Disclosing Bisexuality May Not Be Helpful for Bisexual Men

For decades, research addressing the mental health of gay men has grouped bisexual and gay men together. This is a disservice to the LGBTQ community, and to bisexual men in particular. There are significant differences in behavior, identity, and attractions between gay and bisexual men. While gay men are attracted to other men and identify as homosexual, bisexual men can be attracted to either sex. And although it has been shown that disclosure of sexuality is beneficial to mental health for gay and bisexual men, bisexual men are more likely to conceal their sexuality than gay men. Therefore, they report lower levels of psychological well-being. This could be due to the fact that many bisexual men are in committed relationships to women and are torn between their desire for that relationship and their attraction to men. Or perhaps bisexual men are at war with their own homophobia.

To explore why bisexual men do not reveal their sexuality as often as gay men, Eric W. Schrimshaw of the Department of Sociomedical Sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York recently conducted an online survey of 203 bisexual men. He asked them about their levels of social support, mental health, internalized homophobia, and general demographics. He found that the men with the highest incomes were most likely to conceal their sexuality. This was also the case for men in committed relationships with women or those who identified as heterosexual. Concealment was also associated with more frequent female sexual encounters for bisexual men. Overall, the men that concealed their sexuality had poorer mental health than those who disclosed their sexuality.

Schrimshaw believes that these findings underscore the delicate nature of sexuality for bisexual men. Internalizing homophobic beliefs and lack of emotional support may be more dangerous to the psychological well-being of bisexual men than concealment alone. However, concealment can indirectly affect those domains. Although disclosure appears to be beneficial for gay men, this may not always be the case for bisexual men. Rather than interventions that focus on encouraging men to disclose their bisexuality, “Interventions addressing concerns about concealment, emotional support, and internalized homophobia may be more beneficial for increasing the mental health of bisexual men,” said Schrimshaw.

Schrimshaw, E. W., Siegel, K., Downing, M. J., Jr., and Parsons, J. T. (2012). Disclosure and concealment of sexual orientation and the mental health of non-gay-identified, behaviorally bisexual men. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0031272

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  • Howard

    January 26th, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    I am one of those people who struggles not with myself being bisexual but in understanding how others can feel this way. I am fine with heterosexuals and homosexuals, but the whole idea of being bisexual just confuses me. How can you be attracted to both sexes equally? I guess I am a one way or the other kind of guy and this concept of jumping back and forth between partners of a different sex and not settling on one that you like more than the others kind of is beyond what I can understand. It’s not that I’m not willing to try, but it doesn’t come too naturally to me.

  • carmen r

    January 28th, 2013 at 3:52 AM

    anything on how this same thing would affect women?

  • Martin

    January 28th, 2013 at 10:11 AM

    While coming out with their orientation may not help them, I’m pretty sure being comfortable about it and open to their partner is. Because although your friends and colleagues may not know of you being bisexual, if your partner knows and acknowledges it it can be a huge relief.

  • Laura B

    January 28th, 2013 at 3:37 PM

    Disclosing may not be beneficial but I’m pretty sure not disclosing is causing problems. I know at least one person who is bisexual but refuses to come out with it or even acknowledge it. yes it is not anybody else’s business but by keeping it within him he is definitely hurting himself psychologically. I’ve heard a lot of homosexual people say coming out made them feel so much more relieved. it is hard to imagine it is any different for bisexual individuals.

  • Max the Communist

    January 28th, 2013 at 8:25 PM

    This synapse makes it very unclear just what kind of support these bisexual men have for coming out as bisexual. Do they have access to or are they even aware of the existence of bisexual organizations? Has any interaction with a general LGBT community given them a chance to find support for their bisexuality or has their local LGBT community been negative toward their sexual orientation and added even greater pressure on issues like disclosure? A bisexual man or woman may find that stigmatization from both straight and gay cultures only adds to mental health problems like depression and anxiety.

  • Patrick

    November 1st, 2016 at 2:35 PM

    I consider myself non-hetero, but prefer woman. I will have experiences with men in the future though I have not previously.
    I cannot see myself in a monogamous relationship ever again.
    I resent both hetero and homosexual culture for expecting me to classify my sexuality.
    I am not cis, cis is a bigoted acronym.

