Unless you’re a fan of the paranormal, the name Ryan Buell probably isn’t one familiar to most gay and bisexual men. But when the 29-year-old paranormal investigator and host of A&E’s Paranormal State revealed he was bisexual in his new memoir, his profile in the GLBT community increased dramatically.
Even in 2010, most bisexual men choose to be discreet about their sexuality for a variety of reasons. But when Buell realized that his prominence in the paranormal research field, not to mention the fact he is quite public about his religious beliefs, meant he might be able to open some eyes about the issue of bisexuality, he knew he had to speak up.
AfterElton.com recently caught up with Buell to discuss his coming out, his conservative Southern family’s reaction and much more.
AfterElton: The book seems to be mostly about your experiences dealing with the paranormal and your experiences on the show. What made you decide to discuss being bisexual in it?
Ryan Buell: If you don’t believe in the paranormal, you can at least look at it as metaphors. That’s how I like to see it. You’re dealing with the afterlife, you’re dealing with the unknown, you’re dealing with questions about God and spirituality. Paranormal investigations is really just a way for looking for God and looking for those questions. It doesn’t matter who you are, what your skin color is, your sexuality, your religious faith … we are all in our own ways looking for those answers.
In the book I kind of talk about my struggle with faith and religion, particularly the Catholic faith. Obviously … growing up I come from South Carolina; this stuff was especially taboo, let alone homosexuality, bisexuality, lesbianism. I mean, the South is … it’s very true, it’s very much old-fashioned.
kind of came about when I was dealing with parts of my faith and doing this work and … suddenly whenever I tried to work with clergy they would shut their doors in my face and say "I spoke to so-and-so who said this about you." It kind of came out about, you know, Ryan is, you know, he’s … he also like guys.
AE: When did you realize yourself that you were attracted to both men and women?
RB: Well see, that’s the weird thing because as I wrote in my book, I didn’t know there was … it was hard for me to find the time when I knew that, because for such a long time I thought it was, you know, I didn’t see a difference. I didn’t know that was taboo. I grew up kind of sheltered, I guess, where growing up I didn’t see this or hear about it until my teens.
For me I didn’t know there was anything wrong until I was about 13 and I started hearing people say "fag", "Oh, this person’s a fag, don’t talk to him" you know, blah blah blah is when I began to realize that. When I started to become more self-aware about it, I would say maybe in my mid-teens. It’s not like I only liked guys. I know there’s some people who believe there’s no such thing as bisexuality and I know that’s something that’s taboo even in the gay community, but… I would say my mid-teens.
RB: But just to answer the question about why it’s in the book, it’s because struggling with my faith and religion and everything like that and dealing with this world where I deal with a lot of religion, you know…one of my mentors was a woman named Lorraine Moore who’s very, very old-fashioned. She kind of approached me about it and asked, you know, if I was bisexual and I said yes.
I decided to put it in the book because I was wanting to talk about faith, my struggle with faith, and how I was essentially told God would hate me for who I was and I decided after talking with Lorraine, who’s religious and said, you know, priests are just men. They’re fallible too and that doesn’t mean you should turn away from your faith. So I decided to come out because I’m just tired of … I’ve had a few gay friends who just said, you know, "I’m not religious, I’m athiest. Why would I want to believe in something or someone who says I’m going to Hell?" That’s why I decided to come out.