The Experience of Black Bisexual Male Teenagers

Not all black youths experience or express their bisexuality in the same way.

Posted Aug 11, 2018

Julyo CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Source: Julyo CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

What we know about bisexuality is usually about white bisexuality—whether black bisexuality is the same or diverges, we don’t know. This is why I found an exploratory study by Morgan & colleagues of 15 black bisexual male youths intriguing. I’ll grant you that from a traditional scientific perspective, little can be concluded from this small-scale study except, perhaps, as a guide for future research.

These 15 youths from a pediatric and health clinic in a Northeast urban area, ages 15 to 19, were included if they reported prior sex with males. They volunteered to be interviewed with three follow-up sessions during the next year. They were paid for their time.

Subgroups

The boys fell into one of two groups based on their sexual identity at the conclusion of the year: remaining bisexual or transitioning to gay. No one “became” straight or anything else, largely because they could only choose one of three sexual categories (straight, bisexual, gay). Readers of my past blogs know this limited 3-option choice doesn’t make me happy … If they had been given the option, perhaps some over time would have identified as mostly gay, mostly straight, pansexual, bi-curious, fluid, or some other identity rather than as bisexual or gay. We’ll never know about them but for male bisexuals as a whole, alternatives other than being a primary or transient bisexual are available—clinical, discordant, fluid, sensation-seeking, romantic, concealed, situational, etc. (Savin-Williams & Cohen, 2018).

Commonalities

It was also noteworthy that regardless of where they reside along sexual and romantic continuums, they shared several commonalities:

1. Desire to develop more romantic relationship with other guys

2. Have stable attractions to girls with a concomitant decline in sexual encounters with theme

3. Experience a disconnect between components of sexuality (e.g., wanting romance with guys and sex with girls)

4. Attempt to “reconcile often incongruent sexuality beliefs with personal and familial future orientation expectations.”

The youths were hesitant to disclose their sexuality (whether bisexual or gay) to parents, friends, and community members because they didn’t want to directly challenge masculine role expectations rife in the African-American family, community, and church: they should marry a woman and have children. Some might have wanted this but likely wanted it to be their own decision. Other concerns of the youths were whether bisexuality is a real, legitimate thing in black communities and the overpowering moral condemnation of same-sex sexuality experienced in their families and churches. The youths varied in the degree to which they felt these pressures and how they coped with them—though few details are provided.

Conclusions

Whether these issues are greater among black than other bisexual youths is unknown and can’t be known by this study. But what is readily apparent, according to the authors and my own work, are the following:

1. Target African-American families and communities with accurate sexual/romantic information and pleas for acceptance and support of their sexual-minority children.

2. Increase awareness of the complexity of sexuality, including the reality that not all domains of sexual and romantic development will be congruent (e.g., the desire for sex and romance might depend on the sex of the target).

3. Awareness that romantic development is a strongly felt need for sexual-minority boys.

4. Not all bisexual youths are bisexual in the same way, to the same degree, or for the same reason.

There’s not one bisexuality but multiple bisexualities.

References

Morgan, A., Saunders, B., Dodge, B., Harper, G., & Sanders, R. A. (2018). Exploring the sexual development experiences of black bisexual male adolescents over time.Archives of Sexual Behavior, 47, 1839-1851. doi: 10.1007/s10508-017-1084-4

Savin-Williams, R. C. & Cohen, K. M. (2018). Prevalence, mental health, and heterogeneity of bisexual men. Current Sexual Health Reports, 6. doi: 10.1007/s11930-018-0164-3