  • Archie_Meijer

    November 14th, 2016 at 8:02 PM

    “cis” just means you don’t want a sex change operation. I don’t see how that’s bigoted.

    And nobody can force you to do something you don’t want to do so I don’t see why you’re so upset. If you don’t want to be monogamous then just don’t be monogamous.

  • jim

    February 26th, 2013 at 10:58 PM

    I am a bisexual male in a relationship with a woman that does not know. Most people that know me do not know and I think it’s best for me to keep it that way. Bisexual men are not well liked by society.

  • Mat

    July 26th, 2013 at 5:12 AM

    I have always been “out” as bisexual and sometimes in the art circles I run in it has been OK. But even in the most liberal and open minded sub-culture of the art world there is a lot of discrimination, misunderstanding, and prejudice. In the last few years the negativity and stigma has resulted in a three year depression. I think bisexual men should be selectively out. And if there is a preference for women bi guys should actively seek out bisexual women for long term partnerships. I have been monogomous in most of my relationships with women. But now I date a bi woman who wanted an open relationship. Part of what I find depressing is still even after “proof” of male bisexuality it is still thought “not to really exist”. Anxiety comes when you are perpetually told to be a non-existent person. I must also say I have preferred women and being “out” and coming out to a female partner and being rejected is very heartbreaking and stressful much less having gay men out right tell you that you never loved the women that you have loved.

  • John Garrett Jones

    September 20th, 2013 at 8:09 AM

    I have been a happily married man for 56 years, have two grown daughters and four delightful grandchildren. But I am also bisexual!My wife knew about my gay drive before we got married so there was never the problem about disclosure. I have written a book called “Coming Clean about Bisexuality” which is based partly on my own experience and which many other men have found helpful. It can be read or freely downloaded from my website, “Love – not war.”
    As you will see, I feel it is important to recognise that a bisexual man is not in the same position as an exclusively gay man and this affects the kind of gay sex he adopts. I would urge all bi men seeking male partners to concentrate on what makes men male and to avoid getting drawn into anal sex – which is in any case pseudo-heterosexual.
    I have placed the book in the context of an anti-war site (which you may also find well worth reading) because men who know how to love each other should be appalled by the fact that so many men are still happy to kill and maim each other – and also any women or children who get in their way – if ordered to do so.
    I’d be glad to hear from you if you care to reply,
    John Garrett Jones

  • terry

    September 24th, 2014 at 11:13 AM

    struggling married male looking for help

  • Paul W.

    October 7th, 2014 at 1:24 PM

    I have known a bisexual man for over two decades. He is married with a large family and his wife is very religious. Thus, providing the perfect ‘front’ for him. He’s had numerous affairs with women and hooks up with men in a mask. Hiding his face. The wife has discovered the female relationships but he’s managed to keep the male relationships hidden. She’s always forgiven him for the affairs she caught him in.She as that he’s very depressed. I don’t have an answer for my friend. I know about his lifestyle but I don’t feel it is my place to tell her.
    Conflicted in the Mid-west

  • Matt

    November 21st, 2014 at 4:52 AM

    Solution: Date other bisexual men and women. Problem solved.

  • Steve

    December 26th, 2014 at 6:32 PM

    I don’t know if I’m 80% attracted to women and 20% to men, or 90/10, or 70/30, or whatever. I am in a committed relationship with a woman who knows my feelings, but I don’t have to have a BF at the same time. Contrary to some beliefs, we can have monogamous relationships, and don’t need to engage multiple partners at the same time. It’s the same spectrum of behavior I find in hetero and gay people.

  • Arthur

    December 27th, 2014 at 7:26 PM

    This are the things I have learn in my life:
    *Doesn´t mater to have a name for my orientation
    *In fact I feel atraction to woman and men, I know when is love and when its just admiration.
    *I have another kind of activities and kind of thoughts that I think are dangerous for my health in some way.
    *If Im wanna stay right and feel good, I dont need to think to much in this things
    *Is important do not be shy for why I feel
    *Can´t told all people your likes or about you, that is personal, you need to know how much to say and who is really a friend. It is really no necessary
    *Im sure Im not gay, and that my bisexuality is caused by many factors, only me can be sure of what I am. Im happy with me and what I am (a person like anyone else).

