While visibility for gay men has increased nicely over the past ten
years, the same can’t really be said for the visiblity of bisexual men.
Where gay men now have a host of other out gay men — Neil Patrick
Harris, Cheyenne Jackson, Lance Bass, T. R. Knight, Sir Elton John,
Tonex — to put a public face on homosexuality, the list of well-known
openly bisexual men is still depressingly small.
But one name you can add to that list is Mike Manning of The Real World: D.C.
Despite the way MTV has edited clips and teased viewers in promos, and
despite the fact that at least one of Mike’s D.C. housemates, not to
mention one of the guys he dated on the show, insists he’s actually
gay, Manning knows himself well enough to know that he’s truly
attracted to both men and women.
And that’s a good thing for other bisexual men looking for someone to
represent them in the public eye. The 22-year-old Colorado native never
set out to be that spokesperson — heck, he never even intended to be on
The Real World — but now that the role has been thrust on him, he’s willing to do his part.
AfterElton.com recently had the chance to talk with Manning, who is
currently attending college at the University of Northern Colorado in
Greeley, about being such a visible spokesperson, how his friends and
family reacted when he came out, and how making out with a real Prince
Charming cued him in as to his actual sexuality.
AfterElton.com: It seems
like the show has made a great deal out of how you’re supposedly “figuring out”
your sexuality and trying to decide things. And in a recent episode you
specifically said to Eric, the guy you were dating, "I need more time.
You’ve had time to deal with these issues." So what exactly were you
trying to figure out during the episode and during the series? Have you figured
it out entirely at this point? How do you identify now?
Mike Manning: I think during the season, I went on to the show right after
coming out to my family and … my ten closest friends and it was all fine and
great, but most of my other friends didn’t know. You know, you branch out from
high school and you move out of your home town and go to college and a lot of
your high school friends don’t follow you, so none of my old friends from high
I went on the season kind
of nervous and really unsure about how to act. I hadn’t been around many gay or
bi people or lesbians. I was just nervous about it. Not really insecure, but
just more timid because I didn’t have any experience with it. I went on the
show, and from day one, everybody asks me. I didn’t want to come out to the
roommates right up front because I wanted them to get to know me as a person
first and then get to know my orientation and other details about my life, but
it just kind of happened that way that they asked me and I was like, "You
know what? I’m not going to be a hypocrite. I’m not going to pretend to be so
confident and comfortable with it and then lie to their faces on the first day
that I meet them." So I came out as bi, and I told them the truth, and my
relationship with guys and girls and everything like that, but I was still kind
Manning (left) with his Real World roommates
Throughout the season, I
became more and more comfortable with it. I was having conversations with the
girls and even with the guys in the house. We talked about my experiences and
my thoughts about certain things. I worked for the Human Rights Campaign and I
lobbied Congressmen for equal rights, and that was definitely a huge, huge help
because I’m a business person, so I respect professionalism and people that
work hard and are intelligent. Being able to work with HRC really helped me a
lot because it showed me this whole office of super-intelligent people who were
comfortable with themselves and had overcome tons of challenges to get where
they were. A lot of them took me under their wings.