming out and owning their bisexuality and their lopsidedness, a more nuanced and inclusive understanding of bisexuality has taken root. That nuance is reflected in bisexual activist Robyn Ochs' definition of bisexuality: "I call myself bisexual," Ochs says, "because I acknowledge that I have in myself the potential to be attracted — romantically and/or sexually — to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree."
Lopsided or not, BLOW, you're a proper bisexual, and if you're in a position to come out to your family and friends, you should. And rest assured, telling people you're bi doesn't mean you're divulging details about your sex life. You're disclosing your sexual orientation, not detailing your sexual practices. You can tell someone you're attracted to men and women — at the same time, in your case, if not in the same way — without telling them about the hot bi dudes you and the girlfriend bed together. And if you and the girlfriend are perceived to be monogamous, and you want to keep it that way, you can allow people to continue to make that assumption.
Finally, BLOW, most gay men are aware that bi guys usually aren't romantically interested in other men. And that's fine — so long as hetero-romantic bi guys don't mislead us, most gay men are down to fuck. (And gay men who won't date homo-romantic or bi-romantic men? You guys are missing out. My friend Eric was a hot, hung, adventurous catch. Congrats, Christian!) And since you're partnered and presumed to be monogamous, you're also presumed to be unavailable. But if you're worried a gay friend might hire a hit man to off the girlfriend so he can have a shot at your heart, come out to him as hetero-romantic at the same time you come out to him as bi.