  • Holding

    January 3rd, 2015 at 10:13 PM

    I’m a married male 45years old. I did not think about even being with a man until my mid 30’s. I have no attraction to men. I’m mostly attracted to having sex. When Im with a man, I only bottom. Its quick and over. I like the sex but no more. I never look at men in social setting and think, ” I would love to be with him” they way I do with woman. I’m not sure if I’m bisexual, or just a sex addict ? I consider myself heterosexual, but since I do have sex with men, most would label me bisexual. I never top, and only top with women. Does anyone else have a similar experience ?

  • jack

    January 27th, 2015 at 8:50 PM

    what a nice story

  • bereal

    January 28th, 2015 at 7:54 PM

    How has this affected your wife

  • Bereal

    January 23rd, 2017 at 6:50 PM

    This is a spirit that is attached to pornagraphy that causes you to see and think differently, darkly differently. I know this as i have viewed porn and could see a penis in a pattern on a wall. It’s a spirit, with a lying spirit behind it. You have to see the difference it causes in your thoughts and visual stimulation. Stop watching the porn….stop being desensitized.

  • Archie

    March 31st, 2015 at 7:31 PM

    I don’t get what’s so hard to understand about bisexuality. You wouldn’t say you can’t understand how a guy can date a blonde and then later on date a brunnette.

  • CptHarknesd

    June 1st, 2015 at 9:27 AM

    Let me first say that we are both LDS, or the more common term, Mormon.

    Married bi man here, wife is also bi. I am just realizing my attraction to men, she has been attracted to women for years, but has never mentioned it until recently also. We are extremely happily married for 6 years now, and have had no infidelities or misery despite the common belief that “bi’s are just gays in denial.” My advice to anyone out there that is married and bi, is to talk to your spouse. A.) they may feel the same way:) B.) it’s disrespectful to not honor the agreement you made with them when you got married by stepping out on them, regardless of your impulses.

    Since my wife and I have become open with each other, our communication and closeness has never been better, and as a result we are one of the happiest married couples I have seen, if I do say so myself.

    To everyone confused by the common dogma associated with bi sexuality, you are not (necessarily) just waiting to be gay. It is possible to have a non-monogamous, monogamous relationship while happily married, you DO NOT HAVE TO QUANTIFY YOUR ATTRACTION TO THE SAME SEX. That is to say that, you don’t have to have a 50/50 attraction ratio, or any other thing like that. We are not binary creatures. It is ok, and normal to enjoy both!

  • Little John

    November 7th, 2015 at 9:39 AM

    I now realise at the age of 56 that i have always been bisexual. I used to think it was a gay phase that would pass and I suppressed it all through the aids scare of the 80’s and so here I am married to a lovely woman for 30 years who has no idea about it. I love her very much but I no longer fancy her sexually and our love life is almost non-existent. I would say I was 70/30 straight/gay when younger, now 80/20 gay/straight, the pendulum has swung. I see gay men secretly whenever I can and feel not only guilty but extremely depressed. I CAN’T hurt her so it will probably continue til the day I die!!

  • sherno

    January 27th, 2016 at 8:52 PM

    I don’t agree. I am 100 percent gay. Claiming to be bisexual just makes you feel safe because you never have to make that commitment one way or the other. I live my life without the safety net of what society considers normal. Do I think that there are men out there that just like to get off? Yes, I believe that, but the majority of men who claim to be bisexual are just to scared to say they are gay and run the risk of dropping down the ladder of society. I don’t think where I stand as a gay man put me in any less of a social standing, but others (closeted bisexuals ) feel that they have something to lose. I am sorry, but you can’t have it both ways. If you choose to stay in what you think is the GREY area of your sexual orientation and say your bi, then your just fooling yourself. True straight and gay people know that there are not 50 shades of gray. Only people hiding behind the color that are to frightened to make the choice.

