Danny Bowes

Film & TV critic and journalist, novelist, short story writer, playwright, screenwriter.

FOR BI VISIBILITY DAY 2015

Spring 1995:

 

In one of those sublime moments of contentedness that are spoiled utterly if remarked upon, my head was resting in a position somewhere between adjacent to and upon a very dear (and platonic) friend of mine's breast as we leafed through a magazine. We were both 16. The magazine featured a photo spread by and for everyone who had greatly enjoyed Brad Pitt's 1994 one-two of Interview With The Vampire and Legends of the Fall, two divergent but exalted showcases of male beauty. My friend and I were split: I had preferred Interview With The Vampire (“you would, it's gayer”) and she had preferred Legends of the Fall (“so, you want to fuck the Marlboro Man, do you?”) but both were quite pleased with this particular magazine. What clinched the moment as one for all time was its being the first moment in my life when I realized that there was no need to “pick one,” to be wholly and unswervingly gay or straight, but that there was another path.

 

 

Later in spring 1995:

 

Armed with this new truth, while participating in one of those “go around the circle and everyone say something about themselves” classroom exercises on a school trip, I announced to the group that I was bisexual. Reaction was mixed. The girls nearly universally were thrilled and a few them hugged me. The boys nodded, as if to react too strongly one way or the other would be an unthinkable betrayal of worldliness. A couple of them came up to me later; one said “that took balls,” and the other one said, “yeah.” Another was rather scandalized, and while never mentioning anything to me, went and told a girl (who, later, amusingly, would tell me what he'd said while laughing her ass off) that “Danny's a faggot” in a deeply disturbed, almost haunted tone.

 

 

Still later, spring 1995:

 

Six boys in cheap, gold plated chains and approximately thirty pounds of hair gel each took turns barraging me with weak punches and ineffectual kicks. The words “stop fucking my girlfriend, faggot,” were repeated a few times. I responded, “Don't you see the cognitive dissonance in that?” This intensified the beating. It was worth it, but still. Ow.

 

 

Summer 1995:

 

Without delving into overly pornographic or ungentlemanly detail, I had a brief but marvelously enjoyable fling with a girl who found it to her liking to hang a Legends of the Fall poster over her bed before sex.

 

 

Fall 1996:

 

Not long into my freshman year of college, I was informed by an LGBT group whose meetings I'd been attending as a means of meeting other LGBT students that “we would prefer that straight people not attend meetings.” I was confused and replied that I was not straight, that I was the B in the acronym. I was then impatiently informed that only women could be bisexual and straight men coming to meetings to meet bisexual women contributed to the space being unsafe. Rather than press the point, I and the other bi-identifying guy who had been attending meetings stopped. Later that night, I frustratedly related this story to an older gay student in an official mentoring capacity (blurring the specifics somewhat for anonymity). He then flatly told me “They're right. There are no male bisexuals. You're either straight or gay.” I did not continue to confide in this person.

 

 

Summer 1997:

 

I met a very funny guy who was an even crazier movie nerd than I, an impressive or horrifying feat considering one's perspective. Upon finding out that he was gay, I resolved to use this information to a productive end. A truly bizarre set of circumstances involving alcohol, drugs, the impermanence of physical things, and neurosis lead to our never being productive to each other's ends despite a strong mutual desire to the contrary. He is now married to a very nice man.

 

Fall 1997:

 

I really heard David Bowie for the first time. Like, really heard David Bowie.

 

Spring 1999:

 

Sitting with a bisexual woman friend of mine, discussing a bisexual man from whom we occasionally bought drugs, she turned to me with great theatrical aplomb after relating a couple choice anecdotes about our mutual acquaintance's vigorous horniness: “He's bisexual. No one is safe.”

 

 

Winter 2002:

 

A woman with whom I was quite smitten and had a snowball's chance in hell of getting anywhere with told me, on our first date, “Don't ever tell anyone you're bisexual. Guys will think you're closeted and lying and chicks won't fuck you.” I replied, “I don't think I want to lie to get laid.” She said, “It's not lying, it's just . . .” I said, “It's lying.” The snowball in hell shook its head at me.

 

 

2005-ish:

 

While getting into costume, I mentioned to an actress friend that her new dude, whom I'd met a couple minutes before, was attractive, because he was. She sort of smile-frowned at me (look, it was dark, words fail me) and asked, “Are you gay?” I said, “No, I'm an equal opportunity employer.” She said, “I thought so. (pause) Yeah, he is hot, isn't he?” We laughed, her triumphally, me in pride and solidarity.

 

 

2008-09:

 

At a rather low ebb, I became involved with the stage manager of a play I was in. The details of the relationship are largely irrelevant to this discussion—some stuff was good, some stuff was bad, nothing without precedent—but two refrains pervaded: one was a constant series of warnings and threats, conveyed in various ways both direct and indirect, about what dire consequences would ensue if I ever cheated on her, and two, a near-constant stream of declarations about how relieved she was to meet a guy who wasn't gay. The first, in itself, is a reasonable request—“Don't cheat on me”—and the second is half-reasonable for a woman looking for a man to have a relationship with, even if it failed to take into account bisexuality. The constant repetition of both made me wonder, as little to nothing of the past was ever discussed, if an ex-boyfriend had cheated on her with a guy. At this point I neither know nor care. After an exasperating last few months, we simultaneously broke up with each other (she may have dumped me via text while I was at tech rehearsal for a play, I may have finally ended it when she got home from work the next day, but however it worked out, it was over) and, while we haven't spoken since, I can say with certainty that she is happier now, as I am, for our varying reasons.

 

 

2010-11 or so:

 

For a number of highly stupid reasons I presented myself in a “neutral,” awkwardly heteronormative fashion when I first began writing professionally on the Internet. These ranged from concerns about employability (ew) to “not wanting to complicate my arts criticism” (what the fuck ever, dipshit version of me from the hideously recent past) to being friendly with a homophobic professional athlete I didn't want to alienate because . . . actually, I have no idea why I cared about that anymore. This brief but shameful period came to a close with the advent, circa the end of 2011, of a more progressive form of mainstream online discourse, which has of course had its ugly backlashes, but had the welcome side benefit of inspiring me to be less of a duplicitous doofus, because offline me was quite happily out this entire time.

 

 

Now:

 

I still kind of have my head up my ass about romance and sexuality, but who doesn't? Identifying as bisexual has, over the years, fit so neatly with a panoply of other physical and psychological traits of mine that there is no question of it being a matter of confusion, or any kind of disorder. I'm naturally ambidextrous; I throw a ball best with my left arm, and use a pen with my left hand, but play the guitar naturally right handed, and open jars and such like more easily right-handed than left. I have a tendency to fall somewhere in the cracks of various dualities, be it theatre and film (and within film whether I fit in with the geeks or the classicist/art house crowd), whether I'm more naturally from Massachusetts or New York, and on and on. Being bisexual, neither gay nor straight but either or both or some discrete other, is but another iteration of that tendency to be divided, or other, or stubbornly on my own terms. I wouldn't have it any other way.

 

 

 

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