Tinder can be a bleak and lonely place — especially for bi people like me. I frequently encounter threesome solicitations; women who aren't actually into me but think their boyfriend might be; and requests for a detailed accounting of my sexual history. Every now and again, I also match with a bi guy, who seems even more fed up with being bi on Tinder than I am.
Bi men who date online deal with a uniquely shitty brand of biphobia. One of the most persistent and frustrating stereotypes they say they encounter — and among their biggest obstacles to finding a match online — is the idea that they don't actually exist. That, however, is the myth: A 2016 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that bi men not only exist, but that their numbers are growing, with now 2 percent of men identifying as bisexual (compared to 5.5 percent of women). "There's a lot of biphobia and bi-erasure on Tinder and other dating apps," says Joe Kort, psychotherapist and founder of The Center for Relationship and Sexual Health. Many of the bi male clients he works with tell him they feel "rejected by both the gay and straight community."
"We aren't confused," clarifies 18-year-old Lars, a bi man who's been online dating for about two years and says his sexual identity often turns people off. "Bisexuality isn't a 'phase' that we grow out of. And being in a straight relationship doesn't 'revoke' you being bi." He adds that bisexual men are often "fetishized and perceived to be slutty." And as I've experienced, some guys suspect their matches only swipe out of curiosity, not necessarily because they're interested in dating or hooking up. "They don't wanna date me, but they want to know about me, which is annoying," says Zachary Zane, an LGBTQ activist who's written extensively about his experience as an out bi guy. "I'm happy to educate, but at the same time, I'm not there to try to educate or talk about it; I'm there to try to find someone to date."
Lars says his matches similarly tend to overwhelm him with invasive inquiries about his sexual preferences. "There are the ones who like to ask where I am on the Kinsey scale, things like that. Those are some of the better matches because people are curious, and I get to answer their questions. Then there are the people who comment on how it's a shame that I'm bi, because they'd only get with me if I was oriented to their gender. Finally, there are the gay guys who try hard to make you 'admit' that you're gay, because they don't think of bisexuality as a real thing. I usually respond with something witty like, 'I'm glad I have other options than you.'"
"I'm honest about what I have and haven't done sexually, but I wonder, Why are you asking me this? If I'm into you enough to swipe right, why does that stuff matter?" adds Chris, a 21-year-old bi guy from New Jersey.
In terms of a relationship, some guys say their matches don't believe they'll be faithful because they have the capacity to be attracted to more than one gender. "It's not like that. If I'm with someone, I'm with them because I'm attracted to them and romantically interested in them only," says 21-year-old Simon. "Maybe it's like that for some bi people — I can't speak for everyone — but it's totally not like that for me!"
As with Simon, you've probably noticed that none of the other men I spoke with (besides Zane) were comfortable giving me their last name. That's because, according to Kort, "Bi guys often don't come out due to fear (which often turns out to be true) that he's transitionally gay and eventually will come out." Fear of rejection can keep some bi guys from disclosing their sexual preferences on Tinder, too. "I keep the fact that I'm bi a secret because I'm afraid of any potential biphobia," says 19-year-old Jake. Zane adds, "There have been situations where I think my matches would've rejected me if they'd known I was bi from the get-go."
However, being openly bi on Tinder does have a silver lining. "It works as a great filter for the types of people I want to talk to," explains Luke, a 34-year-old bi guy in Washington, D.C., who discloses his bisexuality in his bio. "I do take a match-rate hit for doing so, but that's fine. Finding the right matches instead of the most matches is the right strategy."
Still, Zane acknowledges that speaking openly about being bi doesn't always come easy. "You have people who don't believe you. You have people who say nasty things, like, 'I don't fuck with with guys who suck dick.'" But at least, Zane says, "I know where we now stand."
Sofia Barrett-Ibarria is an L.A.-based writer. She last wrote about the women who fart—and the men who watch.