  • Steve

    January 28th, 2016 at 7:38 PM

    I am out to my girlfriend of four years as being bisexual, although neither of us likes that term. I am not out to my family, nor work, and am not very concerned with telling anyone who does not need to know. It is none of their business, and should not affect my relationship with them. If I were to be “outed,” I cannot see being too upset about it, and do not see it as dropping me down some societal ladder, or what ever that BS means. The guy I see is gay, and accepts me, even though I am not 100% available to him emotionally. I am comfortable i my skin, and I am sorry that there are some who are not comfortable that I am.

  • Archie

    February 1st, 2016 at 12:00 AM

    @ Sherno
    Just because I’m attracted to men and women doesn’t mean I can’t commit to one person any more than being attracted to some people of every race means I can only be satisfied if I have a sexual partner from each race. I don’t have to “make a choice”. I will make a choice someday, but it will be my choice of an individual, not their gender, and while I wouldn’t act on it I’d still feel attracted to people from the other gender just as I would still be attracted to people who don’t have my partner’s hair color. And so I would still be bisexual because being bisexual is about sexual attraction, not about who you have sex with. A person can be celibate and still be bisexual.

    When I look at an attractive woman I feel things downstairs. When I look at an attractive man I feel those same things downstairs. That’s how I know I’m bisexual.

  • Vatnos

    May 5th, 2016 at 12:58 PM

    @sherno – You sound like a colorblind man vigorously denying that anyone could possibly see ‘green’ just because he can’t wrap his head around it.

    To those of us who are bisexual your orientation is just as much a mystery. It’s childlike reasoning thinking your experience is the same as everyone else’s.

  • Cory

    May 19th, 2016 at 8:06 AM

    @Holding – I am married for almost 15 years; 3 kids… just found out this past week that my husband has been having “encounters”, from sex to just messing around, with the same two male partners a few times a year since before we were together. I had no idea and was shocked and felt betrayed. Blah, blah. Not because it was with men, but because he cheated-almost better it was with men because he wasn’t choosing someone other than me-not personal. He was ashamed and embarrassed, insisting he’s not gay; He explains his sexual encounters exactly as you do: hooking up with these guys is just sex, no emotional attachment whatsoever. And it’s just them because it’s safe and he knows his actions will be kept secret – he’d sooner die than have anyone ever know. But here’s my question for you. Would you be able to just walk away from your sexual encounters with men just because your wife needs monogamy? Could you just turn off the urges? I can’t handle the cheating and told him it’s a deal-breaker. But am I being naïve about the urges? Would I be wiser to just offer to try a threesome so his needs are fulfilled and to take the cheating off the table or can he truly walk away and turn off the urges? I don’t want my marriage to end but I can’t handle the cheating.

  • Tashka

    August 6th, 2016 at 11:04 PM

    To Little John, I think that is no way in hell to live your life your life. Let me ask you this question, will you be strong enough and will you be able to handle living a double life??? If you think you can pull it off forever than by all means go ahead and enjoy being a pretender who wears a poker face that’s always juggling a double life in order to hide a secret.. .However, I would say that telling your wife would be the right thing to do the best thing to do all the way around. But first you should go find a good therapist that you feel connection with so you’ll begin to learn how to be honest with yourself, gain self knowledge,clarity and build personal strength from the mental tools taught in therapy that would tremendously help in how to cope with who you really are and a better way to handle your unique situation in your marriage. Sexuality is a very complex thing it is fluid and extremely important part of being human. When you have alignment with your mind,body and heart you’ll be naturally able to accept the gift of being the unique person you are and fully embrace the deserved joy in the greatest pleasure that human sexuality was meant to be and felt for us all. Sexuality should always be positive! Sex is intended to be something that adds benefit to our life!!!

  • Matt

    September 22nd, 2016 at 9:34 PM

    I only date bisexuals. I am dating a bisexual woman now, I have been with only bisexuals. I don’t want gay/straight people. Nothing personal, I am not dealing with what my friends have. Bi fetishizers are a harm to us and not everyone will like us and not everyone will care on our end.

