But bisexual black men are often missing from LGBT narratives we see in pop culture. And when they do appear, they tend to conform to the stereotype of the hyper-masculine guy “on the down-low.”
The forthcoming documentary No Homo | No Hetero: Sexual Fluidity and Manhood in Black America pushes beyond that cliche to explore what life is really like for bi black men. Co-directed by H. “Herukhuti” Sharif Williams and David J. Cork, it incorporates interviews, performance art, and archival footage to illuminate how biphobia, racism, and toxic masculinity intersect to uniquely impact their community.
“We’re coming up on 20 years of the notion of the ’down low’ black man, who is sexually fluid but hiding, being dishonest with his partners and cheating,” Williams (above) tells NewNowNext. “That stereotype has created a significant amount of stigma, and it’s time for us to heal as a community.”
The time is right for the film: Donald Trump’s election has sparked a new wave of social-justice activism and the bi community is experiencing an unprecedented moment of visibility.
“In the last three to five years, there have been a number of high-profile, black, bi-plus or sexually fluid men who have publicly owned and claimed their sexual identities,” he adds, pointing to people like Frank Ocean and New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow.
Williams previously co-authored the anthology Recognize: The Voices of Bisexual Men, which also highlights bisexual stories within the LGBT community. “If you look at LGBT media, you can see the absence of bi content, bi characters, bi story lines—as well as producers, directors, and actors,” he says. “So even though bisexuals make up over 50% of the LGBT community, we don’t see a proportionate amount of media representation.”
While No Homo doesn’t shy away from difficult issues, it also highlights the joy that’s present in the bi community.
“One theme we’ve seen come up again and again is this notion that for many sexually fluid men, their attraction is more about a spiritual or metaphysical connection with someone—with their aura or energy—than what body parts they carry,” Williams explains. “That has really resonated with me because I see it as being very much rooted in African black culture.”
The two have interviewed men in New York City and D.C., with plans to head to L.A. and Atlanta next. (They’ve launched an IndieGoGo campaign to cover production costs.) Cork, co-founder of BiUs Entertainment, says alienation within multiple communities is a common theme in the interviews—and one he’s intimately familiar with.
“I often feel that as an actor, artist and a man, I have to choose between my blackness and my queerness. There are only a few places I have found where I can fully express both in a healthy way. In places where my blackness is accepted, playing gay or bisexual roles is looked down upon, almost like a stamp on my resume that says, ’I can ONLY play gay.'”
But when his queerness is validated, Cork (above) adds, “people judge me because I am bisexual and tell me things like, ’You’re just waiting to come out as gay. You might as well just do it.’ It feels like a catch-22.”
His solution has been to create his own work and focus on projects where all facets of his identity are accepted. “I want to share my unique perspective in all the work that I do.”
Cork adds that connecting with other black bi men has helped him reflect on his own journey and deepened his understanding of how how his sexual orientation connects with his spirituality.
“There’s a line in our trailer that always sticks with me,” he says. “’Love is an abundant energy that we can all tap into.’ I really believe that.”