“God’s Own Country” and Biphobia

Bella Fitzpatrick writes in Ireland’s Gay Community News (GCN) of the 16th. March about the way Bisexuality is ignored or consumed under the blanket term Gay and about how many Gays are disappointed to find the characters in movies like “Call Me by Your Name” are actually Bisexual rather than Gay. I tend to agree with her and recommend you read her article. I just want to add a few comments and sneak in a new poem!

I have always said that the movie “Brokeback Mountain” is about two Bisexual men: they both marry, appear to have sex with their wives and have children with them…well at least one of them has children I think. Maybe one of them is Bisexual and the other really Gay! The confusion arises I suppose about how we actually define sexual orientation and even if we can or should or even need to do so. But as Bella’s article shows, if you so define yourself it is galling to have your sexual identity go unrecognised. I felt strongly when friends referred to “Brokeback” as a Gay movie that that was a superficial interpretation of the film. But the question arises when two people of the same sex are making love and when one of them or both of them also enjoy sex with the opposite sex what do we call this sexual behaviour they are at this moment indulging in? Can we say they are having Bisexual sex with one another? Or is it Gay or Lesbian sex? Maybe the answer is simply sex ! So the adjective Gay or Bisexual (when used as an adjective) describes the person as a whole or her/his overall sexual behaviour rather than qualifying a particular aspect of that behaviour.

I do have another worry though: it seems in the two movies I mention above that to acknowledge the sexual feelings between two men (in this case it is men) is not totally acceptable. Does Oliver marry because he is bisexual or because his family and the mores of Jewish family life require it ? And why does Elio have sex with the poor girl who he later dumps? Is it because he is bisexual (and yes it appears he enjoys what he does with her) or because he wants to reinforce his “masculine identity” or be like Oliver, the guy he worships and adores or  what ? It is difficult to escape the feeling that Oliver’s and Elio’s love and sexual desire for one another has to survive in a  society where heterosexuality is the dominant more; so much so that the movie can not show the act of love making, the sexual consummation of this love, and the camera gives us a shot of the trees through the window while they fuck….this would be unbelievable in a straight movie! I tend to regard this as a phobia about what the men are doing; what the straight world calls “sodomy” or sometimes “buggery”.

I do feel that the mainstream Hetero audiences find Bisexuality more acceptable than Queer or homosexual relationships (Bella is complaining mostly about Gays’ perceptions or the lack of them rather than the straight community I think). In the liberal family to have a child who is Bisexual is to approve of his/her sensitivity and non judgemental approach to gender roles but if they were exclusively Gay or Lesbian it might be totally tragic. He (I speak for my own gender here) is stuck, unappreciative of the beauty of the opposite sex and can’t give us grandchildren! How sad! And I wonder if this attitude does not pervade movies and some modern literature. It is after all so much more difficult to market a totally Gay movie. The audience is thought to be restricted and limited. How many people saw “Weekend” (Andrew Haigh, 2011.) in the cinema. And when I saw “God’s Own Country” (which describes, I suggest, an exclusively Gay relationship)  in the cinema a straight couple walked out during the more explicit sex scene.

So while I totally agree with Bella Fitzpatrick in her article about being cognisant of the special nature and identity of Bisexuality I also find it sometimes a little questionable the way it is often used or abused to make Gay relationships and same sex fucking more acceptable to the general public i.e. the dominant straight society.

About the wonderful movie “God’s Own Country” here is a poem it prompted in me: I found the flaying in the film a metaphor for the relationship of the two men, the one motherless, saved and reborn in the love of the other.

Sheathed in the Flesh of Another

“O happy dagger
This is thy sheath. There rust, and let me die.”(Romeo and Juliet, Act 5, Sc. 3)


He stretches forth his hand
his knife unsheathed
to flay the dead lamb
the hooves cut off and the head
pulled from the membrane
of bloody skin

and then the tremulous legs
of the motherless one
having no sustenance
pushed into the holes
in a bespoke skin

a genus of redemption
sheathed in the flesh of another
like the knife that saved you
wiped clean is sheathed again

the legs unsteady
it excitedly noses out
the warm milk
food no use for the dead
the other dead thing
that you were

One thought on ““God’s Own Country” and Biphobia

  1. This is a beautiful and astute comment on this issue. These days there can be nothing wrong with a ‘bisexual’ movie. On the other hand, we do have to consider the feeling that the movie of CMBYN could be using the bisexual aspect to make the film more marketable. I think in the end when you read the book on which the movie is based, it has a strongly bisexual feel to it. That’s fine. As soon as you do of course, you consider the movie in quite a different light, which is interesting and just as valid.


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