    Bisexuality in straight couples that is kink and their bedroom life in the sense of kink is not in my mind something they need to wave a rainbow flag and queen out for. It’s sexual and kink for them and that is okay.

  • Ed

    October 26th, 2016 at 6:37 AM

    52 MWM here and have not disclosed to anyone but 2 guys I have been with. 1st is a buddy from child hood and we explored and then continued for years, 2nd was a 1 time fling. One night when my wife had too much wine and was asleep in the living room me and my 1st buddy were out in the hot tub and my wife “thinks” she saw what was going on. I told her possibly so she knows but not happy or willing to accept it or talk about it. That buddy has since married, moved away and went totally straight. I want another regular friend but have so little time and wife would not like it I don’t know what to do.

  • Mike

    December 20th, 2016 at 3:14 AM

    So… I’m basically homosexual but I’m often drawn to women sexually. I have more erotic dreams involving women than man but when it comes to real sex, men make up the majority. I am, by default, bisexual. Here’s the odd bit… I’m closeted about my bisexuality with most of my gay friends and open about it with my straight friends. Why is this? Because gay men are cruel, dismissive and more binary than straights… Period! In the hetero world, bisexuality is taboo but real. There’s no prejudice that being bi is fake or illegitimate. Ive never had a straight friend say to me that bisexuality doesn’t really exist. But I’ve hward it countless times frkm gays. My guess, the reason why bi men don’t just come out, as gay men do, is that they have nothing to come out to. No “community” like gay men have. They basically have to contend with two opposite cultures, straight and gay, and if forced to choose between ine or the other, they choose straight. Why? Comfort. Connection to family and friends. Identification with more aspects of hetero cultural norms tham homo. And lastly, less politicization of gheir sexuality. Gays have a horrible habit of making their sexuality a political issue and moat bi men just aren’t down for that. They just want to express themselves and not have it become a thing. Case closed

  • MikeD

    January 21st, 2017 at 1:18 PM

    Thanks, Mike. I feel as if @sherno was not considering the other possibilities. I did not discover my attraction to men until 5 years into my marriage or so. Still have not told my wife. Really have not told anyone. My attraction to women is very real. My love and attraction to my wife is very strong, and our sex life is fantastic. I wish it was not there, but my attraction to men is also very real. It is not as strong (perhaps i have not “nurtured” it), and I don’t look at men as possible lovers – just does not appeal to me. I don’t think I am repressing a preference for men – if I had to choose (and I apparently do), I would choose my wife – end of story. It is really hard to not masturbate with random dudes if given the opportunity, though. I do crave the masculine touch, smell, and sharing masculine sexuality in some way. But there is no format that such an existence would be acceptable to the love of my life (my wife) or our children. So I have to just keep it all a secret, I guess. No community. I do envy the Gay and the Straight for that reason.

  • Stewart M.

    October 9th, 2017 at 6:59 PM

    YES, it is often very difficult for bisexual men to reveal their sexuality to others – even to gays and lesbians. There is a great deal of misunderstanding in our modern society about bisexuality and that does not help. But it is important to find some kindred spirits – if only other bisexuals to confide in and share with. But with anyone other than another bisexual be prepared for about ANY reaction from warm and friendly to hostile.

  • Phillip

    November 4th, 2021 at 12:23 PM

    Since my early twenties I’ve know that was bisexual. My initial experience has remained with me and I suppose is the basis of my sexuality. But then, of course, I’ve also remained rather secretive with most of my female partners, usually coming out to those women who were themselves bi or lesbian. It’s been an awkward challenge forever.

  • Mitch

    October 6th, 2022 at 12:59 PM

    I am 56, was married for nearly 30 years, divorced last year. Ever cheated on my wife the whole time but always wanted to try out with guys. In last 6 weeks I have been with several guys age from 20 to 33 and have done pretty much everything and love it. I am also in a casual relationship now with a woman I met on holiday. I really want to come out as bi but my immediate family, sons, mother, sister and brother in law and my friends would probably struggle to accept it as I have always been hetro. Not sure what to do.

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