It is mildly amusing to see the mainstream media’s bewilderment at the reaction to Anna Paquin’s announcement that she is bisexual, through a tolerance-themed public-service TV ad. As one wag suggested, it’s odd that media types should be so surprised that the public is eagerly engaged in the news that a hot chick likes it both ways.
I’ve often thought that bisexuality is grossly misunderstood. People get “gay” and “straight” — but “bi?” Really? Isn’t that just code for “I’m gay but don’t want to admit it?” or “I’m a dirty whore screwing anything that moves, just waiting for the right person with whom to settle down and procreate?”
Well, no. Bisexuality is the result of a complex interplay of biological and sociocultural factors, and a person who is bisexual may favor one sex over the other. Although it’s open to criticism, the Kinsey Scale is one measure of bisexuality; a person, after undergoing a battery of tests, is given a score of sexual orientation on a zero to six axis, with zero being “completely heterosexual” and six being “exclusively homosexual.” Most people do not score zero or six, by the way, but since we are culturally programmed to accept a gay/straight dichotomy, we have some greater social aversion to accepting bisexuality for what it is.
Perhaps for that reason, most people are unfamiliar with just how many bisexuals are out there. Wikipedia has a list of prominenet bisexual persons, an selection of which is as follow:
Alexander the Great (ancient conqueror), Drew Barrymore (actress), Marlon Brando (actor), Caligula (Roman emperor), Joan Crawford (actress), James Dean (actor), Dominick Dunne (writer), Fergie (singer), Megan Fox (actress), Cary Grant (actor), Sir Alec Guiness (actor), William A. HenryIII (writer and critic), Angelina Jolie (actress), Florence King (writer), Herman Melville (writer), Lord Louis Mountbatten (last viceroy of India), Iris Murdoch (philosopher), and Gore Vidal (writer).
I do not hold out hope that the broader public will grasp the challenges confronting bisexuals — the minority within the minority that often has no real home anywhere in the gay or straight worlds. But perhaps Paquin’s announcement, and the reaction to it, will help plant a seed that will flower into something fruitful.